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Chris Wallace & The Delta Blues: Delivering The Goods

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By Johnny Griffith

There are voices…then there are voices. The kind that reaches down into your soul, grabs it, and pulls it out through your ears by sheer will. The kind that the blues gods reach down and bestow upon an individual very rarely, and even then, most don’t know what to do with the power of such a gift.

That’s Chris Wallace and The Delta Blues!

Originally from East Texas, Wallace picked up the guitar at an early age and spent most of his formative years listening to such blues essentials as Buddy Guy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Taj Mahal, and many others. Along the way he discovered he also had a voice that could call down the thunder and the lightning which, when combined with a natural blues guitar talent, created an experience that one must witness in person to fully appreciate.

Wallace eventually joined forces with three other equally gifted musicians and formed The Delta Blues and they’ve been burning up stages in the area ever since. The band is comprised of Robert Cheek on drums, Garland Moore on bass, and Steve Howell on lead guitar. Their bio page reads like something out of a comic book, with these cats as the obvious heroes of the story.

“Chris is from East Texas originally. He got into music early at the age of 5 or 6 when he started learning to play guitar. Chris is usually spending time with his wife and 2-year-old daughter when not doing music. His influences are Buddy Guy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Taj Mahal, and so forth.”

Robert Cheek is originally from Mabank, Texas. He moved to the Tyler area to pursue an education in music as a percussionist at University of Texas at Tyler. He first got involved with music by joining band in the 6th grade. He taught drums and percussion as an assistant band director at Frankston ISD in Frankston Texas. “Music has always been a hobby and a passion so I turned it into a career. Other than that, I spend my time with my wife Brandi and three boys Tristan, Walter, and Adrian.” Roberts influences are Levon Helm and The Band, Benny Greb, Carter Beauford, and Stewart Copeland, just to name a few.

Steve Howell has been playing guitar since he could hold one. Classically trained in music, and a music teacher at Rockwall Schools, he has brought a great amount of  knowledge to the group. Steve has a passion to write songs which is great, because The Delta Blues has a lot of things coming for 2018 in that regard. He loves everything music. Steve’s influences include Son house, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Billy Gibbons, and the likes.

Garland Moore was forged out of what can only be considered pure grit, raw talent, and brilliant Irish whiskey. Learning to play guitar with his friends and jamming in the funky bars in and around Waco, “G-Mo” made the move to bass and never looked back. He earned his stripes through various musical excursions in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and onward thru the fog. In his free time, Garland loves to shoot his guns, fish, and restore classic cars. His influences are Carol Kay, Harvey Brooks, Ray Brown, Bob Mosley, Edgar Mayer, and Donald Dunn.

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I recently sat down with The Delta Blues to get a better idea of how they came to be and where they are going:

Johnny: How did the band meet?

The Delta Blues: Chris and Garland ventured in other project together for several years until finally landing Robert and Steve today that create a sound like no other “blues” band around.

Johnny: Why “The Delta Blues Band?” Was there intent with the name selection, or did it just sound catchy?

The Delta Blues: There was intent on the name and we had many to decide from along the lines of “blue or blues something another,” but the Delta Blues Band stuck with us, so we just rolled with it.

Johnny: Why that style of music? It’s certainly not a style that gets the most real estate on stages around the area. What led you to your sound?

The Delta Blues: We all love the blues and what it represents. Our foundation is blues but it’s kicked up a notch. So even though blues isn’t a huge market here, we didn’t want to play one certain style just to get gigs. Chris’ vocals and style of playing is really the center of our sound. He has that ‘bigger than life’ voice and stage presence that captivates an audience. His upbringing is as blues/rock/country as it gets. His dad is a prominent musician in his own right and the blues just seem to run in Chris’ blood. Mix that with the awe-inspiring talent and experience of Steve and Garland playing guitar and bass, with a little simple groove and shuffle from Robert on drums, and you got The Delta Blues.

Johnny: Who are some of the significant influences musically for the band?

