When I first moved to Nashville, I got an email from John Lomax wanting to buy some CDs. I figured it was some other John Lomax, it couldn’t be THE John Lomax. Low and behold, a few hours later, there was John Lomax standing in my living room. It was one of many great “welcome to Nashville” moments.
I can’t imagine what American music would be like without his family’s influence.
I later became friends with John and he’s about the coolest cat you’ll ever meet. This is an interview from back in 2014. It originally aired on my podcast and this is my attempt to adapt it to YouTube. John was Townes Van Zandt’s manager back in the day, so I asked him to share whatever stories he’d feel comfortable sharing.
He talks about starting Townes’ fan club, Heartworn Highways, Townes partying with Gram Parsons, Townes jamming with The Allman Brothers, Townes’ love of Lightnin’ Hopkins and a lot of other great stories.
Thank you for subscribing to my channel and for sharing this with your friends. My channel is growing quicker than I had expected and it’s mostly because of you sharing these videos and leaving comments and likes on my youtubes.
Hey friends, did you hear the one about the beat up idealistic folk singer who picked up a 50 year old electric guitar and plugged it straight into a 60 year old amplifier? They say he set out to make an album that he’d feel proud to put his name on–with no record label, no publicist, no access, and no capital. The nerve of that guy! A true independent. An outsider artist, if you will. What could possibly go wrong?
I recorded this album at my buddy, Thomm Jutz’s place. It’s all electric and that’s a first for me. We pieced together a great band of musicians/friends. Thomm played electric guitar, Mark Fain played bass, Lynn Williams played drums, Jen Gunderman played organ and piano, and I sang and played electric guitar. I’ll spare you the colorful hyperbole, and let you listen to the record without my commentary muddying the waters. Spoiler alert, I think you’re gonna love it.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m feeling it like everybody else. I’ve had two tours cancelled. I was supposed to be on tour in the UK right now, but fate had other ideas. I think it’s safe to say, this is the absolute worst possible time to release a record. Most people would give up at this point, but I’m not most people. So, here we are. An outsider artist and the people who have always supported him. This is the best possible way for me to share this new record with you. You’ve always been there for me and I appreciate it more than you could ever know. Much love to y’all, and stay safe and healthy out there.
Back in 2013, I got a call from Todd Snider saying he wanted to be on my podcast. He insisted that it had to happen right then. It was a strange request, but I said cool. He showed up after midnight and started telling me about his current regimen of ecstasy and mushrooms, two things I know nothing about. He claimed to see bats flying around in my living room as the walls melted. It’s an old house, so it was somewhat plausible. As strange as it was, Todd was a complete joy to be around that night. He was hilarious, fun and sometimes even deep and insightful. It quickly became one of the more popular episodes of my podcast and still gets a lot of downloads every day.
I’ve been experimenting with ways to bring some of my field recordings to YouTube, so I spliced together some moments of Todd talking about his love of John Prine. He talks about partying at Prine’s house with Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Nanci Griffith. It’s a beautiful window into the Nashville that we all wish we were part of.
If you dig this, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and please comment, like and share the video. Much love to y’all and I hope this brings you a smile in this crazy moment we find ourselves in.
The great, Mac Wiseman was standing on the side of the stage when Hank Williams made his Grand Ole Opry debut. He was with Hank when he wrote I’m So Lonesome I could Cry. He attended parties at Hank’s house and went up and down the road with him on countless tours. I pieced together this recording Of Mac telling Hank Williams stories from an interview I did with him back in 2014. His memories of Hank are pretty amazing, so I wanted to try to find a way to repurpose them and release them into the wild. This is all a bit of an experiment on my part, and I hope you enjoy it.
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and share this with your favorite Hank Williams/Mac Wiseman fan.
I’m throwing this out there for anyone who might need a video of me singing a song about a giant catfish. Not just any catfish, but the infamous Big Whiskers. This song was released into the wild about 8 or 9 years ago and became a cult favorite of anglers near and far. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t get tagged in pictures of people posing with large catfish. That makes me feel great that folks from all over the world want to share their photos with me, and then I feel bad for the fish that would rather be left alone. I guess that’s pretty much what the song is about.
If you have an angler in your life, or someone who enjoys fish stories, feel free to share this with them. And don’t forget to Subscribe to my Youtube channel while you’re over there.
107 years ago today, Mother Jones was the guest speaker at a rally held on a farm just outside of Indianapolis. She was 84 years old and had just been released from prison in Charleston, West Virginia, where she served a three month sentence for “agitating.” The Indiana farm where she gave her speech is now an all but abandoned strip mall on the east side of Indianapolis. I first learned about this a few years ago, and thought to myself, I should go over there some day and play some songs in her honor. Well, today was the day. I got up early and recorded this session in the spot where Mother Jones spoke to 1,500 Hoosiers, back in 1913. I guess we all celebrate the 4th of July in our own way.
