The last night of the Voo Davis tour found the band in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The locals speak glowingly of the days in which Elvis Presley rode a boat across the bay to The Julep Room each night after his band finished rehearsing in a house he bought. Imagine a 19 year old Elvis – post Sam Phillips, pre-King – riding in a boat to get a few drinks at a local watering hole that had a piano and a host of musicians. He just wanted to hang out and listen to other people play music. He had his own table in the corner. The place had a charm and vibe that was palpable. Dim lights, low ceilings, lots of woodwork, and friendly, sincere people.
We hit The Julep Room running and soon after, we opened the floodgates. The band was firing on all cylinders and the locals kept bringing more people in throughout the night. We ending up playing an additional set of music for our gracious, appreciative, and kind hosts. It was a night to remember. That one was for the King.
After crashing out for the night in the RV, the band drove north to Chicago while I got a ride in a pickup truck to New Orleans. I rented a room, set my bags down and walked to Frenchmen Street. I followed my ears in order to find a good time. First I heard Luke Winslow King play slide guitar in a traditional vein that featured Esther Rose on washboard and backing vocals. It was stripped down and awesome. They sang into old Electro Voice microphones and laid great tunes on all who would listen. As luck would have it, I met a harp player from St. Louis who was playing at another place on Frenchmen Street. He let me sit in on a couple of tunes on the F harp I had stuffed in my boot. I enjoyed a couple of sets of their music, drank whiskey with a new friend, and woke up early to catch a train to San Antonio. It always feels like a shame to leave New Orleans. I knew there were bands I wanted to see, people I wanted to meet, and good times to be had, but I needed to get to Austin, via San Antonio.
Wild Billy Moore picked me up by The Alamo and we hustled back to Austin. After a good meal and a long nights rest, I witnessed one of the pleasures of living in the South. With bright sun and temps in the 70′s, I sat in the warmth for hours and felt like I was mainlining Vitamin D. My pasty white skin soaked up the sun like a dry sponge in a sink full of water. I plan on getting my fill before I go back North. It’s cold where I’m from. Chicago is in the upper 20′s and they keep getting snow. I’ve lived there my whole life and I know the drill.
But before I leave Texas, I have music to play and things to check out. I played strong harp with Coldcock Jones & The Shithawks at The Legendary White Swan and The Local. I also sat in with a band at The White Horse. I’ve been mixing and mastering an album I wrote with some talented musicians back in Chicago. It’s sounding great and I can’t wait to release it.
The last time I was in Texas I bore witness to great heat, devastation, and a drought of biblical proportions. This time, the grass is greener and things seem to be in better shape. It’s still hot, but that’s the way it is down here. During down time, I’m writing songs, playing fiddle, guitar and harmonica – all while trying to catch some sun.
I don’t have a return ticket to Chicago. I’m seeking opportunities and I’ve stayed longer than anticipated. However, I’m definitely looking forward to recording my next album back in Chicago at The Workshop Jones.
With Spring around the corner, Chicago is waiting to erupt – I know this to be true. The good people of that city are waiting for the temps to break and for the snow to clear. When that day comes, Lake Michigan will be visited by grateful, eager souls, who have simple goals – warm up, stretch out, and enjoy themselves thoroughly. Chicagoans don’t take warm weather for granted. When it comes, clothes are shed, attitudes are great, and the mood of the city elevates.
I hope for continued good living, healthy friendships, and solid opportunities. I keep thinking of the people I’ve met and the new friends I’ve made along the way over the last 5 weeks on the road in the South.
Throughout it all, my mind keeps coming back to Clarksdale.
- Calvin Conway