Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!

 



THE KILLER ROCKS ON: Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis' Sun Records single, High School Confidential (which was originally released in the above picture sleeve) is one of one hundred tracks featured in Acrobat Music's four CD compilation, The First U.S. Hot 100 (August 1958), which includes every single listed in the first edition of the so-called national charts. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story in the Reissues/Anthologies section of The Shape Of Things To Come column. Click on the appropriate link at right under Previous Posts for details (Click on image to enlarge).

THIS IS THE INTERNET HOME FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.


Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

Fifty years ago in mid-July, the Bronx-based vocal quartet, the Chiffons derailed the Rolling Stones from the number one spot with a psychedelic masterpiece that remains their finest moment. We salute pioneering rock and roll giant, Ernie Maresca, who passed away suddenly on 11 July. Prayers going up on behalf of Guelph, Ontario native and Diamonds front man, Dave Somerville, who is battling an undisclosed yet serious illness. First generation garage rock pioneers the Woolies and Tidal Waves guitarist Bill Long have both ended long sabbaticals and returned to active live performance. Doctor West's Medicine Show And Jug Band front man and co-founder, Norman Greenbaum is recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accirdent in Santa Rosa, California on 30 March. Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist Paul Kantner recuperating from heart attack. Meet the ambitious Los Angeles trio, the Eiffels, who drew upon the inspiration of the new romantic and synth pop traditions of the early 1980s for their ambitious debut single, I Did It Now. 

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The landmark, four CD The First U.S. Hot 100 (August 1958) collection on Acrobat Music features all one hundred singles that graced the first edition of the so-called national chart, including essential tracks by Rick Nelson, Perez Prado, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Upbeats, Gene and Gina and others. The rockabilly-inspired trio the Stray Cats is saluted with a multi-CD/DVD set on Made In Germany Music Records that features two full length concerts from 1981 and 1983. A certain late May 1967 Capitol Records album remains one of the most polarizing and divisive releases in all of music. That same year, Thomas Edisun's Electric Light Bulb Band nonetheless took its cue from that album and created a fine original work with The Red Day Album, now available on CD on Roger Maglio's acclaimed Gear Fab label. The fact that previously unreleased material is still extant in the catalog of an artist who passed away nearly forty-eight years ago is nothing short of a miracle. But such is the case with pioneering visionary and saxophonist John Coltrane, whose November 1966 landmark concert at Temple University, Offering is at last now available on a 2CD set. The highly prolific Real Gone Music label has added Various Artists collections to its enormous catalog of multi-disc collections, including the superb, 100-track Northern Soul: The Early Years set, including rare tracks from Roy Hamilton, Bert "Russell Byrd" Berns, Tammy Montgomery, Billy Bland, the Five Royales and others. Beloved country music pioneer Stompin' Tom Connors is celebrated a year after his passing at age 77 with the first in a series of CDs featuring previously unreleased tracks and rarities. Ash Wells' Sydney, New South Wales-based Teensville label has released the third volume of their acclaimed Girls On 45 series, featuring rare and obscure tracks by Jill Gibson, Ramona King, Sandy and the Sophomores, April Young, Linda Hopkins, Debbie Rollins, Mer-Lyn, Diane Renay, the Blossoms, Lacey Jones and others.


IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

In the New Releases section of The Shape Of Things To Come column, Southern California blues rock quartet, Hot Roux has put together an impressive colection of ten inspiraed originals with their latest Hi Hat release, Stranger's Blues. veteran first generation garage rockers the Doughboys continue to inspire (not to mention be inspired by those whom they initially impacted) with their latest RAM Records release, Hot Beat Stew. Savage Grace front man Al Jacquez has made a most imprssive addition to his curriculum vitae by serving in that capacity with the Gospel trio, One Achord, whose Dream CD is one of the best such releases of recent vintage. Singer, songwriter and Illinois native Deb Ryder returns with a blues inspired set of eleven strong originals in her latest release, Let It Rain. Washington's Dana Countryman returns with another collection of second generation rock-inspired originals. Medway's Groovy U.N.C.L.E. has turned out a stunningly perfect album with their latest classic garage rock inspired release, Persuaded. Folk rock pioneers the Brothers Four return triumphantly with their latest Seattle Works Entertainment release, The Beautiful World Of The Brothers Four. The Hardest Working Man In Show Business, Jeremy Morris takes Gospel music to a whole new level with his highly ambitious, garage rock-inspired new praise and worship CD, Bright Morning Star. We also take a look at the farewell Appleseed label by CD by the late and beloved singer/songwriter, Jesse Winchester. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter John Zipperer has issued one of the most engaging new releases in recent months with his Nick Kirgo-produced album, Full Circle. 

Tuesday

MICHAEL McDOWELL LOOKS AT 40 YEARS OF BLITZ MAGAZINE

DOUBLE DYNAMITE: Blitz Magazine is kicking off a summer long celebration of our fortieth anniversary. In the following essay, Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a fond look at four decades of being at the helm of The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and addresses some key developments that speak to the future of the industry. Pictured above is the cover of Blitz number 27 from July 1978 (with cover design by Dennis Loren), which featured interviews with Sam and Dave and the Monkees' David Jones, as well as numerous reviews and reports on such up and coming artists as Cinecyde, Brad Long, the Zooks and the Reruns.

FORTY LICKS:
BLITZ MAGAZINE CELEBRATES
(AND NAVIGATES)
FOUR DECADES OF CHANGE

“I am no longer singing with the legendary Teenagers. After knowing and working with Herman Santiago for over sixty years, the time has come for me to move on to other things, as my Lord and Saviour Jesus directs. For it is He, the Creator of all things, including doo wop, that brought me this far in life and blessed me to be an original, founding member of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Therefore, I’ll always be a Teenager as His servant.

With those words, rock and roll great Jimmy Merchant announced on 27 April 2015 his retirement after six decades as a member of one of rock and roll’s most respected and enduring pioneer vocal groups. And while the news of yet one more legend being removed from the roster of active performers is most disconcerting in and of itself, Merchant’s farewell benediction nonetheless addresses two key points that remain front and center in the overall world of music.

On one hand, the fact that Merchant (who since that time seems to have recanted his retirement to a degree and continues to participate in the occasional live performance) has had the option to bow out on his own terms makes him blessed in relation to a number of his fellow visionaries. To wit, the current year to date alone has seen the untimely passing of such beloved giants of music as Ernie Maresca, Ben E. King, Val Doonican, Jim Ed Brown, Jean Ritchie, B.B. King, Johnny Gimble, Guy Carawan, James Last, jazz greats Marcus Belgrave and Ornette Coleman, songwriters Red Lane, Will Holt and Buddy Buie, the Scot Richard Case’s Gary Quackenbush, the Kingsmen’s Jack Ely, Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown, the Weavers’ Ronnie Gilbert, and Yes bassist Chris Squire, to name but a few.

Furthermore, with his proclamation of faith, Merchant has articulated a major concern within the industry that nonetheless resonates with believers and non-believers alike. The fact that the attrition rate amongst musicians has continued at an alarmingly high rate in recent years has given many pause for concern, as well as the incentive to reassess their priorities.

One time Guess Who front man and keyboardsman Burton Lorne Cummings has reiterated as much in his ongoing series of online journals over the past few years. Amongst other things, the highly prolific and remarkably gifted vocalist and songwriter has observed that, as a lifelong musicologist, musician and record collector, he has had ample opportunity to accumulate rather large archives of various recorded works during his more than a half century in the spotlight.

But in turn, Cummings has noted upon occasion that the whirlwind of activity in which he frequently finds himself has left him with relatively little time to appreciate those acquisitions to any significant degree. To underscore the point, he recently noted that he was just getting around to re-evaluating and enjoying once again the catalog of the veteran instrumental band, Johnny and the Hurricanes, the bulk of whose work was done more than a half century ago.

The communal gathering places for the faithful, such as record collectors conventions and record retailers have reflected these developments accordingly. It is becoming increasingly commonplace in such settings to encounter conversations that are less concerned with, “I just found this rare record” and instead leaning towards mutual acquaintances having passed away, admitted to hospital, in a nursing home, and the like.

