OK, it‘s been a while since this page was updated, so let‘s put you all (no, I didn‘t say y‘all) in the picture.
Right now, it‘s mid-summer 2012. I know it‘s summer because as I look from my window at Twang Towers, the rain is lashing down, the sky is black and the trees are all leaning at 45° in the howling gale. If we lived a little closer to the sea, I might even go for a paddle. Ah … the English summer ….
So … what‘s been going on? They say no news is good news, but I‘ve recently discovered that ain‘t strictly true. Fact is I‘ve been struck down with a fine collection of ailments which, while keeping the medical profession busy, are in turn keeping me seriously un-busy.
Apart from a few promotional gigs with Sid Griffin for one of his groovy Dylan books, and a few dates with Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, things on the live front have rarely been possible for me. By the way, Wanda will be in the UK for some shows in July, including Jersey, London and Newcastle. It’s always an honour to get to play guitar for a genuine Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame legend, and playing with Wanda is always so much fun, but sadly I’m not going to make it this time around as I have a little surgery needs taking care of. The rest of the guys will be there, so try to catch a show if you can and maybe I’ll be there next time!
Studio work is mostly on hold, although I have done a couple of guitar sessions recently. Simon Webb, pianistic McTwang band member, has his own album project called “Pow-Wow” and I, along with. several million other guitar players, make a guest appearance.
Also Peter “Omaha” O’Brien, who first introduced me to Texas in general and Roxy Gordon in particular, has made a second CD “Small Talk, Bullshit & Lies“, on which I got to play some seriously twangy baritone guitar, some B-bender guitar and a little dobro. Omaha’s album is due out about now. Try to check it out.
And that’s about it!!!
Apart from Terrapin Music sessions , the studio here at Twang Towers is closed for bidniz. The “Jondo Deluxe” album I was working on before demons entered my body still awaits the final touches, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and as long as it doesn’t turn out to be an on-coming train, I’ll be back in the studio in the not too distant … wossname … future!
I’m working on putting together a compilation or two, for both CD and download, most likely based on the whole Texas story, from arriving and meeting Roxy and Judy Gordon (“Texas #1“) to 35 years later and “Texas #2”.
Somewhere down the road we lost Roxy and since then we’ve lost a lot of good friends and some fine pickers.
Late last year we lost Joe Gracey. Everyone’s got a Gracey story and I’ve got a few myself. I’m thinking of a wild trip to the Mexican border in particular. Gracey among other things was a great producer, he sprinkled his magic on my live-in-Austin album “Thanks for the Chicken!“ and made major contributions to “Landing Lights” “Border Guitars” and “Mexico”. During the many hours we spent in the studio on other projects, notably on Kimmie Rhode’s records, he taught me a lot about recording, a lot about life, and he taught me that being sick wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.
I’ll remember getting to work on Kimmie’s “Angels Get The Blues” album at Sun Studios in Memphis, with Gracey on the desk and Jack Clements on dobro. I’ll remember recording ‘Moon on the Brazos’ at Electric Graceyland, which for that session was at Gracey and Kimmie’s house in Spicewood Texas. Just me playing Gracey’s Gibson and David Zettner (also sadly no longer with us) on pedal steel. We could see a huge storm heading our way from the hills, and had to get the track down before it hit.
I’ll miss his incredible touch on the mixing board, his cooking, his humour, and most of all I’ll miss his soul.
I remember Roxy Gordon once telling me how … on account of “living miles from anywheres”, when the needles ran out on the old wind-up gramophone, his Grandma would head out to the pasture, break off a few mesquite thorns, and use them as record needles to play her old Jimmie Rodgers records. Roxy said it sounded just fine, and I’m almost inclined to believe him.
My generation saw the switch from shellac 78’s to vinyl 45’s and LP’s and from mono to stereo recording. We all thought we were pretty cool with our tower of amps, tuners and turntables with two speaker cabinets … the bigger the better. We got a bit suspicious when them newfangled CD things came in, but we learned to live with them.
Now they tell me there’s a whole new thing I know nothing about, they call it “download” and I believe that a couple of my records, “Blue Blue Night” and “Mexico”, also the ultra groovy oud album “Alcazar” which I released under the name Joaquin Romas, are available for download from all the usual places - and this very website - via CD Baby. I’ve no idea how it works, but I’m told if you go into the SHOP page it’s all pretty straightforward.
Now … where’s my nearest mesquite tree …??
“GIVE ME LAND, LOTS OF LAND … etc etc …
DON‘T FENCE ME IN”
OK, we all know the song, but now Canadian director Ron Harpelle has produced a documentary film which suggests a more sinister take on the lyrics.
“In Security” tells how the simple 19th century invention, barbed wire, was used initially to claim land, and evolved into a means of controlling space and people, from the loss of Native American lands to the walls around Palestine and the fence along the Mexican border.
