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Music With A Purpose: Hotel Drifters

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By Johnny Griffith

There is a fairly established stereotype of what a drifter is. Webster’s defines it as “one that travels or moves about aimlessly.” We’ve all seen a movie based on someone who drifts from town to town, with no purpose in most cases, just sort of trying to find their way in life. Well, you can take that image of a drifter and toss it out the window when it comes to the Hotel Drifters. They definitely have a purpose, and that’s to try to leave every audience with a bit of themselves and in a better place than when they walked in. 

The brainchild of Jessica and Shane Smith, Hotel Drifters falls into the Americana category and has a solid foundation in a lot of classics, with a strong helping of country and roots music thrown in the mix. You’ll find a blend of influences in their originals, with a solid leaning towards country; and the covers run the gamut with everything from classic Rod Stewart, Waylon Jennings, and Stevie Nicks to Dwight Yoakam, Chris Stapleton, and even some Lady Gaga in the mix. 

Their excitement for the music is evident from the first note and their presence on stage is engaging, with powerful vocals, raw and bluesy guitar licks, and a rock solid rhythm section. As an added bonus, they are one of the few bands to actually have a steel guitar on stage, which adds an extra dimension to a lot of classic songs, not to mention the cool factor it brings.

I was able to catch up with Jessica Smith this month and had the chance to ask a few questions so we could get to know the band better: 

Johnny: What is the current lineup of the Hotel Drifters?

Jessica: The Hotel Drifters are currently Shane & Jessica Smith lead vocals and guitar, Charles Pierce on bass guitar, Clark Stone is our drummer, and Scott Akers is on electric and steel guitar.

Johnny: How did the band meet?

Jessica: Shane & I met in high school when we were both 15 and then we married in 2008. In 2010 we decided to start a band. We took a break during the birth of our first son and then formed a new band after that with most of the current members.

Johnny: Are you all local or are there some transplants to the area?

Jessica: Yes, the entire band is local to the East Texas area. Shane and I are from Chandler, a little town just outside of Tyler. 

Johnny: Have there been any unexpected challenges that come from being in a band with your spouse?

Jessica: There hasn’t really been anything too challenging because we’ve been married almost 12 years now, so we’ve already fought about everything there is to fight about, which is rare, but I think the most challenging part since we’ve become parents has to be leaving our son to play a show. 

Johnny: What do you feel some of the strengths of the band are?

Jessica: The energy! Music moves us, so when we really get into the groove it draws the crowd in and they get into it as well! 

Johnny: What about the name? Where did Hotel Drifters come from?

Jessica: Well it’s kind of a long story but most working bands will drift from one hotel to the next. In some cases you want to pocket the most money you can so they can be gross, cheap motels, so when people ask us this question we just simply say “we like the doors on the inside not the outside.”

Johnny: What first got you into music individually?

Jessica: For me I’ve always known singing was something I wanted to do for as far back as I can remember, and I started singing in church as a kid. Shane had the music bug from the day he was born. His dad had a band and he was always around music. Eventually, at the age of 13, he bought his first electric guitar and the rest is history.

Johnny: When did you the idea of forming the Hotel Drifters first start to evolve?

Jessica: Sometime around 2011 we decided to start doing some acoustic shows. From there it sort of snowballed, and then in 2012 we started our full band. 

Johnny: What was the first show as a band?

Jessica: Our first show was at KE Cellars in Tyler. They were the first place to give us a chance, so we were real sad to see that place go.

Johnny: How would you describe your musical style? Has it evolved since the band formed?

Jessica: We like to say we are country singers with a rock and roll band, but our style is always evolving. We have very strong country roots and we grew up with Willie Nelson and George Jones in our souls, but we love all kinds of music, from Tom Petty to Lady Gaga and a lot of stuff in between.

Johnny: What are some of the more popular covers you do as a band? 

Jessica: That’s a hard one to narrow down since we do so many covers. We have a lot of fan favorites, but “Stay With Me” by Faces and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty are probably two of the more popular cover songs we do during any given show.

