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Some time ago, we received a great CD here at Blues In London Towers, sent by a guy called Eric from the USA who'd found the site and wondered if we'd do a review. 'Blues $1.49' turned out to be one of the best CD's we'd heard all year (read our review here) and what's more, Eric turned out to be a really nice chap. It seems that playing the blues is just as tough a proposition in the U.S. as it is here and, recognising a fellow 'Brother in The Blues', we thought it would be interesting to get occasional 'Postcards from Florence' to find out how it goes over there. This is the first instalment...

Charlotte Wyatt


Hello everyone, I'm Eric 'Red Mouth' Gebhardt, I reside in Florence, Alabama and have been asked to write this 'semi' regular column so that you Londoners can learn a bit of what is going on in the Southeastern United States. I'll start this column out with a tale of a rather disastrous tour I recently attempted.

 

I tried to get four shows, Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville and Orlando in Florida. The Birmingham show didn't come about at all because the connection I was given turned out to be a skinhead band and well, needless to say they never got back with me. A friend of mine, Brandon, in Atlanta works at a club called the Star Bar and he said he would see what he could do for me. I use to live in Orlando so I got in touch with an old friend down there about the Jacksonville and Orlando shows. He told me that the Orlando show would be no problem but jacksonville is like pulling teeth.

After much pressing and worrying I finally got news that I would be playing the Star Bar in Atlanta on Nov. 10th and the Back Booth in Orlando on Nov. 12th. The Jacksonville show was still up in the air. This was a week before the 'tour' and one show never came about and another show didn't look good. Two shows and a week out of town is still a pretty good vacation however, so I was happy.

 
   

Three days before I was to leave I get word that the Atlanta show fell through as well but that I still had a place to stay. So, one night playing in Atlanta and a week partying in Orlando... I wasn't too down yet. Then I got news of the bands I was to play with in Orlando and they were all punk rock bands that throw bottles and glasses. An old friend of mine had had to go to the hospital after playing this club the week before. This one gig 'tour' is finally a disaster!

Nov. 10th, I load up the van and go see my grandma and reassure her that I'll be alright on my trip. Before I left town I called Brandon in Atlanta for directions for when I get into town. He tells me to get my ass to Atlanta because it turns out that I do have a show, so I hop in the van and make the 5 hour trip in about 4 and a half (I'm really not much of a speeder). I stop at a gas station, call Brandon and wait for him to meet me.

 

When he arrives we decide that I will follow him back to his apartment, but before I can even get out of the parking lot I got rear-ended, but I had no time to stop and deal with it so i just took off so as not to lose Brandon in traffic. When we arrive at his apartment we sat around and drink PBR for a couple of hours until it's time to head to the club.

On arrival I find out that it is pop-punk DJ night and they usually don't even have bands. A little later he comes back and explains that there will be no money or bar tab and it would be nice if I could play my poppier material so as to keep with the mood. I just laughed. How are you gonna tell a bluesman to play his poppier stuff! Well, I thought 'Fuck this' and just started drinking.

  Some of Eric's local landmarks...
 
  "The O'Niel Bridge crossing the Tennessee River into Florence from Muscle Shoals."

 
  "3614 Jackson Highway building is the infamous studio where the stones recorded and just about everyone else from that period." (Eric's not kidding - check out their website here for the incredible list of people who recorded there)

 

 
  "The cotton plant just looked great growing right up outta the concrete kinda representing the dying south or the hard-dying south, depends on how you look at it i guess."

When it was time for me to play I was out of my mind drunk, I played four songs and they cut me off. We did, however, go back to Brandon's apartment and had quit the party, lasting till the wee hours of the morning and I slept in some guys bed who was out of town. Brandon came through and gave me some gas money out of his own pocket and apologized for the show being a bust and I was off, driving all night to Orlando.

I arrived at the Back Booth around 8:30 in the evening on Nov. 12th. There were tons of friends and family there to greet me and it was very pleasant until I found out that there is no guest list for family and, again, no bar tab. About 9:45 I'm told that I'm on first and to get up there. While I was opening my guitar cases I was noticing that the stage was covered in broken beer bottles and glasses and I was completely convinced that someone was going to fuck up one of my guitars and I would be spending the night in jail, twelve hours away from home.

Surprisingly enough, the show went off well. I played great and sold a lot of albums. At 1:45 in the morning I was standing around waiting to get paid when the sound man walks up and asks "Were you expecting to get paid?" I said "Umm, Yes." AND THEN he said "Well all the other bands played knowing they were not going to get paid." I said "I didn't." and somewhere they came up with some money for me. So, no guest list, no bar tab, and no getting paid, but everyone there had to pay 3 bucks to get in the door, hmmm.

I spent another 5 days drinking in Orlando and one day I found a girls sweater in the back of my van and still have no clue what girl I got into the back of my van nor what city it might have been in. So I had one fairly successful gig and a hell of a lot of fun and that's really what we do this for... Right? Cowboy Jack Clement once said "This is the funnest business in the world and if we're not having fun then we are not doing our jobs."

Rick, the main man at Blues in London, told me "We bluesmen need to stick together." So here I am, the next time any of you play a shitty show just remember, I've probably had worse. Hold your heads up high and play them goddamn blues boys (and ladies, never forget the ladies).
 
Yours truly,
The Mouth from the South, your Red Man from Alabama, Eric Gebhardt


Find our more about Eric on his website: www.redmouth.net

You can get his great CD 'Blues $1.49' for $4.91 (yes that's right) from: www.pegasusrecords.com