Like it or not, such is the inevitable fate for each and every of us who profess to love music. To wit, a few years ago, one prolific collector passed away suddenly at the age of fifty-nine, leaving the fruits of his decades of record collecting behind to relatives who had minimal interest in the subject. Within a month of his passing, his lifetime of work was being arbitrarily divided and offered in a backyard estate sale at prices of less than one dollar per item. A short term bonus for the fellow collector with a focus on the immediate circumstances, to be certain. But doubtlessly not at all what that late collector may have envisioned for his legacy, not to mention his due diligence.

With his focus primarily directed towards his faith, Jimmy Merchant most assuredly has his priorities in order. But whether or not one shares Merchant’s perspective on that particular issue, there is nonetheless much that we as the collective representation of musicologists, musicians, record collectors and industry professionals can learn from his resolve and determination.

When Blitz Magazine made its debut as a mimeographed newsletter in August 1975, the world of record collecting was very much in its infancy. In turn, the reissue and anthology division of the industry was striving to find its own footing. With the rise to prominence of the internet more than two decades away, research involved no small amount of physical effort, and relied more often that not on the personal recollections and presumptions of third party observers.

However, one concurrent development came along that helped propel Blitz and literally hundreds of other like minded publications from cottage industry status to voices of consequence for a sizable yet long disenfranchised segment of the overall demographic. In 1975, the mainstream recording industry had been in the waning stages of a protracted aesthetic slump that came about in part as the result of the AM/FM wars of the late 1960s and the shifting emphasis by the industry powers that be onto such periphery as chronology and social/political developments. While such moves may have served some purpose in providing a backdrop for a given agenda in that respect, it nonetheless often did so by relegating the music to a support role for that agenda, and occasionally at the expense of artistic integrity.

Such developments resulted in an ever increasing discontentment with the status quo amongst the faithful. Yet seemingly in defiance of the limited options for networking and/or communications available at the time, the faithful managed to rise to the occasion by mid-decade in two respects. One way was by taking a stand for artistic integrity and seeking to unite like minded individuals. This was often done through the medium of independent publishing, such as Blitz Magazine did. The other was to utilize whatever musical skills that one had been blessed with and commit them to record with original material that championed a return to the basics, with renewed artistic integrity experiencing exponential growth in the process.

As such, by the mid-1970s, the resultant, so-called punk/new wave movement and the burgeoning independent publishing industry found themselves united in purpose and growing in impact and influence. Not surprisingly, the indifference and/or resistance from the mainstream media was both fast and furious. Nonetheless, four decades after the fact, what was once regarded as a fringe movement is now an integral component of the overall entertainment culture.

Within short order, Blitz Magazine resolved to increase its presence and impact in that respect. In late 1976, after a brief meeting with renowned graphic artist Dennis Loren (who had offered his services in that capacity accordingly), Blitz Magazine took the risky yet inevitable step of graduating from four page mimeographed newsletter to a full sized, full length magazine. Blitz Magazine number eighteen (featuring my lengthy cover interviews with Jan and Dean, as well as numerous reviews of various ambitious new vinyl releases) followed suit in January 1977. The musical revolution and its independent press were both in full swing, and there was no turning back.

As we all learned in short order, publishing was not a task for the casual participant. The thrill of championing the betterment of the art was often tempered by the realities of production. In those pre-internet days, stories were composed and edited on a typewriter (and Blitz was blessed at the time to have access to the then state of the art IBM Selectric II model) with a bottle of Liquid Paper nearby at all times. In turn, typesetting was done on a cumbersome and costly behemoth of a machine called a Compugraphic.

While we engaged a variety of typesetting services in the early days of Blitz, among the most memorable were the several issues that were typeset by long time fellow musicologist, social commentator and one-time MC5 manager, John Sinclair. Blitz’s production team spent many a long night in Sinclair’s home offices, enjoying his vast and diverse record collection while he typeset, I proofread and Dennis Loren meticulously designed each page by hand on his light table.

By 1980, with the punk/new wave movement continuing to break new ground and assert itself as the prominent voice in the music industry, Blitz Magazine had relocated from suburban Detroit to Los Angeles, California. It was a move that was a long time in the making, and one that was done with few regrets.

With respect to the latter category, it sadly meant parting professional company with Dennis Loren, as the ongoing high demand for his services in the area prevented him from making such a move at the time. Meanwhile, Blitz continued to sustain its momentum in Southern California by engaging the services of a series of gifted graphic artists that included Heather Johnson, Spencer Eldridge, Greg Shaw and Tom Alford.

Not surprisingly, Loren’s graphic design business continues to the present day, with stops at Del-Fi and Vanguard Records along the way to his credit, as well as key project collaborations with such diverse artists as Tag Team and Brian Wilson. However, Blitz by that time had also developed and nurtured a world class roster of staff writers (including Jerry Schollenberger, Mary Anne Cassata, Sean Ross, John Mars and Jeff Lemlich), all of whom were able to continue in that capacity by mailing in their contributions prior to each deadline.

Ultimately, the timing of the move could not have been more perfect. Southern California had embraced the new musical developments unconditionally, and had the rare blessing of ongoing radio support in that respect from Long Beach’s KNAC-FM and Pasadena’s KROQ-FM. A variety of diverse bands had availed themselves accordingly, and Blitz Magazine was there to cover all of it. The Heaters, the Blasters, the Rain Parade, Black Flag, Elton Duck, the Long Ryders, X, the Minutemen, the Dream Syndicate, the Unclaimed, the Three O’Clock and the Last were among the many who graced our pages throughout those adventurous days.

In the process, our relocation to Southern California also afforded Blitz greater access to many of the still active pioneers of the movement. We were immeasurably blessed to have featured lengthy interviews with such beloved greats as the Monkees, Roy Brown, Herman’s Hermits, the Creation, the Beach Boys, the Four Preps, Lou Christie, Canned Heat, Rick Nelson, the Beau Brummels, Mary Wells, Del Shannon, Spanky and Our Gang, the Seeds and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (amongst numerous others) within our pages.

Concurrently, the reissue arm of the recording industry was rapidly gaining ground, commensurate with the ongoing interest in high quality pioneering work amongst both musicologists and record collectors, as well as the front line amongst the newer musicians. Inevitably, Blitz Magazine joined forces for a season with such record labels as Rhino and Sundazed, who commissioned Blitz to conduct research and/or compose sleeve notes for a series of reissues and anthologies by such diverse artists as the Chocolate Watchband, the New Colony Six, Dionne Warwick, Freddy Cannon, the Vogues, Brenton Wood, Mitch Ryder, the Diamonds, Joe Tex, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, the Olympics and Bobby Day, to name but a few.

That momentum continued unabated well into the 1980s. But abruptly in mid-1988, not long after the release of our fifty-eighth issue, a series of circumstances (including my pursuit of multiple degrees in theology, which involved a semester of study in Jerusalem, Israel) regrettably necessitated placing Blitz on sabbatical for a brief season.

That so-called brief season continued until January 1996, when (to the best of our knowledge) Blitz Magazine re-emerged as the very first such magazine of its kind to have adapted an entirely online presence. Blitz Magazine of course continues in that capacity to the present day, with our web site regularly supplemented by our ongoing active participation in both the Facebook and Twitter communities.

In the interim, changes in the industry had continued at a frantic pace, with both positive and negative consequences. By the mid-1990s, the internet had become an increasing presence in the overall culture. And while the industry’s endeavors to find its footing in that new medium took the better part of the ensuing decade to develop, the internet ultimately brought significant changes in the way that the industry viewed itself. 

At risk initially were the intellectual and creative property rights of the artists involved. With much of their work suddenly available on various sites or as downloads, sales of compact discs and vinyl (which paradoxically has rebounded exponentially in the current decade) began to be affected adversely. The sense of entitlement expressed by many at the time underscored just how ingrained in mass culture was the notion that an artist was not necessarily to be fairly compensated for their services.

This double standard ironically carried over for a season into the realm of the physical product, which had long been a key source for the sustainability of the careers of many an artist. The impact was particularly felt in the early 2000s in the United Kingdom, with changes in copyright laws resulting in a season of decreased accountability for record labels with respect to artist royalties. Due in part to the valiant and ongoing efforts of such still active veteran greats as Bobby Rydell and Sir Cliff Richard, those concerns have begun to be addressed, if not entirely rectified.

