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Carter Brothers Fan Club Blog

Back in Business

Created: Saturday, 08 June 2013

Normally, or I should say at least as we started approaching age 50, my wife Emily and I like to have some downtime during a day in Key West with the Carter Brothers.  Say, some time for a nap in the early evening after a day’s worth of music, so we are ready for the late show with our heroes. 

But some days, there are just too many gatherings and too much great music to be able to afford such luxuries – we headed out on our bikes at 11:45am, knowing that we would not return until about 3am.  And suspecting, if the weather held, that we would be much happier for all those hours with our friends and great musicians.

Well … except for a storm that hit the island hard for about an hour in the early evening, the weather did hold and the day was – how can I term it anything other than amazing! 

It began by having lunch with a local friend (and fan of the Carter Brothers) – Katharine Doughty – who is courageously battling some health issues.  In fact, a fund-raiser was held in January to help her with expenses and the Carter Brothers played at it (which I wrote about in a previous blog).  It was great to see how she was progressing, and to give her some time to talk about her journey as an artist (she makes jewelry and paints) and in her recovery.

From there we went to “church” (see photo below), a self-styled “drinking society” (though some imbibe nothing stronger than club soda) that gathers at 2pm every Friday at Schooner Wharf bar to celebrate friendship and the absurdity of life.  After the traditional 3:30pm group picture in front of the stage (where Michael McCloud and Friends play off and on all afternoon), the attendees headed off in at least three directions to listen to music.  A bunch of us went to the Pier House to hear Joel Nelson play, and then some of them went to hear “Bong Hits for Geezers” at B.O.’s Fish Wagon, the Key West Mafia at the Hog’s Breath, or another band playing at the Green Parrot “soundcheck”.  Whoa! chruch photo sm

Before long it was time to go hear one final warm-up – Deb Hudson and Dan Hogberg playing at the Little Room on Duval Street.  What fun!

When we all converged on the Hog’s Breath was found a large crowd that before long was mesmerized by the Carter Brothers unique fusion music that draws on blues, bluegrass, rock, country and folk (and even a little gospel if you ask me).  Some of the band’s oldest friends on the island came, and some newly converted fans (three of whom were here for a wedding, one hailing from Baltimore, not far from where I live) joined in the fun. 

The dance floor was full throughout the night, but it got especially robust during “Copperhead Road” that made its first appearance this week to close out the first set. friday night

With the crowd still strong and demanding more amazing music at 1:30am, Tim Carter asked me, as fan club President, to call out the final three songs.  Such pressure!  Danny used to do that in the past on occasion but this time, I was not really prepared.  My first choice was my best – “Jerusalem Moan” that got the dance floor going one final time.  My second, “King of the Hill”, gave the dancers a break (or at least permission to move a little slower) and was a solid choice. 

I debated my third but settled on “Panama Red” that I had not heard in a while.  In fact, this incarnation of the Carter Brothers Band had only played it once (as I learned last night) so it was a little rusty but still super fun as always.  In retrospect, “Yellow Moon”, “Cry Love”, “Black As Love” or “Midnight Train” would have been better choices to close out the night.  The experience made me appreciate the art of song selection even more – and what a great job Danny did for the first two sets last night especially.

All in all, it was about the most fun I had ever had in a day in Key West, and an especially active night on the dance floor (which my sore body reminds me of constantly this morning!).  

Today we are gathering at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach for the seventh “Friends of the Carter Brothers” picnic starting at 12pm and going until 3pm or so.  If you are on the island, come join us!

-Alex Counts, President, Carter Brothers Fan Club

Improvising and Dancing in Key West

Created: Friday, 07 June 2013

Little did the Carter Brothers fans who assembled at the Hog’s Breath yesterday afternoon to listen to the soothing sounds of Joel Nelson under partly sunny (!) skies know what was in store for us later in the day.  I guess rule number one of being a Carter Brothers Fan is, expect the unexpected. 

