Friday Jams are some of my favorite posts. As we all know, YouTube is a dangerous rabbit hole where you can get lost for hours. I love making the trip…a lot of my searching is for old live music, some of which I share on the blog on Fridays.
Music has been a huge inspiration in my life. A good friend of mine and I often wonder why we spent so much time playing sports when we were growing up rather than starting a band. We’ve decided that it’s because we are idiots.
I recently spent some time with Julian Dorio, the drummer for one of my favorite bands: The Whigs. I asked him a question: ‘What inspired you musically?’. Keep in mind, all the Dorios are incredible musicians. Julian’s brother Michael is the guitarist for the Quiet Hounds, another great Georgia band, and one of the best live shows you’ll ever see. I’m glad I get to call him a friend.
Julian’s answer: ‘The Beatles’. I get it.
It’s hard not to think through this on a personal level. As a classic over thinker, as well as someone who had headphones glued to his ears for his entire childhood (when I wasn’t on the baseball diamond or the football field), there are specific parts of albums that I look at as what I would call my musical inspiration. By no means am I any sort of musician. I know all the guitar chords, but I can do about as much with them as I can with a 64 degree wedge. I can’t play piano, nor can I play drums. I believe that I am an excellent singer, but Mrs. RCS would whole-heartedly disagree.
For today’s Friday Jam, I’m going to go through all the instruments that I wish I could play, and the voices I wish I had, and most importantly: who did it for me. This wasn’t a hard chore, either. I’d be willing to bet you and nail down your inspirations as well. I’d love to hear them in the comments.
First up, from the iconic ‘At Fillmore East’ from the Allman Brothers, the one and only Gregg Allman playing the keys.
While the keys are typically drowned out in a rock band, the Allman Brothers did it just right, especially on their live albums. ‘At Filmore East’ was released in 1992, and was one of the first CDs that I bought (along with ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ by The Black Crowes). I had heard ‘Statesboro Blues’ from some friends’ older brothers, and I wanted to hear more of this Georgia band.
I have listened to this album a thousand times. I know every detail of every song, and with apologies to Duane, Gregg’s organ is just as prominent as any other instrument.
Gregg’s organ work is a thing of beauty. I would argue that along with the slide guitar, the organ gave the Allman Brothers their trademark sound. It put the ‘southern’ in southern rock by giving their songs the feeling that you are listening to hymn (edit: I hate calling things ‘southern’). Even though the Allman Brothers sang the blues, the organ gave their catalog the soul. Need proof? Try ‘Trouble No More’ or ‘Hot’lanta’, or ‘Whipping Post’, and focus on the organ.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to play like Gregg.
Ahh the guitar…how many of you grew up with guys that got a guitar, and you loathed it when they played. Wow… ‘Comfortably Numb’ again, huh? Pass the bleach…
In 7th grade I severely defied my parents and joined one of those BMG ’13 CDs for a penny’ clubs. I had heard a band play ‘Purple Haze’ in a talent show, and later saw that ‘Band of Gypies’ was offered in the BMG deal. I thought ‘oh – Hendrix…cool’. This is a completely different Hendrix. Even though this album has only six songs, it was like nothing I had ever heard. His guitar playing is at a level that is unattainable. Crisp but smooth. Effortless. It’s bad, but I judge all rock guitarists against Jimi Hendrix.
Later on I came across the full concerts from the Filmore, which includes the selections for the ‘Band of Gypsies’ album, but includes so much more. It isn’t offered on Spotify (yet?), and is the only CD that I still own. See if you can find ‘Power of Soul’ from the second show and you’ll know what I mean. It will stop you in your tracks.
I always thought drummers were the coolest guys in the band. They set the tone. They quarterbacked the band.
I can tell you the exact moment of the specific song when I knew that John Bonham changed my perception of drummers.
3:26 of ‘Heartbreaker’. He comes in hard and hammers the bass and cymbals during Jimmy Page’s solo, right before Plant brings it home.
It was one of those defining moments in life when you remember exactly where you were when it happened. I had borrowed ‘Led Zeppelin II’ from a friend, and was listening to it in my room. After I heard ‘Heartbreaker’ for the first time, I knew that he wasn’t just a quarterback, he was the leader of drummers. It was my first experience with the impact a good drummer can have on a band. Bonham was innovative. He was Ringo with an attitude.
I went to the local music store shortly thereafter and sat at a drum set for the first time. I picked the drum sticks and tried as hard as I could. It was a disaster, but it didn’t matter.
What I mentioned above about singing…I was kidding (not about Mrs. RCS’s opinion). I am horrible. I know it. I own it.
My parents went to college in the late 60’s at two small schools in South Carolina (Mom: Winthrop, Dad: Presbyterian), and they were big into the Carolina Shag. Most of the music they listened to was old Motown, which in turn became all we listened to growing up. I remember the Big Chill soundtrack, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and some other beach tapes that we used to play over and over…. While they weren’t all shag songs, it was, and still is, some of the best music ever made.
THE song that made me wish I could sing was ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye. My folks had a Best of Marvin Gaye album that we used to play on their record player, and it is the first song on ‘The Big Chill’ soundtrack.
It was the first time that I could feel someone singing. My brother and I used to sing that song over and over, must to our parents’ chagrin. There has never been anyone come close. No one can sing it like Marvin Gaye. His music is an emotional experience, so much so that Mrs. RCS and my first dance at our wedding reception was to ‘Come Get to This’. We dance the Carolina Shag. One of my favorite life experiences to date.
One for the road: Stevie Wonder.
Back to my folks: when we were kids, their radio station of choice was the now defunct Fox 97.1, an oldies station. It was on ALL THE TIME. I hated it back then, but I get it now. They played a lot of Stevie Wonder, specifically the song ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’ a lot. I always listened to that song in wonder (no pun). His voice was mesmerizing. I’ve never heard anyone so talented that sounded like he was having such a good time singing as the one and only Stevie Wonder.
So there you have it. My inspirations. It’s interesting to go back and read this and see how these specifics influenced the music I listen to today. While all of these bands’ albums are included in the rotation, adding in everything from Widespread Panic, to Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Jason Isbell, and Alabama Shakes are pretty easy dots to connect, right?
Since I can’t play a lick, I’m going to have to live vicariously through my speakers…and I’m 100% fine with that.
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