Johnny: What about originals? Are you and the band writing any original material at this point and mixing them into your shows?

Jessica: Yes! We do have some originals in our catalog that we’ve recently started adding to our shows when the situation is right. 

Johnny: About how many shows a month are you currently performing?

Jessica: We like to keep it to about 1 full band show a month and a couple acoustic shows in between. Obviously that can vary up or down, but that’s where we like to keep it at this point.

Johnny: What does the Hotel Drifters have on the radar for this year we should be aware of?

Jessica: This year we would love to be able to record our originals!

Johnny: How would you describe your show to a first timer?

Jessica: A good time! Wherever we play we just want to make sure whoever is listening is having a good time, because you never know what kind of day that person had and that one song may turn their day completely around! 

Johnny: Thanks for sitting down and taking the time with us.

Jessica: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our band with y’all, you can find a list of our current shows and everything else on our Facebook page Hotel Drifters and Instagram @hoteldrifters.

 

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Guitar On Fire: Reece Malone

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By Johnny Griffith

Hendrix, Stevie Ray, B.B., Eddie, Slash, T-Bone Walker, David Gilmour, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks.

Their names, along with countless others, are etched into our brains and into the history of music along the way.  The guitarist. That captivating centerpiece of modern music that constantly amazes us with their creativity and a certain amount of swagger.  There are millions of people that day-dream about being a guitarist on stage. Even amongst the tens of thousands of garage guitarists and local legends who play every weekend there are few who possess the chops and that “it” factor who will ever get the opportunity to perform at the next level.  But then you have musicians like local guitar prodigy Reece Malone who has packed a lifetime of experience into 16 phenomenal years.
The Longview native and Spring Hill ISD sophomore has been burning up stages since his debut 8 years ago with a resume of performances and endorsements under his belt that would make some of the most seasoned guitarists get excited. A working musician since 10, he’s been part of several projects and is currently chief shredder for Salvation From Sundown. I caught up to him this past month and was able to have a conversation to get to know him a little better.

Johnny: What is your earliest memory of music?

Reece: I remember growing up listening to Van Halen, Deep Purple ,Jimi Hendrix,Ozzy and people like that. I also remember one of my first concerts was seeing ZZ top and Aerosmith and getting to meet the guys from ZZ Top in person! 

Johnny: Was guitar the first instrument you picked up?  When did you start learning? 

Reece: Guitar was the first instrument I picked up and started playing but I started learning by ear at about 6 or 7 years old. The first things I would pick up was stuff like smoke on the water and simple songs like that. 

 

Johnny: Do you play any other instruments currently or is your primary focus guitar? 

Reece: My primary focus currently is guitar but I do like to try to play other stuff like drums,bass, and piano.

 

Johnny: When did you realize you had a true gift for music?

Reece: After playing for the first time in Dallas, realizing how much everyone liked it and thought I was good. As a result, about 8 years old I started taking it more seriously. 

 

Johnny: When and where was your first public performance?

Reece: I remember playing in Lewisville at a place called Coach Joe Avezzano’s Hat Tricks with Lance Lopez when I was around 8 years old. 

 

Johnny: Who have been some of your most significant personal, and musical, influences thus far?

Reece: Lance Lopez has been a huge guide for me in my musical career but people like Jimi Hendrix, Philip Sayce, Eric gales, Derek Trucks & Marcus King are some of my biggest influences.

 

Johnny: So the first time I saw you perform live was probably the 2016 T Bone Walker Blues Festival in Longview and you were on stage with Lance Lopez and Salvation From Sundown.  How did that relationship with Lance and those early years with SFS help shape you into the musician you are now?

Reece: Lance helped with music genre, songs and has even been in the band at one point so he has been a huge influence on me. The band name Salvation From Sundown originates from one of Lance’s albums as well. Lance has introduced me to several people in the industry and given me many opportunities through the years. 

 

Johnny: For someone your age, you’ve got more experience on stage than some people get in a lifetime, what have some of the challenges been along the way with managing the things a teenager has to navigate and chasing the dream most musicians have?

