Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Comments About Bring Named Fine Arts Photog Of The Year By Creative Loafing Charlotte

First, let me say thank you, many times over, that voted for me as CL’s Fine Arts Photographer Of The Year. This is humbling, and surprising. On so many levels.

If you would like to see more of my work, feel free to check out, or this blog. You can find much of my work with musicians via a Google search, or at my new show at the Charlotte Museum Of History, which is now open until the end of the year. You can also find my work on the website of a number of my clients, ranging from the Charlotte Observer, to UNC-Charlotte, and a number of non-profits that I also work with.

I also suggest that you seek out a number of the great photographers that work throughout Charlotte. Start with the Light Factory, and discover the great work that exists around us. Fine Arts? Commercial? Event photography? We’re all photographers, first and foremost, and their work also deserves your attention. The ultimate goal is to create, and create again, whatever genre one’s work falls into. And that is what I hope to keep doing, as I know that my fellow photographers, artists, writers and musicians will do, as well.

Again, thank you, and I’ll see you all soon. Safe travels.
October 1, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Farewell, RockPaperPhoto

Hello All-

As of today, I'm ending my association with RockPaperPhoto. I wish them all the best.

I will begin selling prints of my music photography on my site,, within the next few days. I'll post a note when that section of that site is ready. Thanks very much,
September 28, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Professor Louie & The Crowmatix photos, Charlotte, NC, September 25, 2015

Professor Louie & The Crowmatix
Double Door Inn
Charlotte, NC
September 25, 2015
all photos copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pink Moon

Moon in a sunset sky.
Charlotte, NC
September 23, 2015
photo copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

Friday, September 25, 2015

September 26th in Waynesville, NC, Mast General Store

Hello All-

I'll be back on the Mast General Store tour on Saturday, September 26th, when I'll be signing copies of my North Carolina Musicians book at the Mast in Waynesville, NC. Come by and say hello, and wish me well before I come back to Charlotte for the Festival In The Park.
See you on the road,
September 25, 2015

Bio For New Venables Record, Which I Also Did The Photos For

Sooner or later, it’s what you create that speaks to others about you. What you once were thinking, what you were feeling, and the work that that you believe behind for others to explore, and hopefully enjoy. 

When Matt Brown passed away in the spring of 2012, he left behind a lot of people that loved him. A wife, two daughters, and numerous friends and fans. Matt had been the go-to drummer for many musicians in the Triangle area of North Carolina for some time. Some bands, he played with occasionally. Others, he played with for years, and had long friendships with those bandmates. Foremost on that latter list was the Venables, who Brown had collaborated with for 15 years. At the core of the Venables was Brown, and singer, guitarist and songwriter Phil Venable. 

"In some ways, Matt was my muse”, says Venable today. "He was the guy I wrote for, to some extent. I had total trust that no matter how much of a dog the song was, Matt would listen to it and give me honest feedback.  All the songs I wrote between 1997 and 2011 were written with Matt in mind."

After the Venables released their debut album in 2005, Should Woulda Coulda, various distractions kept the Venables from releasing another album for some time. By the summer of 2010, with the Venables touring with the legendary Grant Hart, of Husker Du fame, the Venables put together various songs in progress at the time, and released it as Grab Bag. 

"As the title suggests, Grab Bag was just a collection of songs I had hanging around,” says Venable. "It was really the beginning of the best era of The Venables, for me.  The band brain trust had expanded to include Mike Nicholson, who was kind of our consigliere. He is a ferocious advocate for bands and musicians he likes.  We had tracked Grab Bag as a bit of a stop gap before Finish Line.  We had no real expectations of the record, but we made sure to finish it prior to going on the road with Grant Hart, so there was something new out there for folks to hear.”

After the band finished touring with Hart, the Venables returned to the studio with renewed energy, and a new batch of songs. "My songwriting had definitely grown between Grab Bag and Finish Line”, adds Venable. "I hate to use the word sophisticated, by my writing craft had gotten better and I was more interesting in the musical composition of the song than I had before. While the songs themselves may not be dissimilar from earlier work, I believe Finish Line is more expansive and articulate."

The recording for Finish Line began in the fall of 2011 at Vista Point Studios, in Pittsboro, NC. "We tracked Matt and I together live in the room because I prefer to get a band feel for the basic tracks”,  says Venable.  "The only songs that weren’t were Drugs, and Down The Hallway, which was my acoustic and a click track so we could Matt could experiment with some percussion ideas.  After that, we added everything else as we felt the song demanded."

