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Author: Subject: Wet Willie Anniversary! This Saturday in Mobile!

True Peach





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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 08:25 AM
http://blog.al.com/entertainment-press-register/2010/05/wet_willie_to_celeb rate_40_yea.html

Man! I am so tempted to head on down for this! Just might do it!

Wet Willie to celebrate 40 years of Dixie Rock on Saturday
By Lawrence F. Specker
May 27, 2010, 6:30AM


The band is one of a bare handful of acts ever to make it from Mobile to the nation’s Top 10 music charts, a feat it pulled off in 1974 with the single “Keep On Smilin’.” On Saturday, the five founding members — and some more recent additions — will gather together at the BlueGill Restaurant on the causeway to celebrate the band’s accomplishments.

Wet Willie 40th anniversary show

6 p.m. Saturday

The BlueGill Restaurant, 3775 Battleship Parkway in Spanish Fort

Tickets: $25 in advance; available at the BlueGill, and online via www.blackballpromotions.com

The exact anniversary date is a bit vague. The group actually formed in 1969, playing its first local gigs as Fox. But 1970 was the year the ensemble moved to Macon, Ga., and signed with Capricorn Records, the epicenter of the then-new Southern Rock genre.

But whether you count it as a 40th or a 41st anniversary, Saturday’s show provides a rare occasion for the group’s members to look back on the group’s brush with fame.

All five were happy to share their thoughts: Bassist Jack Hall, vocalist Jimmy Hall, keyboardist John Anthony, drummer Lewis Ross and guitarist Rick Hirsch. Donna Hall, a longtime backing vocalist, also spoke to BW. (Another "Williette" backing singer, Ella Avery, could not be interviewed due to health issues.)

Early memories

The band first assembled at Anthony’s parents’ house, waiting for Hirsch, an unknown candidate for the lead guitar position, to arrive. The other four had shoulder-length hair; Anthony recalls Hirsch pulling up in a green Opel GT, fresh out of college and clean-cut as could be.

“He looked just like Dustin Hoffman in ‘The Graduate,’” Anthony said.

But he had the chops. “By the time we’d played two or three songs, we were begging him to join the band,” Anthony said. “He just nailed it. He nailed every song.”

“The only word that comes to mind is ‘electrifying.’ It really was that,” Hirsch said of those earliest jams. “It just seemed like a light bulb started glowing.”

He and Anthony recently got together to run through some of the group’s earliest songs. “It feels just like it did back when,” Hirsch said.

Jimmy Hall recalls sitting in that rehearsal room, watching man walk on the moon for the first time. And he remembers walking around at the second Atlanta International Pop Festival in 1970, watching some of the same bands they’d soon tour with.

“Within three years of that, we were in New York, with the Allman Brothers, playing at Carnegie Hall.”

For Ross, it all goes back to a series of impromptu Sunday shows in Municipal Park.

“We took it on our own initiative,” he said. “We just kind of showed up and had probably 15 friends there.”

Park staff were supportive. The music was free and the crowds kept growing. Eventually multiple bands were playing to audiences he estimates at 1,000 or so people. Not bad for an “underground” band.

“The amount of support we got was very evident,” he said of this fertile early period. Fans came out. Other supporters, like Chet Smith of WABB, opened doors.

“We were not doing mainstream, super danceable stuff, ever,” Ross said. “We were not a Top 40 band.”

They did play the McGill prom, however. “I believe it [the theme] was, ‘Here comes the Sun,’” he said.

Jack Hall thinks of the group’s first coast-to-coast tour, opening for Grand Funk Railroad in 1974. They heard themselves on the radio in Portland, Ore.

“It was incredible to hear ourselves that far away from home.”

They were new at this kind of odyssey, and so was their bus driver. After a while, they took to calling it the “Are we lost yet?” tour. But “that’s when publications started to recognize the band as viable,” Jack Hall said. Ben Fong-Torres, a senior editor at Rolling Stone, wrote a short but supportive article. Celebrated rock critic Lester Bangs also praised the group, and dedicated a couple of especially lascivious paragraphs to younger sister Donna Hall.

Now Donna Hall Foster, she’s spent time lately — as they all have — thinking about the past.

“What I think, recently listening back to some of the old cuts, wow, the guys were so talented. The music was so good,” she said. “I was thinking about how young they were to be out there doing that.”

The vibe

Band members agree the group wasn’t really known for backstage antics.

“We were touring with the rowdy Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Allman Brothers Band were kind of known as the bad boys,” Donna Hall said. “We were the good guys. That’s the way I looked at it.”

“We were known kind of as the nice guys, not too rowdy, but rowdy enough,” said Jimmy Hall. “We didn’t tear anything up.”

“We did our share of the stuff everybody does, but we weren’t known for that,” said Anthony. “We were pretty mellow. Our roadies had the big reputation. They tried to compete with the Allman Brothers Band roadies.”

The key element of the band’s personality had nothing to do with partying, Anthony said.

“To me it was how close together, how close friends we were,” he said. “We were young, so we were scared ... (but) we always had each other to fall back on.”