The Delta Blues: Buddy Guy is a big one for our front man Chris.  He makes the shows fun and entertaining for the crowds. We just love any band that puts on a show when you see them live. For us, we can hear the music on a cd at the house but if you can’t put the mojo on the crowd then you are doing it wrong.

Johnny: What was your first gig as Chris Wallace and The Delta Blues Band?

The Delta Blues: The Purple Pig on 155 was our first gig as CW and the DB Band. That was our knocking the dust-off gig as they say. It was a small gig maybe 30 to 40 people. We had a great time. Mighty fine BBQ too!!!

Johnny: In an area that is traditionally dominated musically by country and rock acts, have there been any challenges getting gigs and building a base for a blues band?

The Delta Blues: There is a challenge getting it up and running. In the beginning stages it is tough to get gigs. But, once the show is over we always get welcomed back. There are a lot of places around here that need to hear us. We put on a hell of a show. It’s getting these clubs now days to take a chance on something different that’s challenging

Johnny: Are you guys typically local to the East Texas area or do you venture out into other markets at this point?

The Delta Blues: We’ve stayed pretty local, but I think we’d all be willing to travel some. It would depend on if the situation was right all around and we all agreed to it. We generally make gig decisions as a group. We clear everything through each other. For instance, pay, lodging arrangements, and schedules would all have to line up to everyone’s expectations before taking on any gig no matter the distance.

Johnny: What has been the most memorable gig for the band to this point?

The Delta Blues: We must give XLN a shout out. When the DB Band plays there, it’s just pure chemistry between us and the crowd. We always bring the house down and have a few people that love to get up with us and sing. We want every gig to be memorable for our audience. You get people involved and engaged in your show and they take it home with them. But our motto is “We give our all whether there are 3 people in the crowd or 300” But if we happen to get the 3, that gives us a chance to really mold any new songs we have never done live or just put on the one hell of a Jam.

Johnny: What does 2018 have in store for The Delta Blues? Any projects or tour plans?

The Delta Blues: We are working on an all original CD now. We have 5 or 6 great tunes so far. We want to do about 10 songs for this CD. We are hoping that the CD will help us move to more gigs to keep us steady through the year.

Johnny: For new fans, what can they expect at a show with The Delta Blues?

The Delta Blues: For our new fans, you can expect to have a good time. When people go out to a bar or club they want to hear songs they know. We can read the crowd quick and with our extensive set list we can mold it to anyone in the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you like country, rock, rap, blues, or catchy TV show theme songs we will deliver an experience that makes you want to come back and see us.

Chris Wallace And The Delta Blues can be found at:

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Bands

July 27th: SFO, A Journey Tribute Band at Bergfeld Park

The City of Tyler will host the annual Bergfeld Summer Showcase at Bergfeld Park, located at 1510 S. College Ave., on Friday, July 27. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with fun and food trucks and live music beginning at 7 p.m.

This year, SFO – A Journey Tribute, a Nashville native band will take the stage. SFO recreates the experience of a 1980’s concert, playing all the Journey hits that you know and love with a special salute to Kansas and Foreigner. The band is made up of top-notch musicians from Nashville, Florida, and Minnesota who bring the highest level of musicianship to the audience.

Frontman Gabe Jacobs delivers powerful vocals to his audience by closely emulating the vocals and stage presence of legendary Steve Perry.

“This band will transport you back to the 80’s with all the songs you know by heart!” said Adriana Rodriguez, event coordinator.

The local favorite food trucks will be present for quality dining including Say Cheese, Weinerland, Lupita’s, Kona Ice and Pokey O’s.

For more information, contact Adriana Rodriguez at (903) 595-7248 or at ARodriguez@TylerTexas.com.

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Bands

The Haggertys: Hey Hey We’re The Haggertys

By Johnny Griffith

There are times when things just click with someone and you know it from the start. Then, years later you come back across them and it’s almost as if no time has passed. That’s kind of what is like for local Tyler favorites The Haggertys. Having all been members of different bands, some together and some collaborative, over the years, the lineup of “Patrick James” Freden (guitars, vocals), Brad Thurston (bass, backing vocals), and Clint Hiltz (drums/percussion) have been together as The Haggertys since 2013 and have been exciting audiences ever since with their setlists of 90’s standard rock covers as well as reinterpreting some classic songs along the way.

