Little Band Tate

Just a little bit about one of my very favorite record store finds. I feel they are very under appreciated and also feel you, as inquiring musical minds, should know about them as well.

So, here goes:

Eric Quincy Tate – self-titled
Atlantic/Cotillion/Rhino Handmade

Fans of Southern rock will no doubt want to check out Rhino Handmade’s reissue of the band Eric Quincy Tate’s eponymously named debut. It must be in the water as like another legendary Southern rock band (albeit one that achieved much more fame than the one whose album I am reviewing) who just happened to name themselves after a bastardization of their gym teacher Leonard Skinnerd’s lovely moniker, Eric Quincy Tate was actually a band, not a person, and had no members named Eric, Qunicy, or Tate. The name, however cryptic, really doesn’t matter much in this case, though. What matters is how a band this good only managed to make a mark regionally and never really broke out of the Southeast in terms of popularity. After listening to this album you will realize Eric Qunicy Tate blows most of the second-tier Southern Rock bands like Wet Willie and Sea Level out of the water and comes damn close to reaching the musical heights of the aforementioned king-of-them-all-y’all: Lynyrd Skynyrd!

The bandmembers met each other in the Naval reserves and were stationed in Quincy, MA, but later based themselves down South after forming the band. This was mostly because they were able to find a lot of gigs there, their sound more characteristic with what was happening in the deep South. Playing a lot in Texas near the Gulf Coast area, the band was eventually discovered by the Swamp King himself, Tony Joe White, who felt an affinity for the rocking blend of soul, blues and R&B the band was creating. White helped the band get signed to Capricorn records and produced this debut record, which vanished almost as soon as it was recorded, almost forgotten forever until the fine folks at Rhino realized the album compares favorably to White’s own classic Monument albums. Besides this disc, the band recorded two more albums before splitting up by the end of the ’70’s but none of their other albums came near the glorious heights of this one.

Filled with a greasy, swampy brand of rock, this album sounds a little different than just about everything else under the Southern Rock umbrella. Where most Southern Rock bands were mixing blues and rock, Eric Qunicy Tate decided to keep those elements and add generous helpings of Southern soul and country to their mix. By all accounts, the band could really rock and were excellent on their respective instruments, which makes it all the more surprising that most of the band didn’t even play on their own debut album! Somewhere along the line, executives at the band’s label decided to call in The Dixie Flyers, the house band from the reknowned Sounds of Memphis recording studio, and use them on the album instead. Seems the record company brass felt The Flyers, being established studio vets, would be able to accomplish recording the album a lot quicker than the inexperienced Eric Quincy Tate. To the record sompany, this move made more sense than giving free rein to untested talents. The cost of the recording would stay low and the band would jell together while promoting the album and later recordings could then be made by the actual band. Solid strategy – for a label. Disheartening as hell for a young band. Sad part is, it still happens frequently today. If you only knew how many debut albums by your favorite bands were loaded with studio ringers while the real members of the band watched from the wings, you would faint. Any debut album by a new band on a major label is loaded with ringers. They may not be credited, but they are there. Hell, as a guitar player in my youth, I was offered a chance to join the band of an up and coming recording artist on a big label. I listened to the demo and didn’t feel confident I could play the complicated parts, but was assured I would have my name on the album, be “taught” the parts by the studio whiz who actually played them, and be able to go on tour and become a full-fledged member of the band. I turned the job down (yeah, I’m an idiot) – but it happens a lot, believe me.

But, I have digressed. Let’s get back on topic.

It had to be disconcerting for the actual bandmembers of Eric Quincy Tate to show up at their first session and see all these heavyweights set up and ready to play and to be told they couldn’t play on their own debut. Singer/drummer Donnie McCormack and guitarist Tommy Carlisle were the only two members allowed to play on the album as they were the focal points of the band and also the two songwriters, but the rest of the band had to sit it out. The Memphis Horns also played on the album, but they were added later by overdub and were not present at the same sessions as the band. Though no one involved with the band can remember exactly who decided the band couldn’t play on it’s own record, the demos, alternate cuts and unreleased songs show a band more than capable of handling the job. These cuts feature a relaxed, loose, powerful Eric Quincy Tate who could hold their own with the best of their Southern Rock peers. Consider Eric Quincy Tate one of the best bands ever who ended up completely overlooked in favor of lesser talents.

