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INTERVIEWS A PLENTY............
INTERVIEWS A PLENTY............
This is one of the more rare interviews out there. Thus it is here as well as in the menu. Look around and have fun!
THE FRENCH TRANSLATED WEBB WILDER INTERVIEW
This interview with Webb Wilder August, 1996 appeared in Article in Backstage, (a French magazine) during his tour of France before a convention of motorcycle enthusiasts in France
(...could we mention France one more time.....*%*&!!!)
WATCH OUT FREEWHEELERS!
It's great! The vigorous hybrid Webb Wilder is on the poster for the 9th Free Wheels. It will take place Friday evening (August 16, 1996), and in the course of this same evening you will also be able to attend the concert of Omar and the Howlers, who are mentioned in this article. To say that Webb Wilder invented a form of rock 'n roll would scarcely be excessive. And to affirm that he conserves a unique formula of it, like a mysterious alchemy which would retrieve the original ingredients, is not far from the truth. And it is not without a special relationship with the type of magic and mystery which surrounds the music of the Southern United States. Because Webb Wilder is one of those faithful and cultivated Southerners who maintain narrow and illegitimate relationships with their roots. If Webb Wilder's rock 'n roll has a polymorphic coloration, remaining strangely homogeneous at the same time, this is firstly because of the strange, intelligent and sensitive personality that is his.
Unlike the music he plays as a celebration (pagan or spiritual?), Webb Wilder was born and raised 4 decades ago in the deepest South, Mississippi. A certain Elvis Aron Presley also was born in this ungrateful territory, but still the birthplace of the blues, then rock n roll, going up the Mississippi to Memphis or Chicago. Therefore, Webb Wilder is a southerner and grew up in a family with musical heritage on the side of the grandmother who once managed the Trumpet label, a recording company specializing in blues and rhythm Ôn blues. Dogs can't produce cats and Webb Wilder, whose real name is John McMurry, will be a musician.
One understands that life in a city like Hattiesburg, Mississippi is not one of the most exciting, especially for a boy who is planning to spend his future neither in a gas station nor behind a post office window. In addition, enlightened by this family atmosphere where music is honored and respected, young Webb devoured ravenously what the sixties had to offer to his generation. And even if the new pop hits arrive a bit late from England, they are still arriving. In the mentime, one has the blues, the beginnings of rock n roll, surf music, rhythm 'n blues from nearby New Orleans- in short, products of primary importance, which are not even near to reaching their expiration date. It is from all these components ingested in those first years, spent especially in listening, that will come, in it's time, the music of Webb Wilder. And then the Beatles arrived. The Rolling Stones followed soon after. The Kinks were not far behind. Webb Wilder rushes into these familiar sounds like a fanatic, because they contain American roots.
The first Stones and Beatles took up almost essentially the blues, rock 'n roll, country songs themselves, rhythm 'n blues also, written and first recorded by U. S. artists - but supplied with a really new treatment. It is at this moment that Webb Wilder decides to become a musician also. In his immediate entourage others had already taken up the beginnings. His friend and neighbor Omar Dykes has just put in place one of the first rock n roll groups of the country. One will very soon find Omar with the Howlers, the same Omar and the Howlers active today, with other Howlers but still the same Omar. There are in the corner a whole group of luminaries named Suzy Elkins, Gerry "Phareaux" Felton, R. S. Field, who are going to try the adventure in their turn.
Webb observes and agrees that for the moment he is perhaps not ready to face, alone and on the front line, the heat of the footlights. He plays with one group and then others and develops a lasting friendship with R. S. Field, who becomes his alter-ego, and who today continues to produce all of his albums and to write the greater part of his repertoire. Field is one of the sounds of English pop but raised on Yankee sounds. The same deceiving duality as Webb, and a complicity of all the moments with the great "four eyes". R. S. Field will remain the hidden part of Webb Wilder, the one who in the shadow of the studios prepares for him the hypnotic mixtures to which Webb Wilder will give voice. He agrees then to name Field the 5th member of Webb Wilder, the group, and half of the entire part of Webb Wilder, the person, henceforth since the same name will designate both. But at the beginning one could read on the cover of the first album for example "Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks", a means of associating the other members of the group with the project which is yet more that of only the two, Field and Wilder.
The scenic beginnings of Webb Wilder will be made with groups named the Everready Brothers or the Drapes. It is still the same group from Hattiesburg which pilots these groups, with the same usual suspects such as Suzy Elkins, "Phareaux", or R. S. Fields, who is just Bobby to everyone. He will take alternately the drums or the guitar, even though he makes it known that his place is not necessarily on the stage. What follows will prove that his intuition was correct. As for our man Webb, we will hear him here and there on one or two titles of the Drapes, uniquely responsible for a 4 title LP in the first half of the 80's. Webb, himself, spent all this time touring the country. He tries Texas and Austin, where are holed up some of his friends like Omar and the Howlers, or "Caper" Rawls who does not delay in joining the sublime Leroi Brothers. But without doubt his time has not yet come; so he takes up again the Southern route, then Nashville. He will not again leave Tennessee.
Soon R. S. Field rejoins him, with a sack full of ideas, firstly that of creating an image for him. Webb Wilder will no longer be simply a singer-guitarist, he will be the incarnation on the screen of Webb Wilder Private Eye, a sort of Buster Keaton mixed with Jack Palmer because the first artistic work of Webb Wilder will be a film. Filmed in black and white and distributed first on the student circuit, this comic short subject shows to what extent Webb has understood the importance of his image and how much he can install between himself and the public the distance which exists between the spectator and the hero on the screen. He will always keep this portrait of the artist disappearing behind his mask. And that Webb Wilder is an actor as well as a musician, the photos on his records and his attitude on the stage leave nothing to deny it.
