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Carter Brothers Fan Club Blog

Top Memories from the January Shows in Key West

Created: Saturday, 24 January 2015

It has been something of a tradition for me to write one final blog after a week with the Carter Brothers in places like Key West (or after the Bang Bang tour in North Carolina during the summer of 2013). 

The theme is listing my favorite memories from the week, and inviting others to share their lists on the Fan Club Facebook page or in the comments section of this blog. Well, here goes again as I await the March shows in Key West:

  1. Seeing drummer extraordinaire Randy Morrow play with the Carter Brothers again, filling in at the last minute when the amazing Dann Sherrill got stuck in Atlanta.  And of course hearing Randy play THE LICK as only he can!  (See, you should have come down Charlie Anderson!)danny and tim by ralph de palma

  2. Celebrating super-fan and music expert Sally Galbraith’s birthday with several dozen Carter Brothers fans at Schooner Wharf with Diane Jackman and her husband Don joining as well as Elisabeth Morkaut and her in-laws (oops, her beau’s parents – I’m getting ahead of myself again), and also raising a toast to Joan Robbins and the late, great Richard Crooks (who also had January birthdays).  Great cake, Steve Mellette, and thanks to the band for 100% participation!                   

  3. Paul Cotton of Poco fame (who has “retired” in Key West) sitting in with the band for three songs, most memorably with Deb Hudson singing with him on his former #1 hit “Heart of the Night.”  (And getting videos of all three songs uploaded to the Fan Club Facebook page.)  And how cool to see Deb Hudson's drummer Lee Venters join his idol Paul Cotton on the drums for one of those songs and play so well -- Wow!

  4. The Carter Brothers keeping us on our toes by bringing out at least one new, seldom-played song during each show -- "Freight Train" Saturday night, oh yeah! Such versatility...
  5. The size and diversity of the crowds at the Hog’s Breath, especially mid-week – great mixtures of awe-struck tourists and rabid Carter Brothers fans. 

  6. Hearing Bill Blue and his super-tight band play the Green Parrot Soundcheck Sunday as only he can (augmented by Deb Hudson singing background vocals mostly but also lead on two songs).  Check out Bill's new CD Mojolation – it’s great!  I am actually listening to it as I write this blog).

  7. The dinner at Camille’s hosted by long-time fans Emalyn Mercer and Rich Houde for the band and a few fans (including one very young one who nonetheless knows the lyrics to all the band’s songs).  Most special was the fact that we feasted on fish that Rich had caught off his boat hours before.  (Not so good was the over-eating Dann and I indulged in.) 

  8. Two late night sessions talking about music and the absurdity of life – one with Dann over pizza and one with Randy at the Parrot (drummers have unique and interesting perspectives, it seems).

  9. Arriving a few days early for once, to enjoy some nights listening to other musicians like Caffeine Carl or (gasp!) turning in early for once. 

  10. Mark Vernon's great playing, singing and most important -- hilarious jokes about Southern culture.
  11. Getting so many opportunities to listen to Joel Nelson play his fun and soothing acoustic music at various venues around town – and then having him surprise us by joining me, his wife, and his daughter on the dance floor Thursday night when the Carter Brothers were wrapping up their first set. And speaking of dancing -- all the crazy times on the floor with Cindy Walker and Nancy Mayhew!  Those ladies wrecked me (hurts so good).

  12. Getting to know Jeff Clark’s musical collaborator Claire Finley and hearing them play as a duo twice at Blue Heaven.  What a fun, quirky and talented person she is!

  13. Seeing Ralph de Palma so often and having him take great photos of our heroes and post some of the best on the Fan Club Facebook page.  (One of his great pictures is included in this blog above.)

  14. Getting to finally meet super-fan Elisabeth Morkaut’s music-loving parents. 

  15. The many messages from people around the world watching on the HogCam each night.

Well, that’s it for now.  See you all in March – when the Carter Brothers play seven nights starting March 23 at the Hog’s Breath and also will be involved in Shoe Burnin’ events March 22 and 25.  And that means you, Shelly, Andrea, Charlie, Rhonda, Ted, Christine, Randy, Deanna, Dave, Sherrie, Joan, Andy, Peg, etc....