We sat down with the guys recently to get some more history on the band and a better snapshot of the members.

Johnny: How about we start with a brief bio of yourself and your background in music.

Patrick: I was born in Minnesota, moved to Tyler in 1974 and then left in the summer of 1977. I basically grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi playing Dungeons & Dragons, riding BMX bikes, and listening to albums over at a friend’s house. My first band was a punk band called Spastic Fury in high school. After that, I did some college in Mobile, Alabama, and eventually came back to Tyler in 1988. I played in bands all through the 90’s and started a solo acoustic project in 2005. I’m a self-employed graphic artist by day building websites, designing logos, etc., and music is my second business. I’m a full-time dad and husband, a professional tinkerer who likes craft beers, Les Pauls, Orange Amps, and hanging out in my favorite music store, Action Sound in Hawkins.

Brad: I’ve been playing music since I was 15 when I purchased my first guitar. It cost me $50 and was in a brown paper bag in pieces. After getting it put together, I started looking around for a band. No one needs a guitar player, so the next year I went and bought a bass, found a band, and the journey began. The start of my high school music career included rock bands like Conspiracy, Guardian, and Blue Steel. After high school, I branched out and did a did brief stint in a country band.

The call of the Hair Bands drew me to California, Hollywood to be exact. I moved in with a friend from high school, joined a band, and played the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. within the first 3 weeks of being in California. I played in other bands there, like Hammer Lane. I did shows at The Roxy Theater and The Whisky A Go-Go. After wrapping up my California time, I moved back to Tyler, found an alternative band, Center Mass, which was later known as “Did Lee Squat?” (DLS?). That’s where I met “Patrick James.” We played venues in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and even Shreveport, Louisiana.

This too ended and I started my family, got a job, and put the band on the back burner. After some time, I started playing with Livid, a cover band around the Tyler/Longview area. This project just kinda wound down and I took a job out of town. More time passed with both family and job changes. I started playing bass in a praise band for Pollard United Methodist Church and did that for a few years until one day Patrick called. No, it was not the “I’m getting the band back together” kinda call. He wanted to redo his current project. I think he said he wanted to play more electric guitar and just rock out…so here we are.

Clint: I’m the baby of the band, born in Austin in 1974. I lived in Alvin, Texas through my 5th-grade year and moved to East Texas in 1986 where I joined the Union Grove percussion section in junior high and continued throughout high school. I played in the band and every sport Union Grove offered. As I got into high school, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to play football then at halftime, I’d take off my shoulder pads and march in the marching band. In 1992, I moved to Tyler and was offered a scholarship to join the Tyler Junior College drumline, better known as the Apache Punch. My hobbies are hunting, fishing, shooting guns, and working out. Currently, I work at Suddenlink as a Commercial Sales Supervisor.

Johnny: Who would you say was personally responsible, individually, for instilling that love of music you’d take the rest of your lives?

Pat: My mom for sure. She was the one that got me going as a kid…from playing Johnny Cash records to buying me a guitar and taking me to lessons.

Brad: My mom, she had me taking piano at the age of six, and we loved Elvis.

Clint: Hands down, my father. He played drums as well and he got me started gigging at the early age of 13 when I would sit in for him and play Wipeout.

Johnny: When did you three first meet?

The Haggertys: During the 90’s, Pat and Brad were playing in a band called DLS? and Clint was in a band called Affinity. The two bands did several shows together, including one at the Oil Palace in Tyler with DLS? as the headliner and Affinity providing support…the friendship and collaboration grew from there.

Johnny: How did the idea of starting the Haggertys come together?