Along with the band’s noisy guitar hooks, and ragged pop-rock energy, a more reflective lyrical focus also emerged. "Lyrically speaking, I’m not entirely certain that there’s an overarching theme”, says Venable. "If there is, I would suggest that it’s about individual evolution and how at some point, in everyone’s life, a person has to make choices that they deem best for themselves rather than what is best for others. Although, those choices do not come without consequence." 

“I'm So Sick” (I’m Happy Again) kicks off the album, with guitars and choruses buzzing in equal measure. From there, the album stays in high gear for songs like “I Was Ashamed” and “Now You Know How It Feels". “Drugs”, "Stuck Here In Your World" and "Down The Hallway" also to add a touch of hazy country, like a slow comedown of life’s highs and lows, The album closes with “Summer’s End”, and “Bomb”, two of the best songs that the Venables ever committed to tape. 

After Brown’s sudden passing in 2012, Phil Venable and Mike Nicholson were left with a lot of questions, and the recordings that would become Finish Line. It would take them until 2015 to be ready to release the album. From start to finish, Finish Line is more than the best record in the catalog of the Venables. It is a tribute to Matt Brown, and the songs that Venable created with him. 

“It’s difficult to talk about Matt even now,” adds Venable.  I guess I would say he was a fantastic drummer, but I think he was a better friend, father and husband. The Venables wouldn’t have been a band without Matt.  He was a keen arranger of the songs as well as recognizing the potential in my songs.  None of the songs would have sounded as good as they do without him.

Sooner or later, it’s what you create that speaks to others. Finish Line is the work of a group of friends playing together in a room, and a sound that is finally ready to be heard. 

Long live the Venables.
-Daniel Coston

The Venables- 

Phil Venable, vocals, guitars

Matt Brown- drums

additional musicians-
Mike Nicholson – keyboards, bass guitars, engineering and production
Sonar Strange – background vocals
Nathan Golub – Pedal Steel

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some Recent B&W Film Pics of Martin Stephenson And Friends

Martin Stephenson
Helen McCookerybook
and the two Jims
Hiltons, VA
and near Concord, NC
Ilford B&W HP5 400 speed film
All photos copyright 2015 Daniel Coston


CLT Museum Of History Show Is Ready To Go

Hello All-

Sorry for the recent silence. I'd honestly forgotten how much work putting together a show is. Picking out pics, printing, framing. It's (finally) almost ready. More soon. Stay tuned.
September 24, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Clouds Of Heaven Story, From Recent Charlotte Post Article

by Daniel Coston

Stanley Perry shakes his head as he thinks about the early days of the Clouds Of Heaven, the flagship Shout Band for the Charlotte, NC mother church of the United House Of Prayer For All People. "We’d didn’t sleep in the hotel.“ Perry recalls. "We’ll sleep in the car. We’d go to a restaurant bathroom to freshen up.”

The Clouds Of Heaven recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, and will play at the church again on September 15th for the annual Gospelshout event. The group has seen its share of changes, and has seen its membership pass from one generation to another. All of this for a group that grew out of the church’s need for more music.

"The order came directly from Bishop Daddy McCullough to start another band,” says Cedric Mangum, who joined the group in 1969, and would later take over leadership of  the Clouds Of Heaven in 1976. "There was already another band, the McCullough Tigers, but the had word come down that the Mother Church was too big for just one band. So he gave permission to start this band, which was originally called the Number 2 Shout Band."

Johnnie E. Phifer began putting the group together with fellow church members in early 1965. "I was 13 when I joined the band,” says Perry, who is now the last original bandmember still playing with the group. “He went to my mother and asked if I could start playing in the band. I played bass drum from 1965 until 1991, and I’ve played the snare drum ever since."

In those early days, the group would rehearse anywhere in the church that they could. "We’d rehearse anywhere we could in the church,” says Cangum. "If it wasn’t in here, we’d be in the restroom, we’d be in the staircase. Just trying to find a spot to rehearse. Johnnie E. Phifer really put the emphasis on practice. He’d say, 'Perfect practice make a perfect performance'."

Putting bandmembers together for performanaces also was occasionally challenging. "We would find people and just go, 'I know where so-and-so is. Let’s go find him’”, adds Perry. "And we’d pick him up, and go and play.”

