By Johnny Griffith
Month to month I talk to a lot of musicians here in East Texas. Either I’m interviewing them for EGuide, or playing with them on stage, or catching one of their shows in between gigs. One of the things I always enjoy asking when we talk is “Who excites you in the East Texas music scene?” People are always happy to share who they’ve seen lately that they enjoyed or who I need to go see, and the list is as diverse as the group of people I’m asking. However, there is one name who kept popping up on enough lists that I finally had to stop and give him a listen.
That name was Gary Patrick.
Originally born in Tyler, Gary took a circuitous route around the country over the next several years that saw his career as a working musician begin in Southern California and from there would take him all over the country and even as far away as Europe before bringing him back to where he started, right here in East Texas.
With a gift for telling a story and the musical chops to back it up, Patrick is part Pat Green, part Tom Petty, but yet completely Gary Patrick. His latest single, “Man’s Gotta Have Some Fun,” cracked the top 50 in 8 weeks, and he was recently nominated for “new male vocalist of the year” in the Texas Regional Radio & Music Awards. I was lucky enough to grab some time with Gary in between stops on his radio station tour to sit down and find out more about the man that has local musicians talking.
Johnny: What is your earliest memory in music?
Gary: My mother’s jewelry box had a wind-up music harp in it. The song was “Fur Elise” by Ludwig Van Beethoven. I was mesmerized by that melody and kept coming back to open the magic music box. I was around three years old.
Johnny: You grew up in a very musical family, but when did you have that moment when you wanted to start learning it for yourself?
Gary: My older brother Ronnie, who is 12 years older than me, played guitar and taught me a few things when I was tiny. I couldn’t wrap my hand around the neck of the guitar so I played the strings almost like a piano from the top of the fretboard. At 10 years old, my folks took me to Mundt Music here in Tyler, circa 1981, where I met my most impressionable music mentor, guitar teacher and friend, Tom Russell. Tom taught me from age 10 until I was almost 18. To make a long story short, the answer to your question is sometime around ten or eleven. I still remember how music took a firm hold on me. What I didn’t understand then but clearly understand now is that I really didn’t choose music, but rather it chose me. I was innocent and helpless but I loved how music made me feel, and that learning an instrument was a deeper connection with something that would always be with me.
Johnny: At what point did you start thinking this was something you wanted to be more than just a hobby and perhaps try to make a career out of it?
Gary: That moment came in 1990. I graduated high school in 1989 and moved to Southern California, where I was attending college courses for an Aeronautical Engineering program. I also love flying and thought of making a career as a pilot. I was two semesters in when I realized my heart just wasn’t in it. My folks have always supported my music and urged me to pursue my dreams, so my Dad walked me around the block one evening and said college courses will be here for you but these are the years to cultivate a career in music. So, go and find your way with our blessing and support.
Johnny: Do you remember who was in your first band and what your first show was?
Gary: I certainly do! Les Clanton and his stepbrother Tony McAfee were in my first band. We knew each other since elementary at Alba-Golden ISD. The very first show we played was a big talent show at school. We were called “Novice” but later we changed our name to the “Thundering Hearts,” perhaps to imply we weren’t quite novices any longer. Now that I think of it, I believe Les came up with both names.
Johnny: Your journey has taken you pretty far from your roots in Jacksonville, is there anything that sticks out in particular along the way?
Gary: Oh wow, how much time do we have here?
I take to heart each and every footstep along the way. My journey with music has had many chapters and many sacrifices. There’s nothing normal about the career of a singer/songwriter/musician/entertainer, but luckily I’ve had the fortune of making many incredible friends and colleagues since my early years of being a professional musician.
Some memories that stick out in my mind over my career are; playing music up and down the Southern California Coast; taking my band to Helsinki, Finland for a month in 1995 where my long hair froze off, and I’m totally not kidding; playing guitar and singing for Beach Boys great Brian Wilson’s daughters for a few TV shows and radio station tours; being a contracted band for the Bellagio and Mirage Casinos in Las Vegas for several years; recording three albums; currently promoting my second radio single, “Man’s Gotta Have Some Fun,” on Texas Radio; and playing multiple shows per week.
Johnny: When did you first start writing your own material?
Gary: That would happen when I was around 12 or so.
Johnny: What would you consider your favorite original? How about your favorite cover song?