Reece: I haven’t had many things to hold me back. I’ve been super blessed with my school working with me and my parents helping me along the way and all of my friends are understanding when I can’t do stuff with them. My parents are understanding with me doing stuff with my friends also so I’ve had great opportunities to do stuff musically and socially!

 

Johnny: You’ve had some pretty cool opportunities the last year or so with the Crossroads Festival and I’ve heard about this private event hosted by Gibson where you got to open for a couple of okay guitar players, want to talk about your experience with that? 

Reece: I was very excited to be chosen to open up a private event with some really good friends playing all Gibson guitars opening for people like Slash, Don felder, Billy Gibbons , Rick Neilson, Celisse Henderson, Lizzy hale, Jimmy Vivino and several others. Eric Clapton’s Crossroads was also an amazing opportunity to be one of the only local guitarists invited to play the festival. I also performed on the Gibson stage at Winter NAMM in January and while in California I was invited to participate in a charity event Dark Side of the NAMM and played with Steven Perkins(drummer Jane’s Addiction), Stu Hamm (Bass player for Joe Satriani, Steve Vai) Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses), and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). 

 

Johnny: What are some other highlights of your young, but productive, career?

Reece: At the age of 13 I was invited to play at a halftime show at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. I was asked to represent Texas so I played a ZZ Top song. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit in with Marcus King in Dallas at The House of Blues. I’m the youngest guitarist to ever be featured on the cover of Buddy Magazine,which is the oldest music magazine in the state of Texas. I’ve also been professionally endorsed by Gibson Guitars, Ernie Ball Strings & Homestead Amplifiers. I truly have been fortunate so far in my music journey to be surrounded by amazing people and experiences. 

 

Johnny: What is on your radar for 2020 that we should keep our eyes open for? 

Reece: I will be playing at the Dallas international guitar festival, Bedford Blues festival, Gibson sponsored events and also many other shows throughout the year. You can look on our band page for more dates!

For more information about Reece and what he’s got going on, follow him on Instagram and Facebook at Reece Malone Music.

 

 

 

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Rescheduled: Oct. 20th, 2020 Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival

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The 2020 Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival Returns to Downtown Tyler

The new date has been set for Sunday, October 11th. It will be the same setup as normal, just on a Sunday:  https://facebook.com/events/s/2020-red-dirt-bbq-music-festiv/1332463773558598/?ti=icl

May 2nd October 11th, the 7th annual Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival presented by Hyundai of Longview will be held in Downtown Tyler, and with it comes the best of barbecue in Texas and top of the line music all day. 

The Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival has proven to be one of the most premier and unique music and food experiences in Texas. The festival takes place on the brick streets of the Downtown Square in Tyler every May, with the 2020 edition featuring at least 30 of the most celebrated barbecue restaurants in Texas. Music happens for nearly 12 hours on two stages, with the main stage highlighting the biggest names in Texas and Red Dirt Music. 

This year’s festival will also feature the state’s most celebrated barbecue restaurants providing samples of their smoked meats to attendees. Barbecue joints from as close as Tyler and as far as Amarillo converge on the Rose City to showcase their smoked meats to thousands of barbecue enthusiasts, while thousands more pour onto the brick streets for the concert. 

Performances this year feature Parker McCollum (10pm), Josh Abbott Band (8:15pm), Jason Boland & The Stragglers (6:45pm), Charley Crockett (5:15pm), and Chris Colston (3:45pm).

“Top to bottom, I don’t think there’s ever been a Red Dirt lineup we’ve been more excited about. Having these names join our incredible barbecue joints was a huge honor for our sixth festival,” Red Dirt promoter Chase Colston said. “We’re expecting an even faster sellout this year and can’t wait to get back on the brick streets for another great Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival.” 

The festival is sold out. Watch reddirtbbqfest.com in case any more tickets are released.

The Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival is presented by 101.5 KNUE, East Texas’ No. 1 country music station, “Radio Texas, LIVE! With Buddy Logan,” and Hyundai of Longview.