After taking a few hours to nap after Joel’s performance, my wife Emily and I went to our 19th anniversary dinner at a great steak joint called Michaels and were treated to a very special dessert compliments of some of our local friends who phoned in this special gift.  Right around that time, we got confirmation that super-fan Cindy Walker from Front Royal, VA landed (aided by a muscular – but alas, engaged – Marine sitting next to her) in Key West International Airport. 

From there we walked to the Hog’s Breath in a slight drizzle.   Despite the fact that even this light rain would taper off within an hour, we would learn soon that the Carter Brothers Band performance at the Hog’s Breath had been (gasp!) cancelled due to a major electrical snafu during a big rainstorm around 5:30pm that day.  Just when we were feeling most down in the dumps about this, we got several messages that a whole bunch of the Carter Brothers Fans were assembling at the Smokin’ Tuna to hear Caffeine Carl play with some top notch musicians including Chris Clifton.  Suddenly, the night was looking up.the gang at tuna small

Carl Wagoner (aka Caffeine Carl) is one of the many interesting characters performing music here in Key West.  He is a native “Conch” (i.e., born and raised in Key West) who, according to legend, asked Joel Nelson (mentioned above) to show him how to play his first three chords at age 12 on break from a performance – and then went on to become a monster (and I mean MONSTER) guitar player since that fateful day in the early 1980s. 

Well, with Carl and his band belting out great blues/rock fusion music all night, and joined briefly (and memorably) on stage by one Danny Reid Carter, we all wore out the dance floor and had a terrific time.  (Speaking of getting worn out, birthday girl Rhonda Skains did her best to break me on the dance floor, but I survived, barely, loving it all the way!)  Anyway, it was nice not to have to take out and put away instruments, staff a merchandise table, and so on for once. 

It turns out that our Key West family, led by Donna Nelson (Joel’s “force of nature” wife), Cindy Walker and Steve Mellette, had planned a big champagne toast to Em and me in honor of our anniversary that night at the Hog’s Breath.  When the evening shifted to the Tuna, the staff and band there were gracious hosts and made it all super fun.  Thanks Key West/Carter Brothers family for celebrating our big day with us!

Today is going to be an epic day of music from 1pm to 2am (culminating with our heroes taking the stage at 10pm at the Hog’s Breath).  With so many great friends of the Carter Brothers on the island, and more tuning in on webcams (hi, there, Shelly Skidmore Smith!), it is going to be a day to remember for sure. 

-Alex Counts, President, Carter Brother Fan Club

Soggy but Happy in Key West

Created: Tuesday, 04 June 2013

The Carter Brothers Band return to Key West began last night on a soggy note.  Heavy and persistent rain delayed the start of the performance until just after 11pm.  When it got going, to the delight of a group of hard core fans and curious tourists, the band sounded great despite all the moisture in the air, on the stage, and most distressingly, on the instruments.  It was great to see super fans Sally Galbraith, Emalyn Mercer, Rich Houde, Gail Hardy and others brave the elements and show up. 

danny dann adam

The photo below was taken by accident with my new camera, but the rubber boots on the floor amidst water and caked up salt (to keep the dance floor from being too slippery) captures the essence of the evening.

The first set began like the second set usually does, with Tim picking up his guitar and the band playing “Ain’t Ever Satisfied” – which prompted antsy fans like Gail and I to shake off the rust and hit the dance floor.  Appropriately, the band followed that with “What Does the Deep Sea Say” and later, “Road to Roosky” and “Woman the Well” from their latest, breakthrough CD.  We also heard “Waltz for Earl” and Tim’s still-unnamed song, and a new version of “Yellow Moon” with a funky drum solo. boots

The performance was reduced to two sets and wrapped up by 1am.  Later, drummer Dann Sherrill, Tim, Gail and I went to the Green Parrot for an after-party that concluded, naturally, with a stroll down the street to get slices of pizza. 

danny and tim

Despite predictions of rain off and on all week – though perhaps a clearing in time for our seventh “Friends of the Carter Brothers” Picnic on Saturday – we are gearing up for a big ‘ole time, especially with the likes of Peg Walton, Shelly Smith, Debbie Robinson, Emily Wainwright (here to celebrate her 19th wedding anniversary with yours truly!), Cindy Walker, Charlie Anderson, Rhonda Skains on their way down over the next couple of days.  

