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Clay Thrash: In Love With The Mystery


By Johnny Griffith

It’s pretty much a given if you want to be a working musician, at some point you’re going to have a day job, or two, or three. Some people have full-blown careers and simply perform to give themselves an escape, a few extra bucks for bad habits, or simply for the love of it. More commonly, musicians will work part-time jobs in between weekends to fund the gas and food for the next road trip, buy that next instrument, or pay their bar tab at the next show. East Texan Clay Thrash decided to take up the family business and become a barber while writing material for his next album.

A native of Quitman, Clay grew up pretty much the poster-child for the stereotypical “cool” kid: playing football and track all four years, state qualifier in the pole-vault, setting records along the way. In fact, Clay didn’t even pick up guitar until around the age of 16 when Clay’s dad bought his mom a guitar, and Clay began to teach himself some chords along the way.

After leaving Quitman for Angelo State University on a track scholarship, Clay continued to pursue music, developing a love for performing even though the pay was almost non-existent, like the time he played for $50 and a case of beer. From those roots, Clay went on to record an album and toured in support of the album, getting some Texas Radio attention and making the rounds to several major-market radio stations in the process. A couple of years removed from that time-period, Clay has settled back down in Quitman, working full time, and keeping an eye toward the future and his next album.

Clay gave us some time this month to see what he’s up to and what’s coming up in 2018:

Johnny: When did you initially develop an interest in music?

Clay: I initially developed an interest in music in elementary school, probably kindergarten, with a mild obsession with Elvis. Then later in the third and fourth grade it was grunge and alternative rock, bands like the Toadies, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. My mom was horrified when she found me screaming “Do you wanna die?!” along with The Toadies’ song Possum Kingdom.

Johnny: What was the hook for you, that grabbed you and drew you into to the musician lifestyle as opposed to say, a barber?

Clay: The hook for me was Pat Green. Plain and simple. I’d catch him every time I could and was just fascinated with the idea of this normal dude going around making a real living basically throwing a party. Of course, he’s anything but normal. I think the dude is a genius in his own way; a great writer and even better performer.

Johnny: How was that conversation with your parents when you decided to tell them this was what you wanted to do?

Clay: They never had a problem with it. They were always very supportive of whatever I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been very lucky with my folks. They are the best parents I could have asked for, and they love me unconditionally, so there was no drama there to speak of.

Johnny: When did you make the jump from sitting in your garage or living room strumming on the guitar to deciding to get up on a stage in front of people?

Clay: That’s an easy one; I credit that with my old roommate at Angelo State. Spencer played the guitar, and he was on the track team. He was much better at talking to people than I am, and probably still is. His personality is larger than life and can come across as a jerk, but a lovable one! I went up to Spence one day in the weight room and said, “Hey, man, I hear you play the guitar?” He said, “Yeah, you should come over to my apartment tonight.” This was before we moved in together. We kind of messed around for a night, and he was like, “We should really try to get some gigs.” I honestly had never even thought of it like that up until that point. All of a sudden it became a reality! I think it was that weekend we ended up at this place called The Scrub Pub in San Angelo. (I’m dating myself, I’m sure). Mark David Manders was playing that night, and Spencer, in typical form, goes up to him and asks him if he and I can open for him the next night of their two-night-stand, and Mark said yes! We show up and stagger our way through 45 minutes of terrible covers, but that was the beginning.

Johnny: I’ve listened to your debut album, and it’s a nice, high-energy melding of older and newer country styles with a rock flair here and there. Which artists would you say had the most influence in the development of your current sound?

Clay: Well, I’d say that sound isn’t current to what I’m doing now. The stuff I’m writing now, of course it’s still me, so there will be parallels, but as far as that album goes, it’s tough to say. I was kind of all over the place. Radney Foster was always an influence, but probably a little less these days. I’m actually more into pop driven stuff now, but still with that rock and country flare. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be FGL, not that kind of pop, but big pop, big choruses, big moments, and big hooks. That’s what I’m trying to do these days.

Johnny: About how many shows a month are you playing?

Clay: I’m kind of in a hiatus and working as a barber pretty much all the time. I’m writing, and we are planning on starting back up in 2018. But I’ve needed some more stability. I tried to kind of live a normal nine to five, thought I had a girl to marry, and that ended up just being more fuel for great songs. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, for now.