The Haggertys: Sometime in the summer of 2013, Pat was doing his solo acoustic thing and had done some earlier shows with Clint and Brad as the Patrick James Band but these were still “acoustic” shows. After playing these kinds of shows for so long, Pat just got the itch to play with electrics and amps again, and Clint was on board to “get loud.” A permanent bass player was recruited and the band was formed. Really the Haggertys morphed out of the Patrick James Band and the guys started rehearsing so the song list grew. The band covers lots of material but kinda focuses on 90’s rock. The old “If it’s a good song, it’s a good song….doesn’t matter what genre it’s from” always applies.

Johnny: Okay, so the name. Where did it come from and whose idea was it?

The Haggertys: During one of the early rehearsals the idea of a band name came up and of course lots of stuff was thrown around. Pat noticed that all the band members had some righteous beards going at the time and this got him to thinking about people with beards and the one person that came to mind was a childhood hero from the show Grizzly Adams. Pat said, “the best beard ever, in my opinion, hands down, was Dan Haggerty, let’s call the band that!” So originally he wanted the band to be called the Dan Haggertys which morphed into the Damn Haggertys which quickly changed, for obvious reasons, and the band settled in with The Haggertys.

Johnny: When and where was the first Haggertys show?

The Haggertys: The first show was March 22nd, 2014, at Shoguns (#2) under their black tent outside. It was an alright turnout, and the band had fun. We later learned that many people were turned away or had to wait to get outside under the tent because of limited seating and fire codes.

Johnny: How would you describe your sound to a new listener?

The Haggertys: Straight-up, no-frills, fun-having, 3-piece rock cover band with a few surprises.

Johnny: You guys move in and out of different genres and decades of music pretty easily. Would you say there is one you’re more comfortable with than the others?

The Haggertys: Being a 3-piece with everyone doing something, we kinda gravitate towards 90’s rock songs we can easily play and cover well. More complicated songs with multi instruments tend to be harder (or impossible) to pull off with just three instruments, so we shy away from them. However, the art of taking a song and “making it your own” remake/cover is what we strive to do. Really any song we can cover well and make our own stays on the set list.

Johnny: Are you primarily covers or are you throwing some original stuff in the mix?

The Haggertys: We all played in what we called “Showcase Bands” back in the 90’s…all original songs and we all made albums, struggled to get gigs that paid, rehearsed a lot, tried to get signed, etc. Today we just play covers, play a lot, rehearse way less often, don’t care about getting signed, and get paid to play, which is nice. We won’t rule out that one day we might start writing songs again, but it isn’t on anyone’s radar anytime soon. We have done some reunion shows by combining Did Lee Squat? and Sand Dollar band members into a group called Did Lee Dollar. This allowed us to reconnect with old bandmates and fans and play some of the old originals. Come to think of it, it’s probably time for another one of those shows.

Check out The Haggertys online at:

www.facebook.com/thehaggertys

www.instagram.com/thehaggertys

www.thehaggertysband.com

 

Shows:

  • Thursday, July 12th – Razzoo’s, Tyler, 7-10pm
  • Friday, September 14th – Gregg County Fair on Dennis Hiltz Memorial Stage, Longview
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Bands

Southern Charm: Small Town Girls With Big Time Sound

By Johnny Griffith

So there’s an old saying that has something to do with ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ and that certainly holds true with the two talented, dynamic artists in the East Texas duo Southern Charm. Both hailing from small East Texas towns, Shelby Ballenger and Billie Jo Sewell have been making a name for themselves both as successful solo artists and the fast rising duet, Southern Charm. Both artists have honed their crafts on many local stages and along the way found they had a knack for harmony and similar musical interests. Borne of a shared passion and great timing, Southern Charm takes advantage of each artist’s unique vocal ability and is greater than the sum of its parts…which is saying something because Shelby and Billie Jo both have burgeoning solo careers in their own right. So much so that Southern Charm as a duet has to book six months in advance and then they have a seven show run in seven east Texas venues.

We caught up with them in the middle of this latest run to get some more background on these ladies and their “Southern Charm.”

Johnny: When did you two first take up an interest in music?