-Alex Counts, President,  Carter Brothers Fan Club

Making It Count

Created: Thursday, 06 June 2013

Well, the moral of the story is, if you are going to play a single set of music – make it count!  And that, my friends, is what the Carter Brothers Band did last night.


With fans arriving from around the country (several of them pictured below), and locals as well as curious tourists crowding into the Hog’s Breath last night at 10pm, the energy was high and the dance floor full from the first song.  Danny called out one perfect tune after the other and the fun didn't let up for even a moment.  “Shacktown Road” – probably played in anticipation of Cindy Walker arriving Thursday – was especially good. 

The dance floor really got going for “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder.”  Yours truly got so excited that he nearly fell onto the stage – yikes!  But all’s well that ends well, and a rousing version of “Mr. Spaceman” closed out the set with lots of smiles, hugs, and sweat (except for the women who, I am told, “glow” when they overheat). the gals

During the break, local “weather geeks” who track storms on their phones reported tornado warnings (which thankfully did not materialize) and more to the point, a mean looking storm heading for Key West.  Within minutes, the heavens opened up and the band and their fans scurried to protect the instruments, turn off the electricity on the stage, and run for cover.  (A few drinks may have been ordered too.)  By the time the rain let up, everything was too drenched to allow for more music. more fans

So what did Carter Brothers Nation do – have a few more drinks and laughs, and ultimately head back to the “World of Beer” for an early starting (but not necessarily early ending) after-party.  Continuing a trend that began earlier in the week (and dates back years), local musicians including the vocalist extraordinaire Deb Hudson came to hear the Carter Brothers play last night.  

Hopefully the weather will hold off tonight so we can hear three full sets.  But even if it does not, we have already seen the Carter Brothers Band at their very best this week, and we were able to enjoy it with some of their most dedicated and fun-loving fans. 

--Alex Counts, President, Carter Brothers Fan Club 

A Visit to the TreeHouse

Created: Friday, 24 May 2013

In late April I had the pleasure of visiting Danny and Tim in the TreeHouse in Goodletsville, TN.  I had been there once before to celebrate their birthdays about three years ago, joining a group of friends and fans from around the country.  This was a much more relaxed visit, with lots of music and soulful talk with “the boys” and also Cindy Butler (Tim’s lovely ladyfriend) and Hazel (aka, Mama Carter). 

My favorite memories of the weekend were sitting around the kitchen table with these four people who feel almost as much like family as my own, talking about anything and everything over breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.  True to form, for long stretches on Saturday afternoon Tim was playing banjo in the studio and Danny was on Facebook, communicating with his fans around the world. 

Upon arrival I spent a couple of hours with Crystal Caviness of Nashville Music Promotions, brainstorming ways for her company and the Fan Club to add to the growing momentum the Carter Brothers have been experiencing in their careers since the release of “Road to Roosky”.  Among other things, we decided to join forces and launch a Carter Brothers newsletter this June – something both of us had been thinking about for a while. 

We listened to a lot of music over the weekend.  Danny and Tim played at a cool venue near their home Friday night – a restaurant on a local golf course that has a reputation for great acoustic performances.  Danny and Tim played with a legendary mandolin player to a packed house (see photo below).  I sat next to Hazel and we sung along to many of the songs and enjoyed the food and energy of the place. 

dannny and tim playing in TN April 13

Saturday night we went to hear Adam Chaffins, the Carter Brothers Band (CBB) bass player, play with another band in a seafood restaurant across town.  We had a great time and enjoyed visiting with Adam afterwards.  CBB drummer Dann Sherrill came as well, with his (relatively) new bride Diane in tow.   (Dann sure seems very happy to be married!). 

