Thursday, September 29, 2011

Darrell Ramsey, Truly, Semper Fi

Place your seat in the upright position, because we're about to descend in the land of a true mountaineer.
Let me introduce you to one of my dearest friends, Darrell Ramsey.

I actually met Darrell many years before we officially met in 1993, when I was here visiting my chiildren in 1987. I had been here for about a month, when my then wife urged me ot get out the house for awhile. My son had told me about a friend of his who played in a band and he wanted me to go and hear them.
What my child didn't tell me (and I'm actually glad...) that this was a country band.
Not that it made a difference, but I just wasn't prepared for 2 things. The first, how damn good they were and second, the gentleman on whom this blogpost is written about today.
Fast forward to 1993, the scene is the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta an annual citywide event which showcased many of the local acts. I was working for the Musicians Union and went to make sure the staging area was set OK for the act that evening.
Imagine my complete surprise when I see that it is none other than Darrell Ramsey and his band County Line. I hate to say this, but they remembered me before I did them, but I'm glad they did because after their gig, one word lead to another and they invited me to join the band...which I hurry up and did. Did I say they were good...
Over the 5 plus years I spent with them, we enjoyed rocking out many joints and honky tonks along the way.
Not only did I learn an encyclopedia's worth of music from Darrell, but also I learned that fine art of showmanship.
Darrell, if you've never seen him, is one of the best frontmen/ leaders that you will ever see in the music business.
Some people can sing, some can play an instrument. but it's truly rare to have both in one who does it this well. He is also one of the funniest men on the planet. If the music thing wasn't working he would give Jeff Foxworthy a serious run for his money.
Darrell is just a rare gem, plus he's just too damn cool for me. Seriously though, I want to tell you about the kind of man he truly is.
One Friday night we were scheduled to play at place in Charleston which just happened to be down the street from where I was living at the time (how convenient...). Well, I arrived ahead of the rest of the band, and when I walked in and said that I was playing here tonight, the bartender looked at me sort of in shock.
What I didn't know was that this was a bar that was not frequented by people who look like me (if you're not sure where I'm going here just look at my picture and come back, you'll understand it then...).
When Darrell arrived he was told that because I was in the band that we would not be allowed to perform.
My friend was deeply insensed, and told the bartender, the owner and anyone else who would listen that you are "missing out on one the finest musicians that you'll ever want to hear, and if you don't allow us to play, you need not EVER call us again." He then proceeded to take the entire band out of the gig. The owner said "but you guys can play here. " Darrell then said "that's not gonna happen, if we can't play with Tee, then the hell with you."
 Let's just say that County Line with Charlie Tee prevailed. You see, when the house realized how much it stood to lose that night, they decided that tonight there would be in their midst a Black man from the Bronx.
Needless to say,we smoked the place, and burned it to the foundation, and to boot, they invited us back several more times. Talk about knocking down barriers.
Of course this cemented my love for this wonderful human being. Dr King would have been proud.
County Line days behind us and Darrell and I remain the best of friends, but I truly wanted the world to know how much I love and respect this man, this former Marine who is truly as the corp says Semper Fi (always faithful).
Darrell was out of the scene for far too long, but he is starting to stir down in the southern part of our great state, so very soon, you'll be able to catch him do what he does best. No matter where he is performing, be sure to get yourself there to see him, you'll be glad you did.

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Robert Shafer, flat out pickin'

Please sit back and let me tell you a story about one remarkable musician.
Ladies and gentleman, this is Robert Shafer.

Folks, let me tell ya, Robert Shafer is truly one of those rare entities that come once in a I am glad to say that it is in our lifetime.
I first met Robert back in 1993 when I arrived here in Charleston and from the time that we met, we have been fast friends. Luckily for me as well he became my bandmate in The Carpenter Ants for a period.
On our regular Wednesday night gigs Shafe would wow our audiences with that flatpicking magic that is his trademark.
To this day, there are just some licks that he played that defy logic for me. It was enough for me to have Michael Lipton be the other guitarist, but watching him and Robert create solos was even better than going to music school.
Robert handles so many different styles of music with such ease, you wonder...was this guy born with a guitar in his crib? The answer, YES!!!
One of his musical heroes the late Danny Gaton would have been absolutely proud of all that Robert has accomplished. He has been several times the National Flatpicking Champion. He's won several contests at our Vandalia Gathering. He has recorded with many artists from Allison Kraus to Johnny Staats and The Carpenter Ants in between.
To be sure Robert has also been a recording artist in his own right.
One story that sticks out for me is a trip we (The Carpenter Ants...) took to play in southern Maryland. On the way to the gig we stopped by to view the home of Danny Gaton. As I said earlier, he was one of Robert's heroes, when we reached his home Robert was so moved just being in his presence that his eyes began to well up. That moment so moved me, that it cemented Robert's stature in my heart.
Aside from being a phenomenal musician, Robert is also one of the funniest guys I know, you don't want to get in his crosshairs with something funny, believe me.
In all, I just want to let you know about this man who just goes about life flat out pickin', and tell you that if you haven't had the opportunity to see him in action, make it your business to go and see him whereever you hear the sound of a guitar maestro at work,, you'll be glad you did.
Also,be sure to check out Robert in any of his entites such as his great disc "Hillbilly Fever," Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys, The Carpenter Ants CD, "Long Live The Queen." and several Mountain Stage CD's
You can catch him on Facebook too!!!
One last add on...catch him on You Tube.
Support Live music today tomorrow and always.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

With Amanda Barber, the show will go on.

