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Leaving The World Better, One Blue Note At a Time: Wesley Pruitt Jr.

Wesley Pruitt Jr. On Stage

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By Johnny Griffith

Music is a funny thing. It’s really all up to interpretation as to how it affects the listener, no matter what the original composer intended. That’s why music performed live and in person is so important to conveying a certain feeling with that music as it gives a chance for people to experience the performance rather than just listen to it, and there might not be a better example of a musician in this area bringing people into the experience of music than Wesley Pruitt Jr.

A lifelong music fan, Pruitt has been immersed in the blues since he was a teenager, but his outlook on life is anything but blue. He believes he had the destiny to play music and share his joy of performing with those around him and he has been sharing that joy on stages for a couple of decades now. A talented vocalist and accomplished guitarist, Pruitt takes the stage with his band and delights audiences with his interpretation of blues classics. I sat down with him earlier this month to learn more about the bluesman:

Johnny: Let’s start with a little history lesson. Are you from East Texas originally?

Wesley: I grew up right here in Canton. I moved away for a brief time but currently reside in Canton. I graduated from Canton High School in 2001 and later received my associates degree from TJC. Earning my associates was a personal goal I set before completing high school and it was a “must do” before I pursued music full time. I’ve worked some jobs while playing gigs but I’ve been a full time musician since about 2007.

Johnny: So when did you first start taking an interest in music?

Wesley: I honestly don’t think I took an interest as much as it took an interest in me from the time I was a baby. Long before my dad, Wesley Sr., passed I remember he and mom telling me stories of how proud he was that he finally had a son. He would ride around the community with me as a baby listening to music, and I really remember the music. I remember the guitar bends of BB King, the driving bass lines of Waylon Jennings, and the smooth phenomenal vocals of Bobby Blue Bland. Still to this day, Mom is shocked how I can remember describing what I heard. Since then I’ve been chasing what’s been in me the whole time.

Johnny: Was there anyone in particular that helped push you in those early years and kept you focused on music when it would have been easier to have gone another direction?

Wesley: In my early years there wasn’t really anyone that helped me. However, as a young boy I was heavily drawn to the electric guitar and I loved when they had gospel quartets at church. My sister took piano lessons, so in grade school I broke the house rules then of not being allowed to play the piano without supervision. Back then I was trying to play by ear and didn’t really know what I was doing. I just heard what I liked and it had to be figured out. While growing up James Temple would play songs for me when mom took me to the music store. He knew I was destined to play and was very patient in helping me understand the things I ran from in my early days of trying to learn guitar. Rob Toups is the single most important person that lit the fire under my behind with music. He taught so much more than learning how to play. He provided all of the band students with every tool it took to be successful in high school and beyond! Oh did I mention I was a sousaphone player in the Canton High School Mighty Eagle Band. My first choice was to play the sax but we couldn’t afford the instrument. 

Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?

Wesley: My early musical influences range from B.B. King; a gentleman by the name Stanley McGee who was at the time the lead musician – he was a guitarist of Evangelist Temple C.O.G.I.C; and all blues guitar players that I heard while growing up. I received my first electric guitar at age 7 and I have to admit the enjoyment and work ethic at learning didn’t last long at that point, but at age 15, I was introduced to Stevie Ray Vaughan. He blew me away and I’ve never looked back since then. 

Johnny: At what point did you first get the feeling you could take this beyond just a hobby and do something else with it?

Wesley: At age 15, I was learning at a very speedy pace and by age 17, I was one of two guitar players in the high school Jazz Band. I absolutely got crushed day after day by my band director Mr. Toups and it was the best thing that really could’ve happened at the time. I was learning everything backwards. All I cared for and knew was that I wanted to shred and play like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Well, obviously there is so much more in being a musician and mastering the guitar. I’ll never stop learning ya know! The jazz band played at one of our pep rallies and the school literally exploded with cheer when I first sang and played “Tightrope” with the jazz band. It was so loud, none of us could hear the vocals or music like we needed to. After that, I knew there was really something there and I started to see a path to push forward. 

Johnny: When and where was your first public performance and what do you remember from it?