On Sunday, we went to hear Dann play jazz with four other world-class musicians – one of whom was Chester Thompson, the drummer for the progressive rock band Genesis.  (On this occasion, Dann played percussion.)  I was (and remain) a huge Genesis fan (especially their 70s and early 80s tunes) and Dann was kind enough to introduce me to Chester.  It turns out that Danny is a Genesis fan also (who knew?). 

I did a 55 minute interview with Danny and Tim in their studio Sunday morning, and have transcribed it.  A great session!  Most of it will be released in the inaugural newsletter mentioned above.  It in I learned:

  • That the first time Danny and Tim played together and got paid was in Banner Elk, NC in 1979.
  • The Tom Petty song “The Waiting” was something of an inspiration for “Shelby Street” and “Green River”. 
  • The band will be touring with Johnny Neel this summer, mainly in the southeast – and then going to Ireland this fall. 

All in all it was a great visit.  On Saturday morning I wandered into the studio and there was Tim, playing the song Tree O on his guitar.  I caught about two minutes of this gorgeous instrumental on my iPhone and uploaded it to YouTube.  Check it out!  Moments like these remind me of the thousands of musicians who play music mainly for the love of their craft. 

Indeed, there are so many gifted artists – a disproportionate number from North Carolina by all accounts – but none quite like Danny and Tim Carter. 

Alex Counts, President, Carter Brothers Fan Club

Enjoying Music, Bar Stools and More...

Created: Wednesday, 05 June 2013

On day two of the Carter Brothers week of performances in Key West, the rain thankfully cleared -- though it never seemed far away as the dampness from Monday’s deluge could still be felt, and winds whipped up off and on all day.  Safe to say, most of us kept our sunglasses in our pockets for the entire day.  Still, it was nice to see performers in this great music town not having to brave the elements and focus on cranking out great tunes, which our heroes – the Carter Brothers Band – did with great energy.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

gail and danny

Like many of my days in Key West, this one got going by joining some friends for lunch at the Hog’s Breath Saloon and listening to Joel Nelson, a fixture on the music scene here for the last 30 years.  Danny and Tim stopped by as did Gail Hardy (see photo of Gail and Danny) and later, Sally Galbraith.  At 5:30pm, after Joel had packed up and turned over the stage to the Key West Mafia (featuring Chris Clifton), I had a dilemma – listen to this duo or go to the Conch Republic Seafood Company down the way to hear Jeff Clark play solo.  Well, I did both for a time and met up with some other Carter Brothers fans along the way.

Then it was showtime – the Carter Brothers started a bit earlier than usual, perhaps because their first set was delayed the night before due to rain.  Anyway, it was back to basics – starting off with “Shelby Street” followed by one of my all-time favorites, “Green River.”  Before long we were treated to “Jerusalem Moan”, “Waltz for Earl”, “King of the Hill”, “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder” and the new song that has the word “fatback” in the lyrics.   Yum!

The second set included “Cripple Creek” featuring Adam Chaffins on lead vocals, and some unique dance moves involving a woman and a bar stool (I’ll leave it at that).  Welcome to Key West (a town whose new motto is, "Where the Weird Go Pro")!adam alicia and gail

Local photographer extraordinaire Alicia Renner came by and joined the fun (she is pictured to the right in between Gail and Adam on the break after the first set). The after-party found a new home -- a new bar called World of Beer featuring exotic beers from around the globe and a bartender with a winning personality who hails from south Jersey.  I suspect we will return there this week...

Today a second wave of fans arrives from North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC.  It’s that time of the week to expect the unexpected – and also the great Americana fusion music of the Carter Brothers Band. 

Every Night is Saturday Night in Key West: And Sometimes it Really Is!