“That’s what really sticks out to me, that particular feeling,” he said. “I think that’s what it is that makes a band successful. Maybe not in a monetary way, but in a musical way feeling like you’ve done something, because you feel together.”

Dixie Rock

The then-new term “Southern Rock” was, like most musical labels, a bit vague. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s three-guitar front line defined its sound. The Allman Brothers Band jammed like nobody else. The Marshall Tucker Band and the Charlie Daniels Band were decidedly more country.

How well the label suited Wet Willie is open to debate.

“I think we brought something very different to the table,” Hirsch said. “I think Wet Willie was more rock and soul.”

That showed in song choices like “Shout Bamalama” and “Grits Ain’t Groceries,” two tunes suggested by Capricorn executives. Wet Willie was also more willing to go into gospel territory.

“We really didn’t fit in,” said Anthony. “We were Southern but we were more R&B.”

Jimmy Hall said the band’s willingness to draw on the influence of greats like Otis Redding, James Brown and Ray Charles “set us apart from a lot of the other bands.”

“We called it ‘rock and soul, rhythm and roll,’” he said.

But still, members say, they appreciated being in good company.

“I’ll say this,” said Jimmy Hall. “Southern Rock — if the Allman Brothers created it, I was proud to be a part of it.”

Ross said he sees “Southern rock” as a term that relates to band origins, but doesn’t really say anything about the music. But like Jimmy Hall, he sees a positive side.

“As far as to be included with company of that stature, it’s just fantastic,” he said.

Jack Hall notes that “Keep on Smiling” and “Country Side of Life” are often included on Southern-themed anthologies and lists.

“I feel like we did have a place and still do,” he said.

The legacy

Wet Willie has never really gone away. The band often plays with a mix of founders and newer members. Jimmy Hall sings at some gigs. And every once in a great while, as on Saturday, the original lineup gets back together.

They have several thoughts on the band’s overall legacy, the mark it made on the world.

“I’ll tell you,” said Jimmy Hall. “We just had a fan who flew all the way from England to see us in Thibodeaux, Louisiana.”

Hirsch maintains a Wet Willie website and often hears from such people.

“I get these elaborate stories about ‘Keep on Smilin’,’ and “Your song meant this to me when I was in Vietnam,’” he said.

“A song like ‘Keep On Smilin” is a career song,” Jimmy Hall said. “That song has a viable, strong following in life.”

Later this year, Gwyneth Paltrow will star with Tim McGraw and Garrett Hedlund in “Love Don’t Let Me Down,” a movie about country singers. Hall has it on good authority that in the film, Paltrow sings “Keep On Smilin’” in “a very passionate scene,” he said.

Some said the legacy of Wet Willie is more internal.

“It’s a positivity,” said Donna Hall. “It’s positive. We’re all in this together.”

“People always look at us and say, ‘You guys were really lucky,’” said Ross. “And you know what? The harder we worked, the luckier we got.”

“I think that it’s proved possible that if you truly want to achieve a goal, it can be done,” he said. “Everybody had a like mindset and was willing to sacrifice.”

“It’s hard to believe that, basically, 10 years after I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, we had a No. 9 hit.”

“It seemed like we had so much time back then. A day was such a long expanse of time,” said Ross. “Here’s another profound statement: Time flies.”

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.
People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.

Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 
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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:04 AM
Love Wet Willie , they were my first concert w/ Grinderswitch in Johnstown , Pennsylvania on the "Dixie Rock" tour . I always have Wet Willie in the rotation on my I-Pod .
 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:13 AM
This should be a great time, Rusty. Wish I could be there.

i always loved Wet Willie. Right behind the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker. First time I saw them and MTB was at the free concert in Central City Park in Macon in 1973. What a fun time!

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:16 AM
Damn....missed it by a week.
Best wishes to these guys, hope they have a blast.
Don't know the others, but Jimmy and Donna are as classy and pleasant to be around as they come. Hope they have a big turnout for their anniversary.
First time I saw the Brothers they were the opening act, 1973 Tuscaloosa.

 
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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:46 AM
quote:
This should be a great time, Rusty. Wish I could be there.

i always loved Wet Willie. Right behind the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker. First time I saw them and MTB was at the free concert in Central City Park in Macon in 1973. What a fun time!


This show?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-tJqooniF0

Smokin!!

[Edited on 5/27/2010 by marknga]

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:53 AM
quote:
quote:
This should be a great time, Rusty. Wish I could be there.

i always loved Wet Willie. Right behind the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker. First time I saw them and MTB was at the free concert in Central City Park in Macon in 1973. What a fun time!


This show?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-tJqooniF0

Smokin!!

[Edited on 5/27/2010 by marknga]


That's the one. I found those videos last week. I was right up front, with my smokin' hot girlfriend at the time. I've been scanning the crowd shots, but haven't found us yet.

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 12:43 PM
One of the greatest bands to come out of the South for sure...
great talent...great music.

 

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True Peach



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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 06:18 PM
Okay, I'm in! I just can't pass this one up! Any of my peach in-laws gonna be there?

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.

People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.



Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 07:11 PM
Thanks for the article Rusty.Wish I could be there !
 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 09:07 PM
quote:
Okay, I'm in! I just can't pass this one up! Any of my peach in-laws gonna be there?