Shelby: From the age of 13 I began singing at The Wylie Opry. From there, I was self-taught to play the guitar. I eventually began going to open mic nights all around north Texas to make a name for myself. About 2 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my day job and pursue music full time. I haven’t looked back.

Billie Jo: I started singing when I was 4 years old and grew up singing in church. I went from singing at church to Opry’s, restaurants, and festivals, to opening for people such as Ray Price, Gene Watson, Justin Moore, Mike Ryan, and Stoney LaRue. I had the honor to be on “The Voice” where I made top 150 on season 6 and recently I made top 100 on “American Idol.” I just recently signed to TXM Records and am currently in the studio working on my first country single!

Johnny: Who were some of your early influences?

Shelby: I always looked up to dominant female singers growing up. My lead inspirations were Shania Twain, Lee Ann Rimes, and The Dixie Chicks. When I began songwriting, I leaned on lyrics by Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, and local artists such as Meredith Crawford and Matt Grisby for inspiration.

Billie Jo: I was raised by my grandparents so I was inspired by the oldies but goodies, as I like to call them, such as George Jones, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and many others.

Johnny: When did you decide music was more than just another hobby and was something worth pursuing?

Shelby: Once I began taking the stage with my guitar, people began talking about the talent and potential I had. I tried to make an impression at every new venue and began to see the joy it brought to people listening. I began entering songwriting competitions once my repertoire grew and placed with within the top four each time out of hundreds of hopefuls.

Billie Jo: I knew at a very early age that God didn’t give me this voice to just sing at home. I just knew that He gave me this voice to share with the world and that one day this would be my full time career which, gratefully, I’m very close to being able to say. I’ve always wanted to use my gift that God gave me in hopes that the audience may come to know Him through my music and testimony.

Johnny: How did you two first meet and when did the idea of a duo project come up?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We met at an East Texas singing competition a little over four years ago. From there, we became instant best friends.

Johnny: When and where was your first show as Southern Charm?

Shelby & Billie Jo: Our first official show was at The Foxhole where we won a karaoke competition. We took home $2,500 which made it our first paid gig together. From there Southern Charm played The Forge in Ben Wheeler and then our solo careers started taking off. We now book six months in advance for the Southern Charm East Texas Tour.

Johnny: How about the name? Where did that idea come from?

Shelby: Billie Jo’s son Chandler won most handsome baby boy at the Emory Rains pageant in 2014. I saw Billie Jo make a post on Facebook needing a car to ride in the parade with. I offered her convertible slug bug for the event. While we were in the car, we started trying out songs to sing together. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to put a duo together and name the act Southern Charm. Billie Jo loved the idea so we ran with it!

Johnny: How would you describe your sound?

Shelby: Southern Charm’s sound has a pure tone and the harmonies blend extremely well. I [Shelby] have more of the bluesy tone and Billie Jo brings the powerhouse country twang. Together, our voices mesh to create a unique country sound.

Johnny: What do you feel you bring to the table individually that compliments your partner on stage?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We know the dynamics of music. We never try to overpower each other onstage and that’s something every duo needs in order to be successful.

Johnny: About how many originals do you try to work in during a show?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We try to work in all of our most favorite originals at each and every show. Usually there’s about four to five each.

Johnny: You’ve had a busy summer already, what’s coming up on the radar the rest of the year that you’re excited about?

Shelby: I’m currently working on my full album with Joe Austin as producer. I’ve written 12 brand new songs and my new single “Heartbreaks & Hangovers” will be released late July while the album will drop next summer.

Billie Jo: I have a big secret I’ll be able to announce in a couple months about where I will be on the National Stage. Currently I’m in the studio with Chad Mauldin and Mauldin Productions working on my new single that will be released in early August.

Johnny: What can a first timer expect at a Southern Charm show?

Shelby & Billie Joe: Harmonies that give goosebumps and two best friends shining, as they do what they love onstage.

Keep up with Southern Charm online at facebook.com/southerncharmmusic.

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