It’s definitely a film worth catching if it comes to a TV near you! And … as an added bonus you get the Roxy Gordon piece “Indians” from his “Smaller Circles” CD (see SHOP) over the closing credits.
Roxy and I cut this track many many moons ago and it really is an appropriate piece for this film.
NOTE: Of course if you see this on UK TV you won’t get to hear “Indians” as there’ll be some vile shouty continuity person yelling about how we must stay tuned for some moronic show coming up next … and later … etc …etc …till the credits have ended.
Whoa, did I sound mad then? Hope so!
There are given, longstanding
and generally accepted theories on the twentieth
century development of American music, uppermost
being the arrival with the slave trade of African
rhythms which, when exposed to North European
immigrant folk forms, morphed eventually into
jazz, blues and even country. While this is
undoubtedly a truism, it is certainly not the
Freddie Steady was talking to
me a while ago about the difference between
the way musicians from the South West play as
compared to those in the rest of America. Freddie
says They just dont play like us!
Its not better or worse, its just
Well, I believe theres
a reason for this and one that goes back many
years before the North Europeans arrived in
the American continent.
We have to go back to the ancient
classical Eastern empires to search for the
start of our musical journey. The instrument
of choice for the Arabs and Moors was, and still
is, the OUD - or LAUD in Spanish - a fretless
lute on which Arab scales featuring quarter
tones could be produced. The music travelled
through North Africa and in the eight century
the North African Moors invaded Spain, where
they remained for nearly eight hundred years.
In the tenth century Cordoba in Andalusia was
the western capital of the Islamic empire and
a major centre for the development of literature,
philosophy, science, medicine and music. This
was a time when Arabs, Christians and Jews lived
side by side in the tolerant religious climate
of the Moors.
However, come the re-conquest,
things changed: the Moors and Jews were eventually
expelled from the Iberian Peninsula and the
oud developed frets - probably in an attempt
to rid the instrument of those (by then) unacceptable
quarter tones. The oud became the lute and eventually,
Gypsies originated from India,
although this is probably only part of the story,
ending up in Southern Spain and over years developing
their own folk form, Flamenco, at first just
voice and percussion, but over the last two
centuries gradually incorporating the guitar
and somewhere along the line the quarter tones
started to sneak back into the vocals. The gypsies
were, and in part still are, a marginalized
group, which is perhaps why Flamenco continues
to develop into the twenty-first century.
Now what, you might be asking
by now, has all this got to do with Texas and
a new McGhee band?
Lets deal with the Texas
bit first. What seems to be largely ignored
in the history of the development of American
music is the influence of the Spanish conquest
of South and Central America. The Conquest being
mostly an ugly, brutal affair, its easy
to overlook the important things it introduced
to the American continent. For instance, neither
Cowboys nor Indians would have the same images
for us without the horses introduced by the
Spanish and as for the American musical journey,
it would never have even got off the ground
without the Spanish introduction to America
. STRINGED INSTRUMENTS.
music of the Moors and the Spanish seeped
into South and Central America (and remember
that included Texas and a large part of
the South West), bringing with it many centuries
of the music of the uprooted, the dispossessed,
the marginalized, the downtrodden, the loners
and the roamers. Is it any wonder that while
a country song from any other part of the
US can sound like a yeehaw, gingham-clad,
. a Texas honky tonk
song can sound like the deepest, darket
And this is where the
blueprint for JONDO DELUXE (pronounced
Hondo Deluxe) originates.
I have played the oud for many years,
flamenco guitar for maybe a decade and
rock n roll and Texas border
music for longer than I care to remember.
Primarily acoustic, heavily percussive
and strongly featuring the original McGhee
Bands vocal harmonies,
JUNDO DELUXE brings all these influences
together. In some pieces youll hear
Flamenco, Moorish, Tex Mex and Latin forms
in an unusual line-up of the multi-instrumentalist
members of the original Wes McGhee Band.
JONDO DELUXE is planned
as a three album project, WATCH THIS SPACE!
Enquiries to: email@example.com
The live-in-Austin “Thanks for the Chicken!” . double album is out of stock but available from this very plebsite on CD. We may re-release this at some point as a double CD/DVD package. The DVD will contain live footage made around the same time as the album, your chance to check out the band when we were all thin and had hair!
MISSING: the mariachi suit I wore on the cover of “Border Guitars”.
Seems some toerag has legged it with my suit. OK … so it most likely won’t fit anymore, but it would be nice to have it back.
If anyone has information … lemme know and I’ll send Vince and the boys round!!
The two projects for the coming months
are first, the debut Jondo DeLuxe Album, which will
feature new songs and musical pieces with the odd
re-working of some of Wes classic songs in the