Putting Our "Big Ears" On

Created: Monday, 19 January 2015

The Carter Brothers week of shows in Key West came to a glorious close last night, with lots of loyal fans and some intrigued tourists enjoying two long final sets of music.  But let’s not get ahead of playing jan 2015

Saturday night was jam packed for the first set, and during the second we experienced a “British Invasion” of sorts when a bunch of English tourists came by to take in our Heroes music.  They loved it, but their style of dancing and partying was a bit jarring at times, influenced perhaps by some adult beverages.  But in the end they were harmless and towards the end of the night cleared the dance floor by taking their gathering out to the parking lot (though many continued to dance).  We welcome all types as long as you don’t interfere with other people enjoying the music and can, how shall we say, keep your hands to yourselves and off our many attractive and charming female fans.  But I digress.

The band continued one of the themes of the week by pulling out a song they hadn’t played in a while each night.  On Sunday it was “Freight Train.”  They also dusted off “Where I Belong” just in time for my wife Emily to arrive – it’s her favorite.  (I posted a video of it being played last night on the Fan Club Facebook page, as I did the day before with the video of Paul Cotton playing “Cajun Moon” with the band.)  I don’t know how they keep all those notes and lyrics in their heads, but my hats off to them! woody playing mandolin

There was much in the way of other music to be enjoyed in town this weekend, including Bill Blue’s band playing Soundcheck 5:30pm-7:00pm  Sunday. He had badass band including (count 'em) three female vocalists playing his hard-driving blues to the crowd's delight.  Soundcheck is such a great tradition and people including not a few Carter Brothers Fans came out to enjoy it.  Speaking of other musicians, Woody Jenkins, a legendary guitarist who plays locally, sat in for a couple of songs Saturday and tried his hand at the mandolin.  He had played two gigs earlier in the day but did not seem worse for the wear.  (By the way, check out his new CD "How Long" -- it's great.)

Saturday night, the after-party never really got started, so Dann Sherrill (a great hang if there ever was one) and I went for a slice of pizza.  I asked him how it was to play two songs with Paul Cotton that he didn’t know before.  He said it helped that Paul said, just before one, that it was somehow in the New Orleans style – enough so that Dann could create a rough plan on the fly for how he was going to drum.  But he said the main thing was that when playing a song you don’t know, you need to “put your big ears on” – apparently a term musicians use to mean being super-aware of everything going on musically around you.  He did a great job, needless to say. 

The second set on Sunday contained some favorite covers that the band does in its own unique style, including Mr. Spaceman and Copperhead Road, the latter of which concluded the week in grand style.elisabeth dancing with luna

All of us who were listened to the shows – including many on the Hog Cam via the Internet (not least Shelly Skidmore Smith) – did our version of “putting our big ears on” as we took in seven wonderfully diverse performances.  Thanks to everyone who helped out by driving the band around, carrying and storing gear, counting CD sales money, cooking/ catching/buying the band a meal, or just being there to applaud when they were at their very best (which was just about the entire week). 

And a big shout out to Elisabeth Morkaut – pictured here dancing with one of the best four-legged fans the band has and also sporting the kind of big smile we so often see when our heroes play – who brought a bunch of family members from around the country to enjoy the music this week!

Carter Brothers Nation, see you the week of March 23 when we start it all up again here in Key West !

The Return of Randy Morrow and "The Lick"

Created: Wednesday, 14 January 2015

While the rest of the country shivers, Carter Brothers Nation has assembled in Key West for a great week of music, warm weather, and other tropical wonders. 

Monday began with a bit of a shock – as I sat down for my traditional pre-performance drink at the Bottlecap, served by Carter Brothers friend/fan Steve Mellette, I heard that Dann Sherrill was stuck in Atlanta and the band was possibly going to play without a drummer.  For all the many times I have heard the band play, I was always amazed that they usually flew in the day of their first gig and never got stranded.  Well, in true Key West fashion, several local drummers volunteered to step into the breach.  Randy Morrow, who played with the Carter Brothers for years, was the logical choice and agreed to do it.  (Randy and his snazzy new drums are pictured below.)

