Scott and I set sail for Rome, Georgia Saturday morning under clear skies with the pre-release of Tommy Crain and The Crosstown Allstars upcoming album wafting through the vehicle. It was just the right combination of music, friends and spring like weather to set the mood for what would be a great trip.
After the three and a half hour drive, we arrived at the world famous, but highly secretive High Lonesome Saloon, located out in the country in Rome. Scott and I were greeted immediately by Donna Creasy, and it was great to see her for the first time since Angelus. She thanked us for coming and being a part of the benefit and tribute to her husband.
Then we started greeting all our old friends like The Crosstown Allstars, Bob, Towson, Bob and of course, Tommy Crain. Love them guys. Soon Dennis Winters and his band rolled in and man hugs were going around all over. Then it was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Burns (original Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer), Darren Brothers, Ginger Ambrose, Taylor Henry and his mom, just a whole bunch of friends. Speaking of friends, I finally got to meet Jennifer Friend, who would later burn up the stage with her powerhouse blues vocals.
The show started right on time at 7 p.m., with Mike Proctor welcoming the crowd and laying down his minimal “house rules.” Then Tommy Crain stepped up to welcome everyone and Dennis Winters opened with his beautiful acapella spiritual. It's just a beautiful song.
Next up was yours truly, along with Taylor Henry, for a short acoustic set, accompanied by Sonny Edwards on guitar. I said a few word about the man of the hour, Kerry Creasy, and dedicated “Into the Light” to him. Taylor did a great job on one of his tunes, and we did a couple more, closing with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”
Taylor is a very talented young performer, and I suggest you keep an eye out for him. When in Nashville, make plans to attend his open mic night at The Charlie Daniels Museum downtown.
The Darren Brothers Band took the stage and turned it up to eleven. Tommy Crain joined in for their set, which included a smoking “Whippin’ Post” and a stellar version of “Them Changes.” All of Darren’s band members are great players, and their set simply rocked. I don’t know any other way to say it.
Next up were The Winters Brothers Band. Now, I loved the band when Darren was playing guitar, but being an old fan, I was as giddy as a school boy to see and hear Dennis and Donnie reunited and playing those classic Southern Rock tunes. They came out of the gate in a gallop with “Smokey Mountain Log Cabin Jones,” and rocked through “Shotgun Rider” and “Sang Her Love Songs”/”Devil’s After My Soul” before bringing Tommy Crain out to burn the roof off the High Lonesome with “I Can’t Help it.” Just an amazing set from some true Southern Rock legends.
Now this is where my story gets weird. I walked outside to get some air, as I had begun to feel very strange. I was afraid I had food poisoning or maybe my diabetes was acting up. Long story short, Scott had to take me back to the motel, where I suffered the dreaded stomach virus all night long, all the way home the next day, and for a day after that. I will spare you the details.
So the remainder of my account is being contributed by many different people who were first hand witnesses to what was to be a jam for the record books.
Bob Burns sat down behind the drum kit and the Crosstown Allstars rocked through “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Gimmie Three Steps.” It was pretty cool seeing the man who played on those records recreating them live.
Sonny Edwards reported that the entire Crosstown Allstars set was indeed amazing, but one song in particular gave him chill bumps. That was Bob Rumer’s most excellent rendition of the John Hiatt tune, “Feels Like Rain.”
The Allstars paid tribute to Tommy’s “old boss” with “Long Haired Country Boy,” and rocked out on the Allstars original “Find Another Lover.”
Sonny reportedly jammed on several numbers, including the Tony Joe White classic “Rainy Night in Georgia.” Bob Rumer said that Mike Proctor sang his ass off on “Call Me The Breeze.”
Donnie Winters sang his version of “Columbus Stockade Blues,” and our old friend Weedy, a staple of the Winters Brothers Summer Jams, turned in some smoking slide guitar.
Danny Shirley sat down and played a great new song, solo on acoustic, before joining Tommy’s band for his biggest Confederate Railroad hit, “Trashy Women,” and “I Don’t Think Hank Done it This Way.”
The jam included all sorts of old blues tunes, including “Big Legged Woman,” and by all reports, when Jennifer Friend took to the stage to sing, the audience would not let her leave. She delivered sweat-soaked fiery blues vocals on several songs, and no doubt earned many new fans. One person even called her "the new Janis Joplin."
The whole jam ended with Toy Caldwell’s “Can’t You See,” with a stage full of guitar players and singers in true Marshall Tucker Band, Volunteer Jam style.
There was an auction to raise more money, including a signed fiddle from Charlie Daniels and original cartoon panels drawn by our buddy Guy Gilchrist, as well as Tommy Crain’s old tour jacket and much more.
Donnie Winters posted the following as a part of his MySpace blog.
“The outpouring of love and comradery was truly an emotional experience for this old boy. I enjoyed seeing all the acts perform and hanging and meeting some of the folks for the first time. There was a jam at the end of the evening with members from all the participating acts and some guest players that was not only one of the best, but also one of the most well mannered and courteous jam situations I have ever been a part of....
"After the show, Mike Proctor, High Lonesome owner, took his pristine '69 Z28 Camero out for a short spin as several of us late stayers gathered by the campfire out in front of the venue. Some of us stoked the fire and chatted among new friends while reliving the evenings event. Mike Proctor joined us after putting his Z28 back in the garage. At the end, there was a respectful moment of silence, the we all went home. Our prayers are with Kerry and Donna!”
Mike Proctor told me on the phone that when they were gathered around the fire, Donnie leaned back on his boot heels and started singing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Everyone there joined in. It must have been like a great scene from an old Western movie. And what a fitting way to close out the memorial show for Kerry.
Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.
A special thanks to Ginger Ambrose, Charlie Daniels, Mike and Tara Proctor, Guy Gilchrist, and all the hard working participants and players.
Photos by Buffalo & Scott Greene
Bob Burns and Dennis Winters.
Dennis, Scott Greene and Bob.
Buffalo, Dennis Winters, Bob Burns and Tommy Crain. Mike Proctor looming overhead on the bar!
Bob's favorite piece of chicken has always been the frum stick!
Bob, Buff and Dennis.
Mike Proctor and his son Jarrett with Bob Burns.
Proctor has an official Skynyrd Les Paul signed by all the band, past and present that he could get. Here he adds Bob!
Dennis Winters signs the GRITZ Legends of Southern Rock Contest guitar! Details on how to win coming soon.
Buffalo sings "Into The Light" with Sonny on guitar, Taylor in background.
Taylor Henry sings, Sonny adds backup.
Buff and Sonny.
Buff and Sonny joined by Tommy Crain.
Darren Brothers and Tommy Crain.
Jennifer Friend and Tom Crain. (Ginger Ambrose Photo)
The Darren Brothers Band with T.C.
Donnie and Dennis Winters are back!
The Winters Brotthers Band!
It don't get no better!
"Sang Her Love Songs"
Bob Burns soundcheck.
Buff with Confederate Railrod frontman Danny Shirley.
The Crosstown Allstars with Bob Burns on drums.
Jennifer Friend rocks the stage. (Ginger Ambrose Photo)
Bob Rumer gets down.
THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!