Southern rock fans who have never heard of this band (or maybe had just forgotten them) are going to have an exciting time listening to this album. Not only will it be a revelation, but it will become an album to which you will return over and over again. The album manages to transcend the genre and show depth not usually associated with the mindless boogie most think of when broaching the subject of Southern Rock. Truly, Eric Quincy Tate wre something unto themselves and it’s a shame more people didn’t realize it at the time. Ah well, thanks to this reissue, there is still a chance for the band to get its’ due. Pick this up and have your preconcieved notions of good ole boy rock changed forever.

Keep Givin’ Me Mo’, Tony Joe

Sure, I come back after a little sabbatical and there’s no fanfare, no cake, no party, and, worst of all, no friggin’ BALLOONS for chrissakes. What the #$%^?

Anyway, been gone for too long, drinking shit that’s too strong, learning some songs and singin’ ’em wrong, removing some groupies’ thongs and hitting some bongs, listening to T-Rex and banging some gongs – fuck it…it’s time to slow down a little and who best to slow down to than some Snakey?

And by “Snakey” I mean some Tony Joe White, the coolest Southern mutha since James Brown.

If’n ya don’t know the name, ya still know White’s game as he has written some of the coolest soul hits around. Some of them, like Polk Salad Annie (his only big hit as an artist), Rainy Night In Georgia and Groupie Girl, have become rock and roll evergreens, covered by many, many artists and allowing White to earn a living as a songwriter even as his under-the-radar albums stay unknown to the public but worshipped by true music fans who love his foot-stomping boogie beats, masterful guitar work and swampy rock/country songs.

And before ya say something like, ‘sure, he wrote a couple of hit songs, so what’ consider he’s made a career out of using his thick Southern drawl, his womper-stomper (a wooden board he stomps on to create a beat while he plays guitar – yeah, that’s right, a fucking wooden BOARD – how’s that for primal?) and a guitar to create songs many people consider legendary. As a plus, the French love him and treat him like a hero when he tours there!

Believe me, Tony Joe White could take those White Stripes off of Jack White, tie Jack’s ass up with them, shove some Black Keys up Jack’s ass and still have time to sing a cool little ditty about some trolls who love rock and roll, dig? I mean, twenty albums (all of them cooler than shit) and 40 years of singing swamp pop ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.

But, like all true artists, Tony Joe has had his down times. Pretty much labelless from 1983 to 1999, White survived off of songwriting royalties, selling homemade albums out of his car, and touring Europe. While not a bad life, surely not fitting a songwriter and personality such as him.

Thankfully, at the dawn of the millenium, things started turning around. People gave him deals, good ones, and since 2000 White has released about six albums and had a bunch of others reissued on labels large and small. Just this year he has two releases: one on New West Records featuring an Austin City Limits TV appearance from 1982 and a new studio album featuring duets with male rockers Mark Knopfler, J.J. Cale, and Eric Clapton among others. The new studio set is a companion piece to his last studio record in 2004 on which he duetted with female artists like Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams.

As his nickname suggests, Tony Joe White keeps shedding old personas like a snake sheds skin and comes back new and improved every few years or so. Right now, he is on the tear of his career and if you have a chance to see him live I would pay whatever he is asking (and double it!) and see a legend in action. Until you have the good fortune to do that though, please pick up his records. Every one of them is a gem and any blues or rock fan will get a supreme delight out of hearing him do his stuff.

He is a true original. Please check him out, buy yourself a wooden board and maybe write your own best sellers like Tony Joe does.

Who knows about wooden boards?

The Music Nerd knows…..????!!!!????