It was a rather quiet night, as Mondays often are, mostly populated by hard-core Carter Brothers fans.  Gail Hardy and I had the dance floor mostly to ourselves.  Randy jumped in head first when Tim started the night with Fatback, which he had not played before, and did great on it.  For most of the rest of the night, they played songs Randy was familiar with (though he hadn’t played them in 2+ years – nice muscle memory, Mr. Morrow.) randy jan 2015 crop

The highlight of Monday evening was Danny calling out “The Lick,” a 5 minute instrumental that gets stretched to 10+ minutes live including an amazing drum solo.  I don’t believe Dann knows it, so those of us who love The Lick – that means you, Charlie Anderson – had missed it in recent times.  Well, it may have had a rough edge or two but basically, it sounded awesome. 

Tuesday night -- with Dann safely arrived and playing drums -- was much busier (as is typical), with music lovers from all parts of the country, and indeed the world (two ladies from China stayed for the last two sets and bought a bunch of CDs) mixed with long-time fans to keep the energy high throughout the Hog’s Breath.  I was worried that, with my friend Gail off visiting with a friend in need, I would have no one to dance with.  Never fear – when the Carter Brothers are pickin’, finding a dance partner can be child’s play.  Thanks for taking me for a ride, Nancy Mayhew, Gay Dougherty, Sally Galbraith, Elisabeth Morkaut and the couple of ladies I met just last night. 

I really like the new format, with a 90-100 minute set to open, a break, and finally a second 90 minute set to conclude the evening.  I am so used to the Carter Brothers first set here ending at precisely 11:35pm.  These days, that’s just when things are getting interesting – Danny starts pulling out the highest-energy songs (Copperhead Road, Cry Love, Woman at the Well, etc.) around then, filling the dance floor and bringing lots of smiles. jan 2015 key west 042 crop compress

Danny’s singing and playing is especially satisfying, due perhaps to him taking better care of his health, though he his dealing with some back pain that hopefully he will get some relief from today.    

There are so many great musicians here this week, and lots of Carter Brothers fans coming in from around the country over the next 48 hours.  If the full dance floor at 1:20am last night is any indication, the week got off to a great start.  If you can’t join us here, tune in on the HogCam as many have already reported doing.  

Going to Ones "Happy Place"

Created: Saturday, 17 January 2015

This week is evolving into a classic winter Carter Brothers visit to Key West for the band and their fans for all the usual reasons, and more.

First, there is all the other music in Key West.  So much to choose from each day before our heroes take the Hog’s Breath stage at 10:15pm!  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting musicians as talented as Barry Cuda, Ericson Holt, Deb Hudson, Woody Jenkins, Joel Nelson, Randy Morrow, and Jeff Clark/Entrain playing in one intimate venue or another.  And most of them come out to see the Carter Brothers after they play (good to see you last night, Eric!).

Then there’s the weather.  It’s been a great week, with ample sun and warmth (especially compared to the rest of the USA), and an occasional dip into the 60s and a chilly breeze to remind you what you enjoyed the rest of the day.  The food (mostly seafood) and drinks are outstanding too.jan parking lot compress crop

Then there are the planned and unplanned gatherings of the Carter Brothers Band and their fans.  On Wednesday, a couple took a few of us to dinner at Camilles, a top local restaurant, where we feasted on fish that had been swimming in the ocean four hours earlier (which caused a few of us including one band member to overeat, a recurrent danger here).  On Thursday, a couple from New England continued a tradition dating back a decade of having the band over for a cookout at their condo.  Lots of laughs and soulful conversations! 

On Friday, the Fan Club organized our 7th annual luncheon (this time at Schooner Wharf Bar) to celebrate being here together and also some January birthdays within our group – most notably of Sally Galbraith, the resident PhD in our clan who knows more about music than … well, anyone.  (And her doctorate is not even in music!)  Elisabeth Morkaut brought her charming new beau and his parents for the first time and they fit right in, and her own parents arrive today – so expect the unexpected! 

Events like the luncheon and our traditional Saturday picnic on the beach (done every time the band plays here in any other month but January) are announced on the Fan Club Facebook page and are welcome to all who follow the band. dance floor compress crop

Another highlight has been the large and growing crowds coming to hear the Carter Brothers play each night.  Last night it was hard to move around in the bar, on the dance floor, and even in the parking lot.  Long-time (mostly local) fans  mixed with people who heard the band earlier in the week and came back, and total newcomers who were curious at the intriguing instruments the band unpacked and stayed for an hour or two, or more.  Among those enjoying the music and the scene was Laney, one of the youngest fans who danced all night in the parking lot, and once on the dance floor with her Mother and Grandmother.  Three generations of Carter Brothers fans, and great people to boot. 