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Dagnabbit: Get Your Good Times On!

dagnabbit-10By Reid Kerr

“He played, Fire on the mountain, run boys run”

The fiddle jumps in the musician’s hands as he wades into the crowd while playing the familiar strains of arguably Charlie Daniels’ best known hit.

“The Devil’s in the house of the rising sun!”

To the delight of onlookers, the fiddle player climbs up on the nearest table as he keeps playing while the rest of the band sings.

“Chicken in a bread pan pickin’ out dough!”

The crowd cheers him on as he balances precariously on the less-than-sturdy-table.

“Granny will your dog bite? No, child, no!”

As the band finishes the song, fiddle player still perched atop the wobbly table, the crowd erupts in applause, simultaneously appreciative of the performance and the fact that the fiddle player didn’t crash into their dinner. That fiddle player is Ryan Pierce, the band is Dagnabbit, and the crowd this time is the Pilots & Sponsors Party at the Great Texas Balloon Race.

dagnabbit-13Dagnabbit has been helping people satisfy their fix for live music since 2006. Originally started by Pierce, Ricochet bassist Greg Cook, and local drumming mainstay Terry Salyer, the musically-diverse collective has had various members since it’s inception, but the core line-up for the past few years has been Ryan Pierce on vocals/fiddle/guitar, Chuck Dowden on guitar/vocals, Tim Smith on bass guitars, Johnny Griffith on keyboards/vocals, and Joe Rodriguez on sound. The drummer on this particular night was Marcus Jones, a newcomer to the group with only a couple of shows with the band under his belt.

To describe the Dagnabbit band musically would be a challenge, as they will tackle just about anything, across any genre, in order to entertain at the particular event they’re playing. They play weddings, fundraisers, private parties, as well as local venues like Leon’s Steakhouse and Saloon in Longview or the Back Porch in Kilgore. If you had to pin them down to a summary description, they’d be a party band that specializes in good times wherever they go. Just as comfortable tackling Charlie Daniels as they are taking on Jason Aldean. Equally as proficient with such funk classics “Play That Funky Music” as they are with R&B hits “Purple Rain” and “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” As likely to play Garth Brooks as they are the Rolling Stones or Elton John, Dagnabbit setlists are designed to move with the mood of the crowd and play toward how they respond. Sound engineer Joe Rodriguez says, “The vibe that the guys have on stage is a feeling that anything is possible at any time, so you don’t know what might happen next. It certainly keeps me on my toes at the sound board.”
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The ability to be such chameleons on stage is a byproduct of a talented lineup of musicians, each one accomplished and seasoned on their respective instruments from years of playing in local, regional, or national acts. Pierce, 40, who pulls the majority of the typical “front man” duties has played with such National Acts as Neal McCoy and The Oak Ridge Boys. In addition, he was the house band leader for the Reo Palm Isle, at one point performing with Miranda Lambert early in her career. Ryan started playing music seriously around the age of 18 and studied music in college before starting to play in bands. Bassist Tim Smith started playing at age 11 in church and has played with regional acts such as Mark Cooke, Waylon Pierce, and various other bands. Joe Rodriguez, 47, started playing guitar around 14, mixing audio around the age of 25, and has gigged with several bands and churches in the area. Johnny Griffith, 42, began studying classical piano at the age of 5 and continued into college, performing in churches and by 13 was playing in local restaurants and open jam nights. Chuck Dowden, 54, began guitar at 8 and started playing in bands in his 20’s and has recently taken up steel guitar. Marcus Jones started drumming around the age of 10, having played in churches and bands in the Austin area before moving to East Texas in 2012.

