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By Darrell Ray Elmore
It all happened at the Cherokee Club, that nosedive bar over on Bardstown Road. People, smoke, sweat, smoke, bourbon and water, vodka straight up, hundreds of people, all talking at once. I make the bar and get lit, it burns good and I'm focused. Up, walking fast through the crowd. Hit the back room. Noise. Big noise. More smoke, a hazy cloud intertwined among the starkly lit people up in front by the stage.
It's the blues. Plugged directly into rock.
Bodeco. I've been scoffed at for comparing them to the Rolling Stones, but only by people who tie their shoes the right way. There is the definite attitude and it comes from Ricky.
The groove is coming and it's gonna be hot. I stumble out through the double doors toward the front, sweat rolling down my back. Up and out, through the front door, gasping at the Ohio Valley humidity. Sean Garrison, Kinghorse frontman, is working the door. I ask him, "Why is Bodeco so popular?" He looks at me with that intense "I really mean it" glare of his and says "I'm not a woman, so don't ask me."
Women. Right. They go bugfreak crazy for Ricky Feather. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "He's like a sexgod."
I push my way back in, through the piles of people wanting to get inside. Sean keeps telling 'em that the room's at capacity. and they're just gonna have to wait until more people leave. I slide right by, to the general annoyance of the assembled mob.
Weirdness tonight. Behind the bar is a skinny, glassy-eyed blondegirl in a bikini serving drinks. She seems completely at ease, baring her skin to the public. I have to wonder what kind of bar she worked in before this one. Given the nudie-bar philosophy lurking quietly behind the sedrenched music of Bodeco, the bikini-girl fits right in.
A quick survey of the bar makes Sean's earlier comment echo through my brain. There are a lot of women here. Bimbos. Two-listed, cutthroat executive types in power skirts. Nice-nice east end girls wearing the latest fashions front Lazarus. They come for Bodeco. They come for Ricky Feather.
The raw, pulsing, unadulterated, pounding, unrelenting, gosh-almighty power of – dare I say it? – the most popular local all-original band. Pure. freaking bacchanalia, a black mass of sorts, almost a crime of passion but without violence. And it's legal.
Somewhere, a long time ago, I read that rock 'n' roll is all about sex. Watching Bodeco play, it's easy to see the parallels. Ricky tells the he likes his music simple; it's just three chords, see, and you play 'em like this. "The main thing is to be able to spring off of that one riff." Three chords is pretty simple, but if you think about it, so is sex. At least the physical act. Repetition can be boring and sex is definitely a repetition. but when you hit the right groove, it feels soooo good.
Bodeco does it like that. Ricky Feather's "simple" music is more accessible than most of the popular local acts and it is impossible to stand and listen to these boys grind out those three-chord songs without feeling the groove overtake you, forcing you to move. People like to dance and Bodeco is eminently danceable.
Ricky's singing is a perfect rock 'n' roll growl, a scream more akin to a bass-and-drum mating call than anything Nat King Cole ever thought about. which is okay.
Back in the bar...rumors and gossip swirl amidst the wimpy pick-up lines and general bar lies. Overheard conversations reveal a truth that cannot stand the light of day. but dwells and thrives among the denizens of the nighttime world: "Wink (O'Bannon's) out of the band, can you believe it?" "I heard he was losing it...", "I heard he quit..." "Dave Rapp (of Common Law Cabin) seems to be picking up the slack..."
Indeed. Watching Dave play backup to Ricky's guitar with a cigarette dangling between his chording fingers only makes the apparent truth all too obvious. Ricky does the primary git playing now and seems to be quite comfortable doing it.
Flash forward two weeks. Sitting in Guitar Emporium, in the back, Guitar Doctor Jeff DeMarco's shop where thousands of axes come to get fixed, I'm talking to Jimmy Brown, Emporium owner and Bodeco bassist Twenty-five years ago, Jimmy's grandfather took him to the Greyhound Bus Station and put him on a big chrome-and-steel Fleetliner bound for Pikeville, Kentucky... to buy a guitar. He's been buying 'em – and selling 'em – ever since.