The issue at large was exacerbated in part by the return to a protracted aesthetic slump in the mainstream that began in the early 1990s. After the so-called New Traditionalist movement in country music (arguably the last collective gasp of consequence in the industry at large) had run its course by the midpoint of that decade, no real profession of solidarity and/or unity came from any one camp to carry the torch forward into the new millennium. As such, artists at the independent label level again turned to their respective creative muses. The result was a great deal of excellent material that admittedly takes a bit more due diligence (aided and abetted by the ongoing support from Blitz, as well as numerous others of similar intent) to locate and appreciate. Nonetheless, the results at hand suggest that doing so remains well worth the effort.

While the vastness of scope offered by the internet can make the pursuit of the new and promising of a particular genre or point of interest a bit more challenging, it in turn has likewise (and somewhat unwittingly) been of benefit towards the reissue movement, which has since grown to be one of the largest segments of the recording industry at large.

The rapid expansion of interest in the reissue movement has in part been responsible for the healthy return to prominence of the vinyl release in recent years. Not only do such heretofore technically conscious retail chains as Target, HMV, Best Buy, Books A Million and Barnes and Noble now stock extensive selections of vinyl albums in their various outlets, they have in the process attracted the support of a much younger demographic with no first hand experience of the original impact that vinyl had in its developing stages. To be certain, with respect to the concerns about the necessity of passing the torch, this is a most encouraging step in the right direction.

Concurrently, the explosive growth of reissues and anthologies has had significant impact in terms of the compact disc. The sonic advantages of the medium (minimal surface and/or background noise, space for additional tracks, et al) have served the expansion movement well, with deluxe editions of many a classic release offering what the vinyl medium simply cannot deliver, in the form of bonus and unreleased tracks, supplemental hardware (session data, discographies, extensive sleeve notes or artist biographies, reproductions of artifacts and the like) and a more comprehensive artist portrait in a relatively convenient and compact setting (the latter being an increasing necessity amongst those with substantial musical archives and minimal storage space).

Conversely, the rise of the internet has also seen a somewhat curious increase in the industry equivalent of the so-called “armchair quarterback”, who is referred to in some circles as the “keyboard warrior”. While the difficulties of research in the early days of the reissue industry meant that available information in general was often more challenging to procure a decade after the fact than it now is a half century after the fact, those involved in the production process have discovered that instead of having to rely on the information at hand to get the job done, they now often find themselves encountering (and in some cases challenged by) a seemingly endless stream of self-proclaimed “experts”.

In one respect, it is indeed gratifying to be able to experience the camaraderie of like minded individuals, who share enthusiasm for a given genre or the work of a particular artist, and whose personal research and experience ultimately contributes to the wealth of knowledge that is now readily available in the industry at large; both online and in the results of the countless reissue projects that are currently available.

However, as many an executive at some of the leading reissue companies will readily attest, their respective relationships with the various keyboard warriors is often a mixed blessing. Some do indeed contribute in the way of providing access to rare archival material, as well as documented expertise and insights based on personal testimony and experience, which of course is all well and good.

Nonetheless, there are some within those circles who seem determined to take the late, great Rick Nelson’s landmark 1972 maxim of, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself” out of context. Just as the armchair quarterback will frequently wax indignantly on the performance of a given athlete whose abilities they could not possibly duplicate, the keyboard warrior is often given to finding fault with many a reissue project, summarily dismissing the entire work out of hand if it includes too many tracks, not enough tracks, monaural over stereo (or vice versa), alternate takes, studio dialogue, and the like.

In the process, the keyboard warrior often defends their actions by presenting themselves as watchdogs of sorts. They frequently do so by invoking an all too familiar tactic that is also common to modern day partisan politics, which is to put the perceived “opposition” on the defensive by questioning their motives (and indeed, if the participants in the medium of communication most engaged by artists to fellowship with their audience are perceived as “opposition”, then the ultimate agendas of such “watchdogs” must certainly be called into question), their presumed interest in profit over art, and even the legality of their respective venture.

By going that route, the keyboard warrior demonstrates (at least to the seasoned industry insider) just how out of touch they are with the realities of the process. Many a representative of the various reissue labels whose specialty is the rare and obscure release have found themselves on the receiving end of such invective, and are quick to point out the fallibility of such arguments.

Of the dozen or so leading labels whose CD reissues fall into that category, more than half pursue their respective mission statements as a labor of love, with profits barely meeting production expenses (and indeed, as the Apostle Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 9:1-18, a double standard persists which infers that those plying their trades in certain professions are believed by some to not be entitled to compensation for their endeavors). And any such suggestion that the finished product is bereft of merit in that respect simply does not take into consideration the enormous amount of work involved in production, remastering, graphic design, research and promotion.

Furthermore, with the rights for release more often than not falling under the jurisdiction of relatively more established corporations which have marginal (if any) interest in the material at hand, the independent label is doing both artist and musicologist a tremendous service by making this rare material once again readily available. And while most such labels at least make a concerted effort to pay statutory royalties to all concerned, virtually all have affirmed that they would be willing to work out terms with a given artist if said artist were to contact them. It is a potential win-win situation for all concerned.

Furthermore, the keyboard warrior frequently also comes with their own professed ideology that at times appears to be self-contradictory. For all of their perceived insights and observations with respect to the industry at large and their seemingly inevitable proclamations regarding the infallibility of their own perspective, many of them nonetheless remain determined to cling to the infrastructure of the mainstream industry that they so often profess to disdain.

To that effect, a roundtable discussion about the aesthetic merits of a given musical work will almost invariably produce one of two responses amongst the participants; either “I can’t believe that single only peaked at number sixty-eight on the national charts” or “It’s an injustice that this artist is not in the hall of fame”.

Indeed, if such observers are so determined to champion independent thinking, then their continuing deference to the perceived authority of such mainstream entities is a malfeasance of logic.

In terms of the latter, the so-called hall of fame (and its east coast-based decision making committee) has no public mandate to operate in that capacity, and no more authority in that respect than that which they have bestowed upon themselves. No artist of aesthetic merit needs confirmation from them to affirm their worth as musicians. The faithful are fully aware of what these beloved artists are capable of, and continue to support them accordingly. It is that support which has continued to sustain them in the long run. Yet many an observer continues to deem a pat on the head from the so-called hall as essential for them to fall into lockstep with their own accolades.

Even more curious is their frequent insistence upon measuring an artist’s legacy by their performance on a so-called national chart. While such mathematical data may be of some merit in terms of professional sports (although a case could also be made against such logic when one takes into consideration the entertainment value and off the field altruism that a given athlete often provides), it nonetheless defies reason and in reality is not supported by fact in terms of a given record’s artistic viability.

By the admission of the various sources that continue to produce them, the so-called national charts are solely intended to reflect the performance of a given musical work over the previous seven day period. By definition, that automatically makes the margin for error substantial, especially when taking into consideration the phenomenon known as the regional hit that prevailed through much of rock and roll’s most productive years.

For example, the 1966 cover of Don Harris and Dewey Terry’s Farmer John on the S.V.R. label by the Michigan band, the Tidal Waves was a sizable hit in many markets across North America, although not concurrently. In other words, it did well in a given city during one week, then in another a few weeks later, and in still other even a couple of months later.

Much of that of course had to do with the challenges of distribution faced by label President Jack Chekaway, who ultimately leased the single to the somewhat more established HBR label. When all was said and done, the Tidal Waves’ definitive rendition of Farmer John had sold an impressive 900,000 copies; a figure confirmed by both label and artist. But since that single’s peak activity did not take place within a lone seven day period, its performance by definition could not be chronicled accordingly in the national charts. Ultimately, it barely made a dent there, which a record with such impressive sales figures should have made. Rightfully so, that Tidal Waves’ single is nonetheless regarded today as a hallmark of first generation garage rock.

An even more obvious example would be the Beau Brummels’ classic May 1965 single, Just A Little. True to form, the legendary WKNR Keener 13 radio in Dearborn, Michigan (which at the time served as a national test station of sorts; breaking singles weeks and sometimes months before they went on to acclaim elsewhere) was an early supporter of this sublime release, with Just A Little ultimately peaking at number one on the Keener Music Guide before month’s end. That Autumn label single went on to enjoy similar acclaim in roughly a dozen other markets nationwide over the next two months. But again, since those accolades did not occur concurrently, Just A Little ultimately topped out at a relatively modest number eight on the so-called national charts.