"They used to tell us to shut up”, adds Mangum. "Now, they tell us to set up. “When are you gonna play?”

"It was always fun and exciting, says Carolyn Phifer, widow of band founder Johnnie E. Phifer, about the group. "If you’re in the House Of Prayer, it’s always fun and exciting. You don’t ever get tired of anything."

Cedric Mangum was 13 years old when he joined the group in 1969. "I played bass horn. I’d be in bed, playing the horn. When I’d wake up, the horn would still be around me in bed. [Johnnie Phifer’s] teaching taught me to help somebody else. To strive and make them a man, too.”

Eventually, Mangum gradutated to playing the trombone, and played a key part in the band’s breakthrough performance. "We were blessed to part of the fourth of July festival festivities up there,” he remembers. "We played 'My Soul Say Yes'. Daddy McCullough really loved that song. He was walking back and forth on the platform, telling us tp play. He would tell me to "moan it". Back then, I used to put my hand into the bell, to make that moaning sound. It was a beautiful and spiritual time.” McCullough would later come to Charlotte for the band’s Silver Anniversary show in 1990, and re-named the group the Clouds Of Heaven in 1991. 

Mangum took over the leadersip of the group from Johnnie E. Phifer, who suffered from a brain tumor in his later years. “He went blind due to the brain tumor,” recalls Mangum. “We’d set him up on the bandstand, and he’d sit there and tell me what to play.” Cedric still occasionally leads the group to this day, while Felton Weathers leads the band on a regular basis.

"Without Johnnie Pfiffer, we wouldn’t be be where we are now, says Perry. "We’re a national band, now."

With the group now 50 years old, the group continues to look its newest members, and future bandleaders. "The children that are coming up, they see what the others are doing, and they want to be a part of it, says Carolyn Phifer. "If you come in here, you’re not out in the street. We’ll take care of you. You’ve got to keep them busy. If you come in here, we’ll have a job for you. If you’re busy in here, you won’t be making trouble out there. We’re here, seven nights a week. We never close."

"The kids coming in now, they’re the ones that are going to keep this thing going,” adds Perry. "The little kids coming in playing the bass drum. It’ll be a continuation."

September 16, 2015

All Of Tangents Magazine's 20th Anniversary Issue Now Online

Hello All-

All of the text of Tangents Magazine's 20th anniversary issue is now online at As well as a few articles from me, you'll find new pieces from my old friend J. F. Keaton, as well as many of the magazine's original staff. It has a joy to release this new issue, and my thanks to all of you that have followed Tangents' original run, and our return. Cheers,
September 16, 2015

Gospelshout 2015 Photos

United House Of Prayer For All People
September 15, 2015
All photos copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

September 15, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Back in the ’90s: The Charlotte music scene

From September 2015 Issue Of Tangents Magazine

The way that many people viewed the Charlotte music scene was put in motion on September 18th of 1990, when GWAR performed at the 4808 Club. Local police arrested band frontman Dave Brockie and club owner Michael Plumides on obscenity charges. In statements given to the media after the arrests, the arresting officers made themselves and the city look like the prudish, backwards southern city that Charlotte was struggling to emerge from. There was also more to the arrest than just that night’s entertainment. It has since been suggested that the arrest was motivated by another club owner to remove his competition, and for the police to remove another music venue that they saw as a noisy nuisance. This event, along with other factors, kept many new and emerging artists from making stops in Charlotte. Despite this, the local music scene continued to thrive and find outlets as the decade pushed on.

Rock & Roll bands from Charlotte were already known to many as the decade began. Fetchin’ Bones, led by Hope Nicholls, had recorded three albums for Capitol Records before they broke up in 1990. The Spongetones saw their Beatlesque pop distributed by Sony Records in Japan. ANTiSEEN would carry their southern punk message throughout the world during the 1990s. Animal Bag would record two albums for Mercury Records and tour throughout the Southeast. Other bands that emerged from the Charlotte area during the first part of the decade included Thurn & Taxis, Hardsoul Poets, Blind Dates, Neglected Sheep, Kudzu Ganja, and many others.