And thanks for everyone in the crowd who have been leaving large tips that add up and help make ends meet for musicians who, despite Tim’s occasional jokes from the stage, did not exactly come to Key West on their own yacht or private jet. 

The after-parties have been fun, also.  These shift every few years.  This week, typically the band and the fans who remain and help them pack up at 2am go for some food at Paradise Pizza and then on for a drink at Tattoos and Scars Saloondiane don and deb compress crop

Finally, there is the music each night at the Hog's Breath Saloon.  The band is in top form, even showing off a bit by dusting off at least one song they haven’t played in a long time each night.  This keeps the band’s sound unpredictable and fresh, even to long-time fans.  I thought the first set last night, starting with four of Danny's best original songs, was especially strong.

The joyful music has led to a lot of dancing by many different people and couples, quite a few new to the band’s music.  Someone got a picture of me dancing in my unique style last night and mentioned that I looked like I was in my “happy place” – so true, but I was definitely not alone!

And there are two shows left and the town is packed with tourists seeking a good time.  I expect we'll see a lot of them before the band and their fans pack up or resume their (so-called) "normal lives" early next week.



Three Days of Bliss, Thanks to Carter Brothers Nation

Created: Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Especially for those of you who were there, it may have struck you as strange that I ended my blogging from Key West last June with a post that focused on the story of two jerks who invaded the Hog’s Breath and our weeklong party.  Well, all I can say is that the three days that followed were the most enjoyable 72 hours I have ever spent in my life.  Trying to do justice to the joy, the friendship, the celebration of twenty years of marriage with great friends and musicians in our adopted home – it just seemed too daunting.  And that’s saying something for someone who is as prolific a writer as I party plus steve m

So, in short, here’s how it went down.  Friday included a visit to the traditional “church” gathering at Schooner Wharf, which a few of us stole away from briefly to have my friend and pastor Andy Walton perform a renewal of vows ceremony at the Pier House.  That evening, we had an amazing party organized by our friend Carolyn Guarini that included two musicians we love – Ericson Holt and Caffeine Carl – lots of dancing, and a fun and silly “wedding re-enactment” where my wedding party of four of my favorite ladies vied with Emily’s composed of four of "her guys" (including both Carter Brothers) for the most outrageous (the ladies won) and the best sports (the guys).  I spoke briefly, thanking everyone. Thanks Charlie Anderson, Joan Robbins,  Cindy Walker, Doug  Counts, Kevin May, Donna Nelson and Gail Hardy, and especially to Sally Galbraith for a reading, Joel Nelson for playing the “father of the bride” as only you could, and Steve Mellette for officiating.  (And apologies to Laney for conflicting with your birthday party, you dear child!)the cake

Then we proceeded to have a glorious night of dancing and harmless mayhem at the Hog’s Breath while our heroes were playing.   And thanks, Cindy Butler (sorry, I should say Cindy Carter!) for making the trip despite not having much vacation time, and to our dear Joanie for coming from San Diego, and to Brenda Donnelly for coming despite your heavy heart at that time.  

Saturday was meant to be our traditional picnic with a few whistles and bells including Dave Stephens reprising his role as head chef, Carolyn managing everything, and other than that, just the seventh “Friends of the Carter Brothers” bash on the beach.  Well, little did I know that people would go overboard to celebrate our anniversary – a floating rendition of the words “Alex + Emily” 50 feet off the beach that probably could be seen from space, photos from our past that someone got from my mother (framed and taped on the trees around our picnic tables), grass skirts and coconut bras for all (in honor of our “Lime in the Coconut” fetish), and a wedding cake made to look like our beach scene (with almost everything edible). Emalyn Mercer was the main force behind all this, but everyone contributed.  I was, for once, speechless at this expression of love for us.  Saturday night was another great night of music, dancing, fellowship and general celebration.

By Sunday, many including my wife had left but those that remained had a classic Key West day with the Carter Brothers gang culminating in one final, wild dance to “Copperhead Road” at 1:45am – bringing to an end three days that I can only describe as blissful and soulful. 