Jimmy's had a long, musically entwined career. At 40, he's been in the guitar business roughly 20 years. In fact, this year is Guitar Emporium's 20th anniversary. Jimmy claims he came into this business through the back door. Bill Hawkins (Predator Screaming John's father) set up shop with him 20 years ago, but problems forced Jimmy to buy Bill out. Years later Bill returns, and Jimmy is more than happy to provide him with steady employment. The Emporium is different than most music shops. No feeling of pawn shop mentality or Target superstore retail hell...this place is real. No twenty-something wannabe guitar gods posing for the masses and making you feel wholly inadequate as they rip through a riff on a $29 rental special. The Emporium is a professional-level place; their motto says it all: "Guitars For Stars and Regular Folks Too."
G. E. Smith, frontboy and guitar wizard on Saturday Night Live, does most of his shopping here, as well as a whole slew of rock-and-roll celebrities. This is the shop big-time touring bands stop in when they zip through the Louisville area on their way to bigger and better venues out west. The walls are lined with custom axes, banjos, violins, Dobros, as well as autographed pictures of stars like George Thorogood and Keith Richards.
Jimmy was helping Jeff DeMarco fix up guitars for bands like Uriah Heep back in 1970, while still in high school, for extra spending money. He notes with irony that we are conducting this interview in Jeff's shop, years later. Mr. Brown claims he's a direct product of the '60s; he indulged like everybody else, but "came out through the other side clean and sober". and, with monumental strides that would make a lesser man weep, has built a tiny guitar store into a legend among the professionals who ply their trade with tiny plastic triangles and steel strings.
In the beginning, the guitar shop was "what I planned on doing until I got a real job," but 13 years of U of L and a bachelor's degree in business taught him that "I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing."
Jimmy's played bass with lots of bands –20 or so at last guesstimate – and says he learned a lot from guys like Ricky Mason and Dickie Durlauf, especially how to play in an ensemble and listen to what the other guys are laying down. In the mid-1980s he was approached by Ricky Feather and Brian Burkett to play on some recordings. Somewhere in there Bodeco was born.
In the beginning, Ricky was more of a novice guitar player, but one with definite ideas. and Wink O'Bannon played primary git. As the years wore on (and the constant break-ups and reorganizations took place), Ricky's playing began to approach a level of competency that was on a par with Wink. Everyone has a theory, but the reasons remain muddled up in the stress of personalities and the passion of the creative process and only one fact is readily apparent: Wink quit the band after the recording of the second album (Callin' All Dogs) and now Common Law Cabin guitarist Dave Rapp plays secondary guitar.
Common Law Cabin isn't so happy now that their best boy guitarist is twanging his thang for the Bodeco boys. But that's real hush, hush. on the QT...Just don't forget you heard it here first, hepcats. But if you're gonna repeat it, keep it to a whisper...
Back in the bar, Ricky's pulling out all the stops. He himself admits the show is about "drinking a little beer and doing a little bloodletting," and I'm convinced he's right. Why else would women throw their panties up on stage and act the fool for Ricky's attentions?
'Cuz he's sincere in wanting to provide the best original music available and somehow that comes. across. Bodeco's second record is on the street and several things become apparent when a little comparison listening is done: This CD has a much better recording quality to the sound and personally, just between you and me, I think the quality of the music has increased as well. The band sounds tighter, more laid back, confident and a heckuva lot better than they did three years ago on the Bone, Hair And Hide record.
Ricky claims the result is a direct reﬂection of being able to work at the Ardent Recording studio in Memphis, Tenn., a new hotspot on the recording trail now being utilized by such luminaries as Reverend Horton Heat, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Royal Trux. The studio was originally Chips Moman's spot for mixing such acts as Percy Sledge and Neil Diamond and has lately become a stopping-off place for pre-stardom acts who are as concerned with their sound as they are with their image.
Already the new CD has attracted Hollywood attention and two tracks have been selected for use in a new James Coburn/Eric Stoltz project due this fall. As Jimmy Brown puts it, "Maybe this will put us on the map and that would be okay, but then again, maybe it won't and that would be okay, too."
Onstage, Ricky drinks another beer and the band launches into another bar-band shaker. The crowd sucks it up like free champagne and Ricky pushes the lyrics through the microphone. Brian beats the skins with the all-important rhythmic beat, Jimmy slaps the heck out of his stand-up bass and Gary Stillwell does it up on organ.
Dave Rapp leers knowingly at the crowd, as if to say "Yeah baby, I'm here…
Bodeco recently kicked off a whirlwind tour of the southern United States, including dates in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and sunny Florida. They will be appearing locally on July 22 at the Butchertown Pub and at the Waterside Festival on Sunday, July 2, Yowzah!