The resultant dichotomies evidenced in such activity continue to produce an endless stream of “what if” cries in those roundtable discussions. Yet one continues to wonder, for all of their professions of indignancy when it comes to their music of choice, why the opinions and findings of such sources would continue to impact their beliefs to such a degree. Indeed, if inclusion in a so-called hall of fame or performance on a national chart is the be all and the end all of a given artist’s merits, then the keyboard warriors are again contradicting themselves by their ongoing professions of admiration for the works of such acclaimed musical visionaries and giants as the Chocolate Watchband, Charlie Feathers, the Pretty Things, Ronnie Self and Gino Washington, none of whom made any significant impact in either respect throughout prolific careers that spanned roughly a half century per artist.

Given the inevitable consequences of the passage of time, coupled with the most encouraging interest expressed in the medium by a well intended (although - - for the moment - - modestly informed) up and coming demographic, it is incumbent upon all of us to utilize whatever resources we have been blessed with, be it recorded archives, musicianship, first hand experience, journalistic skills and/or historical acumen, to pass the torch to those in the apprentice stages  through both encouragement and the sharing of such expertise.

And such are the interesting times in which we find ourselves, as Blitz Magazine gratefully celebrates the completion of its fourth decade. If nothing else, what the past forty years have taught us is that no matter how long we persevere at this labor of love, it remains a learning process. For while the necessity of due diligence made such endeavors a significant challenge in the early days of publication, the large network of support and the resultant wealth of knowledge now available continues to underscore just how much that each and every one of us can learn and benefit from the camaraderie and the sharing of lifetimes of experience and discovery. As Jimmy Merchant noted, it is indeed a blessing from the Lord for which we give thanks to Him, as well as to all of you for your ongoing love, support and encouragement.

BRAD AND REBEKAH AT ODB CONFERENCE



WE ARE NOT THE SAME: That sentiment echoed throughout the capacity crowd at the Our Daily Bread Ministry Conference in Southfield, Michigan on 25 April, as the husband and wife worship team Brad and Rebekah (pictured above) premiered selections from their forthcoming Discovery House CD, All You've Done. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a look at the duo's work to date below, as well highlights from the conference (Click on image to enlarge).


WHEN WE GATHER:
WORSHIP DUO BRAD AND REBEKAH
SHOWCASE NEW RELEASE AT
PREMIER OUR DAILY BREAD CONFERENCE 

If veteran singer/songwriter and pastor, Jeremy Morris (who records prolifically and primarily for his own JAM label) is leading the charge in thinking outside of the box in terms of Gospel music, then the husband and wife worship team, Brad and Rebekah Bichsel and the musical arm of the Discovery House branch of Our Daily Bread Ministries is certainly following suit by orchestrating the first such collaborative endeavor in that respect.

To that effect, the Phoenix, Arizona-based Bichsels celebrated their recent signing with Discovery House by providing the worship interludes at the first Our Daily Bread Ministry Conference. The event was hosted by the Highland Park Baptist Church in Southfield, Michigan on Saturday the 25th of April. 

During the conference, Brad (who originally hails from New York) and Bakersfield, California native Rebekah incorporated into the worship segments several selections from their forthcoming Discovery House CD, All You've Done. Produced by Josh Silverburg (whose credits include the Newsboys), All You've Done is slated for early June release, and will include such true to form fare as We Are Not The Same, Lift Your Hands and Wake Up.

However, All You've Done is not Brad and Rebekah's first attempt at attempting to expand the curiously well defined parameters that have characterized much of Gospel and Christian rock in recent years. To wit, their 2008 Acoustically Inclined album was recorded in an unamplified setting. Brad Bichsel reasoned that although the album prominently featured drums, they were unamplified for that session in an attempt to bridge the gap between the two approaches.

And while their interim The One We Love album more than made up for its mainstream inclinations with an undeniable anointing and exuberant delivery, All You've Done seems poised to follow suit by treading relatively familiar ground with the joy of a fresh perspective.

The signing of Brad and Rebekah is also a significant victory for Discovery House's musical division, which heretofore had primarily featured releases by renowned vocalist Wintley Phipps, as well as various instrumental concept albums. And if the premier Our Daily Bread Conference was any indication, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based ministry (which recently changed its name from RBC Ministries, due to the widespread name recognition that has long been afforded its immensely popular Our Daily Bread devotional booklets) seems poised to make a major impact for God's kingdom on a variety of fronts.

Our Daily Bread and Discovery House (whose vast publishing catalog includes the complete works of the enormously influential early twentieth century evangelist, Oswald Chambers) have long been blessed with a wealth of remarkably gifted authors, evangelists and pastors; a number of whom ministered at the conference. Among the authors who were featured speakers during those sessions were psychologist Dr. Sabrina D. Black, broadcaster Sheridan Voysey, Moody Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Eric Moore and (via videotape) Warrior In Pink's Vivian Mabuni, as well as such beloved regular Our Daily Bread contributors as Marvin Williams (who concluded the day's events by delivering an impacting sermon in the guise of the Apostle Paul) and broadcaster Bill Crowder.

Near the midpoint of the conference, Williams and Crowder joined Our Daily Bread editor Anne Cetas and radio co-host Mart DeHaan in a panel discussion that doubled as an ad hoc writers' workshop. During the proceedings, the group also took a moment to remember long time Our Daily Bread contributor, Julie Ackerman Link, who sadly had passed away just days prior to the conference.

Although he was not a participant in the panel discussion, also on hand was the highly respected author and long time Our Daily Bread contributor, Dave Branon. A self-proclaimed Beach Boys aficionado and author of the acclaimed Philippians commentary, Stand Firm, the genial Branon also has more than two thousand devotional articles to his credit.

With many among the hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders in attendance attesting to the resounding success of the gathering in its intended purpose of furthering the Gospel, it is fair to say that both conference and musical interludes were a major blessing for all concerned. Hopefully Our Daily Bread will follow through on their expressed desire to make the conference an annual event.


Wednesday

HANK WILLIAMS III (HANK3) INTERVIEW


FULL ON: Since the release of  his 1999 solo debut with Risin' Outlaw, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has firmly established himself as one of the most astute, unique, creative and ambitious visionaries in all of music. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell spoke with Hank3 on the eve of his fourteen-date tour in support of his forthcoming Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat albums. Story follows below.

OVERDRIVE:
A CONVERSATION WITH
HANK WILLIAMS III (A.K.A. HANK3)

By Michael McDowell

“Both the popular country music and the popular rock music of today leave much to be desired. It will get to the point that people will just get tired of its sameness and start demanding something a little bit better. I hope that’s where I come in. I’m very confident in my own abilities now. I hope everyone else will pick up on it.

So said country rock pioneer Hank Williams Junior in an interview with Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell in Blitz Magazine #32, which was published in September 1979. Although it would be nearly a decade before the so-called New Traditionalist movement would for one last time bring to fruition Williams’ vision for country music, the genre’s subsequent protracted aesthetic slump (combined with mainstream rock’s seeming inability to rectify its own situation) makes Williams’ observations all the more timely well into the twenty-first century.

In what is widely regarded as his signature track, the 1979 Family Tradition single (Elektra E-46046), Hank Williams Junior good naturedly celebrated what was generally perceived as the common thread between him and his legendary father, country music giant Hank Williams. But as is often the case, the difference between outside observers’ perceptions and reality can be substantial.

In the case of the Williams family, the common thread has actually been an extraordinary, God-given gift for artistic ability and creativity. Not so that each subsequent generation can dutifully follow in the footsteps of the earlier ones, but so that all concerned can assert their respective creative muse and produce unique and individual works of art that stand on their own merits.

To be certain, Hank Williams set the bar about as high as it can be set in that respect. In turn, Hank Williams Junior took into consideration his own inspirations, and for the past half century has established a most impressive legacy as one of the founding fathers of country rock with his various releases for MGM, Warner Brothers, Elektra and other labels.

