Neal and Jack join the Spooklights

I’ve picked up a couple of new Spooklights I’d like to introduce to you.  Both of them came to me through connections with my guitar player and sometime producer, Jim Hemphill.  That probably makes him the MVP for the moment.  Until someone shows up with a bottle. Neal Robinson is a lifelong friend of Jim, or at least, they’ve known each other their entire lives. Neal grew up in State Center, Iowa, and now lives in Minneapolis.  He’s played bass in a variety of R&B and rock bands mostly based in Des Moines, and co-wrote and and recorded a reggae EP in 2004 that hit radio stations in over 20 countries, including Kingston, Jamaica.  Billy describes Neal’s bass lines as “badass.”       Jack Bowers lives in Macon, Georgia.  Jack started playing harmonica at 14. When Jim,  the Spooklights’ lead guitar player,  was in Macon in 1994, he and Jack formed “Four Drink Minimum,” a “basement band.” After Jim moved back to Texas, Jack played for the Barrell House Ballers, Keith Williams, and a number of jam bands. For the last three and a half years, Jack was a member of Boot Hill the Band, a popular band in Macon and the Southeast. Jack played harmonica and was the back-up vocalist.  Jim recently introduced Billy to Jack, and now it can never be undone....

Road dawgs, drug dogs, and the DEA

I have a story I want to pass on. This one isn’t quite as entertaining as most of my road experiences. This happened to me on the way to my last show.  I was on my way to Coffeeville KS from Chicago. I had my cruise control set to avoid any entanglements with Law Enforcement. It was a pretty uneventful drive until I was just about 20 miles north of St. Louis. Sitting between the north and south bound lanes of I-55 there was a black unmarked car. Lots of antennas on that sucker. Since I wasn’t speeding I didn’t pay much attention to it until I looked in my rearview and saw that they were tailing me.  I’m not really new at this so I just kept on driving and waited to see if they were actually tailing me or just waiting to get off at the next exit. They stayed right behind me for a few miles and then started to pull around me. Instead of passing though, they just drove beside me for a few miles and then got back behind me. I was expecting to get pulled over but they kept tailing me another few miles.  By now we had gone about 10 miles and passed a couple of exits so I figured they were running my plates.  They started around me again so I figured the plates had come back clean and they’d go tail somebody else.  They pulled up beside me again but we were at an entrance ramp onto I-55 and a car had merged into my lane from the ramp so...

He needs a hug

Rowdy.  Wistful.  Damn the luck, bring me another beer. Most of Billy’s songs fit one or more of these descriptions.  But one song from the latest album, “The UnExplainable Billy Eli,” departs from the usual for a dark, theatrical take on the moodiness and depression that so often accompany creative people on their journey through life. This song is unmistakably a Billy Eli song, but one like you’ve never heard before.   Enjoy.   Listen to Punishing Time. ...

“This settles it, I’m gonna live forever.” ***

On May 31 I’m playing at Woodall’s Watering Hole in Hubbard, Texas, a crossroads Texas town like the ones I’ve passed through all my life.  Only this time, I’ll be crossing paths with Billy Joe Shaver, opening the show for him that night. I’ve got silver in my hair, or should I say, there’s a little black in my silver hair.  I’ve got a few lines in my face and a permanent trucker’s tan on my left arm. I’ve worn out more tires, alternators, and seat covers than I can count driving around the country playing for folks.  I can do almost every bar trick ever invented, thanks to endless hours spent waiting for night to roll around so I can get up on stage and do my trick.  I’ve got some divorce decrees, some support orders, a few police reports laying around, and even a file on me in an FBI building somewhere.  I’ve ridden a mule in the Arizona desert and gotten lost in the subway in New York City.  I’ve eaten everything from a week old burrito from the Alsups to steak in a penthouse restaurant with real linen napkins.  And my lifetime social security earnings report is about as big as a convenience store receipt, all due to my steadfast refusal to get a real job. But I’m like a kid on the playground next to Billy Joe Shaver.  I first remember him from Honky Tonk Heroes, which came out right about the time I was supposed to be seriously considering what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I got to listening to those Honky Tonk...

Why oh Why

I am three days back from my winter trek to the northeast.  This has been one of the roughest winters they’ve had in a while, so of course I thought it would be a good idea to take my southern ass up there and go play some shows.  Me, who has a good coat but no gloves.  Lots of long sleeved shirts but no wool socks. And i only had an ice scraper for the windshield because my yankee wife was smart enough to stick one in the car. If I’d have known it was there it would have been very helpful. But i figured I’d be mostly in my car – where honky tonk players spend most of their time – or in a nice toasty bar, and it turns out that’s exactly what happened. I’m not really gonna go skiing or anything like that.  I played a bunch of shows to pretty full houses, crowds that were very welcoming and very happy to get out of the house and move a little. All in all, I really did have a great time and so I’ll probably be back next winter.  ‘Cause I’m not all that bright.  But I do know how to have fun in any kind of weather. http://billyeli.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/thompkins-county-blues-demo1A-1.mp3 –Tompkins County Blues,  a song about winter...