Music venues in Charlotte kept changing throughout the decade. Local bands played at mainstays like the Double Door Inn and the Milestone Club. Many of the emerging Rock & Roll bands in town played places like the 4808 Club, the Pterodactyl Club, Jeremiah’s, and Amos’ (in its original location). Other smaller venues, such as Fat City, the Moon Room, and Jack Straw’s would also cater to local musicians. Larger venues, such as what was then the new Charlotte Coliseum, the old Coliseum (now known as Bojangles Coliseum), Ovens Auditorium, and Blockbuster Pavilion continued to draw national acts, but rarely featured local acts. There were also no music venues in the downtown area with the exception of Spirit Square. The venue featured touring theater and musical acts, such as Johnny Cash in 1994, and occasionally featured local musicians. The loss of festivals such as Springfest and Charlotte Jazzfest gave way to more regionalized festivals such as Center Cityfest.

During the 1990s, North Carolina’s music scene began to get more national notice. The rise of Chapel Hill’s alternative rock scene, and the emergence of record labels such as Merge Records and Mammoth Records, drew a lot of attention to the Triangle area of the state. By the mid-1990s, a number of Chapel Hill-based bands had songs on the radio. Ben Folds Five, Southern Culture On The Skids, Squirrel Nut Zippers and others showed one could be based out of North Carolina and hit the national charts. With that backdrop, a number of record labels came calling to Charlotte.

Sire Records alone signed three Charlotte bands during this time. This included Sugarsmack, led by former Fetchin’ Bones frontwoman Hope Nicholls, as well as Muscadine, which spawned future solo stars Jonathan Wilson and Benji Hughes. Jolene, which had emerged from Hardsoul Poets, also released one album on Sire, with their single “Pensacola” getting a good amount of national airplay. Also releasing major label albums during this time was Lustre, who formerly known as Shiner. Other groups such as Sound Of Mine, Spite, Come On Thunderchild, Sunny Ledford, Lou Ford, and Laburnum also received nationwide distribution through various record labels. The Charlotte music scene was especially strong during the mid-1990s, with bands such as Doubting Thomas, 2nd Skin (later known as Violet Strange), It Could Be Nothing, My So-Called Band, Peralta, X-Periment, Five Times Down, Poprocket, Major Nelson, Mercury Dime, David Childers, Gideon Smith, Draggin’ Flowers, Ublisch and others vying for listeners eager to hear the next new sound.

Despite the endless stream of bands in the Charlotte area during this time, it took longer for the city to provide the amount of venues necessary to support all of this music. Like many other music scenes, there was not always a lot of crossover with bands, and their various genres. Bands like ANTiSEEN and Spite might attract punk and metal fans to Tabloids, while rock and Americana fans might see their favorite bands at the Double Door Inn. If these bands played the same venues, such at Fat City or Tremont Music Hall, they rarely played together. For multi-genre acts such as X-Periment and Peralta, building up an audience took time. Much like the city itself, Charlotte’s music scene was just beginning to expand its views on where to go, and what was available to them. In time, the venues and audiences began to catch up to that need.

Clubs like the Pterodactyl gave way to venues such as the Baha Club and more underground venues like the Septic Tank. Some venues, like Tabloids, Cafe Dada, the Capri Theater, Atlantic Beer & Ice and others, came and went in a matter of a couple of years. New and larger venues for Rock & Roll music began to emerge, such as Tremont Music Hall when it opened in 1995. The Neighborhood Theater opened in 1997, utilizing a former movie theater that had originally opened in 1945. In another part of town the Visulite Theater, which had originally opened in 1939, opened as a music venue in 1999.

Looking back, the music scene in Charlotte during the 1990s had a lot to offer, and the quality of that music still holds up with any music scene during that time. The 1990s brought a lot of change and eventual growth to Charlotte, and the music reflected those times. With bands such as Hardsoul Poets and Fetchin Bones holding sellout reunion shows in recent years, the proof is there that people were listening to what was being created, and still care about it, all these years on.

-Daniel Coston

Revised David Pasquale Article, For Tangents Magazine 20th Anniversary Edition

I first met David Pasquale in the second or third grade. We met in bus 42, the school bus that handled our respective routes. We both lived a good distance from our schools in Seneca Falls, NY. We had the honor of living the furthest away from town than any other kids. David and I bonded over a wonderment of life, adventure, and what else was out there beyond our rural lives.

