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American Music

KEVIN SMITH - from Rockabilly to Willie

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Kevin Smith the bass player for Willie and Family.

Through a series of unfortunate events, three years later the interview is finally here and ready for you to read!

Billy "The Kid"

Greg Laxton and Billy
In my ongoing quest to locate American Music treasures, I found one today that was almost in my back yard.

I was honored to have lunch today with the Reverend William R. Emerson of Tarpon Springs. The good Reverend served his country in World War 2 and Korea. He is 90 years young and healthier than I am!

Some of you may know him as Billy "The Kid" Emerson. His song WHEN IT RAINS IT REALLY POURS was covered by Elvis Presley. He also wrote the rockabilly standard (MY GAL IS) RED HOT, covered by Robert Gordon and Link Wray, Sam the Sham and dozens of others.

During his musical career this gentleman was in Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm and wrote songs with Willie Dixon and Buddy Guy. His recording career started in 1954 at the legendary Sun Records. He moved on from there and released sides with Vee-Jay and Chess Records. He later started Tarpon Records and released several R&B and soul sides.

He got the calling in the early 1980's and became a preacher - and still does to this day.

I look forward to having lunch with the good Reverend again soon!

RUMBLE - The Indians Who Rocked the World

Those of you that know me, know I am a huge fan of Link Wray. This past Friday, I traveled to Washington DC. I was invited by the fine folks at Rezolution Pictures, the people behind the documentary RUMBLE - THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD.

Friday night, I met with
Stevie Salas and Christina Fon, two of the film's Executive Producers. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but they have an EXCELLENT game plan to tell the story of Link Wray.

Saturday I spent the day visiting some friends and family in Southern Maryland. Of course I took some pictures... Link-related locations were everywhere. Many locations have changed names, changed appearances, but there were a couple that looked like the Ray Men had a gig there last night.

The film crew spent Saturday interviewing some old band members in Virginia. I missed the chance to see Max Navarro, one Ray Man I've yet to meet. Lesson learned.

Sunday was action-packed. I got to the Greenbelt American Legion bright and early, met the film crew and tried not to get on the way. I don't have any evidence (yet) that Link played the American Legion, but it had been there for decades, so he certainly may have. My interview for the film was done in the bar, and it had a period-correct look when The Ray Men were playing the DC "knife and gun" clubs like Vinnie's, Strick's and the 1023.

Greg Laxton, Rezolution Pictures, Rumble film
The film crew was just absolutely amazing. They were half a dozen strong and way beyond cool. I talked growing up in the 70's and early punk rock with the Cinematographer, Lighting and Sound Technicians, and after exchanging emails and phone calls the past few years, it was fantastic to finally meet the Production Assistant, as well as Lisa and Catherine, the Producer and Director of the film.

I was floored at how much these folks knew about Link, his history and his contribution to rock and roll. They are very committed to this project. The entire film is being shot in "4K" which is higher quality than hi-definition. They bought hundreds of pounds of equipment.

I guess I was in the interview chair 45 minutes or so. I shouldn't call it an "interview chair" because Catherine has a style that puts you at ease and makes it feel like a conversation. So I spent about 45 minutes in the "conversation chair."

After that, they broke down the equipment and we all headed to Link's stomping grounds of Accokeek. Catherine drove down with me, and I played her the rarest of the rare Link stuff I had. She was knocked out!

After telling them of Accokeek for the past couple years (they are all Canadians) I was really looking to give them a Southern Maryland experience. After hearing about and researching Accokeek, they were excited to be there too.
We rolled into B&J's Carryout first. B&J's has been opened since 1950 and hasn't changed a bit. Members of Link's Ray Men told me that it was standard operating procedure after a night at Vinnie's or the 1023, the band would head to Ray's to record 'til daybreak, and when breakfast rolled around, it was off to B&J's.

All my new Canadian friends got a taste of Southern Maryland...they ate BBQ with slaw, Southern Maryland style (ie. REAL) crabcakes and I even got a few of them to try a softshell crab. They asked what was in it, I told 'em it was best not to ask, just eat it! (Those from SOMD understand!).

Rumble sound crew
After grub we headed over to the family plot at the cemetery. I was honored when they asked me to do some voiceovers to fit their concept of that portion of the day's filming. If that segment makes the film, I think it will bring a tear to your eye or give you goosebumps.

We headed over to Wray's Shack and (Ray) Vernon Wray's place. It's changed alot over the past several decades. Would you believe me if I told you The Shack is now a full-time residence? Truth is stranger than fiction!

The owner of B&J's mentioned a very scenic country road that lead down to the water nearby. We all took a trip there and Catherine really dug it. I'd lived in Southern Maryland 40 years and I have to say it's one of the prettiest drives I've taken.

Around 7:30 that night we met up with Billy Hancock while the film crew got some shots of that scenic road. Billy's legendary among these parts, playing with Danny (Gatton) and the Fat Boys, as well as releasing a bunch of rockabilly sides on his own.

Billy Hancock
The owner of B&J's was very accommodating. She closed down the restaurant and gave the film crew full run of the place. After it got dark, we cleaned out the front lot. They had Billy strap on his guitar, turn up his amp and Link Wray music was again heard in the streets of Accokeek! After that, Billy told his story of opening for Link and The Shirelles, the prize his group received after winning a "Battle of the Bands," as well as a guitar lesson he, as a 16 year old kid, received from Link.

All good things must come to an end. It was around 11pm, about 12 hours after the day started. It seemed to pass in 10 minutes.

For a look at what Rezolution's past work, check out REEL INJUN on Netflix in the US (and probably elsewhere).
Please understand that RUMBLE - THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD is not an all Link Wray film, Link is one of a half dozen or so artists profiled.

That having been said, it doesn't matter. I've had the privilege of helping Rezolution for the past couple years, and the attention to detail and the concern in getting everything "right" with Link's story, I have no doubt that this will do more good for Link's legacy than anything that's been done.