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Lady Chazz & The Tramps: As Smooth As Ever

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By Johnny Griffith

If you’ve been around East Texas for a minute or two, there’s a very good probability that you’ve been out for an evening of entertainment and heard the smooth vocal stylings of Lady Chazz Lee and her stellar band, The Tramps. Long time fixtures in the music scene, Lady Chazz and The Tramps (LC&TT) have been energizing audiences with their electric mix of music, personality, and talent for almost 17 years. The band currently consists of band leader and lead vocalist, Chazz Lee, guitarist and vocalist Jimmy Piatt, drummer and vocalist Kenneth Brackeen, bassist and vocalist Mickey Miller, and Richard “Daddy Rich” Lee on keys and vocals.

While Daddy Rich, Miller, and Brackeen are all East Texas natives getting started in music through either church or school, Chazz and Jimmy were transplants. Jimmy moved here from Oklahoma City for work, and Chazz, born in Louisiana, was raised in San Diego where her father was a drummer in his own band. She got her start in music singing in his band and eventually moved to east Texas through marriage.

Chazz and The Tramps graciously gave us some time to give fans a little more information about the band:

Johnny: When did Lady Chazz & The Tramps first take shape as a band and how long has the current lineup been together?

LC&TT: The band was formed in 2000 by Richard and Chazz with Jim Day, Jimmy Piatt, and Trey Weinberg. In 2004, some players moved on to pursue other adventures (Jimmy and Trey), and Kenneth was acquired. The current band has been together for nine years, since 2007 when Jimmy returned and Mickey became the bass man.

Johnny: You guys have been a mainstay in east Texas for years. About how many shows do you estimate you’ve done as LC&TT?

LC&TT: It has been 16 years of banging it out, too many dates to count – from clubs to casinos (Friday-Saturday nights) and occasionally on a Thursday, private parties, wedding, bike rallies, festivals, and street fairs – but if we were to guess, it would be well over 3,000 shows.

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Johnny: One of the big contributors to your success is the impressive catalog of songs you throw out from night to night. About how many songs do you have in your repertoire, and was it a conscious decision from the beginning to cover a wide selection of genres?

LC&TT: There are more than 300 songs in our repertoire between everyone that sings. We call what we do ‘Urban contemporary’ because it fits into all categories and pleases our very diverse audience. Chazz stated from day one that we are not just R&B, we are music.

Johnny: Your selection of cover tunes is almost legendary. Have you written any originals as a band?

LC&TT: Yes, we have written more than ten songs. There is a EP that has at least four original songs on it.

Johnny: How far of an area does the band travel for shows at this point?

LC&TT: The band performs throughout the ArkLaTex, which is about a 170-mile radius. However, this does not include our performances east to Opelousas, Louisiana and west to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.

Johnny: Chazz is famous for interacting with the crowd and bringing them into the experience. What is it that you hope people take away from a Lady Chazz & The Tramps show?

LC&TT: We hope that they will get the best night of their lives each time they come out. We want them to know that we are doing our very best to entertain them, help them forget about their problems, and focus on a brighter tomorrow. Our objective is to have them laughing, singing, and dancing along with us. We do this so the audience can become a part of us, not just a face in the crowd.

Johnny: Out of all the shows that you have done as a band, what sticks out in your memory the most?

LC&TT: When the audience is begging us for ‘one more song’ because they don’t want the night to end, or the two-day scheduled gig in Oklahoma, that was played in one day due to rain (eight hours) to fulfill our contract.

Although, there is one event we all laugh about continually…we were performing at Sam’s Town Casino and as Chazz sang “I Fall to Pieces,” an elderly gentleman asked for her microphone. She gave it to him, and he said, “I’d fall to pieces for you every day.” He then sat down, unstrapped his prosthetic leg and handed it to her, took out his hearing aid, and removed his dentures. That was the highlight of the weekend.

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Johnny: What has been the biggest challenge for you all, as a band, over the years maintaining an engaged fan base and keeping the gigs entertaining as the industry has changed?

LC&TT: Because we perform for a diverse audience, we feel it is our duty to have an open door for all genres. Our biggest challenge is attempting to get all the requests learned. We are not afraid of trying new things because sometimes it works, but when it doesn’t, after trying it a couple of times, we push it to the back and start again. We are always trying new things.

Johnny: Let’s say it’s a Thursday evening, you don’t have a gig, and you’re sitting down to relax and listen to some music. What are you listening to currently?

LC&TT: At one point, all of us watched the music shows that come on television, due to the different genres: “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “X Factor.” However, our listening taste in music is wide ranged. We like everything, from jazz, blues, classical, R&B, new age, reggae, rock, and gospel.

Johnny: Anything new on the radar for 2017 as 2016 draws to a close?

LC&TT: Our eyes and ears are always perched for new venues. Besides some of our regular places, which we are very grateful for (The Back Porch, Diamond Franchise, Herb and Dees, and Players), we have added two new venues where we will be performing soon. For New Year’s Eve we will be at Dakota’s Chophouse in Tyler, and January 14th we will be at the Barefoot Bay Marina in Pittsburg, Texas.

Johnny: Who would you say has had the most impact, musically, on your life to this point?

LC&TT: Chazz – Her father and Tina Turner, who both were serious and hard but also kind and fair. They both gave true-to-life perspectives of the music business.

Jimmy – A phenomenal high school guitarist by the name of Brian McDonald

Richard – Sam Cooke and Gerald Austin (lead singer of the Manhattans)

Kenneth – Besides his parents, Gene Krupa (drummer), Wolfman Jack and the Midnight special and Don Cornelius and the Soul Train show.

Mickey – Paul McCartney and Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick)

For more info about Lady Chazz and The Tramps call (903)241-5477 go to facebook.com/ladychazzandthetramps.

ben wheeler

 

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Around East Texas

April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

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Upcoming Concerts

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 advance online for $15 at etix.com.

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Bands

Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

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By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at facebook.com/Blindpursuit and blindpursuit.com.

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