David’s family had moved to town a couple of years before. I remember that they lived a number of places before they had found their large old house just off of Route 96. David had started school a year before I did, but one of his previous schools had held him back a year. By the third grade, David and I were both enrolled at Saint Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls.

We were best friends from the start. He was Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer, or at least I thought so. Even then, I was dreaming of a world in, or near the spotlight. I wanted to be a filmmaker, a baseball player, broadcaster, musician. Anything and everything that interested me, I dreamed of it. My house was a mile or two away from David’s, looking directly out over Cayuga Lake. My backyard had been the scene of a massive battle between Indians and the colonial army in 1780. Only two other families around us lived there the entire year, with others coming in for the summer. It was rural, to say the least, but it gave me a lot of time and space to dream. And David and I dreamed big, like children do.

David’s experiences seemed more worldly than mine, even at that young age. He knew dirty jokes (at least to an eight-year-old) that I had never heard before. To this day, I can still recite most of them. David’s house, which he shared with his parents and his older brother Chip, also shared in that alternate view of the world. It was a rustic place, with lots of acreage. There had originally been a wood stove in the kitchen with a pipe that had gone straight through the roof. By the time I started visiting the place, the stove was gone, but the large hole in the room above the kitchen, where David and Chip slept, was still there. To my young mind, that was wild! Between visits to each other’s houses, we shared our feelings about school, our families, and what we someday hoped to do.

For all my dreams of traveling the world, when my dad got a job in North Carolina in the fall of 1983, I really didn’t want to go. I’d had a really good life to that point, and I didn’t want it to change. And I didn’t want to leave friends like David. We promised to stay in touch, and see each other whenever I came back. Truth be told, the first couple of years in Charlotte, NC were pretty hard on me, and I spent a lot of time wishing that I was back by Cayuga Lake. With David, all of my friends, and the life I used to know. Slowly, life carried on.

David and I wrote each other often for a few years. My family and I made a couple of trips back to New York. We swung by my old school, only to discover that school had been closed for that day. That summer, we stopped by David’s house, but the family wasn’t there. Within a year or two, David’s family had moved to North Chili, NY, and we kept writing each other. In 1988, David wrote to say that his family was moving again to another town, yet he wasn’t sure where. I wrote to David, hoping to catch him and get his new address. My letter came back, stamped “moved to unknown place”. I still have that letter, still sealed by the 14-year-old version of myself.

In the following years, I slowly began to realize some version of my youthful dreams. Be on TV? My high school friends did our own shows for local TV. Movies? I worked on a few film sets, before I realized that the individual moments in the camera, such as a still photo, held more emotion than the moving image. The Beatles? Seen two of them, and met and photographed their collaborators, children, and fellow musicians. I even went to Abbey Road, that place featured on an album I first fell in love with when I was four years old. I’ve had my ups and downs, but all in all, I’ve been very lucky, and still yearn to seek out the experiences that David and I first imagined having.

For years, I tried searching for David. Once, I thought I’d found him in a phone directory, but it turned out to be someone else. I kept searching for him, wondering where he was, who he’d become. I named one of my cameras David. Sure, I usually only named my cameras for loved ones that I’d lost, but David just seemed right. And someday, I’d tell him all about it. All of the things that I’d gotten to do, and wishing that he’d been there with me.

In January of 2014, I was doing research for a book, and had gotten pretty good at locating long-lost bandmates for North Carolina groups during the 1960s. I had realized that if I typed in the person’s name and birth year, I had a much better chance to finding that person. One night, I decided to look up David. I immediately found some information. Along with his death certificate.

Soon after, I located his brother Chip, who told me what had happened. In January of 1993, David had just joined the Marines. He had just gotten a motorbike, something that he’d wanted for a long time. He and some fellow cadets went out with their bikes. When another person on a bike in front of David suddenly stopped, David could not stop in time. He crashed into a pole and died on the scene. One of the things that Chip wrote me was, “One of the reasons that I liked about you and David was that you both liked to have fun.” We did have a lot of fun. David loved to have fun. One never knows where the things you love to do can lead you.

Gone. In 1993. Over twenty years ago. The news is very hard to comprehend, even all these years later. Had I known all those years ago, even on some unconscious level? I don’t know. As a kid, you want and hope for the best in yourself, and all your friends. Yes, it might seem naive to think that those dreams were possible, but they were very real to me, and I have carried them with me my entire life. And, now I realize, I also have carried David with me. The hopes, the dreams, the fears, the possibilities. These were things that David and I both created, wishing for our lives to come. And in that respect, David never left me. In some ways, David has been with me all along.