I just have to tell you all about a very exceptional young lady...
Before that though, let me say at the beginning that this post will make you want to run out and tell every young person with talent to hang in there.
A few weeks ago, my good friend Amy told me about a show that Amanda did at her school (Go Horace Mann !!!), in which not only did she rock the house, but also literally fell off the stage, got up and still kept right on singing. Now that is real stage presence.
I first became aware of Amanda through Amy who is a friend of Amanda's Mom Martha. I was told that "Charlie Tee, you really need to hear this kid, I mean she is unreal with talent." As usual, I'm, always late to the party, but eventually I did hear of Amanda and was quite frankly, blown away.
I remember Judy Garland and how talented she was at that same age, and came to realize that Amanda has got her miles.
It's really important that we as adults take some precious time with our youngsters and help them to find their dreams.
I'm glad that I'm not dreaming when I tell you that with Amanda Barber, the show will go on.
The only thing that I want to add here is a plea...Amanda, if I'm still around when you come of age, let me work for you, I just want to be able to tell everybody that I discovered you. With this post, I think everybody will discover you too. Keep rocking the house little sister, all the way to the top.
You can catch the Devine Miss A at her school concerts, but stick around and remember this name, Amanda Barber, you'll be seeing it again.

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

LauRha Frankfort, the real Myagi

I really should have written this one a long time ago, but, better late than never...
Every musician that I can think of has someone somewhere in their past who just helped to inspire them. Here is the story of my person of inspiration.
LauRha Frankfort is a saxophonist, a multi instrumentalist, a visual artist, and putting it very candidly my biggest inspiration.
For those of you who see me now in performance and wonder where does he get all of that energy from, well this lady is at least 98% of how I came to be.
I met LauRha in the 80's in New York where I was struggling at best. At the time of our meeting I had been in band after band, played with person after person and was going nowhere fast. Although I knew where I wanted to go (...and I still do), I just seemed to be hitting the same brick wall.
She and I actually met at a party that someone was having and she was the the musical end of that deal.
Ms. Frankfort was absolutely the most confident person that I think I've ever met, and as I listened to her work her way through her sets, she had the entire room transfixed on her and the band. They ripped off some jazz standards and some pop stuff with equal amazement. Everyone in the room had their heads boppin' to that beat.
I hadn't gotten high, or even had a drink, but I felt so mellowed by this music that you may have thought that I was on something..
When the band took a break, one may have thought that I was a magnet as I flew to the stage and and stuck my hand out to her and said hi. I'm sure at first LauRha must have imagined that I was some lovesick old guy. Well, truth is I WAS !!! That meeting turned into LauRha becoming my saxophone teacher for a number of years.
I explained that I played, but I wanted to get better; she explained if I wanted to get better then I needed to look inside of myself and bring out my personality.
Here's the Myagi: In the Karate Kid movies, starring the late Pat Morita, he explained to Daniel (played aptly by Ralph Macchio) that his karate is not going to come from some mindless thing you learn in a book, but moreover what you learn from living in life. That's why when Daniel was trimming the Bonsai trees Mr Myagi told him to "just trust the picture." LauRha did that same exact thing to me. When I would go to her house for a lesson, she would first talk to me about the things going in the world, and then relate them to music. What I came to realize was that everything is inter-connected, and that it is all relavant to my music.
As a visual artist LauRha would paint and her work was so simple that it had depth. Even when she did line drawings there is just a weight to them that makes them stand out in the exact same way that when I heard her play for the first time, it stood out.
LauRha turned me into a force of nature, and for every compliment that I get today on my music, I have to reach back and say thank you LauRha for changing my life.
I haven't seen her in almost 20 years, but she is forever etched in my memory as the real Myagi.
If you're out toward the Arizona area be sure to check out my teacher and my friend, you'll be glad you did.
You can follow all of her endeavors on, and also on the web at

