From The Stone Pony To The Rockin’ CamelPosted: Apr 06, 2007
(Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Long Branch Any More)
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
It was almost a given that we would drop by and visit long time friend Mitch Lopate and his lovely wife Cheryl on our way to the Scott Boyer Benefit show in Muscle Shoals. After all, Mitch had transplanted himself from Long Branch. New Jersey to Eureka, California before sweeping his little red headed girl off her feet and buying a farm in Boaz, Alabama, just down the road from Gadsden.
My wife Jill and I have been friends with Mitch for many years, and he was a contributing writer to GRITZ
online over the years. During the eight years I have known him, I have only met him once, for about 20 minutes, in the airport in Jersey during my lay over on a flight to God knows where. I can’t remember. This time we would get to spend a couple of days, hang out, meet Cheryl, see the farm, and go together over to the Shoals for the concert.
Jill and I left out of Greenville at the crack of noon, running a little behind, but no biggie. We were in casual mode.
The drive down was a breeze. The weather was really nice, although we got into a little rain storm once we hit Bama.
After a few hours of rocking out on the iPod to the sounds of The Capricorn Rhythm Section
, we arrived in Gadsden, and were greeted by Mitch, who lead us right to 2nd Street Music Hall, the coolest club you’ve ever seen, and also the home of Rockin’ Camel Records, the label of The Capricorn Rhythm Section, Jimmy Hall
, Microwave Dave, Bonnie Bramlett
and more. originally, we were going to have dinner with the owner Carl Weaver, but he was a little under the weather so we would have to wait until the next day to see him. Chris, who works for Carl, was really kind and took me on a tour of the music hall, a really classy club that houses a plethora of autographed guitars, along with some astounding paintings and other art work. There is a really great studio room where the producer
(usually Johnny Sandlin
) sits to record the live shows as they go down. There’s another section of the building that is being turned into the offices of Rockin’ Camel Music.
We went a block over to The Gridiron for dinner. It’s a sports bar that also features live music. They make a mean cheeseburger.
We made the drive back to Boaz from Gadsden in about 20 minutes and were soon pulling into Mitch’s farm. It’s a beautiful country area out where he lives, and you can almost feel the stress melting away and running down your back as you drive in.
Lopate took us on a quick tour of the abode, and then we went down to the barn to see the baby chickens they are raising. While we were looking at the chicks, one of the many cows on his property came running by. It had pushed through the gate, and was running all around the property being chased by Mitch. At one point, Mitch was chasing the cow all around the farm and yelling for me to “open the gate.” The only problem was, when I opened the gate, the other cows began to file out into the yard. It was almost like a 3 Stooges comedy. Eventually, all the girls were back behind their fence.
That night Mitch and I played CDs and DVDs and talked while the girls sat on the porch talking. They were so kind to us, giving up their main bed room for us so we could sleep beneath the tin roof. Right after we went to bed, a major storm hit, and for a moment there it sounded like a tornado was going to sweep us away. The next thing I knew, it was morning and the cats were scratching at the door.
Cheryl made oatmeal, and we went out to feed the chickens and the cows.The cows came up to the fence, and everyone was feeding them. Then Jill and Cheryl decided to get inside the fence with them and feed them. It was Green Acres all over again.
We left at around 1 PM to drive to Muscle Shoals, stopping only once along the way for lunch at The Bar-B-Q Smoke House in Decatur, Alabama. Man oh man, do they do BBQ right. Look for a review in Swampland soon.
We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Sheffield, right between Muscle Shoals and Florence, and Jill and I went up to get ready for what promised to be one fine concert. I met Bonnie Bramlett
and Ginger Ambrose in the lobby, and finally met Carl Weaver from Rockin’ Camel outside just before we left. He’s a great guy and I immediately felt the brother connection.
Somehow we got separated from Mitch and Cheryl and I discovered later that they had hooked up with Canadian soul singer Danny Brooks. We would see them later at the show, and then they were going back home to Boaz. It had been a great adventure, and we just had a blast with our old friend Mitch and our new friend Cheryl.
Coming tomorrow... The Great Toe Jam!
Keep it Real. Keep it Southern!