Later this year, I hope to return to New York. I hope to visit David’s grave, and finally say hello, one more time. Chip Pasquale recently sent me his parents’ phone number. The adult in me says, “What do I say after all these years?” The hopeful, excitable child in me says, “Just say hello! Go ahead!” Soon, I will listen to that younger version of me, and do so. Where does this circle lead? I wish I knew. All I can do is continue to hope for the best, and press on. Just like David and I always wanted to do.

Hi David. You have been gone from this place longer than you were here. Yet your memory is still very real to me. Recently, I photographed an event with a number of TV stars from the shows we used to watch. I found myself thinking, “The nine-year-old version of me wouldn’t have believed this.” Yeah, David, we would not have believed it. You’re still the best friend I ever had. I originally thought about writing this in January, on the anniversary of your passing, but I realized that I knew you as you lived. That is what I choose to celebrate today, on what would have been your birthday, July 8th. I still see you in my mind, just as the dreams of children will continue to live on, be they in upstate New York, or anywhere. As long as there still are kids to dream big, and there are adults that still believe in their own childlike dreams.

Happy birthday, David. See you around, again, someday.
-Daniel Coston

July 8, 2015

Chatham County Line Photo, Charlotte, NC, September 12, 2015

Chatham County Line
Neighborhood Theatre
Charlotte, NC
September 12, 2015
Photo copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

September 14, 2015

National Folk Festival Photos, Greensboro, NC, September 13, 2015

National Folk Festival
Greensboro, NC
September 13, 2015
All photos copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

Martin Stephenson And Friends US Tour Photos, September 2015

Martin Stephenson
Helen McCookerybook
and the two Jim's
NC, VA, and other places
September 2015
All photos copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

Festival In The Park, Charlotte, NC, September 26, 2015

This is to let you know that myself and the Mannish Boys will be rocking out the main stage at Festival In The Park on Saturday, September 26th. Watch me play tambourine, jump around and occasionally yell and scream. See you there!
September 14, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bonus Web-Only Article From The New Issue Of Tangents Magazine

Catch A Ride: The Rock & Roll scene in Charlotte during the 1960s
by Daniel Coston
co-author of There Was A Time: Rock & Roll In The 1960s In Charlotte, And North Carolina, by Fort Canoga Press.

“Was there a Rock & Roll scene in Charlotte during that time?’ The question was often asked while I worked on a book on that subject, and to honest, I might’ve once asked that same question, myself. To my delight, I discovered that there was a popular scene in Charlotte during those days, and the fruits of their labors are only recently begun to be appreciated.

Like many other scenes during that time, many of the Rock & Roll bands in Charlotte during the 1960s were still in High School, or even Junior High School. College age was considered “old” by some. Many youngsters heard the records coming out of England, or in the growing Rock scene in America, and quickly acted on this new obsession. They learned how to play their instruments, joined a band (or did both in the reverse order), and found a quick audience in their own classmates at school dances, and Battle Of The Bands competitions. A number of the local High Schools, including South Meck High, claimed more than one Rock & Roll band among their fellow clasmates. It wasn’t until the 1970s that being in a Rock band became a more adult pursuit, be it part-time or full-time. 

Due to the age of many of the group’s fans, many of the Rock & Roll venues in Charlotte were teen clubs. Often, they were in the basement of recreation halls, or churches. The Crested T., The Tin Can, and the Spyder Web were among the most popular teen clubs in town. The Spyder Web was located in the basement of the YMCA on Morehead Street, and did not allow anyone in older than 19 years of age. As many as 500 kids would pack the room on a Saturday night to hear local bands play. The Crested T. and the Tin Can were among a handful of teen cluns that popped up in Church rec halls. Other venues, such as the North 29 Bowling Lanes, also hosted Rock & Roll shows. 

There were some other clubs that catered to an older (i.e. alcohol drinking) crowd. The Purple Penguin, which was located on the corner of Central and Pecan (where CVS is now). Another popular venue was the Box, on South Boulevard. The Cellar (now the Tavern), which still sits on Morehead Street, turned from featuring R&B and beach bands to catering the new Rock sounds by the end of the 1960s. Phantasmagorica, which was on the outskirts of Charlotte, opened near Matthews in 1968. Many of the bands in town still played these venues, despite not being old enough to drink, or legally step foot in the venue. Many venues told the musicians, “Don’t tell anyone your real age,” so they didn’t. 

