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.
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.
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.