Saturday, April 13, 2013

a (probably) overlong story of how i came to hear of bobtown

"Alan Lee Backer is playing on Long island Friday night." I was trying to prepare a presentation for work. My wife was checking into activities for the kids, when the email came in on her computer. And that comment was what led to my seeing Bobtown yesterday (see yesterday's post). For I am an Alan Lee Backer fan.

Some (OK, a ton of) background: in college -- actually, I don't remember if it was college or the years shortly thereafter -- I saw the Beat Farmers play at the Lonestar Roadhouse. The Lonestar was a C&W bar /restaurant / venue on 57th Street in Manhattan. It's no longer around. Anyway, I was one of the few people who came around early enough to catch the opening act -- a local country-flavored band called Five Chinese Brothers. They gave me a copy of their single, "Baltimore," which was out on Diesel Only Records. Diesel Only specialized in New York country-flavored singles. Often it was truck driving music. They also provided me some of my earliest experiences with alt-rock. Influenced by the Five Chinese Brothers's single, I eventually bought a copy of each of the brand's singles that were still available. Actually I bought two copies of each -- my Christmas present tro Desmond that year was one copy. One of my favorites was "Two Hearts (Tender Lovin' and True)" by the Twanglers. I wish I could find a Youtube video of it, but I can't. FWIW, here's a video of the Twanglers live doing "My Babe:"
I loved "Two Hearts," but that single (and the song's appearance on Diesel Only's compilation, Rig Rock Jukebox, was all I had of the Twanglers. I bought the three Five Chinese Brother albums as they came out. Those were the days when I still bought a lot of albums. I had a job and no kids. Money flowed freer then. From the liner notes I could see the names of the brothers. One of them had even played in a band with a guy I was freinds with in college. Small world. Anyway, the Twanglers never did an album. So I loved the track, but never knew names or anything. One of the names that I didn't know was Alan Backer.

Nearly twenty years later, I was with the family at the Long Island Children's Museum. We were there for a performance by Ken Waldman, Alaska's fiddlin' poet. I should write a post about him. No promises. Anyway, he recites his freeform poetry while playing the fiddle. On this occasion, he had a drummer backing him up. I recognized the drummer. I was sure opf it. But I couldn't quite tell from where. At the end of the show, Ken thanked him by name. It was Charlie Shaw. I knew that name. From somewhere. But I couldn't place it. So I approached him and asked if he had been in any New York area bands that I might have seen him in. Among the many names he reeld off was Five Chinese Brothers. I responded by reciting lyrics from "Baltimore." So we talked music for a while. I mentioned other bands that I liked from Diesel Only. Including the Twanglers. He mentioned that he's in a new band called The Wicked Messengers with a couple of the guys from The Twanglers. Really? So I got the information.

Some time later I went to see them play at Hill Country, a Texas-style barbecue restaurant in Manhattan. I surprised Alan Backer before the show by asking him to autograph my copy of the Twanglers' single. I mentioned that it was one of my favorite songs. I later learned that he wrote it, so I must have sounded like I was just buttering him up, but I was being honest. It was great show. I saw the Messengers play a couple of other times -- they do a great show. But between work and family commitments, I don't get out to see them as much as I'd like. They do a karaoke show at Hill Country on Tuesdays, and I hear that's a great show. It's sort of like karaoke, except instead of having pre-recorded music, you have a live band behind you. Here's a video of someone doing Billy Joel's "You May Be Right:"

It's difficult for me to work that in. I should make a point of picking a Tuesday and going. Come hell or high water.

Anyway, As I posted yesterday, I almost didbn't make it to see Bobtown. But I'm glad I did. And Alan even gave me a copy of the Wicked Messengers' second album, Livin' Fast

Anyway, I leave you with Bobtown doing "Hell and Gone." I admit that I can't tell if this is the version from before Alan became a member.

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