I'll be watching from a boat in Pass Picado (the manmade bayou that runs by the stage). Wet Willie is one of my all time faves too! SCB - how cool to have been at that Macon show!

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 10:39 PM
quote:
quote:
Okay, I'm in! I just can't pass this one up! Any of my peach in-laws gonna be there?


I'll be watching from a boat in Pass Picado (the manmade bayou that runs by the stage). Wet Willie is one of my all time faves too! SCB - how cool to have been at that Macon show!


Yeah, that was pretty cool. I had a buddy who was working down in Ft. Walton Beach, and he came home raving about a band he saw down there, The Marshall Tucker Band. So when I heard they were playing in Macon, I wanted to go.

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 11:07 PM
quote:
quote:
Okay, I'm in! I just can't pass this one up! Any of my peach in-laws gonna be there?


I'll be watching from a boat in Pass Picado (the manmade bayou that runs by the stage). Wet Willie is one of my all time faves too! SCB - how cool to have been at that Macon show!


I believe it's called Picada Pass; runs between Chocolatta and the Blakely (sp?).

 

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  posted on 5/27/2010 at 11:23 PM
saw Wet Willie many times back in the day.....one concert w/them & Hydra & MTB is still a fav. of mine....you just can't beat JImmys vocals & harp work....he is the definitive "Soul Man",IMHO.

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 07:04 AM
Y'all talking about Perdido (Lost) Pass?

Anyway - just bumpin' this bad boy! Hope to see some of y'all there! Billy E? Banesh (Tallyville ain't any further than Birmigham! )?

Just can't wait!

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.

People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.



Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 09:56 AM
I love Wet Willie and hate to miss it. Got to catch a plane early Siunday.

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 02:30 PM
Mid-afternoon bump!

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.

People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.



Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 02:38 PM
I saw Jimmy Hall at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year. He was playing with Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne. Really good.

Saw Wet Willie a bunch back in the day. They really rocked Ladd Stadium in Mobile in 74 or 75.

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 03:13 PM
Does anybody know anything about the Bluegill Restaurant? How big is this place?

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.

People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.



Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

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  posted on 5/28/2010 at 04:22 PM
Not real big. I have not been in awhile.

 

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  posted on 5/31/2010 at 11:12 AM
"Wetter the Better". If that album title ever meant anything, it certainly applied to the show Saturday night at the Bluegill Restaurant in Mobile.

The place was PACKED! I think they sold 500 tickets, most of them it would seem to people with the last name of Hall. It seems like ever other person I ran into was a cousin, friend or former neighbor of the Mobile-Home Boys! I even saw Mama Hall for a second (she was up there helping hand out birthday cake - Wet Willie's 40th!).

Back to the "wetter" part. The venue is a restaurant with a semi-covered patio with a stage. At showtime, there were some serious straight-line winds with frog-strangling grade rain. The devout crowd was undeterred, though.

They were about an hour late getting started, but once on stage Wet Willie made up for all lost time.

The band kicked off with a version of the Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup (via Elvis) "That's Alright, Mama" as that on the live "Drippin Wet" LP. I can't generate an accurate setlist, but all the good stuff was right there! Lot's of Wet Willie classics with healthy doses of material from Jimmy's solo, "Rendevouz with the Blues" LP. They even served up some "Red Hot Chicken". It was tasty!

I could be wrong, but I believe that EVERY member of Wet Willie (every phase of the band) was on hand for this spectacular show. The lone Williette turned out to be Donna D. Hall (Foster), but it seems like every member added his voice to the chorus at one point or another.

Donna did an outstanding cover of Delbert McClinton's, "Everytime I Roll the Dice". Her brothers (and others) all chimed in with background vocals, making this one a crowd favorite.

There was even celebratory cake! Good stuff for the midnight munchies served up by a bevy of Hall relatives (and friends).

Although I've seen Jimmy Hall perform on countless recent occasions, it's been since the 70's that I've had the opportunity to see Wet Willie. These guys put on a show that is part tent revival, part traveling family-medicine show! Why they're not the biggest band in the world just mystifies me two days after this WET Wet Willie show!

I hope they get out more often. I needs to get my Wet on again real soon!

"Rusty"

 

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Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.

People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.



Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 5/31/2010 at 10:24 PM
Because of this post I dug out some Wet Willie today great stuff

 

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  posted on 6/1/2010 at 09:45 AM
Sounds like a wonderful show.
Thanks for the great review.

 

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  posted on 6/1/2010 at 10:53 AM
quote:
I saw Jimmy Hall at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year. He was playing with Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne. Really good.

Saw Wet Willie a bunch back in the day. They really rocked Ladd Stadium in Mobile in 74 or 75.


I know that had to be good. Anders Osborne is one of my favorites. I like Tab Benoit, too. He's like Tommy Castro to me. Solid, regional blues, and there are always lots of women at his shows.

Were they all on the stage together, Billy?

 

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  posted on 6/1/2010 at 10:56 AM
Great review, Rusty. I know that was a good time!

Pretty special party to be at. I wish I could have been there. I was a big fan back in the day.

 

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