“a little more shoulder at the start... I think this is where we're supposed to park... feels like we're walking, walking on bones.. digging up things better left alone... I took a field trip...in your heart.”
— lyrics from "Field Trip"
When I was a young boy, I remember my parents actually going into the living room, putting on the LP and sitting down to listen to music. My mom would dance around the room, sing, having a cocktail or two, but mostly what was present was the sheer enjoyment of listening. Louie Armstrong, Miles Davis, bongo records, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, and Ella Fitzgerald.. Music cleared the air, made us forget our problems for a little while, and it brought us together. Music became a timeout, a sonic exploration, a reset button.
A couple of years later, my teenage brother would lock himself in his room and through the walls I could hear the Who's "Live at Leeds", or Hot Tuna, Lou Reed, or Eric Burdon and the Animals. When he got kicked out of the house at 17, his record collection stayed with me. I would save my money for Saturday afternoon, and head down to the record store at Charlottetown Mall, thumbing through the 45's: Chuck Berry, Archie Bell, Rolling Stones, Cream, James Brown. Whatever bitching and arguing was going on at home, music was my way out.
Along that time, I was one of the first kids to be part of a social experiment called desegregation, and was bused an hour and fifteen minutes from a suburb into inner city Charlotte. White kids in a all black school made for some quick adjustments, especially on the playground and basketball court. Fights ensued, but at the end of the day, we had some things in common. One of those things was music, and Mrs. Pride, a 300 lb. sister would wheel her piano to each classroom, teaching us gospel songs and music. I still remember that Mrs. Pride smile, her flowered dresses, her horned rim glasses, and the feeling she brought to the music.
In 1972, my brother turned me on to a Derek and the Dominos record, and I had to find out about slide guitar. So, it began: Duane Allman used a coracidin bottle, Muddy Waters had a metal slide, Lowell George used an 11/16 Easco socket wrench. Along that time, I inherited the old family stereo, the one with a turntable, an eight track player with FM radio. In my room I would listen to old blues records, over and over, whacking away on slide. During that time I had my first job cutting grass and cleaning the pool at an apartment complex. On the work crew was a guy named Bill Walpole who knew everything about Duane Allman. Walpole encouraged me, and got me into other slide players like Muddy, Willie Dixon, and Lowell George.
In 1977, I was a freshman at Appalachian State University, where I got my first electric guitar, a 1966 Melody Maker that I played through a 1958 Gibson GA 5, The speaker was cracked, so we put it face down on the floor, and Voila! Distortion! The dorm laundry room and it's reverb attracted all the jammers, and we played the blues until sunrise, eventually getting our mojo working at parties, restaurants and bars. Around this time George Thorogood and Lowell George happened, two new guys on the scene who were killing it. I got my first dobro style guitar, a 1950's Radio Tone, that my friend and luthier John Mark Hampton set up for me. One Saturday night in Boone, NC at a guitar party, a quiet guy from Asheville was sitting around listening to play and asked, "do you mind if I play?", For the next 8 hours, a 20 year old Warren Haynes blew us away, playing Tommy Bolin, Devo, Dixie Dreggs, Little Feat, Allman Brothers, anything you could imagine. The next day, I seriously reconsidered guitar as a career. But what an impression Warren left on me.
After college I continued to play around with friends, and was a weekend warrior for several years. My first band, the Half Ass Blues Band, morphed into the Hot Ash Blues Band. We sat on beer cases in local dives for tips, and eventually, started playing every Sunday night at Arthur's Blues and Jazz Club in Greensboro, NC. It was there I began to understand how to put a band together and find like minded players that also loved the blues. I started to meet men who played the blues for real, like Guitar Slim and Guitar Gabriel, Johnny Whitlock, and Little Charles, local guys seasoned and salted by the south and all it's oppressive customs towards blacks. I met and played with women who grew up singing gospel, but would take the blues along for a serious ride. Jackie Dawkins from High Point, NC was one of those women crazy enough to trust me taking her into all sorts of clubs and joints. Jackie is in the Barrino family, an auntie to Fantasia, and can light up a room with her amazing voice.
During this time, I was also cultivating my career as a psychotherapist, and building a family. Playing music was a great avocation, and I worked hard keeping it alive. It helped me forget about the crazy stories I would hear throughout the week from people on the edge. The blues provided a context for understanding addictions and mental illnesses. Whether it was true or not, I felt I had an inside line on how the inner city family worked, and how blues and gospel music expressed life in such a way as to give hope to hopeless situations. I started to understand that blues music was sourced from a deeper place, one I had never fully considered, nor one which I could articulate, a subtext which ran through the lives of musicians with whom I played, and who seemed to quite naturally be able to express. I was so attracted to this, but the longer I hung out, I began to understand my romanticized view of the blues was not so accurate. I had not lived in that skin, had not experienced their pains from racial abuse, nor had I lived in a community that looked out for each other, who sang and played at church every Sunday, who had family gatherings, who lived under the radar in America. As much as I wanted to and as hard as I tried, I could not fully understand being inside those kind of experiences . But that did not mean I didn't love the music or the relationships I forged playing music.
So, at 58 years old, I've kept this avocation alive, and continue to find my voice, my expression in this skin bag. "Field Trip" is an exploration into what is authentic and real. And, if you are taking a field trip, you absolutely need sherpas who know the terrain. It's been said that 10,000 hours practice of anything yields mastery, and the musicians on this recording are some of the most creative and masterful people I know.
My goal with this recording was to make a mostly acoustic album, music in a stripped down sort of way, not too over-produced, music with a sum greater that it's parts, and not just a collection of songs. I'm extremely grateful for everyone's collaboration in making this recording a reality. My hope is the music is as much fun to listen to as it was to record.