This weeks’ feature by Scott Bucholtz
For the last two years, Dan Wright has been Jam Master for the Lowcountry Blues Club -- hosting Jam Nights and ensuring that everyone in attendance goes home in disbelief that we get to witness world class talent up close (and free). Born in Redford, MI, about a mile from the Detroit city limit, his first exposure to music was playing piano with his grandmother when he was a kid. There are many musicians and artists on his father’s side of the family, including his third cousin, Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins (coincidently, Pumpkins original bassist, D’arcy Wretzky is from a town in SW Michigan about 30 minutes from where I grew up). He moved here in January of 2006 after meeting a girl while on tour with a band called Gordon Bennett, from Detroit. They played two nights in Wilmington, NC, where he met her on the last night of the tour. After the band split up, and he finished college, he moved here. Though they aren’t together anymore, they have remained friends. Charleston owes a ‘thank you’ to that young lady!
After his initial experience with the piano, he started as a drummer when he was about 6. In fact, he played drums and percussion through middle school and high school and even went to arts camp on a scholarship and got to play with a full orchestra, etc. While he doesn’t have his drums here, he still wishes that he did. Believe it or not, he didn’t start playing guitar until he was 14. He’d been playing in a band in high school (on drums) and used to pick up his friend's guitar to mess around. Once he got his own guitar, it became his obsession and he never put it down. It seems that we hear that from every great guitar player! Blues Club members may also have noticed Dan playing bass on jam nights, and he can carry a song on keys too.
Shortly after arriving, he found the Blues Club in the Charleston City Paper as he was looking for a place to go play. The first time Dan went to A Dough Re Mi was to see Scott Holt. He couldn’t believe that a hero of his was playing at such a small place. He previously saw Holt at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Windsor Blues Festival in Windsor, Ontario, and at the DTE Energy theater with Buddy Guy in Detroit. That was the first time Dan had ever walked into the “Dough”. He still has a picture with him from that night. That is one of the amazing things about the Charleston music scene. On any given night, you can see world class talent up close and on a budget!
Dan’s biggest influence when he starting playing was Led Zeppelin. That was the band that made him want to be a guitar player. He used to listen to Led Zeppelin constantly. He says, “Physical Graffiti literally changed my life”. This is another familiar tale!
Dan has a pretty open ear for music. To name a few influences, he lists: Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, B.B. King, Maceo Parker, the Police, Neal Casal, the Meters, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Thelonius Monk. This eclectic list certainly is evident in some of the fantastic performances we all get to experience on Jam Nights. He favors jamming to anything funk that has a wide open minor I/IV chord structure. Similar to the response from most club members, he won’t name any favorite jammers but states: “All of them. It amazes me how many people show up week after week. What we have is something really great”. I know we all agree!
Over the past 10 years, Dan has spent a lot of time in the studio on a variety of projects. He’s recorded a number under his name such as: The White Bread EP in 2001 on Alley Records in Ypsilanti and Live at the Red Dog Saloon, 2002. Those of us in Charleston should be familiar with the Dan Wright and the New Beat EP featuring ”Hard Road”, “Let Your Soul Shine Brighter”, “Get a Handle”, singles that were recorded at Charleston Sound Studios, produced by Jeff Hodges, as well as the Soul Sample, EP also recorded at Charleston Sound Studios, engineered by Joey Cox. These are as good as any independent recording you’ll ever find! Many of these have been on my iPod’s ‘most played’ list for a long time. Dan has also recorded with others such as: Gordon Bennett singles “You Got Me” and “Sweet 16” recorded at Pearl Sound Studios, Novi, MI produced by Chuck Alkazian. Dan is also very proud of the work that he has done with The Tim Hodson Band. The “Listen to Hear” EP was recorded at Charleston Sound Studios, (also produced by Jeff Hodges). They are currently finishing five more songs, and the full length CD should be done by the end of this month. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them many times and getting the opportunity to sit in was certainly a personal highlight. His next goals are to finish recording his next CD and to play more original gigs.
In a career filled with highlights, some of the things he remembers the most are his first nights in hotels on the road, hearing his song on the radio for the first time, picking up his first stack of printed CD’s, reading his name in the “Who’s Who of Detroit Blues” catalog, playing on Beale Street in Memphis… He notes getting to meet Al Green and Buddy Guy here in Charleston (he actually drove them each around town). He affectionately remembers many of the places that he’s played, special events and “every person I’ve met because of music”. Performing the National Anthem two days after 9/11 was an occasion that had a profound effect on him and he’ll always remember.
While speaking like a truly ‘experienced’ musician, some of his best memories are the ones he can’t even remember (or can’t elaborate). A few that do come to mind are: performing at the Magic Bag in Detroit, being chased by hotel security in Atlanta (this story is best saved for his autobiography), falling off of the stage at the Military Street Music Café (another story for another time) and trying to ring Eminem’s doorbell in the middle of the night… he and his band mates stopped their van at Eminem’s driveway on the way back from a gig and as Dan started to get out, two huge security guards bolted out of the house… Fun on the road!
2010 saw Dan win the Southeast Region, King of the Blues Competition and, along with The New Beat, he won the opportunity to represent the State of South Carolina in the International Blues Challenge for the second consecutive year. The notable list of bands that Dan has performed with includes: Coyote Bone, Gordon Bennett, Quiana Parler and Friends, Soul Captive, Hot Shotgun, the Terraplanes, and the Martindales. Of course, currently, you can catch him with Dan Wright and The New Beat, as well as with The Tim Hodson Band, and the Holy City Hooligans with Ben Fagan.
This week is busy for Dan. Thursday, 17th he will be at O’Malley’s downtown with Holy City Hooligans. On Friday, he is at Montreux in Summerville with The Tim Hodson Band. Saturday Night he will be at Southend Brewery, performing in an acoustic trio with Tim Hodson and Will Moore and on Sunday, he has an early solo acoustic show at the Mosaic Café, Mt. Pleasant, 7pm. Keep an eye on the City Paper and Facebook for more of his future gigs!
This weekend, you have numerous opportunities to catch other Blues Club members in action. On Friday you can see Captain Kirk play with The Starling Band at Smokey’s Place, Plane Jane at the North Charleston Wild Wing Café, Sarah Cole & The Hawkes at Wolf Track Inn or JR Getches with the Louie D Project at The Charleston Beer Works. Louie D will also be at Johnson’s Pub Saturday night. The Folly Beach Sea & Sand Festival is Saturday with numerous acts to choose from including Sarah Cole and the Hawkes, Mac Leaphart and Gaslight Street (pick up the new CD “Idle Speed”). Also on Saturday night, you won’t want to miss Rev. Dr. Johnny Mac and the Booty Ranch at Jimbo’s Rock Lounge, or Highway 17 at The Bottom Bar & Grill in Bonneau. Myself? I’ll be playing with the Jonathan Robinson Trio Saturday in Mount Pleasant at The Westbrook Brewing Company St. Patrick’s Day Celebration starting at 12 noon.
Come out each and every Wednesday to the jam at Home Team BBQ/ West Ashley, 8pm, y'all!
March birthdays are Son House, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Eric Clapton.
Join us on facebook and twitter, and check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at http://www.reverbnation.com/lowcountrybluesclub
It's time to pay your dues for 2011 if you haven't already done so. Just come out to a jam, and give us $10 for an individual, $25 for a band or family, or $100 for a corporate membership. Or you can mail dues to The Lowcountry Blues Club, P.O. Box 814, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.
LMW, March 17, 2011