I’m the Highway Patrol.
That’s guitar-pickin’ legend Junior Brown, working out on his classic “Highway Patrol.” Brown is surely one shit-hot guitarro, one of the best there is, in fact. Some background on that peculiar-looking git-fiddle he’s wailing away on.
In 1985, Brown created a new type of double-neck guitar, with some assistance from Michael Stevens (former Fender Custom Shop designer and luthier—M). Brown called the instrument his “guit-steel”. When performing, Brown plays the guitar by standing behind it, while it rests on a small music stand. The top neck on the guit-steel is a traditional six-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing. Brown has two guit-steels for recording and live work. The original instrument, dubbed “Old Yeller”, has as its standard six-string guitar portion the neck and pickups from Brown’s previous stage guitar, a Fender Bullet. The second guit-steel, named “Big Red”, has a neck laser-copied from the Bullet neck; but in addition to electric guitar pickups, both the standard and lap-steel necks use identical Sho-Bud lap-steel pickups. There is a pocket in the upper bout of the guitar to hold the slide bar when it is not in use. Brown also commissioned a “pedal guit-steel” which adds pedals to the instrument for more musical control. Brown has stated that the invention of the guit-steel was always a matter of convenience so that he could play both lap steel and lead guitar during live performances and not directly motivated by a desire to be a “one man band”.
A danged Fender Bullet, of all things—an el-cheapo piece of junk if ever there was one, but somehow Junior makes that humble plank sound awful good, which is the mark of a seriously outstanding player.
As it happens, the BPs did a show with Brown once—Horton’s Holiday Hayride, early in Dec of 2017 (Christ, has it really been that long since I last set foot on a stage?!? That can’t possibly be right, can it?)—a performance that turned out to be our farewell show, although we hadn’t actually planned or announced it that way beforehand. All in all, it was a fantastic night; the Playboys dug down deep and just positively killed it, as did everybody else on the bill.
Here’s what really frosts my nuts about that night, though: I did not see one single damned note of Brown’s set, dammit. I was hanging out in the green room chatting away the whole while with Horton Heat and Big Sandy, both of whom are dear old friends I hadn’t seen in a good, long while. The green room at Neighborhood Theater was situated far enough from the main stage and insulated thoroughly enough that I couldn’t even hear the other bands from in there.
Can’t honestly say I much regret taking the opportunity to catch up with those guys, but still.
Ah well. Don’t know what got me to thinking about Junior Brown earlier today, but something or other did. That’s okay, now y’all get to reap the benefits of my earlier unfocused mental meandering.
Update! It only just occurred to me that I really should’ve appended a Horton’s Holiday Hayride post-show pic to this post. Ah well, better late than never, right?
And to think, you assholes just assumed I was making the whole thing up. Ahem. Pictured, from left: moi, Big Sandy, Jim Heath a/k/a the Reverend Horton Heat. Foreground, a chick I pest-listed for the show. Can’t recall her name, but she was a bartender at my erstwhile CLT haunt, The Diamond. Told me she really wanted to go one night at the D, so I fixed things up for her so’s she could, gratis. As you can see, she was quite the happy girl when she got to hang out with the Boys In The Band après les festivités.
Good times, good times.
I love Jr. Brown and especially that hat, no one else can wear that and make it look that good.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Junior, the Reverend, and Big Sandy live (although not on the same bill). Great entertainers all.
Man, Big Sandy (Robert Williams, actually, as you probably know), in addition to being enormously talented, is without doubt one of the sweetest, nicest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. When my life was killed, he was one of the very first to call me. He had been friends with both her and her mom since way before I’d met them myself, and you could easily tell he was just heartbroken over it. I’ve never forgotten that, and never will.
First time I ever did a show with him was out in LA, at Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance. There was just all kinds of big rockabilly names on the bill that night; hell, even Brian Setzer showed up to make a surprise appearance to close out the evening. While Brian was on, me, James Intveld, Sandy, and a handful of others were onstage with him as well…
I see now that the rest of this story is just too danged good to leave it in the comments section, I gotta finish it with a main-page post. Heh.