Most recently, the current generation of the Williams family has grown exponentially in terms of breaking new ground. Beginning with the release of The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South 623392) in October 2004, Hank Williams Junior’s daughter, Holly Audrey Williams has since established herself as one of the premier singer/songwriters in all of music. Her third and most recent album, The Highway on her own Georgiana label is one of the most compelling new releases of 2013 to date.

All of which culminates in the work of a man who may well be the among the most qualified to not only rescue country music from the doldrums, but to inspire the world of music at large onto greater heights. Born Shelton Hank Williams in Nashville, Tennessee on 12 December 1972, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has, since his 1999 debut as a solo artist with the release of Risin’ Outlaw for Curb Records, charted for himself a most unique and ambitious musical course.

As the son of Hank Williams Junior, Hank3 by definition was blessed with the creative capabilities that are indigenous to his bloodline. But as an avid musicologist, multi-instrumentalist and hardcore record collector, Hank3 also brings a wealth of experience and artistic acumen to the table. A firm believer in musical diversity, Hank3’s personal vinyl, cassette and CD archives include such inspirational visionaries as the late, great banjo virtuoso, David “Stringbean” Akeman and indie rock pioneers (and one-time Blitz Magazine cover story subjects), Black Flag.

In particular, Black Flag’s former front man, Henry Lawrence “Henry Rollins” Garfield has had a significant impact on Hank3, particularly in terms of his stringent work ethic. Likewise a relentless perfectionist, Hank3 has always made a concerted effort to persevere without compromise. While such noble aspirations may have temporarily cost him some momentum in terms of widespread notoriety, he nonetheless has amassed a most impressive recorded legacy along the way, with such triumphs as his 2002 Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album for Curb Records and the rather candid 2010 release, Rebel Within for Sidewalk Records to his credit.

In mid-2013, Hank3 once again took an ambitious step; this time in the form of two new albums that celebrate both of his primary musical interests. Recorded over a period of four months in his home studios (with Hank3 handling both drums and guitar, as well as production, mixing and mastering duties), the country-themed double album, Brothers Of The 4x4 also features Zach Shedd on stand up bass, David McElfresh and Billy Contreras on fiddle, Andy Gibson on steel guitar, Johnny Hiland on lead guitar, and Daniel Mason on banjo, with a special guest appearance by one-time National Old-Time Banjo champion, Leroy Troy.

In turn, the hardcore-flavored A Fiendish Threat affords Hank3 the opportunity to showcase his punk rock inclinations, which he does therein with resounding success. Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat are scheduled for 01 October 2013 release on his own Hank3 label in both the CD and vinyl configurations. Hank3 is celebrating these new releases with a fourteen-date tour that will conclude on 08 September, including stops in Indianapolis, Flint, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta.

In the following conversation (which transpired on 07 August 2013), Hank3 shares not only his unique perspective as a member of country music’s royal family, but also the many varied inspirations behind his ambitious and engaging original material. To be certain, his is an artistic vision that at long last should appease the musical appetites of those whom are (in his father’s words), “demanding something a little bit better”.  

BLITZ: It’s good to see that the so-called Family Tradition has continued in your case. Not necessarily in terms of one generation following in the direction of another, but in that each has maintained a high level of creativity in their own right.

HANK3:
It’s always a challenge, trying to stand on your own two feet. Even if you’re Dale Earnhardt Junior or Frank Zappa’s son. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to find my own niche and my own voice. That can be a hard task, going up against Hank Senior and Hank Junior!

But my fans have stuck with me throughout the years. There have been a lot of great shows and a lot of different sounds that have come out of me over that period!

BLITZ: You came into an appreciation of music at a relatively early age. As early as the late 1970s, you were already expressing an interest in music and starting to accumulate a record collection. You had an advantage in that respect because of whom your father was, and he no doubt brought a lot of music to your attention.

But by that same token, you came into it right at the height of the burgeoning new wave/punk movement. It seems as though all of that factored into creating a richly diverse musical background for you. Did that concurrently spark your interest as a collector and a musicologist at that time, as well?

HANK3: It’s a little bit of both. My mom and my aunt always had interesting music around. Since I had a drum set and all of these different sounds, I kept trying to play along with Elvis Presley or Queen. Or when I got a little older, Gary Numan and the Sex Pistols. That’s basically how I learned how to play a lot of my instruments. It was kind of a natural progression for me on the guitar and on the drums.

For Hank Junior, Southern Rock was his thing. For Hank Senior, it was a little bit of country, blues and rock and roll. For me, it was just natural to learn other styles of music.

BLITZ: In a sense, you also carried on that perspective. Your grandfather reportedly had an interest in rhythm and blues, which was just coming into its own at that time. In turn, when Blitz Magazine interviewed your father, he mentioned that one of his early inspirations was Chubby Checker.

By that same token, from the onset, you seem to have embraced the rock of major label bands like Deep Purple, as well as the relatively underground movement espoused by Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones with equal passion. Interestingly enough, at that time, those two camps were somewhat at odds, as though one was out to overtake or replace the other. Since that time, it seems that both camps have reconciled, though. Yet it seems that you always embraced both camps without that mindset.

HANK3: I’ve seen what you’re talking about. Sometimes jealousy or all of that stuff can come against bands. For me, that was a bit of a tricky one. When I was growing up, I liked Motley Crue. But I also liked Black Flag! Like you were saying, the followers of both were running down the street, hating each other as much as possible.

But with me, I just tried to keep an open mind. Throughout the country part of my show, I try to respect things, as I always try to give people their money’s worth. In the first part of the show, I always say, “I appreciate your coming out. I’m going to be doing some of these other sounds, which some of you might not like.” I think that kind of work ethic has helped me out in the long run, whereas it might have caused some issues with other bands.

BLITZ: There have been cases where artists have tried to move off into different directions or different genres. Or artists have taken careers that were established in one field and tried to establish themselves in another. Yet in those cases, there almost always seems to be some sort of resistance there.

You have always maintained that perspective. Yet for some reason, it seemed to have taken a long time before you committed your musical vision to record. You were involved in the Three Hanks project in 1996, in which you sang with your father and your grandfather’s recordings. But you didn’t make your debut as a solo artist until 1999, with the release of your Risin’ Outlaw album. Why the delay in putting your ideas into fruition?

HANK3: First of all, I wasn’t that crazy about that record, Three Hanks. I thought it was going to look bad, as if, “We’re paving the way for Hank3”. I naturally said, “Why don’t you wait ten years and then put that kind of record out?”

It was an honor to sing with Hank Senior and Hank Junior. But I definitely didn’t like the way that was done, being my very first country record.

The reason for the delay of the release of Risin’ Outlaw was up to Curb Records. They were getting used to me, and I was getting used to them. As time has gone on, I have probably been on my sixth year now without a manager. In some ways, it has worked to my benefit, just having the distribution company out there and putting out what I do, then going out on the road and trying to do it that way. 

BLITZ: You did go with Curb Records for the release of the Risin’ Outlaw album. You may or may not be aware of it, but in the 1960s, Mike Curb was involved with the Sidewalk and Tower labels, which were subsidiaries of Capitol Records. In the mid to late 1960s, they released a lot of film soundtracks and worked with independent first generation garage bands like the Standells, the Chocolate Watch Band and the Arrows.

Since that time, some of the artists who were involved with him have shared your sentiments about their experiences. Presumably you never sought out any of them for advice in that respect, then.

HANK3: Not really. It’s definitely a tough business. If you’re an artist or a musician that knows what your sound is and you know what you want on your records, it can always be a challenge.

For an artist like me, they just didn’t understand or get what I was doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re as big as someone on a huge scale level like Tim McGraw, or someone on a smaller level like myself. It seems like some of those same problems come up in the conversations!

BLITZ: Despite the circumstances behind it, if you look at the Risin’ Outlaw album from the perspective of an impartial, third party observer, there are definitely some tracks of merit in there. For example, it is very easy to be taken with your cover of Bobby Edwards’ You’re The Reason, which of course was also covered in 1965 by Gerry and the Pacemakers. You did a great, great job on that track. What inspired you to cover it?

HANK3: Honestly, I would go through all of the tapes and listen to the songs. And if I was going to be doing someone else’s songs, I at least got to pick out the songs. At the time that album was cut, the original version stood out a lot to me.

