PM: So what were those gigs like? What were they about?
PB: Well, like one was trio gig in Alexandria, Virginia. I actually did a house gig, where I played bass and guitar and lap steel.
PM: I didn't know you played lap steel? Do you still?
PB: Yeah. And I play dobro. Somewhere in there we skipped over the bluegrass period. Well, no, actually, the bluegrass period might have been--
PM: It's coming up.
PB: --somewhere in there, too, yeah.
PM: Because I want to hit that bluegrass period. That's totally unknown to me.
PB: Well, I played dobro, I guess, in that period. There were bluegrass festivals going on, and there was a bit of an acoustic thing. I always wanted to play in bands, but there were times when if you didn't have everybody, a rhythm section, or what-have-you, you could just write songs on acoustics, and people would try to get something together to play some of these bluegrass festivals in north Florida.
PB: At one of them I saw J. D. Crowe and the New South.
PM: He's so amazing.
PB: And I saw Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.
PB: And it could have been Jerry Douglas--or actually, Mike Aldridge was around.
PM: Oh, a big favorite of mine.
PB: Oh, incredible, man. Well, growing up in north Florida, first of all--and I know I'm kind of jumping around here--
PM: Well, you're a musician.
PB: Yeah. Here are the Allman Brothers. The Allman Brothers were a big thing.
PB: And so was Mud Crutch. I'm actually reading this book that Bill DeMain lent me, Conversations With Tom Petty. And I actually saw that band before they moved to--
PM: What were they called?
PB: They were called Mud Crutch.
PM: Mud Crutch.
PB: [laughs] Yeah.
PM: And was that a pre-Petty Petty or something?
PB: It was. It was Petty and Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell.
PM: Oh, wow.
PB: And it's really kind of interesting, because they came to Lake City, which was like right smack in the middle of Jacksonville and Tallahassee. And that's kind of where--and then the Allman Brothers hit, too. And playing slide is just in your DNA, you grow up hearing Duane Allman--
PM: Yeah, you've got to play slide. Yeah, it's not a Blind Lemon Jefferson thing, it's a Duane Allman thing.
PB: Well, yeah. I mean, it just kind of came pretty naturally. But a lot of slide influences were also like Johnny Winter, Ron Wood with The Faces.
PB: And then later, Lowell George.
PB: So playing the dobro, also, just kind of seemed natural. But I didn't want to try to tackle the banjo rolls. It's like crazy.
PM: So were you ever a flatpicker in the bluegrass tradition?
PB: A little bit. I'm kind of an okay flatpicker.
PB: But the whole thing with the bluegrass thing, I mean, I never really like totally dedicated my life to it like all these guys.
PM: Which is what it requires, yeah.
PB: Around here. I mean, I could always play it and stuff, but it was always like just approaching things acoustically.
PB: Because there was still the Beatles and Stones records that were largely acoustic, like Beggars Banquet or Rubber Soul.
PM: Right. I mean, the famous rock trivia question: How many electric guitar tracks are there on "Street Fightin' Man?"
PB: How many Phillips tape recorders are there?
PM: [laughs] None.
PB: Exactly. Plugged into a Phillips cassette and sort of mike the speaker.
PB: But so all that was just kind of a big melting pot. And the bluegrass period kind of came and went. And then we moved to Tallahassee and had a band that was a bit trying maybe to be a little on the fusion-y side, because it was the late-'70s or whatever, and I really liked Crusaders and Steely Dan and--
PM: Chick Corea.
PB: I never went that deep. I dug Weather Report.
PM: But Steely Dan was just a major thing.
PB: And that was a thing, and the Crusaders, and actually trying to emulate that style a bit.
PB: So I went and did a gig in D.C. or New York. I can't remember which one. And I met some guys who actually lived in south Georgia. And they were called Homeward Angel. And they impressed me because they were trying to write their own songs.
PM: And that was the first you'd run into that?
PB: Yeah. There was a guy in Tallahassee--I was hanging out in Tallahassee just playing gigs and kind of--you get to a point where you've topped out and you've got about as far as you can. And it just wasn't really going anywhere with the band I was playing in. And you were always trying to be a band guy and be fiercely dedicated and devoted. And it was kind of like the first time that that went, oh, well, I guess I could get further if I just went and plugged myself into something.
PB: So I went and did this gig with the trio with this great singer/songwriter piano player named Velma Frye. Robbie Macgruder, the drummer who later played with Mary Chapin Carpenter was the drummer. It's really wild, because if you stay in the music business long enough, it seems like--
PM: You meet everybody.
PB: --and you meet everybody again.
PB: And I've kind met several people who were around that scene, that D.C./Virginia/Maryland scene.
PM: Yeah, they pop up again.
PB: So anyway, I met these cats. And I think after that I went to New York, actually. I drove from D.C. to New York City--first time. I remember going over the bridge and seeing it.
PM: It's a milestone.
PB: It was like, wow! And I met some cats up there, and went and did a gig there for a blink of an eye.
PM: In the City itself?
PB: Yeah. Actually, in the City, there was a bunch of cats that were actually trying to put something together, and it never really supported me enough. I did a few demos and a few jingles there. And then I took this gig in the Catskills, which is basically like Camp Grenada.
PB: And these cats from south Georgia called and said that their guitar player had quit. And I had met them. Well, I know I'm kind of like not telling this in very good chronological order. But anyway, these cats called, so I just drove all night, all the way back down to south Georgia from like the Catskills.
PM: Because they had a gig for you, and it was an original gig.
PB: Yeah, it was an original gig, and they were trying to write their own stuff. And it was like, hmm--I figured out that well, I can... And I think this was like a God-awful disco gig that I took just because I needed to--
PM: The one in New York or the one in Georgia?
PB: The one in New York. And I think I might have even quit--or I refused to play "I Love the Nightlife."
PM: Now it seems like a pretty cool song, but at the time it seemed horrible.
PB: Yeah, yeah.
PM: But if you hear it now, it's like, yeah! "I Like the Night Life." [laughs]
PB: Well, a lot of those songs were still made by humans, and they groove.
PB: I played with Guilty Pleasures not too long ago and played "Bad Girls," or something.
PM: And it was fun.
PB: Oh, it was great. I mean, a lot of really great musicians on that track.
PB: But anyway, so that was nowhere. That was just kind of a paycheck. So then I landed back in south Georgia--in Valdosta, to be exact, which was an hour and a half away from Tallahassee, my hometown--and kind of played that circuit with these guys, and actually wrote songs, and played a few Top 40 songs to survive. But there you are back in that terrible kind of--everybody would like dance on our breaks to the disco--
PM: Oh, my.
PB: --because everybody bought a disco system. And we would try to play our originals. And it was... [laughs] It was kind of weird. So in that band anyway--it was Homeward Angel. That band morphed--moved to Atlanta, broke up and moved to Atlanta and became a band called Results. And then that band--we gigged, and we actually got together with a really good singer/writer named Terry Simpson. And he and I wrote all the songs.
PB: And that was a milestone. That was the first time I felt like the songs were good enough.
PM: Right, that you were becoming a tunesmith, yeah.
PB: And just kind of like getting it figured out a little bit. But playing clubs all the time--original clubs, not making any money. Did demos with Eddie Offert and Ed Seay, and Rodney Mills of 38 Special and Lynyrd Skynryd fame, and of Paul Davis, Bang Records fame.
PB: And just kind of the frustration of several years of that, and almost getting it, but never getting it, just kind of made me buckle under and went, okay, if I can't do this--if I can't get a record deal with my own band, I'll go get a gig with a band that does have a record deal.