Wesley: I have had so many performances, but I think at my first performance I wasn’t even a guitar player at the time. I had put together a band to perform at church. It went well but I wanted so much more. 

Johnny: What is the current line up of the Wesley Pruitt Band?

Wesley: The core line up of The Wesley Pruitt Band is Chase Murdock on drums, Calvin Sheffield on bass, and myself on guitar and vocals. I hire out guest players as our fourth piece. We’ve been very honored to have players such as Junior Knight, Chris Keathley, Andrew Frye, Danny Phillips Jr., and so many more.

Johnny: You’ve played a lot of stages around the region and state, do any stand out amongst the rest?

Wesley: For the longest, the Main Silverado Stage of the Great State Fair of Texas has always been one of our favs. It truly is one of the best of what we call “the big” stages.” Performing at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia ranks really high, but one of the best shows, and best times, we’ve had on stage is when we performed on the outside stage at Omas Secret Garden. It’s in Gruene, just outside of New Braunfels. We played 3 hours straight our first time there with no break. We tried to end the show and got two standing ovations in a row with encores. That’s a feeling, and a stage, I’ll never forget!

Johnny: East Texas isn’t necessarily synonymous with the blues like other parts of the country are, yet there have been notable blues artists to come out of this area and find success. Do you feel it has been more of a challenge to “convert” local fans to the gospel of the blues or do you feel there is a firm foundation in the genre here for newer generations of blues artists?

Wesley: I think the foundation of the blues is as firm as ever, but I only feel that way because everything has the blues in it. I get such a kick out of seeing younger musicians than myself be taken by the blues. It feels so good ya know. With that being said and thankfully getting to pick up knowledge from reading things by my idol, Buddy Guy, I no longer try to “convert” people with the blues. I used to be ashamed early on to perform it amongst certain “cool” people, but from hearing from the added list of influences that I have now, it’s all about just saying something, man, from deep within. The end result is digging out, loving one another, and spreading the love through music. 

Johnny: What have been some of the biggest challenges in your musical career thus far?

Wesley: The biggest challenge has been to balance music career full time and be a father with school for my son and all the responsibility that comes with that. Sometimes I have to miss him for a day or two during the week because of out of state shows. I also know at times I will be more demanded and will miss even more. I try to make sure I spend as much time with him as I can at this point. He’s definitely my heartbeat! I thank God every day for the awesome support system I have through my mom, aunt, and best friends that are always there for him as well. It really does take a village. 

Johnny: How many albums have you released to this point? Are there any plans for one in the near future?

Wesley: I’ve released a total of three albums: two EPs and one full album, “Line ’Em Up.” There are definitely huge plans for several more in the future. It’s not officially launched but I’m currently in the middle of kicking off a campaign to raise funds for a new album, two music videos, radio promoting, artwork, album designs, radio tours etc. Our number one goal in the beginning was to get businesses and individuals to sign on for 10 private shows for “X” amount of dollars. There have been a few to already commit to that. All of the funds, except for what we have to pay out for sound, will go straight to our album campaign. It’s very hard and we learned so much from having such a great album with “Line ‘Em Up” but now we are not able to put all the resources behind it. I’m not saying we have it all figured out, but a lot has been learned since our first chart single fizzled out at number 39.

Johnny: When you take the stage each night, what is one thing you hope you can convey to the fans before they leave to go home?

Wesley: Before every show I can almost see it from beginning to middle to the end of how I hope it goes! It’s not always that way but the path of life I’m on, which comes with my faith in Christ, is to speak good things into existence. I want people to leave our show much happier than they came and I want them to have a sense of peace in their hearts. I don’t think the world can have too much of that. 

Johnny: What do you have coming up on the radar that excites you for the rest of 2019 and beyond?

Wesley: We have shows all the way through next year and our calendar can be seen at wesleypruittbandmusic.com. Anytime we are at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler, Texas it’s a blast. I know we are doing some Arkansas runs and very excited to be performing a festival in Missouri, I think in mid October. I’m very excited to perform at Moore’s Store for New Year’s Eve again this year and raise funds for The Van Zandt County Children’s Advocacy Center as well. Some of the proceeds from us and other ways will go towards the Advocacy. Keep watch on our website for more information as we head into 2020 with a bang.