BLITZ: You once indicated that on the Risin’ Outlaw album, there are only a couple of tracks that still met with your standards. Presumably one of them was If The Shoe Fits, which states your case as an emerging artist quite well. In other words, “This is where I stand. You might not like it, but I am standing behind who I am”. Is that a fair assessment?

HANK3: Definitely! I would be down at Polygram or something, and see all of these people writing songs in offices. And I thought, “I’m not sure what the difference between y’all’s song is and one of my songs!” Songs like If The Shoe Fits, Mississippi Mud or Country Heroes, all of those in my eyes are decent songs.

Those are for my fans, and that was definitely one of the first to help get me on my way. It was before the heavy rhythm, high energy gallop was coming into play. But it was getting there!

BLITZ: You seem to have hit your stride in that respect with your next album, Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’.

HANK3: Yes! Working with (co-producer) Joe Funderburk on that record, and having (steel guitarist) Kayton Roberts there, working with musicians like that is always an awesome experience! It was a good learning curve. That was one of the last records that I got to do on tape to tape on the machines, pre-digital.

BLITZ: There is one song in particular on the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album in which you and Blitz Magazine are definitely on the same page in that respect, the song Trashville. It seems to be an answer song of sorts within the country genre to Bob Seger’s Back In ’72, in which he talks about how the self indulgence in much of the music of the early 1970s crushed the music which had inspiration and took away the heart and the creative element. There were people who were trying to express themselves personally as individuals, but there was an undue obsession at the time with image and socio-political causes that took away from the heart of the music.

To take it a step further, Blitz Magazine has long maintained that country music’s last collective gasp of consequence was the so-called New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s, where artists like Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Carlene Carter, the Desert Rose Band and Highway 101 came in; plus a lot of the long time greats were concurrently able to return to the spotlight, like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and your father. Would you say that was the cut off point when Nashville became Trashville? Or what was the cut off point for you?

HANK3: It goes back to that independent streak that I’ve had. I’ve always known myself and I’ve always known my songs. I’ve never really understood why someone needed to tell me how to write a song. If you think like that and you play like that, it’s not going to get you very far in Nashville!

I love living in Tennessee, and I love being born and raised in Nashville. There are just two streets that I didn’t get along with that well, as far as business goes. Because if you are a super creative person like you are saying, it’s a tough gig. For someone like me, they just didn’t understand what I do. It’s a challenge when you’re involved in it. The managers, the lawyers, the producers and all of that stuff.

Even back when I first started in Branson, they said, “You know what you need to do, and you know how to do it”. And that’s what I have always basically done. I had to do some time with Curb for a little while, just to get out there. But the deal is still writing the majority of my songs and trying to get out there on the road, doing the best I can and trying to hang in there with it.

It depends on what you’re in it for. I was in it for my sound, my songs. That’s just natural when you’re coming with a bloodline that’s as creative as mine! Some people get into it just to record that song that’s going to become a hit and definitely be played on that radio station. I have been just a little more independent in my ways of thinking.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you have stuck with Nashville geographically. Consider the following scenario: In the early 1990s, an individual of our acquaintance was a successful radio producer in Southern California. But when the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994, he panicked and relocated to Nashville, leaving behind his successful $100,000 a year career in Los Angeles.

His idea behind relocating to Nashville was to find success in that field in country music. But about a year after he relocated there, we spoke with the pastor of his church. The pastor told us, “Your friend came out here to die, and to die big time”. Instead of furthering his career in that respect, the former radio producer was now cleaning the house, taking out the trash and mowing the lawn for a successful Nashville producer and living close to the bone. Does such a scenario sound familiar from what you have observed? And if so, what did those involved do about it?

HANK3: For me, it’s not quite that bad. If you don’t set yourself up for that huge fall, then you’re never going to fall. Unfortunately, I have never been used to making that much money! I’ve just been out there trying to figure out how to break even. I had to file bankruptcy about ten years ago, just to keep it out on the road. But being born and raised here, I have gotten a lot of the respect of the old timers. That’s a tough one!

I’ve kept it inside of the bars. There’s something of beauty of not going outside of the bars. It’s been the perfect thing of not too big, not too small. I think that’s helped me a lot over the years.

BLITZ: To that effect, you have maintained your integrity, which means at least being able to sleep at night. We can return to the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album as an example. The opening song, 7 Months, 39 Days is a masterpiece of the traditional country template. You took that sound and put your own personal, distinctive stamp on it. It sounds as though you are in solidarity with that genre of music yourself, yet you want to keep it within your own framework.

HANK3: I’m always open to working with other people. But when it comes to my records, I’m writing the songs! I am at least in a position now that’s great, when another musician calls me up and says, “Hey, man. You wanna sing on this record?” I say, “Sure!” I get to do it, and I have no problems.

I don’t have to miss out on a lot of great opportunities nowadays. I got to record with David Allan Coe. I’ve had Junior Brown here at the house. He likes the way I record and the vibe of the house. There are a lot of things I’m involved with. I’m not totally opposed to working with other people. I did a project for Alamo Jones, just for the sake of doing it. We did like a five song EP. I’m always trying to be creative. I’m just not trying to be creative with other people as much, but the door is still open.

BLITZ: You seem to have made peace with your so-called Family Tradition a lot earlier on than perhaps your father did. Early on in his own situation, the obvious reference point for his concerns in that respect was his 1966 Standing In The Shadows single for MGM. He took a stand for himself, and he did so quite well.

On the other hand, you have also taken quite an impressive stand for yourself. You have done what you do very well for roughly the past fifteen years. Yet you don’t hesitate to give credit where credit is due, and that’s great.

If nothing else, you have demonstrated that the Family Tradition means that the spark of creativity is found in each successive generation, but in an individual way. For example, a couple of years ago, you made a guest appearance on Marty Stuart’s television program, in which you sang an absolutely spot on, bone chilling version of your grandfather’s My Sweet Love Ain’t Around. Then you turned around and did it your own way, underscoring that the common theme of the bloodline is that each generation is creative, but in their own right. Is that assessment on target?

HANK3: Definitely! Once in a while, I will do a tribute to Hank Senior, just because there will never be another one. No one will ever come that close to doing it as good. You won’t see me doing a whole Hank Williams show. You will only see me doing a few. Maybe a couple of songs every now and then, but it’s usually for friends, or just for paying respect.

When I think of Hank Junior and Hank Senior and all of the things that they’ve done, I am strictly mesmerized as a musician, and as a songwriter, about all of the different phases that they have been through in life. So that is something with me. When I’m listening to music, I am always thinking about the process that they had to go through to write the songs. How they might have had to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go down to the radio station. How did they have a voice that early in the morning? I’m amazed by the talent and how they got it done.

BLITZ: Do you think it is possibly a matter of perception? For example, you are presumably familiar with the 2012 reissue CD on the Time Life label, Lost Concerts, which features two complete and previously unreleased 1952 concerts by Hank Senior. The traditional accounts of his life often suggest that things were not going well for him in 1952, with one challenge after another. Yet if you listen to the Lost Concerts CD, what is more than evident on there is an artist who is very much on top of his game. He was doing stand up comedy, his delivery was brilliant, he radiated joy and he was in absolute command of the proceedings. If indeed there were issues extant in his circumstances, you couldn’t make a convincing case of it with that record!

By that same token, certain things were expected of you. Curb Records and the Nashville elite wanted this and that out of you. But you defied their expectations and did things quite well. Is that then a case of the bloodline maintaining its independence and its creative spark?

HANK3: I think it just kind of shows itself naturally. If you look at my whole music career, I’m not trying to be that negative punk. I’m just trying to do what feels natural to me. Some have said that I have held myself back for a lot of years. But it just goes back to that not being too big and not being too small. It’s just being in my niche! Being a drummer and a rhythm guitar player, throughout most of my young life has brought me into a situation like, when Johnny Hiland takes a solo on my record, he says, “Man, your rhythms just really stick out to me. I play on a lot of records around town, and no one has these kind of rhythms!”