Thanks, Carter Brothers Nation, for taking part in a great week of sun, fun, music, dancing and friendship, and at the same time celebrating Danny’s inspiring commitment to taking better care of his health as well as our 20th anniversary.  Wow.


noodle art 2014





"Radio Girl" & More Pleasant Surprises

Created: Thursday, 15 January 2015

Yesterday in Key West was filled, typically, with great seafood and listening to talented musicians -- at least for those of us here to see the Carter Brothers.  Most enjoyable was Deb Hudson and friends’ performance at Schooner Wharf Bar in the early evening.  (Tim sat in with Deb for four songs on mandolin, and Deb returned the favor by singing a song with our heroes later.)  But the highlight as always was the Carter Brothers show at the Hog’s Breath starting at 10:15pm – something many outstanding musicians came to hear after finishing their own gigs, such as Deb as well as Woody Jenkins, Larry Baeder, and others. larr compress crop

The band started their very long first set with “My Back Pages” and “Radio Girl” last night.  Having heard them play many times over the last eight years, I knew that they had not played those two songs in a while.  (Later they played “Hillbilly Hollywood” for the first time in ages, plus “Where I Belong” for the first time this week.) 

I don’t know about you, blog reader, but I find it incredible that the Carter Brothers Band keep what must be hundreds of songs at the ready in their memory banks and can play any of them at a moment’s notice without any songsheets, lyrics, etc. there to aid them.  Another highlight last night was Danny’s guitar solo on Copperhead Road – Wow!  He seemed to draw energy from our inspirational dance leader, Gay Dougherty.  

The Hog’s Breath was full of people loving the music from the first song until the last (“Riding that Midnight Train”) which wrapped up at 1:45am.  The dance floor was full of all sorts of people – husbands dancing with wives, complete strangers jumping out together on the fly, an older gentleman in a neon t-shirt who coaxed many a lady onto the floor with him, people of all ages and, ahem, dancing styles/skills.  In other words, a typically joyful night of basking in the glow of the Carter Brothers unique fusion music.

fans jan 2015 compress cropOne of the great things about hanging out with the Carter Brothers and musicians they spend time around is that it is a great opportunity for non-musician music-lovers like me to learn more about music.  Whether it’s talking to Randy Morrow on Monday night at the Green Parrot at 3am about the different playing styles of Ross Sermons and Mark Vernon (both are great but very different), or overhearing Dann, Tim and Randy talk through some of the transitions on “The Lick” (which Dann is gearing up to play for the first time this week), there is a lot that flies over my head but also a lot that sticks, and is fascinating.  

We have a fresh batch of fans coming in tonight, including Cindy Walker and Diane Jackman, so the fun is clearly just beginning.  Join us in person or through the HogCam and catch the spirit of an amazing week with the Carter Brothers Band!  

Cross-Post: Report from MusicFest at Blue Bear Mountain

Created: Monday, 15 September 2014

Back in 2008, when I was in the process of becoming a full-blown music lover, I was invited to an annual fall gathering of friends of the Carter Brothers in Boone, NC at the home of Kevin Quick.  It was a weekend long party with people who were in the process of becoming great friends, and the Carter Brothers would always play a couple of acoustic sets, with other musicians from the area playing in between. 

Anyway, I crave daily aerobic exercise, so I went jogging midday, starting out from Kevin’s guest cottage and heading into what I was told was a clearing that was up a hill with fairly thick forest.  


Tim Carter Sitting in with the Harris Brothers (Festival Organizer Kevin Quick and his partner in crime Pam enjoying front row seats)

Tim Carter Sitting in with the Harris Brothers (Festival Organizer Kevin Quick and his partner in crime Pam enjoying front row seats)

The clearing was gorgeous, with high grass and all sorts of other vegetation.  I jogged around it a few times, wondering if I would step on a snake and if so, what this city boy would do?  When I returned from the house I talked to Kevin about this spot and he shared a vision of one day turning it into a campground that would have an annual music festival.  Well, the campground was inaugurated a few years ago and the MusicFest at Blue Bear Mountain became a reality in August 2013.  (Read about it here, as it was the last stop on the Bang Bang tour.)

The second annual MusicFest just concluded last night and it was a triumph for Kevin, his friends and customers, the musicians who came, and music lovers everywhere.  The weather was supposed to be awful, almost causing my wife and I to cancel our trip from Maryland.  But I picked the most benign weather  forecast that predicted much more in the way of clouds than rain, and we headed off early Friday morning.  

To read the entire post, click here.


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