Not a lot of bands got the chance to record during that time. Recording was expensive, and the parents of many of these groups didn’t think that people would someday be collecting these records for amazing sums of money. In all, eight groups in Charlotte recorded during that decade. The New Mix (which featured future Spongetones drummer Rob Thorne) was the only Charlotte band to record for a major label, releasing their sole album on United Artists Records in 1968. They also recorded a couple of singles under their previous name, the 18th Edition. The Stowaways recorded an album in 1967 for the Winston-Salem based label, Justice Records. That album now goes for $400 to $600 in collector circles. When bands in Charlotte did record, they usually went to Arthur Smith Studios, named for its popular owner. Arthur Smith Studios was among the first large recording studios in the Southeast US to operate outside of Nashville, TN, and attracted everyone from local bands, to James Brown and the Famous Flames.

Perhaps the best-known single to come from Charlotte was “Abba”, which was released by the Paragons in 1966. “Abba” is now revered as a Garage Rock classic, and has been embraced by a new generation of collectors and fans. That single, which the band sold in the halls of their high school, has brought more than $1,800 on Ebay. The Grifs, who were all of 19 when they recorded “Catch A Ride” in 1965, got more attention from the Midwest when their single got airplay in that part of the country. “Catch A Ride”, with its nasty Fuzztone sound, and follow-up single “Keep Dreaming”, are two of the best singles that ever came out of a Charlotte band, period, and listening to these singles on Youtube is highly recommended. Among the other local bands that recorded during the 1960s were the Damascans, and the Good Bad & The Ugly (featuring former Paragons member, and future Spongetone Pat Walters). The Young Ages, who were based out of North Meck High, recorded a two-song demo for Decca Records in 1968, which can now be heard on their website.

It has been a pleasure and a joy to put together this book on the Charlotte scene, as well as the rest of North Carolina. All of these years later, the music that came from North Carolina can be heard on Youtube, in compilations like the Tobacco A Go Go series, or in reissued CD form (such as the Stowaways CD). Go out, and discover this music. It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s cool, just like it was when it was first recorded.

Martin Stephenson & Helen McCookerybook's Recent US Tour

With lots of business going on lately, I haven’t had the chance to write about recent visits from Martin Stephenson, Helen McCookerybook and others. I first met Martin in 2002, as he was visiting North Carolina from his native England to finish work on an album. I ended up contributing photos to that album, the Haint Of The Budded Rose, and have been friends with Martin ever since. 

It had been nine years since Martin and his friend Helen had visited the US, so it was a surprise when Martin emailed me over the summer to ask if I could put together some tour dates for him. We settled on the first week of September, and he recommended contacting some friends. Before too long, we had a tour with three shows lined up, as well as a visit to the Carter Family Fold (where I had taken Martin to in 2004), and a quiet ice cream social with friends. I even recommended a recording session with my friend Chris Garges at Old House Studios. I even provided transportation from the airport when they flew in. 

I have to say that the tour went really well. The goal of the trip from Martin and his friends was to experience the Southern US, and to have a good time. And they succeeded on evey count. And I took lots of photos, along the way. The recording session went especially well, and you can hear some of those recordings now on Martin’s Soundcloud page. I have to admit that I felt a bit of sadness when the band left to head home. It’s that moment that all of the fun, and all of the planning, was now at an end. But for a first time booking a (mini) tour, I couldn’t have asked for better. 

I’ll post some photos soon. Cheers to Martin, Helen and the two Jims that accompanied them on the trip. Roll up, roll up! Let’s do it again sometime soon.
September 14, 2015

New Story I Wrote About The Clouds Of Heaven

Hope to see you all at Gospelshout on Tuesday,
September 13, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Twitter Love For Tangents Magazine

Hello All-

Both CLTure Magazine, and the Retro Charlotte Twitter have both talked up the Tangents Magazine reunion issue in recent days. Where was all this press 20 years ago?

Oh yeah, Twitter wasn't around back then. Never mind.

Check out both Twitter accounts for more Tangents love.
September 12, 2015

Charlotte, NC Skyline, August 2015

photo copyright 2015 Daniel Coston

September 12, 2015