So when I hear a compliment like that from someone who is looking at me in the now and not even at the past hardly at all, it’s good to hear that kind of a comment from such a high end musician. Theory and songwriting has always been tough for me with my learning disabilities over the years. It’s always a challenge to pump that stuff out.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you alluded to exploring the dark themes. That interim period after the release of Rebel Proud, amidst those later Curb reissues, like Hillbilly Joker, Ghost To A Ghost/Gutter Town, 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ and Attention Deficit Domination, those albums seem to explore a lot of dark themes. Is it more of a situation of sharing first hand experiences, or perhaps doubling as a red flag of sorts to your audience, saying “Don’t go too far over the edge”? How do you view it?

HANK3: I would look at it more like when Johnny Cash would sing a sad lonesome song, or talking about taking his guns to town and killing somebody. You can only hear so much squeaky clean happy stuff on the radio, or whatnot. There has to be room for a lot of other stuff. I’ve just fallen into that “other stuff” category! I’m able to write about that other stuff a little more easily.

I definitely don’t try to push too much religion or too much politics. I do put it out there that yes, there is the light, and yes, there is the dark. And my granddad sang about the light, and he sang about the dark. I’m kind of doing it that same way. The genres are just a little more extreme nowadays. There is a whole genre called doom metal, which had that spooky, eerie, kind of ghostly feel to it.

Like on the new record, when I have songs like Deep Scars or Loners 4 Life, then I’ll turn around and put a good time feeling song in there, like Dreadful Drive, with the clawhammer banjo. Or Possum In A Tree, getting a little bit old school with Leroy Troy, just to brighten it up a little bit.

I’m always trying to keep some balance in mind. 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ is kind of a lighthearted, fun record. It’s not getting real serious. I tell all the kids that! I’m always trying to have that come across.

BLITZ: You have two of the best new albums of 2013 to date with Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat. On the track Possum In A Tree in your new Brothers Of The 4x4 album, there is some inventive steel guitar work. The delivery is, like you said, pure. Is there an attempt with that track to capture some of the novelty spirit of the genre, as perhaps your grandfather did with Kaw-Liga?

HANK3: I wrote that song for Leroy Troy. Leroy Troy is a purist, clawhammer banjo king. Yes, I wanted that song to sound more old school. I wrote it with him in mind.

That was my first attempt at trying to play steel guitar. I took my recorder over there. Me and him tracked it live in his shed out back. There’s a lot of reasons why that song is going to stand out. It sounds a little more low-fi than a lot of the record would. There is a reason for that. As Leroy Troy would say, “And to top it off, it’s a true story, too!”

That was definitely a good, lighthearted, fun recording session. I can’t wait to play it for Leroy. He gets to hear it when it’s officially done. I want to see his expression in person!

BLITZ: You mentioned the musicianship of the band. The title track on Brothers Of The 4x4 and Lookey Yonder Comin’ both feature strong instrumental workouts that celebrate the joy of the lyrics, but also showcase the strong musicianship of those who are playing on there with you.

You have always surrounded yourself with really strong musicians, who tend to soar when given the opportunity. Do you find that outside players gravitate to your work for that reason?

HANK3: I’m lucky enough to have a lot of the same players come back every time I make a record. Over both records, there is two and a half hours of music. Yet there is only about twenty minutes of editing. So almost all of these songs might have taken a hundred times to get that one take. But that’s how we did it. The players are definitely steppin’ up to the plate on those songs, like you were saying.

Johnny Hiland was the first guy to lay down some outside stuff on it. Then Daniel Mason on the banjo, Andy Gibson on the steel guitar, and Zach Shedd on the stand up bass. It’s always a challenge, doing the engineering and the recording process of it. Sometimes the players look at me, wanting me to tell them what to play. Then other guys just already know what they’re going to play and lay it down.

BLITZ: It works very well in that respect, too. It seems like with the Brothers Of The 4x4 album, you are shifting the focus a bit more towards instrumental dexterity, rather than lyrical content. Would that be a fair assessment?

HANK3: I’ve always loved the great musicians. It just goes back to writing vocals being a challenge for me. Yeah, I like turning the band up! If you listen to my mixes, you’re going to hear kick drum and snare pretty loud. I’m a fan of the band.

When I was growing up, I never could understand why a lot of the live band members weren’t playing on the records. That always baffled me. So I am lucky enough nowadays that the majority of my live band plays on the record. I get to see some friends that I’ve made over the years come in and do some of the super pickin’, just layin’ it down like it was nothing. Johnny Hiland and Billy Contreras.

BLITZ: You mentioned the clawhammer style of banjo picking. In the past, you seem to have professed an interest in the real pioneers of that work, such as David “Stringbean” Akeman. He was a forerunner of that style when he recorded for Starday. You even covered one of his songs. Would you say that Outdoor Plan from your new album is an attempt to carry on his mission statement? Or at least that of Elton Britt, Uncle Dave Macon or Hank Snow? There is a little bit of all of them in that song.

HANK3: What you are basically picking up on is the man who has been like my grandfather growing up, and that’s Eddie Pleasant. He writes probably two to three songs per day. That song is a co-write, and a lot of those influences are coming across on that song. That’s probably what you’re feeling. Even though he loved it when it was just me and my acoustic guitar. I put a little more of a current kind of bounce under it.

There is a lot more Stringbean that I probably need to get close to. I have some of his records that I want to get to in the future. It brings me peace. When I’m not feeling good, I can just pick up the banjo, go outside and sit down under the tree. There’s something about it that soothes my soul! I know I’ll be doing a little more recording of that one day.

BLITZ: You have stated in recent years that you get that same gratification from sitting down and listening to your record collection. Does that still resonate with you?

HANK3: Absolutely! I go through my highs and lows. If I’m not super busy with the crew, and the trailer is loaded, the gear is in place and the merch is counted, I have some times! Hasil Adkins is one of the guys that can make me hurt if I need to hurt. I can put on some of his songs and definitely get past some emotions. If I feel like working strong through the day, I’ll have Jimmy Martin blasting in the background and getting some stuff done. Music is still definitely tapping into my emotions very strongly, when I’m just listening to it.

BLITZ: Have you added to your collection lately?

HANK3: Right now, I’m kind of stuck. I’ve been into a lot of ’70s rock and roll, and getting into a lot of Roy Duke. I’ve been fascinated with Dock Boggs over the years. Something about Dock Boggs has just grown more and more on me. There is something about the banjo and the singers.

I save a lot of it for when I’m on the road. That’s when I do a lot of my vinyl shopping. I haven’t been on the road in almost a year. So I’m a little out of touch!

BLITZ: You at least maintained enough of that inspiration to be creative enough in the studio to produce an album like A Fiendish Threat. If you were looking to perhaps capture the spirit of Black Flag, the Sex Pistols or, to a lesser extent, the Ramones, you nailed it!

HANK3: Whatever music style it is, whether we are calling it punk rock or not, I think it has a unique sound for it all being played and sang at the same time on the acoustic guitar. The acoustic and the stand up bass has made it its own little whatever people call it.

My friends that I have known my whole life are saying, “What are you calling this?” I just know that it was a record that was a lot of fun for me to record. It made me feel like I was a younger man on some of those vocal takes. A lot of high energy! Imagine a skateboarder that had a really bad wreck, and he’s got to piece himself back together. I’m putting a lot of the “rebuild yourself” kind of hope into that record. There are some positive messages in that one.

BLITZ: That brings to mind another tangent of your Family Tradition situation. You are of course a father. You have a son and a daughter. If either of them approaches you and seeks your advice on music, how would you guide them? What would you suggest to them?

HANK3: With my son, while he’s still in college, I am backing him, no matter what! I always tell him to learn a trade. He’s kind of going through spurts of playing the guitar for a while. Then he will play the banjo for a little bit. Then he will be all about capturing sound with tape decks! Either way, I’m always telling him to try to learn a trade, and play your guitar as much as possible. It’s going to take you a little while to figure out what your calling is.

But I am glad to have the open relationship and to be supportive. It’s always interesting to see him go through the changes, trying to figure out what he wants to do. My main thing is, “You’re young. Enjoy being young while you can. You know I’m here to help you out whenever you need it.

BLITZ: During the times that you were both endeavoring to get started in your own respective careers, did you ever exchange feedback with your sister, Holly for ideas?