Gary: Hmm. I think my favorite original song is “Blue Skies” from my latest album, “No Standing Waves,” and my favorite cover song? Yikes, that’s virtually impossible to answer. I must say, “Tunnel of Love” by Dire Straits speaks to me. The lyrics and music are so good it hurts. The story line puts you right there … boy meets girl at a carnival. It takes me back to that innocence every time.
Johnny: How would you describe your particular style to someone who has never heard you?
Gary: With my latest album, I’m proud to say that I sound like me, Gary Patrick. Equal parts of all elements in music that have inspired me vocally, lyrically, and musically since my journey began all those years ago. If I were to describe me in the third person, I might say, “Gary Patrick… he’s that guy that reminds me of Bryan Adams’s tenor voice and plays guitar kinda like Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. He writes deep lyrics like Gordon Lightfoot, delivers a story like Willie Nelson, and has the happy country energy of Keith Urban.”
In the end, I absolutely sound like me. All artists have their influences. I certainly have influences across several genres. If you could mix em up and pour a cup, the above mentioned might be a good description.
Johnny: You’ve done quite a bit of studio work. How has that experience evolved for you and what did you learn from the process that you’ve carried with you moving forward?
Gary: Studio recording is the ultimate litmus test for a musician. I have so much to say about this so I’ll try not to ramble. As an artist, you’ll always be moving onward and upward as long as you work at your craft. Recording is important because it teaches you where you need to refine. If you are an artist or musician that only plays live shows, you are in for a lesson when you step into a studio. The studio environment is completely sterile. You hear all the mistakes you might otherwise miss while playing live. I’d suggest every musician practice playing with a metronome. Guitarist, I’d suggest refine how hard you strike the guitar with your right hand or clutch the neck and pull things out of tune. Refine, refine, refine, refine and REFINE your lyrics before going into the studio. Learn the art of co-writing with folks. Learn to be objective with your lyrics and make certain the story holds true from the first to last word.
Vocally, get yourself some coaching! Especially if you tend to write songs that peak your vocal range. If you are struggling at all with singing your songs, either change the key or realize that you may need help. Incredible vocal coaches from Los Angeles and Las Vegas can teach you via Skype. In my 30 year career, I wouldn’t have survived vocally without having the knowledge I learned from years of coaching. Knowing vocal technique will only serve you better in the studio.
If you are an artist without a band and want to record a single or a few songs, reach out and find a producer who can put together a recording session and hire players for you. Sometimes you just don’t have all the answers, so it’s time to build relationships.
Be serious about your art but don’t take yourself too seriously! This is something that I can speak from experience with. Being intense is a good thing, but remember to relax and enjoy this. Everyone else will enjoy it more too.
Johnny: Do you primarily perform with a full band or more solo work these days?
Gary: I perform solo, acoustic trio, acoustic four piece and full electric band…whatever the venue or show calls for.
Johnny: What do you have coming up the rest of this year into 2020 that we can look forward to?
Gary: We are playing several shows per week, all over the East Texas area. You can always check our calendar on my website: garypatrick.love.
Johnny: The East Texas music scene has a great collaborative vibe to it, seemingly more so than other areas I’ve experienced over the years. To what would you attribute this sense of community the local musicians in this area seem to share?
Gary: I talk about this all the time, Johnny. I love how much music there is in East Texas. I love seeing so many artists and musicians happily supporting one another. East Texas is a great community that fosters some amazing relationships. On top of that you have so many venues now that support live entertainment. All of that encourages excellence. You know, I’ve personally never been a huge fan of the singing contest TV shows. It’s not how I built a lasting career as a musician or refined my skills and relationships. However, I’ve noticed since shows like “The Voice,” “American Idol,” etc., SO many talented singers/musicians have emerged and a new generation of folks are inspired. The Texas Country scene has completely blown up and offers opportunity for artists and musicians to cultivate a career. Like any career, there’s lots to learn and dues to pay along the way, and that’s where I am in this. I’m promoting singles to Texas Radio, driving to little radio stations all over the state, and meeting new folks that love music. Trying to move the machine out of my 100 mile orbit and grow new fans. It’s hard work. There are times when I want to swing a hammer instead of a guitar, but then I regroup and realize this is what I do.
Johnny: So the last question is hypothetical. You’re stuck on a remote island for the next year and can take one album, and one album only…what is it?
Gary: Oh that’s easy.. Journey, “Infinity, 1978.”
Guitar On Fire: Reece Malone
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.
Rescheduled: Oct. 20th, 2020 Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival
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.
Dagnabbit: Get Your Good Times On!
“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 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.”
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.”
An 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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Guitar On Fire: Reece Malone
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