Twenty-ten was an interesting year full of hidden gems. I refrained from using "twenty-ten" all year and thought I'd use it here just to say I used it once. For me it really started in March; first trip back to Alliance/Canton, OH in ten years, driving down to Houston and seeing that side of the family for the first time in almost twenty years, stopping in College Station along the way to see Glenn Davis and visiting Navasota, driving through Lightnin' Hopkins hometown of Centerville, driving out to Vegas and spending a few days hanging out with The Reverend Len Fassler who grew into the character he was born to be, driving back to Houston and a couple stops in Austin to spend time with J.J. Barrera and see Glenn Rios. While in Austin the first interview for the upcoming book was with Ronnie James, bassist for Little Charlie & the Nightcats, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and now Jimmie Vaughan. Joe Slezak was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport on my way back to Tokyo which gave us time to hang out. There were a few bumps in the road along the way but in the end it all worked itself out for the better and that turned out to be the 'theme' for the year.
Over the summer there were three videos appearances and in the first a featured acting role at the beginning. Two of the videos are at https://www.youtube.com/user/jjvicars#p/c/9A70EDAA507D2768 The third I haven't been able to rip from the DVD yet and since my part is pretty small I ain't losing sleep over it. Summer also saw a handful of gigs out on the Chiba penisula with Dallas native Roger Sherrin where I got to play with his expensive toys including his Gretsch 6120, stayed at Robbie Newman's "Bed & Do-it-yourself" http://www.wavehuntersjapan.com and hung out with my old buddies Mike Buttrick and Markus Leach. And in August somebody finally interviewed me for a change! http://according2g.com/2010/08/g-interviews-singermusician-j-j-vicars/
Two old and dear friends surfaced from the past in the strangest of ways. While in the States I found a CD of Michael James Klunk, singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist for The Hillbilly Resistance, the Rockabilly trio we did in Phoenix, AZ with Motor City Mike on doghouse bass. The demos on the disc were vocal/guitar only but the song structure was completely intact so I fleshed out the six songs we never recorded during the original sessions and posted them at http://ats.jjvicars.com/music-group-2.html They'll be touched up later with better guitar tones and reposted at the same link(s) but for now the arrangements are more or less complete and the recordings are listenable. And a few of them have found their way into the set list.
But in October I got the biggest shock of all when Nikki Hills called me out of the blue and was in Tokyo. Those who knew us "back in the day" can recount legendary tales of musical mayhem and Rock 'n' Roll debauchery and I hope they don't recount too much. We only had one full day to hang out but in that one day Nikki came over to lay down a couple solos on the upcoming single DANGER BY DEATH before we headed out for a quickly-organized jam at the Warrior Celt with Mark Schwarz on bass. Matt Williams was on hand and kind enough to shoot some video for us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnrSq9TXrd0 What was extra weird-but-cool was a few months earlier I had been given an Ibanez RG550 that had been taking up space in some old lady's closet for some 20-odd years. When Nikki opened up his case and pulled out the same make, model and color guitar "surreal" didn't even begin to describe it. After 18 years of no contact whatsoever and us both looking for each other he shows up out of the blue with the exact same Ibanez, a left-handed of course. Ibanez suits Nikki's shred style but doesn't really work for my Blues & Rock 'n' Roll style but I just had to play it that night at the jam. BTW, the whole jam was recorded and is being edited into separate tracks. On a note of trivia the HI-TECH HILLBILLY album was written back when Nikki and I were terrorizing Tokyo and many of the songs were written for him to play the solos and lead line. Two of the songs, BLEACH BLOND BIMBO and CROSS THE LINE, were his riffs that I added lyrics and melody too. I've been wanting re-record them on a live Rock album and now I'm gonna do it with Nikki playing his own parts. We're also working together on some new material, some for my album and some for his.
Still in a dilemma over the Ibanez, though; the original plan was to sell/trade it for other parts. Since an Ibanez is completely outside my style I don't need one and it's just taking up space. Selling it to finance other gear would be putting it to the best use. But after our "dual-guitar reunion" I hate to part with it. Ah well, it'll work itself out like everything else.
Also in October were trips to Fukushima and Hiroshima by Bullet Train. All three were a first for me. Fukushima is a gorgeously quaint area with some very friendly people. From Hiroshima we were off by ferry to the small island of Itojima. On the way back I stopped to see the Atomic Dome and took lots of pictures.
Twenty-ten was also marked by a pair of "religious experiences". The first was becoming an ordained Dudeist priest. Dudeism, a religion based on the Coen Brothers' movie THE BIG LEBOWSKI. It's fun to be able to use the title "Reverend" and practice laziness (with touches of Taoism and Buddhism) as a religion. It also reminded me how much I love White Russians, though I had to back off on them for the sake of my girlish figure. The other "religious" experience also started out a bit of a gag but turned out to be much deeper than anticipated. Everyone is familiar with the catchphrase "What would Jesus do?" that adorns so many Right-wing bumper stickers ("They don't want to know so they can do it, they just want to know so they can tell everyone else to do it." --George Carlin) but Jessica Pallington West did it one better with her book "What Would Keith Richards Do?" http://www.amazon.com/What-Would-Keith-Richards-Affirmations/dp/1596916141/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293771451&sr=1-3 Seemingly a poke at self-help books it turns out to be a pretty damn good one! The main idea is to know yourself, including your "evil twin" which she terms "the inner and outer Mick", an idea sorely lacking in today's world of digital gadgets that are supposedly meant to communicate and connect but ultimately distract us from dealing with our demons, especially our inner ones. Joseph Campbell said our myths were outdated and no longer relevant so we need new ones, so why not The Dude and Keef Riffhard? I'll take them over any current political or religious leaders!