Follow the Wesley Pruitt Jr. band online at facebook.com/wesleypruittband and wesleypruittbandmusic.com.

 

 

ben wheeler

Bands

In Case You Were Wondering:  We Have Your Dog

By Johnny Griffith

One of the great things about live music is the spontaneity you can get in a show you don’t get from an album. The freedom to let the music take over and drive the performance is something magical you just don’t get anywhere else. That being said, there’s nothing worse for me than walking into a show by a new band and two or three songs in, having the realization that the next hour or two of your life is going to be listening to, essentially, minor variations of the same song or being able to predict exactly what you’re going to hear next. Sure, if I’ve got a favorite band, there may be certain songs I want to hear every time I see them, but a great band knows how to keep the same set list fresh night after night.

Enter local Tyler band We Have Your Dog (WHYD). Now, besides the uniqueness of the name, this six-piece band delivers fresh treats night after night and is anything but predictable. With sweeping vocals, an eclectic mix of capable musicians on stage, and a refusal to fit into anyone’s idea of predictable, WHYD is one of the more exciting live acts you can find on a stage in the area. We sat down with the musical collective this past month to see exactly what’s up with my dog.

Johnny: So, who exactly has my dog and what is their musical background?

WHYD: Well, We Have Your Dog is made up of the following:

Cosmic Kenneth, who studied voice for multiple semesters at TJC and is a naturally talented singer/songwriter. 

Havaan, also a singer/songwriter but mostly self-taught with a few private lessons here and there to further her skill. 

Peabody Coltrane on guitar. He is a classical guitar player who graduated from UT Tyler with a formal academic study of music. 

Jackie Chernobyl is also on guitars. He is a self-taught guitar player who was classically trained on piano at an early age. Chernobyl channeled all his natural talent into the guitar and is most obsessed with making manipulation of feedback and molding sounds through FX pedals. 

TheMind on the bass. A classical guitar player studied at UT Tyler and TJC with a formal academic study of music. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is currently obsessed with mastering the bass. 

Haddad on drums. He is a self-taught drummer/percussionist. Volcanic with natural talent, Haddad is a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in banging things. 

Johnny: Where did you find my dog?

WHYD: Kenneth, Haddad, TheMind, and Chernobyl have been playing together and in different projects since high school in the early 2000’s. Peabody and Havaan joined the band much later in the college years – around 2012-2016.

Johnny: When did the idea of actually looking for my dog first happen?

WHYD: Like we mentioned before, we had been in different projects together off and on for years, but specifically came together with the purpose of WHYD around 2015 and our first official show was at Click’s in Tyler on October 22, 2016.

Johnny: So, What’s the story with my dog’s name?

WHYD: We Have Your Dog’s name was put together out of the will to subvert the listeners expectations. We like to let the music speak for itself, rather than try and define a style of music according to the name. 

Johnny: When and where did you first find my dog?

WHYD: Our first gig was a party we threw at our house in October of 2015. We wanted to get a soft feel for our music and how it would resonate with some folks we knew. The results were us refining our show for an October release in 2016 at Click’s Live. We had not added Havaan at this time. 

Johnny: Your sound and presentation is a bit out of the ordinary for this area, how have you found the reception to be with local dog catchers?

WHYD: We find that folks who are interested in listening to music love us! Folks who just want background music, not so much. We’ve always followed the philosophy of “Do your own thing.” We Have Your Dog is always trying to refine our live show and at the end of the day, we do what makes us happy. 

Johnny: How did that dog sound evolve over the life of the band or was it pretty much the goal from inception?

WHYD: Our sound is ever evolving. One thing we want to stay away from is the cliche of “that band is good but all their songs sound the same.” We don’t have a particular sound in mind other than what starts to craft itself on the palette in the jam room. Our goal is to have all our members feel free in the creative process and the other members to back them up. All musical genres and styles are welcome in WHYD! 

Johnny: About how many dogs are being caught a month, on average, by the band currently? 