Created: Sunday, 27 January 2013

My last night with the Carter Brothers Band in Key West earlier this month was their second to last performance, and it was terrific!  But the magic of the day began long before they took the stage at 10:20pm Saturday night.

lunch group photo II sallysm2

The Carter Brothers gang had one of its traditional lunches at Salsa Loca (owned by super-fan Nancy Mayhew) to celebrate the birthdays of Joan Robbins and Sally Galbraith.  In their honor I have put the group photo with Sally clowning around in the bottom right, and also a pic of Joan in the Salsa Loca decorative sombrero.  Great people, great food, and a wonderful celebration of two of the all-time fans of the Carter Brothers. 

Later, some of us went to see Barry Cuda and Kenny Fradley play at the Hog’s Breath before moseying over for dinner at the Conch Republic Seafood Company while Jeff Clark was playing with Randy Morrow (the latter having played drums hundreds of times with the Carter Brothers over the years).  An uncountable number of Mojitos were consumed and pretty soon we were all dancing, warming up for our heroes’ show to come a bit later. jan key west final 003sm

It’s hard to remember too much about the Carter Brothers Saturday night show except that a bunch of us spent virtually the entire night on the dance floor.  Woody Jenkins sat in on guitar and his playing gave each song a little different flavor, which was fun.  Hearing lots of their great original songs certainly made it a special night. 

At one point, Tim played “Waltz for Earl” and a crowded Hog’s Breath got uncharacteristically quiet with lots of photos and video being taken (see Jewel Melanson taking video below as others listen with rapt attention around her). 

The final set has composed of their two best dance covers (which I think they play better than the artists who first recorded them): “Copperhead Road” and “Cry Love”.  We all ended the night out of breath and with big smiles.

Now, it’s time for my top ten memories from another great week in paradise with the Carter Brothers Band and their friends/fans from around the island and around the country:

1.The fund-raiser on Wednesday, which was great in its own right but made extra special by hearing Ericsson Holt play with the Carter Brothers – a keyboard master who complements them so well.

2. Hearing them play “Black as Love” for the first time in a while (It was almost enough for me to forget that we didn’t hear "Radio Girl" and "The Lick" -- two of my favorite songs, the latter being one that the incorrigible Charlie Anderson often requests).

3. Having Tanya Dennis show up and bring her spirit and vocals to the stage on a few occasions.

4. It was great to see the Fan Club facebook page becomekind of “town square” for people posting photos and memories of the week, and for people who could not join us in Key West taking part “virtually”.  That was always one of my hopes for the page.

5. The variety of after-parties: Shots and Giggles, Lazy Gecko and the Green Parrot (with pizza being provided by the Fan Club to the hungry masses on both occasions we went to the "Dirty Bird").

6. A new tradition of having the dancers all point at Danny when he (and all of us) sing “…take a look at yourself” in “Before You Accuse Me” – which got everyone including Danny laughing during those memorable second sets.

7. The group luncheon (see above).

8. Meeting Jewel Melanson Barnett (see photo below), the sister of super-fan Gay Melanson, who is a music lover and big Carter Brothers fan in her own right (and, to quote Danny, a “great hang”).

9. Hours of the dance floor being full but not too full – just lots of smiles and swaying to the soulful sounds of our heroes.

10.  “Hey, Joe” and all the other songs Adam Chaffins sang lead vocals on – that dude can sing (and play the bass)!  (We also learned he can dance, but if I posted the photo of him on the Lazy Gecko dance floor with my wife there is no telling what he would do next time I see him!)

For those of you who were there or who tuned in via the HogCam, what are your favorite memories?  Post them to keep the fun going even now!

jan key west final 010sm

OK, folks – that’s it for this trip.  The Carter Brothers are going to be playing a lot this year.  Their next trip to Key West is playing a midshift (5:30pm-9:30pm) duo April 1-7.  They bring the full band back for more fun and mayhem June 3-9. 

Alex Counts, President,Carter Brothers Fan Club

January 27, 2013


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