Johnny: What are some of your hobbies when you’re not thinking about work or music?

Clay: I’d say hunting is up there, though I haven’t gotten to go much lately. I read a ton of stuff. I’m interested in Cormac McCarthy novels. You know, the guy that wrote “No Country For Old Men.” I like stuff based in the south and with a bit of mystery. Currently, I’m reading “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham. I guess I like books that have been made into movies. One kind of weird thing I’m interested in lately is that I’m a bit fascinated with paranormal stuff. UFO’s and stuff like that. The idea of it all fascinates me. My birthday is on the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. So, of course, I’ve always been interested in that stuff. Really, I guess it’s a fascination with what’s behind closed doors, the mystery of it all. I’ll always chase a good mystery.

Johnny: You’ve enjoyed some success in recent years, making the rounds on Texas radio, recording your debut album, touring to promote the album and gain exposure. At any point has it been hard to keep sight of Quitman, Texas and the path that’s brought you this far?

Clay: Absolutely not. I’m there almost every weekend right now.

Johnny: What has been your best memory so far in your musical journey?

Clay: Playing Gruene Hall.

Johnny: What’s on the agenda for 2018?

Clay: A record, no doubt. I have songs that are the best stuff I’ve ever written, and they need to be heard.

For more info about Clay Thrash and his music go to or



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Around East Texas

Jason Herrin, Shooter Jennings, Dirty River Boys in Concert this Weekend


Upcoming Concerts

March 9th (8pm) Jason Herrin will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door. Cover is $7.

March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at

March 10th (8pm) – Dirty River Boys with Pushwater will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $15 for general admission.

March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, respect and as he will readily admit, even a bit of obsession. His new album “Probably Wrong” follows the Austin-based performer’s ultimate goal is to reinvent himself with each record he makes. Tickets are $13-$20.

March 17th (8pm-1am) – St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre will take place at Click’s Live, 1946 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. The St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre features Edge of Misery, No Due Respect, and LowLife. Cover at the door. Doors open at 8pm.

March 22nd (7-10pm) – Zach Winters and Jason Barrows will perform at The Foundry Coffee House, 202 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler. They will be performing songs from their new albums and changing every city they visit to the city of brotherly love. Early bird tickets are $10. Pre-sale ticket are $12. At the door tickets are $15. Doors at 7pm and music starts at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome. For more info go to or

March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.

March 25th (8pm) – Texas Sunday Returns with Brandon Rhyder at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $15 for general admission.

April 7th (9pm-1am) – Post Profit with Travis Christian will be at Garage Bar, 418 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. There is a $5 cover.

April 7th (7pm) – Sam Riggs will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at

April 8th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Jason Boland & The Stragglers will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $20 for general admission.

April 12th (8pm) Wesley Pruitt will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door.

April 12th (7pm) – The Legendary Johnny Rodriguez in Concert – Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodriguez, has had fifteen top-ten singles and 6 number-one hits since 1973. Some of Johnny’s classic hits include: “Pass Me By,” “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” “Riding My Thumb To Mexico,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “Just Get Up and Close The Door.” For tickets call (866)710-8942. Tickets start at $35.

April 15th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Chris Knight will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $20 for general admission.

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at

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The Blacksmiths: Still Like That Old Time Rock & Roll


By Johnny Griffith

Bob Seger has a well known hit from the early 80’s called “Old Time Rock And Roll.” This song laments the lack of soul in the contemporary music of that time period and declares his intent to keep playing classic rock as a solution. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Mr. Seger, but the closest thing we have here in East Texas is Chris Austin of the local classic rock band, The Blacksmiths. A native of Chapel Hill, Chris played drums on the drumline at Chapel Hill High School and went on to graduate from the Dallas Sound Lab with a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Techniques. Blessed with parents that loved music and supported him in his endeavors early and often, Austin developed a love for classic rock through the sounds he heard coming from his parents’ collections and eventually started a band and is still playing to this day.

We managed to get a word in with Chris recently to find out more about The Blacksmiths

Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band? Any changes over the lifespan of the band?