Webb Wilder never smiles. Yet none of his records lack humor, not the scratching powder or whoopee cushion type of humor but the kind of humor which one only realizes the incongruity of after a while. Across the ages and in ten years of performing under his name, the obsessions of Webb Wilder (and of R. S. Field, who must still be associated with all of his works) have scarcely evolved in nature, while they are enriched with the age of a more serene vision. It is then at Nashville that he chooses to remain, Nashville, simply for the presence in the city of an incomparable record industry. It is necessary to point out that the other two musical points in the U. S. are Los Angeles and New York, and that neither of these metropolises is found in the South, if you look closely.
Thus we have indicated above the importance of these roots for someone who affirms his singularity proclaiming "that he will never be neither really young nor old, nor really bald, that he will never have a child, because he never was totally a child", a type of speed which he pronounces on the stage in the voice of an exalted preacher. The humor of Webb Wilder has something of the surreal. Nashville sees then growing within its walls a group constituted of 4 men, among whom one finds the murderous guitar of Donnie Roberts, the implacable drumming of Jimmy Lester, and Donny Blakely on the bass, who creates on the stage a personality as captivating as Webb himself due to his mimics and the brutal movements of his head followed immediately by a statuesque stillness.
The sight of Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks has an immediate and lasting effect. It is motivated gang which will be recording the first title of a compilation reuniting other notable rebels such as Jason and the Scorchers. We will find again this "One Taste of the Bait" on the first L.P. of Webb Wilder which appears on a small independent label by circumstance. It is true: Webb Wilder could not remain silent any longer, and after having fed the rumor to the point of becoming "the best kept secret of the South", the record imposes his music where Hank Williams meets Steve Earle at a party given by Johnny Cash and where are equally invited the Ventures for the sound of very surf guitars.
We said at the beginning that Webb had found a formula, right? His first album sums up his story and traces a line while making a sum of all that preceded: the voice of Webb will do the rest, full of implacable authority, also of that deep resonance that Southerners naturally possess. And then "the secret" spreads throughout the entire region, while Webb Wilder increases the concerts, especially in Austin. Taken in hand by the manager of Jason and the Scorchers (Praxis), Webb will succeed in attracting the attention of a major studio, Island Records, rarely carried by rock n roll, which adds to the performance. They will put up the money necessary for the production of a veritable large and beautiful recording, and when "Hybrid Vigor" appears, the entire continent, including France, takes right on the nose an even more baleful sound, still due to R. S. Field. The ten titles of the Hybrid Vigor collection, which one must admit is an eloquent title for the project, a real hybrid vigor, the ten songs combine this southerner feeling which oozes from Webb's pores to the whole New Orleans school - a Larry Williams revival - but also to rhythm n blues (ÒAin't That A Lot of Love) and to nuclear boogie which imposes itself as a given where Webb is concerned.
Two years later will follow, and on BMG this time, an album named "Doo Dad" where Webb exhibits still more of his musical intentions, with reprises of Electric Prunes, of Big Joe Williams - his version of "Baby Please Don't Go" is a course in the history of rock n roll of Ian Hunter (the English had landed). While opening new horizons with this broadened repertoire, he prepares the terrain for what will be "Town n Country", the next album. This "Doo Dad" will be the first album without Denny Blakely on the bass and the last which will see the association with virtuoso Donnie Roberts on the guitar, who will leave the group after the French tour of 1993. With all due respect, this record also represents the end of an era.
As if to catch a second breath after being released by BMG records, Webb will rebaptize his band. They will become the NashVegans, with the arrival of two new men on the bass and on the guitar, Kelly Looney will have the four strings and George Bradfute, a close relative of the group and improbable guitarist will take charge of bringing sounds not yet explored by the group. Four years passed since the last album, yet Webb Wilder decides that the time has come to publish a new album of re-releases. "Town and Country" appears on another label (the 4th since the beginning of the group!), Watermelon Records, from Austin, Texas, and will include only one selection from some of the favorite titles of Wilder and his accomplices. If one takes a reading of the genre of Waylon Jennings or Rodney Crowell who confirm the taste of man for country one will also meet there its very versatile musical culture. Thus the Small Faces of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, or the Flamin' Groovies are included in the list of titles kept back from more obscure signatures such as Ray Smith, or even John Barry, the one responsible for the music of Goldfinger.
One more time, and even if none of these songs is either from R. S. Field or more importantly from Webb Wilder, if certain ones do belong to the patrimony and are known by all, they become then his songs... it is certainly the genius of this powerful man to transfigure whatever he touches, to vampirize it without consideration. This year of 1996 is to be marked with a white stone in the career of the man from Nashville. First it sees the release of a second album on the same label as the preceding one. Then it sees assigned on this album more songs than he has done up to now. finally it gives free run to his penchant for the West, cowboys, horses, the lassoing of animals and includes particularly a superb song on these themes. "Acres of Suede", this fifth CD offers a different (but always recognizable, blast!) face of Webb Wilder. He has simply become a cowboy in his turn and, picking up again with his childhood with a family that raised horses, he lives today far from the city, withdrawn to an old farm where he rides and cares for his mare and his two stallions. "One can take the man out of the South but one will not take the South out of the man" according, approximately, to a local saying. And in his new album, Webb Wilder underscores one more time "that there is no beginning nor end but that all is connected like in a web". They say web in English, with a single "b". But we know now that Webb is not an ordinary personage, right? Then one "b" or two does not change much in the long run.
Special thanks to Bruno Levasseur and Mary O'Donnell Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri for the translation of the above article done on May 28, 1998. Sorry for the delay but it is difficult to find translators of French music magazine articles.
Other pictures from the magazine article are below.