Despite their cumulative experience, or perhaps in large part due to their time in other bands, Dagnabbit has a decidedly casual feel on stage. It’s obvious as one watches the band interact with each other and the crowd, they’re having as much fun, if not more, than the people watching them. While they are one of the more polished bands you’ll find in the area, they embrace the inevitable curve ball and mistake, laughing them off and many times working it into the bit in a way that makes you wonder if it was even planned that way. “It’s pretty obvious if a band isn’t having fun with what they’re doing when on stage, and the crowd responds accordingly,” Pierce says. “If a band has tension, or just views it as another gig, then it’s hard to draw the crowd into what you’re doing. We look at it as getting to hang out with five of your good friends and make music while joking around and making a hundred or so new friends over the course of the night.”

dagnabbit-7An evening with Dagnabbit also comes with a few audience perks along the way, other than just getting to hear a quality band with a diverse catalog. It’s common for Pierce to prompt the audience for requests, and equally as likely a person gets invited on stage to help sing or play an instrument. Speaking of instruments, one of the regular bits the band does include is getting a volunteer from the audience to become “the newest member of the Dagnabbit band” while playing a cowbell during the funk portion of the set. There routinely are wigs, dance competitions, crowd sing-a-longs, and a long list of guest artists pulled on stage to showcase their own talents with Dagnabbit acting as a backup band.

Despite the band playing between 30 to 40 shows a year, they insist this is just a side hobby as they each have careers outside of music. “We’re not that type of band, trying to be something bigger than what we are right now,” band patriarch Chuck Dowden explains. “We don’t need to play somewhere every weekend to make a living, and I think that reduces the stress level quite a bit that comes along with trying to gain exposure for a larger platform. It allows us to relax and just play the gig in front of us at the moment.” Dowden, originally from Henderson, moved to Longview in 1981 and started Dowden Supply Company in 1983, opening a Tyler location in the mid-1990’s. Pierce started Alpha Construction in Longview in 2001 and Blackwater Oilfield Services in 2014, while Tim Smith owns TS Construction out of Liberty City. Rodriguez has worked for Mundt Music for several years and has done sound engineering for several churches and private events, while Johnny Griffith is Operations/Sales Manager for Tejas Hydraulics in Longview, and newcomer Marcus Jones works for Aramark Services, also out of Longview.

Dagnabbit has been steadily gaining fans and gigs for the past several years as new opportunities present themselves, but according to keyboardist, Johnny Griffith, their biggest fans, as well as toughest critics, continue to be their families. “Everyone in the band has a family, and we wouldn’t be on stage without their support. Family is the most important thing to each of us, but we have been blessed with spouses who understand how important the music is to us also. Somehow they still continue to come out to our shows, even after hearing the same material hundreds of times.” Each member of Dagnabbit is a father and will routinely bring the kids out to family-friendly events, adding to the intimate atmosphere the band has fostered to this point. Griffith says they are perfectly content to play gigs within an hour or so of Longview so that “everyone can sleep in their own bed at night.”

Indeed, a night with the Dagnabbit band is more like a night out with a bunch of your buddies, watching them joke, antagonize, and marvel at each other on stage over the course of the evening. As the night progressed at the Great Texas Balloon Race, at one point Pierce steps up and sings the phrase, “Come on, come on, get your good times on!” while motioning the typically subdued Smith toward a mic. Smith simply grins and declines the invitation, yet once the mic is safely away from him smiles, yelling out, “All I’m saying is a 20 is a 20, player!” – the band laughing as if some inside joke has just been shared between them, and they know the best time to be had that night, was happening on stage.

(In case you are wondering, “20 is a 20” vaguely references a saying that implies “there isn’t much I won’t do for a 20 bill” referring to you’d have to pay for Tim to talk on the mic.)

Dagnabbit can be found at www.facebook.com/dagnabbit.yall. Upcoming Shows:

  • September 9th @ Leon’s Steakhouse, Longview, 8:30pm
  • September 10th @ Leon’s Steakhouse, Longview, 8:30pm
  • September 17th @ The Back Porch, Kilgore, 8pm
  • October 8th @ Get Rowdy Get Loud, Hallsville ISD Education Foundation Fundraiser, Hallsville
  • October 15th @ Dawg Fest Motorcycle Rally, C.A.S.A. benefit, Mt. Pleasant
  • October 21st @ Leon’s Steakhouse, Longview, 8:30pm

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