Chris: The current lineup consists of myself on lead guitar and vocals, Joshua Stewart on drums, Angelo Lopez on bass/rhythm guitar/vocals, and Ben Carter on bass and vocals. Angelo and Ben have both been filling the shoes of bass player when available, but recently we decided to shake it up a bit and go with a 4 piece instead of 3 with Angelo on guitar as well…as our busy schedules finally allowed. The lineup has changed immensely over the years. I haphazardly started this project about 6 years ago with a couple of friends just messing around in my kitchen,,,which was the only place we had to set up all the equipment at the time…typical broke musicians haha. We eventually gained a keyboard and rhythm player and were a 5 piece band by the time we started playing shows. We decided to go back to a 3 piece after about a year for convenience and scheduling issues. Our drummer at the time had to move for work but introduced me to Joshua before doing so. Joshua had played with Angelo before with “Something Blue” and I met Ben after watching him play for “King Richard and the Bayou Boys” …and as they say, the rest was history.

Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?

Chris: My parents were very into music and had a plethora of vinyl records to dig through. I was turned on to The Doors, The Who, The Allman Bros, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, CCR, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, David Bowie…but most importantly Led Zeppelin. When I was 12 I received a cheap electric guitar and Led Zeppelin IV on cassette tape for Christmas and that changed everything..

Johnny: At what point was the decision made to be a primarily classic rock band? Have to say you guys are a bit younger than most of the other ones in the area.

Chris: That’s really the stuff I always enjoyed playing the most and felt most comfortable with, because those tunes were ingrained in me from a young age. When we first started, we tried a lot of 90’s stuff and some 80’s Metallica and Misfits which we were pretty decent at but learned pretty quickly what we had more fun with. Even though we’re a bit younger, I feel we were all entranced by that era of music growing up. We were very lucky to have Miss Robin Griffith from XLN on 5th street give us the chance to really explore our potential. We played every Sunday there for quite a while as the house band which gave us a lot of quick feedback from the crowd…and from the venue owner haha.

Johnny: Is there any specific period of classic rock you guys gravitate towards over others?

Chris: Not really, I’ve just personally loved the 70’s era most, but we cover the 60’s and 80’s as well. We do seem to cover a lot of Creedence Clearwater and The Doors though, if that says anything.

Johnny: Where did the band name come from?

Chris: The guys from the original lineup and I were hanging out after practice having a beer or two and trying to come up with something, After a length of time and much pondering, we looked around the room and noticed the main theme of what we were looking at…which was old, broken down, second hand, very junky equipment that I had been hoarding and frankensteining together with duct tape and zip ties for years. I’m really not sure how we didn’t shock or hurt ourselves but I remember us saying…”well, we sure know how to make something out of nothing…like a dang ole’ blacksmith” (speaking of the ramshackle but playable equipment). And just like that, it stuck.

Johnny: do you guys do any originals at this point or is it primarily covers?

Chris: I’ve had a couple of blues tunes in the works for a while but we’ve honestly been so busy playing shows and working full time day jobs or careers it’s been tough to find time, but I think this is our year to shine.

Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?

Chris: I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences along the way getting to play with some amazing musicians. I was the guitar player in a band with Jonathan Scott from Resident Hero for a while and grew up with the singer Ryan White. I also toured a bit as guitar player for Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue out of Austin. I’d have to say though, my favorite memory thus far is a recent one. Joshua and I were both taught drums by Nardo and I learned guitar from Larry Stanley. We had the opportunity to open for Mouse and the Traps for the New Years Eve party at Love and War in Lindale and man was it an experience! We got to open for the guys who taught us everything in a packed room. Too cool

Johnny: Where can people get their Blacksmiths fix over the next couple of months?

Chris: Our next scheduled gig is March 31st at Club 155 on Frankston highway…at least for the public. We do a lot of private parties, bike rallies, and events as well. But always keep an eye out for us at XLN on 5th street…that’s our main stomping ground

Johnny: What do The Blacksmiths have on the radar through the rest of the year?

Chris: We have a lot of new stuff planned for this year. A whole new set of songs, some killer merchandise and a new demo ep. Also, I’m told that you might see us opening for Mouse and the Traps again in the near future…so keep your eyes peeled

Johnny: What can a new listener expect to see at a Blacksmiths show?

Chris: A good ole’ Rock show with lots of classic favorite tunes played by guys that do the best they can to respect and represent the music for what it is….life and love

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