My buddy, Todd Fox helped me film this. At this point, he probably deserves a medal, or something. It was way too early to sing, but at least I wasn’t in jail for agitating.
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About ten years ago, I bought a 1971 Fender Champ off of David Olney. In this video, I talk about my love for Silverface Champ’s and my many interactions with David Olney throughout the years. David and I weren’t super close, but we did consider each other friends. We lived in parallel orbits for quite a while. We played the same gigs, in front of the same crowds, for the same promoters and we probably slept in the same beds (at different times). It’s a strange thing to be at a small folk club, in a small town in Holland and see pictures of your friends on the walls. David was one of those friends. I’d see his pictures and posters everywhere. His music is loved by a lot of people. Please subscribe, like and comment and I’ll keep making videos for y’all.
This is a video about my grandfather’s 1964 Fender Mustang. He had a lot of old guitars and they were all in terrible shape. When he passed away, I decided I’d make an attempt to get as many of them as I could back into playing shape. Sadly, I don’t have a ton of extra money laying around, so it’s been a bit slow going. This 64 Mustang is the first guitar that I paid to have fixed up. I took it to Glaser Instruments in Nashville and they did a phenomenal job on it. The video talks a bit about that and about the guitar’s history. I think my fellow guitar nerds get a kick out of this.
The title pretty much says it all. Back in the mid 90s, I got into a scuff with some frat boys out in front of a bar called The Patio in Indianapolis. They were pissing in the middle of the street, I lost my cool and started yelling at them. I lived two blocks away and was tired of young white males treating my neighborhood like their own private toilet. So, I snapped. I was about to get stomped down by these three guys when Mojo Nixon rode in like the cavalry and saved the day. It’s a true story, I promise.
A couple of years ago, I heard about a squirrel named Shorty that once lived outside the Smith County Courthouse in Tyler, Texas. He was beloved by the town and was given a proper funeral when he died of old age. So naturally, my buddy Todd and I did what any normal person would do… we drove 15 hours from Indiana to Texas to pay our respects. This is a film we made about our visit to Shorty The Squirrel’s grave.
My buddy, Todd Fox helped me film this. Today would have been Walt Whitman’s 201st birthday, so I decided to talk about what he meant to me at a younger age. I also read from section 32 of Song Of Myself and ramble on a bit with some personal thoughts. Ol’ Walt’s ideas were a bit different than the ideas I grew up around and I’m sure they were a positive influence on my young, developing brain. I’d like to claim that I’m not “demented with the mania of owning things,” but I do like my guitars and amps and Walt Whitman books. And therein lies the rub. Thanks for giving a damn, -Otis
A true story about Johnny Cash trying to shake my hand in a dark alley behind The Vogue in Indianapolis. Please help me spread the word by sharing this on social media and telling your friends about it.
Hey friends, I have some not so great news that I need to share
with ya. My UK Tour that was scheduled for July 2020 is not gonna
happen. We’d hoped upon hope that things would get better and we kept
putting it off, but it’s time to face the facts. We need to do the right
thing and cancel this tour.
I’m fortunate to have met so many
wonderful people on these tours. Whether it’s the promoters in big
cities and small towns or the people I get to chat with after the shows,
I definitely get to see the best of
folks every night. I can’t imagine doing anything to harm these people
who have been so good to me. The reality is, it would be irresponsible
of me to do this tour, so I’m gonna stay home for now.
I’m not gonna lie, this will put us in a pretty rough financial bind,
but we’ll find a way to work it out. Almost everyone I know is without
an income right now, so I know we’re not alone.
I look at it this way. It’s raining like hell, my family and I are standing in the middle of a field, huddled under a rickety umbrella. We’re trying to hang on the best we can. If we can hold out long enough, maybe we’ll find shelter under a tree, maybe we can even help someone else find cover. Until then, we’re gonna hunker down as best we can until the storm finally passes. And the good news is, the storm will pass. And when it does, I’ll jump on a plane and come sing some songs for y’all.
My earliest childhood memory is my grandpa playing music with his friends on New Years Eve 1969-70. Exactly 50 years later, I sat around and played that same guitar with my friends on New Years Eve 2019-20. Here’s to good friends and good music in 2020.
We filmed this at Slaid Cleaves’ home in Wimberley, Texas. My old school Austin friends will enjoy hearing Slaid talk about Butch Hancock’s old store, Lubbock Or Leave It. If you have any stories about Lubbock Or Leave It, please post them in the comments because I’d love to hear them. Slaid also told a story about his father’s guitar. Slaid’s wife Karen, made us a seriously great breakfast. She even made homemade bagels and they were easily the best I’d ever had. She should get a trophy or something.