WHYD: We’d like to get to playing at minimum once a month! However, at this moment (Winter 2019) we are taking minimal gigs while we record our upcoming album “What Have You Done?” as well as rehearsing new tracks for our new live show coming Summer of 2020. 

Johnny: Do you primarily have dogs in the Tyler area or do you branch out to other areas often?

WHYD: Lately we have been staying in the Tyler area. As much as we love traveling, we like getting paid even more. So far clubs like XL’N and Click’s Live treat us well enough that we stick around this area. We do love playing in Dallas and Longview when we get the opportunity though. 

Johnny: What has been the most memorable dog to date?

WHYD: We are always proud of our shows where we jam with our local counterparts Post Profit or Gypsum and The Travelers. Whenever we can, we make sure to share the stage to feature with each other on particular tracks. Those are always memorable shows, but our most memorable would probably be The Band Wars Competition that we competed in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Johnny: Have you guys caught any dogs in the studio or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

WHYD: We are current working on  several albums/projects. “What Have You Done?” is our main project; and “Sex, Money & Murder” is a concept and side project that we are creating.

We do most of our studio work in house. We do all our own tracking, then we have been contracting third party folks to mix and master. We’d like to give a shout out to Dejour Productions who have been really involved with our sound and how it will be portrayed. 

We have some stuff available on Spotify, ITunes, GooglePlay, Amazon and ALL the audio streaming services. We also have them available on BandCamp for a more personal purchase. Currently we have two singles: Kenneth lea, “Bite the Bullet;” and Havaan lead, “Equilibrium.” 

We also have a forthcoming duet entitled “The Don” from a concept album we’ve been placing together on the side. 

Johnny: So let’s say I want to come find my dog. What can I expect at a WHYD show?

WHYD: When someone comes to see WHYD, they will experience a diverse and evolving show. We want our audience to experience multiple feelings and experiences as they progress through our presentation. Our goal is that nobody can listen to one or two songs and feel as though they know what’s coming the rest of the show.

Follow WHYD at:

wehaveyourdog.com 

facebook.com/wehaveyourdog/

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Feeling The Groove: Señor Gringo

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By Johnny Griffith

We’ve all had THAT moment when we’ve been out enjoying ourselves and our friends and family on a patio somewhere on a gorgeous day. The food is delicious, the wine is perfect, the weather is the stuff people in Wisconsin dream about … and as you are sitting back enjoying everything, you notice a band about to play and think the moment couldn’t get any better.

And then they start to play.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not the right band for THAT moment.

And it’s because they’re NOT Senor Gringo, who seems to always be right for the moment.

The Tyler-based quartet is a musical force that isn’t afraid to think outside the box and bring just the right blend of Latin-infused jazz and rock to venues around the area that require a little more finesse to the set list than raw power. With a lineup full of seasoned musicians, Senor Gringo definitely has the musical prowess to bring the precision and consistency to the stage that is sure to please those who are wanting something a little different from the norm and love to sit down and just enjoy the music. With a mix of originals and covers, everyone is sure to find something that pleases while listening to a Senor Gringo set, and a lot of old favorites with a new twist are sure to surface as well.

I recently had the pleasure of catching a set at Taco Fest in Marshall back in September and I’ve been trying to catch them for an interview ever since. We were finally able to sit down this past month and talk a little bit about the origins of the band and to get to know Senor Gringo just a little better.

Johnny: So let’s get to know everyone first, what is the current line up of the band?

Senor Gringo: Senor Gringo’s lineup currently consists of Alex Blair on bass, Don Elbert on keyboards, Keven Ewalt on drums and percussion, and Richard Callahan on guitar.

Johnny: Okay so how did you all you meet?

Senor Gringo: We have played together in various bands over the years. The music scene in East Texas is pretty close actually, and we’ve all been involved with some project together at one time or another.

Johnny: Playing together over the years is one thing, but when did the idea of Senor Gringo actually first start taking shape?

Senor Gringo: Well, about seven years ago, Tony Marsh, who is a past guitar player, had this idea of starting a band that played music similar to XM Watercolors, where the nylon acoustic guitar plays melody versus traditional vocal music. The rest is history from that point.