The upcoming book started to come together nicely. Tentatively titled "Trash, Twang & Thunder: Austin's Roots-Rock Revival" it chronicles the Blues & Roots revival of the 80's, my formative years, through the eyes of the people who did it. Stevie Ray Vaughan has been written about to the point where nearly every day of his life is documented (see Craig Hopkins book "Day After Day, Night After Night" http://www.stevieray.com) but he was simply one part of a much larger scene that put Austin on the musical map. Jimmie Vaughan and the T-birds set the template before drummer Mike Buck split to form The Leroi Brothers with Steve Doerr and guitar whiz (and my personal guitar guru) Don Leady. T-birds bassist Keith Ferguson played on their debut for Jungle Records CHECK THIS ACTION and Jungle reunited the infamous Buck/Ferguson rhythm section with Leady, Evan Johns (also a Leroi Brother a time or two), Denny Freeman (a badass guitarist in his own right and something of a mentor to the Vaughans) and "surf musician from Indiana" Frankie Camaro for the Grammy-nominated guitar orgy TRASH, TWANG & THUNDER which the book takes its title from. Ferguson would later join Leady in The Tail Gators and when he left that group he was succeeded by J.J. Barrera. For all that has been written about Stevie Ray his place in the larger picture of the Austin Blues & Roots, or Roots Rock, scene and his contemporaries has been criminally overlooked. And that's not to discount Stevie or his contributions to popular music. On the contrary, I discovered a lot of the old Blues greats through him as did so many of my generation. But I also discovered his contemporaries through him because wherever he was interviewed he frequently mentioned them and his heroes. So I decided to do something about it and write my own damn book!
As mentioned earlier I interviewed Ronnie James while in Austin http://www.jjvicars.com/blog.html/ronnie_james__living_the_dream/ and then Mike Buck http://www.jjvicars.com/blog.html/mike_buck__texas_drum_legend/ Thanks to Facebook I was able to get in touch with Jungle Records founder Bruce Sheehan whom I also interviewed and has been very generous in sharing his Jungle archives for my research http://www.jjvicars.com/blog.html/bruce_sheeehan__jungle_records/ Along the way, and possibly before getting in touch with Bruce, Frankie Camaro got wind of the project and contacted me. Not only is he from Indiana but he was living in Indianapolis the same time I was (he still lives there) and was at the same Cramps concert at Bogart's in Cincinnati that I was at! All this time he was MIA and we were in the same city on several occasions (including March when I stopped through on my way from OH to TX). Denny Freeman, whom I've been acquainted with for a few years, also gave me an excellent interview that is turning out to be one of the cornerstones of the book as I type it up. After his is typed and posted Frankie's is next. Got my fingers crossed for a late 2011 release.
A few well known people passed away in 2010 but one that hit home was former Skynyrd Honkette JoJo Billinglsey. I had gotten in touch with her a few years back on MySpace and we were going to do an interview when she disappeared from the online world. The article was planned to be one of the few articles on Skynyrd that avoided the plane crash, drunken brawls and all the other cliches and focused on their influences (other than the British Invasion) and work ethic (one of the tightest bands that ever was). Turns out she had major surgery for cancer and was making a shaky recovery. She passed away on June 24th but not before I was able to send her recordings of the original Skynyrd in Osaka, Japan and share a magazine article from that tour as well as some candid photos I stumbled across in the most bizarre of meant-to-be circumstances. See http://www.jjvicars.com/blog.html/skynyrd_in_japan/ for the article translated back into English and links to the photos. Tammy VanZant, Ronnie's eldest daughter, found the photos and magazine article and contacted me and I made sure she had copies of all the Skynyrd bootlegs with her dad. Tammy is also a smokin' vocalist in her own right and was kind enough to send me an autographed copy of her debut EP FREEBIRD CHILD http://www.freebirdchild.com Word is she's working on a full-length follow-up.
Jack Herer also passed away on April 15th. Here's book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" is considered the definitive book on the true story behind cannabis criminalization. Using the Freedom of Information Act he spent years researching why such a diversely useful plant (paper, plastic, clothing, food, fuel and medicine for starters) would be the center of America's failed Drug War. His book proves with documented evidence what I had guessed by following the money trail- Big Oil paid off the politicians (in '36) to enact a "marijuana scare" claiming it cause blacks and Mexicans to rape white women so industrial hemp would be eliminated from the marketplace (to make way for the newly patented Rayon). Who lobbies the hardest for cannabis prohibition? Big Oil and Big Pharma. The "war on cannabis" is a center-piece of the political and corporate corruption that continues to rape the people and the planet. Jack Herer deserves a fucking medal of honor, to say the least, for his lifetime work of exposing these criminals in office. The text can be read at http://www.jackherer.com but I suggest you buy a copy, the book has lots of good illustrations and you'll be voting with your dollars. And you Americans reading this keep in mind our Constitution is written on hemp paper!
Back on the music front LONGHAIRED LEFTOVERS was finally re-released just after Christmas. There had been a dispute over a couple collaborations so those songs were dropped and two others, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK (co-written with Jeremy Gloff) and RAIN KEEPS FALLING took their place. Again what appeared to be a headache worked out for the best, the new release has a much more Blues/Roots sound (which is hard to do on a digital home studio with preamps and drum machine) and it gave Mark Schwarz a bass and backing vocal slot. Listen to samples and buy CDs and downloads at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jjvicars4
As they say in baseball, "You win some and you lose some, and some get rained out, but you suit up for the all." A few bumps in the road along the way but that's life. And that's also where the interesting stories come from! Big thanks to everybody who was a part of it and best wishes for health and prosperity in 2011! See ya on down the road...