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


One by one they got to the gig, it was cold, but they were enthusiastic, it was damp, but about to get hot as Hell in the joint...
Who am talking about, none other than Charleston's own Stratus.
About to launch to the ionsphere of funk, and soul , Joloyd, the Bolland brothers, Cynthia Taylor, Michael "Stoney" Burks, Dugan Carter, and David Loyd  were gonna take us on the thrill ride of life y'all.
I have the great pleasure and honor to say that I'm a former member of this band who after 35 years are still going strong. Truth is, I owe them more than they ever gave me, because they started me on my path in music in the truest sense.
I first met Stanley in 1971when I arrived at West Virginia State College (now university...). He was the guitarist for another band, and he was as funky as one could possibly imagine. Stan, left that group and along with brother Lamont started this band.
Stratus has lived on to entertain us all these years, and those of us who were around in the "old days" know that when they hit the stage the funk hits the fan.
On a Sunday afternoon at the library, the members of Stratus held court and blew away the audience with their music. At one point there was an older gentleman sitting in the row in front row looking as though he just wasn't enjoying it at first, but slowly as I glanced at him he was smiling from ear to ear, and bobbing his head to the beat. A true sign of the power of Stratus' music and musicianship...They just make believers out of everyone.
I simply admire their tenacity, even in today's world Stratus proves the point that if you just let it be, the music will take you where it needs you to go.In an era of completely canned and worthless music you can still find a treasure hidden in the clouds. As the Bolland Boys father put it years ago...look up and what do you see? Clouds, not just any clouds, Stratus clouds they're the ones that are big and bountiful and life giving.When they rain down you feel that deep in your soul. When Stratus the band plays it's that same feeling.
So stand under it and get wet with the funk, you'll be glad you did.

You can catch Stratus everywhere, just check your local listings.
Support Live music today tomorrow and always.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ammed Solomon, premeditated grooves

Sit back and let me tell you about a brotha, who not only pounds a beat, but lays down a groove as well...
If you're ever at the Empty Glass, and you hear me shout out...MED--------SOL-O-MON !! Then you know that I'm calling for one Charleston's greatest treasures, drummer Ammed Solomon.
Ahhhh, Ahmed one helluva great guy, a good friend, and a marvelous drummer, and agreeably one of Charleston's finest.
I met Med in 1992 when I arrived in the Capital city. He was playing with the band Plutohead, a powerhouse aggregation of players. Since that time I've seen him back up countless other musicians and singers. When he sits behind that drum kit you can rest assured that he is not only keeping time, but also laying down some serious funk and soul, or rock and roll.

Ammed is known by many endearing names: Med,I'm Eddie, Ed, Eddie, Premed, Dr.Drummie (that's one of my nicknames for him...), or a host of many others, but all of those names add up to one great guy.
I have had the distinct pleasure of having Med sit in with me over the years, and getting to feel first hand how he sets the pace, and shapes a song. He always drives me, and that is a good thing.

If you've visited Mountain Stage you know that Ammed as their resident drummer is one seventh of the reasons why that show is such a phenom, and a great success.

For me Ammed is more than just a drummer, he is also more than a dear friend, he is a brother of note.
Anyone this good should be arrested: in his case he should be arrested for his role in premeditated grooves, Ammed's funk can kill ya.
If you ever are in the Charleston area and are in need of being uplifted be sure to follow the sound of the groove, I'm certain that it will lead you right to his door.

Catch Ammed Solomon in any number of these great musical situations: Mountain Stage (check you local listings, or click the link above), The Voodoo Cats, the Soul Doctors, or last but not least Julie Adams and the Rhino Boys. You'll be glad you did.

Support Live Music today tomorrow and always.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Julie Adams, walking the groove line.

A line from Julie's song "I Don't Mind Walking," says that "I'm glad to do what I have to, just to bring you back..." Well let me tell you, if you listen to this Sister sing, believe me, you won't be going anywhere, but to the dance floor, or to a seat to listen to a true Charleston gem.
Sit back, relax, and let me tell you about this remarkable singer.

I met Julie in 1993, when I first arrived in town and started making my way in the music scene. The scene here was of course Mountain Stage, and Ms. Julie Adams is of course the first lady of Mountain Stage, and was one half of the Fabulous Twister Sister (which also featured Violinist/Fiddler Deni Bonet...).
Jules just has one of those voices that you can't take your ears away from. Back in the day, they used to call a voice like hers, dreamy. For an instrumentalist like me (most of the time...), her sound makes me want to grab my saxophone and play it as if it were the woman I loved.
Julie is also one of the funniest people I know, and there have been times when I've played music with her that I can't look at her because when she gets to joking around, I just lose it .
On the other hand, when she starts crooning a ballad like Ron Sowell's "Wires and Wood," it just lilts me. I picture myself sitting out in an open field and watching the breeze blow the grass around me.
Julie is one of those singers who can fool you, almost; because when you see her out in the street, you would tend not to see her as a person involved in music. I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just that she looks very unassuming for a singer, but soon as she opens her mouth, it removes any doubt that this lady throws down with the best of them.
Julie Adams is always walking the groove line, and if you check her out you won't mind walking with her, and you'll be glad you did.
If you're in the Charleston area, listen for the sound of a vocal groove, then follow it, and pray that it leads you to the pot of gold called Julie Adams.Your ears, and your feet will thank you.
Catch Ms Julie Adams on Mountain Stage, and also in her other guises as lead vocalist of the Blues du Jour, or her small ensemble known as Julie and the Rhino Boys (which feature her Mountain Stage brothers, Ahmed Solomon, on drums, and Steve Hill on bass).
Click on the link here for info about Mountain Stage

Support Live music today tomorrow and always.