Johnny: So what about the name? It’s pretty recognizable. How did you guys come up with that?

Senor Gringo: Well, we came up with that name because of the Latin influence and the fact that most of us are older, seasoned musicians. It just kind of stuck after that.

Johnny: Do you happen to remember when and where the first Senor Gringo gig was?

Senor Gringo: Absolutely. We were the very first band to play Lago del Pino here in Tyler.

Johnny: So you guys have one of the more unique sounds in this area with the Latin-infused groove that, in some cases, evokes threads of Santana as well as others. How have people in East Texas responded to what Senor Gringo is doing?

Senor Gringo: Well, truthfully, it all depends. If we are playing a Country bar, it isn’t necessarily so good, but most of the venues we play do appreciate our talent and the fact that we are different. I would say one of the most consistent criticisms we hear is we are mostly an instrumental band and they just don’t get enough vocals. More times than not, though, the listeners end up staying longer and really focusing in on the music.

Johnny: So is Senor Gringo staying busy around East Texas currently?

Senor Gringo: It definitely depends on the season as to how much we play. In the spring and summer, we can play a lot, but in the late fall and winter it dwindles down to about one or two gigs a month.

Johnny: Where would you say Senor Gringo’s home base really is? Are you primarily in Tyler, or have you branched out to some surrounding areas?

Senor Gringo: Currently, most of our gigs are Tyler area specific, although we do play Jacksonville, Athens, Longview, and Marshall. We are always open to more areas as the opportunities come.

Johnny: What would you say has been the most memorable gig to date?

Senor Gringo: A few years back, we were playing an outdoor summer festival down in Athens and it ended up being one of those magical gigs! We were on a large stage with an amazing sound system, a fantastic audience, and we were just on fire! {[It was] easily one of those moments that sticks with you.

Johnny: Has  Senor Gringo done any studio work or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

Senor Gringo: We actually have done some studio work in the past, but at present there are no future recording plans. We are doing strictly live shows at the moment

Johnny: So if you had to sit down and explain to a potential first timer to a live show what the experience was about to be like, how would you describe it?

Senor Gringo: We’d say they are in for a completely different type of experience for East Texas. They’re about to hear a combination of original and contemporary Latin-flavored jazz-rock played by talented musicians with the ability to improvise and flow with the crowd.

Follow Senor Gringo on the web at facebook.com/RockinLatinJazz/.

 

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Lost In Space: Gorgeous Jetson

Laid Back Rockers Gorgeous Jetson

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By Johnny Griffith

There is a band from Tyler that you can absolutely get lost in. I mean the “sit back and just ride the soundwave across the infinite universe” kind of lost in. I mean the sort of lost where you start peeling back the layers, and find more layers, and then realize there are more layers underneath that. Whether it be diverse and ever changing guitar riffs, strangely soothing vocals that take you on fantastic voyages, foundational drums and bass that are precise and on point, or the keyboards filling in the gaps with expansive and ethereal sounds…Gorgeous Jetson opens the door to a new sonic reality for the duration of their show.

Helmed by Marc Beevers on lead guitars and vocals, Gorgeous Jetson is rounded out by Ian Power on bass, Logan Strong on guitars and backing vocals, Jed McNeil on keys/synth/backing vocals, and Gamaliel Quezada on drums. I was able to catch up with Marc this past month to find out more about the band and how they click.

Johnny: Let’s start out with the basics. How did the members of Gorgeous Jetson come together?

Marc: So I’ve known Jed since high school. Our schools were rivals and we were both on the drum line. We also looked a lot alike in high school and everyone made a big deal about how we looked alike, so we ended up meeting several times at ball games. I graduated high school early and got an apartment of my own, and there were always tons of people there so that’s how I met Ian. He was another young kid just trying to figure stuff out like me and we hit it off immediately. We’ve been pretty close for about 11 years now. Later on, Jed and myself formed a band called Babe, and I met Logan at one of the last shows that I played with Babe. He actually played in Babe after I left the band. Finally, I met Gammy back in early 2017 at an art show. After talking over a cigarette, I got his number because he said he played drums. 