HANK3: Me and Holly have never talked all that much on a musical level, probably because we may both be a little bit afraid that we don’t want to offend each other! We just keep it as a family relationship. She knows that I respect her as a musician, and I think that she does the same. I think for right now that’s the best thing for us. We don’t want any of the business messing us up!

BLITZ: A couple of the more interesting tracks on A Fiendish Threat are Watchin’ U Suffer, Fight My Way and Full On. What is the background on those?

HANK3: Watchin’ You Suffer is in a deeper tuning. That’s one reason why it might sound a little different. It’s got a little bit of that melody kind of drive to it. That’s where a little bit of the sci-fi stuff might be coming in to it. If you’re thinking about some 1950s kind of alien movie, where they’re up in the sky watching you suffer, it’s that kind of thing.

Fight My Way is definitely inspired one hundred percent by 7 Seconds, to the point where I was calling them up and telling them, “This comes from y’all one hundred percent, and I need y’all’s permission before I can go through with this!” They gave me their blessings. That was a song that just spoke to me a lot when I was growing up.

Full On is just one of those creative, kind of going for it full on songs of energy, all at once.

BLITZ: When these two albums are released, you may confound expectations, but you should also meet them. Those who have known you and your music, and know that you have pursued multiple directions will be pleased to see how much your work has grown.

That of course leads to the issue of how these new releases will come to the attention of your audience. For example, of course for much of your father’s career, the goal was to get on a major label, make a record, get it on the radio, get it played, get the disc jockeys behind you, and then you will be a success.

But as you are no doubt aware, in the ensuing years, the game has changed radically in that the independent artist and label has largely taken over. Radio has lost a lot of its impact. Commercial music is no longer universally held up as the standard for all to attain. The major labels have pretty much begun to focus on reissues and catalog items, because they cannot do justice to artists as they once could, while a lot of the artists are doing that sort of thing for themselves now. Fan support, technology and social websites have further enabled the independent artist to do that. To what extent do you envision those developments furthering your own career?

HANK3: There is something that my dad had that I’ve never had. He had a great relationship with his managers. That is huge! I’ve never had that. I’ve had a couple that I had been close to for a little bit. But when you’re talking about Merle Kilgore and Hank Williams Junior, I’ve never had anything that powerful in my corner.

BLITZ: It was Merle Kilgore who set up the interviews that Blitz Magazine conducted with your father years ago. He couldn’t have been nicer. A world class gentleman.

HANK3: No doubt. But you need to understand that if you are talking about the music business, what Merle did for Hank Junior was pretty huge. It’s hard to say with an artist like me, but when I see some of my heroes in a tough situation when they get to an older age, it’s either going to work for me, or it’s not. It’s really hard to say.

I had taken advice from Henry Rollins a long time ago. He said, “You work hard. You tour hard. You know your sound. All you need is good distribution, and that’s it.” I’ve stuck by those words, and it’s helped me out a lot.

I’m not saying for certain, but one day I might have a manger again. Someone I feel comfortable with. But most of the time, I’ve found that there are some artists that management just doesn’t work for. I think I’m one of those, just because I’m creative in a lot of ways.

BLITZ: Henry Rollins has maintained a level of success over the decades by constantly reinventing himself. After he left Black Flag, he did spoken word recordings. Then he became an author and a newspaper columnist. Most recently, he has been dabbling in acting. He has been all over the map, but he has nonetheless had success in every one of those ventures. Like you said, he worked hard and asserted himself. Presumably that is also what you are trying to do right now.

HANK3: Absolutely! He is definitely one of my heroes. A lot of my heroes usually have a high work ethic. Sometimes I wish that I could hang in there as much as Henry does. He’s so smart, and he takes on everything. I am hoping to get more and more stronger as I go. People like him, who kind of understand my history a little bit, have helped me conquer a lot of my challenges.

After I’m fifty, I really don’t know what’s going to happen musically for me. It’s going to be hard for me to look past that. Having someone like Henry Rollins to look up to, shows me that there might be other things in life that will ring true for me some day.

BLITZ: So you aren’t thinking creative muse long term as much as you are a survival strategy.

HANK3: I’m more concerned about not being able to pull off the show that I want to pull off! Can I still put on the country and the heavy metal? Every tour is a challenge. I am definitely living more in the now than I am in the future, because if you look at my financial past and all of that, it’s always ups and downs. Every night when you play, sometimes there are a thousand people, some nights there are a hundred people. But they still get the same show! And I’m still there if I’m sick or if I’m well. I’m gonna be up on that stage, doing the best I can, and letting someone forget about their problems for a little while.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you are concerned about being able to maintain and execute your musical vision once you pass a certain chronological point. In recent years, we have seen a lot of first generation garage rock and related bands such as the Yellow Payges, the Monkees, the Young Rascals, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys all take to the road again to considerable acclaim, in spite of such concerns. Would taking it from the standpoint of heightened self-confidence help in that respect?

HANK3: Absolutely! I’m always astounded by some of the older guys that can keep bringin’ it to the table. Two nights ago, I went and saw Adam Ant. The first time I saw him was in 1984. He still has the voice. He still sounds like the guy that I looked up to way back then. I am always amazed by the Iggy Pops and the Willie Nelsons. These guys are still out there singin’ and playin’ and takin’ it to the next level!

I am always fascinated with the voice. For me, the voice is something that is hard to hold on to. On the road, you lose it and it gets weak. It gets gravelly. And sometimes, when you get older, just listening to Hank Junior records, you can hear how much his voice dropped, aside from the mountain fall and all of that.

Or Robert Plant. He is another perfect example of how things change when you get older. It’s always a challenge, that’s for sure! It keeps you on your toes. Who knows what will be waiting around the corner?

BLITZ: Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, who has a wide and commanding vocal range, keeps his voice up by doing vocal exercises. Many artists also work out in the gym to prepare themselves for the rigors of the road.

HANK3: I have also been psyching myself up mentally in getting ready for the tours. I do nothing but stretch and breathe steam. I’m not the kind of guy who can just walk out on stage and have my voice. After a week and a half into it, I have to work at it two to four hours every day just to get it there. I do warm ups, stretching and exercises to get it to where I want it. Singing three and a half hours a night is always a hard thing.

BLITZ: Is that part of the reason why your upcoming tour is relatively brief, so that you don’t over extend yourself? Some artists have toured up to two years consecutively at a time. But your upcoming tour is scheduled to be completed in roughly a month.

HANK3: I’m just trying to see what a few weeks is going to do to me right now. I’m doing a small run. The longest I can go is a month and a half. Doing three and a half hour shows and four different genres per night? Now if I was just a country act, I could maybe pull off five to six months straight. But doing all of the other hard singing is a lot more tricky for me, mentally and physically.

BLITZ: How much of the set list in your upcoming tour will feature material from the two new albums?

HANK3: The country show will just be here and there, because of the fans. I’ve got my songs that a lot of the people want to hear. Foundation songs.

In October, there will be a lot more. I call this next tour the Nothin’ In It tour! I'm just gearing myself up for a harder run and a lot more work. I’m saving the energy just to get really personally excited for the next two years out there.

BLITZ: With regards to your two new releases, what is your perspective on the current developments in the industry? As you are aware, there has been a lot of interest in bringing back vinyl. Conversely, there has been a push from other camps in the industry towards eliminating physical product and making everything available only as a download. In the middle of it all is the compact disc. All three camps seem to be at odds with one another, each saying that their respective formats have a place, and they don’t want to concede it. What is your take on format availability?

HANK3: I seriously hope that people always have a chance to hold the product in their hands. Both the CD and the vinyl album. I know that vinyl will probably outlast the CDs. But as long as there is something there for them to hold on to, read and flip through, well, you just can’t replace that! Digital downloads are great, but it’s just not the same.

Like you are saying, hopefully it will hang in there. It needs paper and ink!

Since we’re talking about vinyl, I don’t carry that much of it on the road. I always tell everyone that hank3.com is the place to get the vinyl. If anyone does come out to see me live, I usually don’t have an opening band. I always tell people that we usually play early. If the showtime is eight o’clock, then we are usually on stage at eight o’clock, as we often play about three and a half hours.

We cover a lot of different genres. I always do the country part of the show first, and the rock part as the night goes on. We’ve had a lot of great shows at the Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan over the years. There is always a lot of energy in the room on those nights!