It’s a little unusual to see a tenor guitar these days.
Tenors were more popular in the 1920s and ’30s. They have four strings, which I tune to [low to high] D, G, B, and E, so I can basically form the same chords you’d play on a 6-string. What I like about tenors is that their high overtones really work with my low voice—the sound kind of gives the illusion that someone is singing a background vocal. My main guitar is a custom Gibson tenor with a full-sized Brazilian rosewood body that was ordered from the Kalamazoo factory in 1935. It’s very special. I also have a sweet little parlor-sized Regal tenor from 1927, which is somewhere between a guitar and a baritone ukulele. My steel guitar was custom made by James Trussart, and I think it may be the only steel tenor in existence.
How did you get together with Danny to form the Lonesome Spurs?
Danny and I met after he heard my demo. He hired me to sing background vocals on a Wanda Jackson record he was producing called I Remember Elvis. Wanda used to date Elvis, and she’s a hero of mine, so that was a dream come true. While making the record, we discovered we shared the same influences, and, soon, we were playing together almost non-stop.
What brought about the idea of using a suitcase as a kick drum?
I had this old suitcase that I’d throw all my stuff in, and, one day, it dawned on me that it would make a great percussion instrument. So I designed a wooden base that secures a suitcase and a kick-drum pedal. There has been a lot of tweaking, because I hit that thing pretty hard! I’ve been tap dancing since I was three years old, so I have pretty decent rhythm in my feet.
Did you record the old fashioned way, live with the two of you in the same room?
We taped our songs almost entirely live. Danny and I wanted an authentic delivery that sounded exactly like our live show. We played as loud as we could without overdubbing, auto tuning, or punching in. If I hit a clinker, so what? The exceptions were some of the faster songs where I tend to move around a lot. For those, I tracked the suitcase first, and then recorded the guitar and voice.
How do you think the Lonesome Spurs will appeal to fans of other genres?
What I love about honky-tonk is the simplicity of its storytelling. If there’s a universal emotional truth there, everyone can relate. For example, we once opened a show for a metal band called Mantis. We were a little apprehensive at first, but the audience really responded to the fact that our music is so straight up, honest, and precise. That “metal gig” turned out to be one of the best shows we ever played!