(On this rainy Wednesday, I decided to reprint a story I had posted about a couple years ago on Facebook. Myself and several Willie Phoenix fans who were there at the start attended the show and had a great time. It’s also a little bit of an original Parkersburg rock and roll history lesson over the past 30 years. Enjoy!)
It was almost 28 years ago when I first saw Willie Phoenix perform live…way back in the “Shadowlords” days. The venue was the old Sly Fox…and I mean…OLD…Sly Fox. The year was 1983 and the late Fred Starkey was having a few small music shows in the bar, with performers tucked in the corner of the room. I recall Mike Morningstar, Liz Pennock and some other long forgotten performers (sorry…we had too much fun sometimes), playing some great solo gigs. The small shows were pretty well recieved and Fred decided to open a music room in a vacant building next door to the bar (up Market St).( Unfortunately the venue burned down in fall of 1984, and the bar moved into the building on the corner of 13th and Market Street until another untimely fire occured in spring of 2009.)
But when the music room opened, that’s when things really started rocking! At the time, there weren’t a lot of venues committed to having live music (yes…just like today!), but Fred was committed to havin a good time, and the Sly Fox shows were definitely a good time! A few blocks up the street, Dan Kucera and Brad Upchurch were running Current Records and Tapes, plus Brad was singing in a band called The Waves. The Waves were comprised of Brad on vocals, Kevin McGinnis and Bob Hall on guitar, Jeff Kidwiler on bass, and Stew Shaw on drums. They played 3 to 4 minute little blasts of refreshing, original rock n’ roll, dare I say with a lil’ prog punk influence. Current Records became the impromtu stomping ground for live music info in the area, and many area musicians could be found buying a LP(they were made out of vinyl, and played on a turn….table…) “on sale” for $4.99, and bullshitting about local shows and concerts.
Parkersburg was beginning to grow a nice little “underground” music scene. Several area bands were beginning to spring up and make a statement. The aforementioned Waves, The Planetonics, The Larries, Smut…and last but not least, Ethiopia. They were tired of being subjected to the worn out musical ideals that plagued the few, available Parkersburg area music venues…”play 4 sets with a 15 minute break”…”play a lot of country music”…”play songs that people know”…”don’t play any of that weird shit”, were some of the favorite phrases used by area bar owners back in those days. Well the bands of Underground Parkersburg, said what the hell, and started doing things their way! The old Sly fox was instrumental in providing a venue for these bands to perform. Thank you Fred!
Willie Phoenix and the Shadowlords were instrumental in helping to bring out huge crowds to those early shows. Just how Willie ended up in Parkersburg is a little hazy, but I believe it was through a former Parkersburg resident, who was active in the Columbus area music scene, and told Brad about this performer he had to see…Willie Phoenix! Next thing you know Willie is in town, fresh off his 1982 national release on A&M Records, but now out backing the independently released Willie Phoenix and the Shadowlords LP “We Love Noise”. (The Waves competently held down opening act duties.) Willie brought the hard blues to Parkerburg…(sure we all knew that Led Zeppelin were some English dudes cranking up old blues riff’s through Marshall stacks, and we loved it)…but here was Willie, with a long family history in the blues music scene, playing it loud and proud, directly from the heart! The energy level was off the charts, and Willie was off the stage and onto the tables…the chairs…the floor…all over the house!(Think of Prince in Purple Rain, but Willie was doin’ it before the movie was ever made…)
Well folks I know it all sounds like ancient history…but you’re in luck…Willie is still jammin! And Saturday night you can see this man lay down the gospel about love, peace, and rock and roll blues at the Marietta Brewing Company! The show starts at 10pm (dinners over it’s time to rock) and there is NO COVER. If you’re feelin’ cold and got the winter blues…this show is exactly the remedy you need!