Johnny: So knowing a bunch of musicians and coming up with the idea of a band like Gorgeous Jetson are two different things. When did the idea first take shape?

Marc: The idea of the band came up in 2015. I went to rehab for a little over a month that year for alcohol and substance abuse. I was still in Babe at the time, but while I was in rehab I decided I wanted to start a project that I had creative control over so when I got out, I told the guys I would be leaving Babe. It wasn’t anything personal, I just wanted more control when it came to the style of the band. 

I asked if they would still play with me under my direction, so Babe became Gorgeous Jetson for two shows. After those first couple of shows, circumstances for me changed and I ended up moving to Midland and those guys went back to Babe.

Johnny: So the name is fun and, honestly, is one of the reasons I first listened to you guys. How did that idea come to be?

Marc: I thought up the name while I was still in rehab. There was a wrestler in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s called Gorgeous George who, essentially, was the first Hulk Hogan…the first flamboyant hero. I like playing with words and making odd phrases like Gorgeous George Jetson. That eventually just turned into Gorgeous Jetson. 

It’s super catchy, I think, and I think that’s important. I think a catchy name can be click bait for sure. For example, our most popular song on the internet right now is my least favorite I’ve written. I know it gets clicks just because the song’s title is “Buddha on Quaaludes.” When you see that, you just have to see what it is simply because of the song’s title. It’s almost an involuntary reaction, so putting some thought into something catchy like that is an important part of the overall equation as well.

Johnny: When and where did Gorgeous Jetson first strut their stuff?

Marc: Technically the first gig was in 2015 at the DIY Spot with the old Babe lineup. With this lineup of guys it was in March of 2018 at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. Some folks at Stanley’s heard I had got this group of guys together and asked us to play a gig the following month. We only had like three songs at that point, so they really lit a fire under my tail to get to writing before that show.

Johnny: Your sound is a complete departure from what gets the most real estate in this area, which tends to be some variation of country or hard rock with the occasional blues band thrown in the mix. How have local crowds responded when you break out with your music?

Marc: We’ve had nothing but good responses from our local venues and audiences. I think people like a break from the Texas blues and Texas country. As far as having a different sound than what people are used to, it makes me laugh as to who people compare us to. I’m talking about the people who only listen to top 20 hits. I’m so glad that they like us; I just really don’t like the bands they “think we sound like.”

Johnny: Speaking of that sound, how did that evolve? Was it something you had wanted to play for a while or was it a definite choice in a definite moment?

Marc: The style is evolving for certain. I don’t wanna play the same kinda music forever. We really have a variety of mellow, spacy, and ambient songs. At the same time we have several chaotic, aggressive, almost unnerving at times kind of songs. I like so many different styles of music. I think it’s important that my guys and myself continue to push our limits of playing and what we feel comfortable playing. It only makes us better. 

Johnny: How often are you guys getting to play at the moment?

Marc: We’re currently playing 2 or 3 gigs a month. We are trying to focus on mostly out of town shows at the moment. We just don’t want to oversaturate our home town and have people get tired of us. It helps make it more special when we do play a local show.

Johnny: There are some pretty decent recordings out there of Gorgeous Jetson. Where did you guys do that work and is there anything new coming up?

Marc: We recorded 4 songs with Christian Diebert at GoodShed studio in Canton in 2018. That was our first demo and it’s on all major streaming platforms. 

We recorded our last single with Yacht Country records, Aka John Hetherington. 

We are currently in the process of recording a new song now that should be up by the end of the year. The new song is called “Pet Detective” and it’s a little more mellow than our previous songs. 

Johnny: What can a first-timer expect at a Gorgeous Jetson show?

Marc: It’s really kind of hard to explain our sound. I get bored easily so I enjoy putting in key changes and changes in time signatures frequently. Abrupt changes like this make me very happy. My favorite description of our music was from Meredith Crawford: She said, “Gorgeous Jetson songs are like a washing machine full of colors.”

Check out Gorgeous Jetson on the World Wide Web:

www.gorgeousjetson.com  

facebook.com/gorgeousjetson

instagram.com/gorgeousjetson

 

 

ben wheeler

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