This is the second episode in this series. If you enjoy this or any other episode, please share it with someone. It’s not easy to get the word out and I need all the help I can get.
The short version: I made this video while visiting a few Robert Johnson sites in the Mississippi Delta. There’s a lot more to it than that, but this is the short version, after all.
The long version: For the last few months, I’ve been secretly working on a new project called Old Weird America. After much consternation, I’ve decided today is the day to set it lose into the wild. It’s a video journal of my travels, featuring some of the people and things I care about. Like most everything else I do, this is a completely DIY project, held together with duct tape and good intentions. My buddy, Todd Fox, helped film this and I’m doing everything else. (Neither of us know anything about any of this.) It’s a ton of work, I’ll probably lose a lot of money and maybe even make a fool of myself. That’s usually a recipe for something worthwhile.
Look for one episode a week for the first five episodes and then settle into one episode a month. If you dig it, please share it with somebody. I’m gonna need a lot of help getting the word out. I’ll post more info in the comments down below, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll do my best to tell some good stories and keep you entertained.
Thanks for giving a damn,
This is the story of how a professional wrestler fought to desegregate a Memphis auditorium. Sputnik Monroe was a "bad guy" or "heel" who wrestled in Memphis in the late 1950s. It was his job to make wrestling fans hate him so much, that they would lay down their hard earned money to see him get beat by the "good guy." He was so good at his job, that thousands of people paid to see him wrestle every Monday night at Ellis Auditorium. When he wasn't wrestling, he was hanging out with his friends in the cafes on Beale Street. Sputnik was one of the few white people that you'd find on Beale Street and his friends were all black. He was often arrested for the crime of being a white person who would dare to drink in public with a black person. This was scandalous at the time. When his day in court arrived, he was the first white person in Memphis to be represented by (his friend) a black lawyer. This was even more scandalous. It became common knowledge among the African American community of Memphis that Sputnik Monroe was alright. When his black friends came to see him wrestle, they were forced to sit in the balcony, while the whites sat in the good seats down below. When Sputnik entered the ring, a huge round of cheers would rain down from the balcony. This would make the white folks hate him even more. Sputnik one day confronted the promoters and told them that he would refuse to wrestle unless they allowed his black friends to sit anywhere they wanted. The promoters realized that Sputnik was making them a ton of money, so they gave in to his demands. This lead to the very first desegregated sporting event in the southern part of the United States. All of that because a professional wrestler was willing to take a principled stand. Imagine what the rest of us might be capable of.I think more people should know about Sputnik Monroe, so I wrote this song. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. I need your help to get the word out.Thanks for giving a damn,-Otis
This is the story of how a professional wrestler fought to desegregate a Memphis auditorium. Sputnik Monroe was a “bad guy” or “heel” who wrestled in Memphis in the late 1950s. It was his job to make wrestling fans hate him so much, that they would lay down their hard earned money to see him get beat by the “good guy.” He was so good at his job, that thousands of people paid to see him wrestle every Monday night at Ellis Auditorium. When he wasn’t wrestling, he was hanging out with his friends in the cafes on Beale Street. Sputnik was one of the few white people that you’d find on Beale Street and his friends were all black. He was often arrested for the crime of being a white person who would dare to drink in public with a black person. This was scandalous at the time. When his day in court arrived, he was the first white person in Memphis to be represented by (his friend) a black lawyer. This was even more scandalous. It became common knowledge among the African American community of Memphis that Sputnik Monroe was alright. When his black friends came to see him wrestle, they were forced to sit in the balcony, while the whites sat in the good seats down below. When Sputnik entered the ring, a huge round of cheers would rain down from the balcony. This would make the white folks hate him even more. Sputnik one day confronted the promoters and told them that he would refuse to wrestle unless they allowed his black friends to sit anywhere they wanted. The promoters realized that Sputnik was making them a ton of money, so they gave in to his demands. This lead to the very first desegregated sporting event in the southern part of the United States.
All of that because a professional wrestler was willing to take a principled stand. Imagine what the rest of us might be capable of.
I think more people should know about Sputnik Monroe, so I wrote this song. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. I need your help to get the word out.
Thanks for giving a damn,
This is my love letter to the back roads and byways of old, weird America. From my new album, Mount Renraw (released January 13th, 2017). Thank you kindly for sharing this with your friends and helping me get the word out. -Otis
Musicians, journalists and historians sharing memories, backstage stories and history lessons. There’s no music, just lighthearted storytelling. Subscribe on iTunes for new episodes as soon as they’re available.