We go back a long way now, Charlie and I. Twenty plus years working for Greenpeace. He still does, a fact which in itself makes him special.
Charlie was Minnesota born and raised, the state where the cold north winds blow and the one which shaped a certain young folksinger who first made it big in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Charlie too cut his teeth playing guitar at high-school hops and roadhouses but somehow ended up blowing across the pond, marrying an English Rose and becoming a Muswell Hillbilly.
The man doesn’t really need an excuse to play and so it is that Charlie is a regular fixture at The Wild Hare Club. Thinking about it, to all intents and purposes, Charlie’s band (whichever name it is trading under) has become the house band at WHC HQ. It is as the Tomatina 5 that Charlie and whichever friends and relations he has press-ganged for the occasion, played our annual tomato festival and many of you may remember him with The Deckhands when they played a memorable Wild Hare birthday bash at The Green Dragon. It was when Charlie and friends were Cheap, Sober and On-Time that I fixed for them play on the fringe of the fringe of Hay Festival at Big Al’s café and it was then that I managed to fall off a table. It was a combination of cider and rootsy R’n’B that made me do it.
With a regular rhythm section comprising of Raff (bass) and Richard (drums), Charlie and co seem to have fixed on the name Three Deuces. He describes their music as “holiday honkytonk” and who are we to argue?
There are few corners of the great American songbook that Charlie and co. haven’t explored and then plundered. Here’s a recently discovered set-list of the songs they played at that WHC birthday gig and the names of the artists whose versions they based their own on. If, heaven forbid, you need a primer in this kind of roots rockin’ R’n’B then you could do far worse than download these tracks and turn the volume up. Fats Domino and Hank Williams through to Dylan and Ry Cooder. Charlie was obviously paying tribute to the latter than night, judging from his shirt, but then I’m one to talk.
Comin’ Home Baby – more likely Booker T than Mel Torme, but go listen to the version by Dee Dee Sharp
C’est la Vie- Chuck Berry
Stagger Lee – (cause of some debate among band members as to which version they were drawing on…)
Hello Josephine – Fats Domino
Midnight Special – Leadbelly
Hey Good Lookin’ – Hank Williams
Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu – Lloyd Price (love this one!)
I believe I’m in Love – Kim Wilson
Little by Little – Junior Wells
Dixie Lullaby – Leon Russell
Everybody’s Breaking Everybody’s Heart – Sonny Landreth
Let’s Dance – Chris Montes
Sick ‘n’ Tired – Fats Domino
The Letter – (Charlie couldn’t remember who did the original, but I presume it was the Boxtops who featured Alex Chilton of Big Star who recorded the truly heartbreaking Sister Lovers album.)
Kansas City – Jay McShaun
He’ll Have to Go – Hank again
Crazy About an Automobile – Ry Cooder
It Takes a Lot to Laugh - Bob Dylan (Then it was traditional for bands playing the WHC to throw in a track by the Bobster whose songbook is the greatest of all.)
Mystery Train – hybridising Elvis and the Band
Hell at Home – Sonny Landreth
What I’d Say – Ray Charles
I Wanna Ball – Teddy Bun
Shake Your Money Maker
Oh and here’s a copy of a note from Charlie sent after the gig:
Just wanted to say thanks again for a really excellent gig. We all really had a great time and I hope you, Stas and everybody else did too. You without doubt provide the best crowds I've played to - really up for it, ready to dance and not a whiff of snobbery in sight.
Mike was particularly impressed - said he liked the terms of employment - and so did I. So if you can squeeze us again in '08 we would be honoured to be part of the Wild Hare experience. Maybe I'll even remember to mention that we are available for engagements of all sorts - and even when called the Deck Hands, we are reliably "cheap, sober and on time"....
Love to all and especially my friends with the dreads - I never doubted them for a minute!
High schoolHi Charlie,
You likely won't remember me but we dated very briefly while you were at Blake High School, after you'd broken up with your regular girlfriend. I visited the school with Ric Mellum. I hope you are well and I'm happy to see you work for Greenpeace.