Slim Hadley from The Punkin Holler Boys shot me an email about a Melody Inn show this Friday (Sept. 14) featuring a reunion of the Honky Tonk Prowlers (and a recreation of the Big Ol' Cadillac album) plus the country rock of 19Clark25 and the Fabulous SlimTones.
So I found Slim, and we talked about the old band, what’s ahead for what he calls “real country music” and the inspiration for getting the bands together for one night of twangin’ and rowdy country music.
For a brief history lesson, we recall the Prowlers featured the singing and writing of Punkin Holler's Ralph Ed Jeffers, and were an Americana/Roots/country and hillbilly punk-leaning band. The leader of the band, Jeffers, ahd a chance to work with another Indy legend, Frank Dean, on the Cadillac album.
“We took inspiration from Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and Dwight Yoakum”, Hadley says.
“This will be an evening of music akin to the above-mentioned as we will perform the complete Big Ol' Cadillac album live for the first time in 20 years, as recorded by Ralph Ed Jeffers all those years ago.”
NUVO: What’s the story of the Big Ol' Cadillac album?
Slim Hadley: Ralph and (local singer/songwriter) Frank Dean had been wanting to work together. Frank had access to Monday Morning Studios and they took Ralph's songs and a couple from Frank and created a narrative of an aspiring country singer going through the process of trying to make it big.
It could've been from 1962 or 1992 or 2012. It’s a timeless story of passion for one's craft and the trials of getting to where one can do it. Or not getting there.
NUVO: How did you get the band back together? What was the cause for the break up at the time?
SH: HTP ended back in September of '92. This was the time of Marty Stuart, GarthTone and Dwight Yoakum. Ralph, being a living repository of country music, had a chance to work with Frank Dean on an album to try andcrack into Nashville.
We got back together out of an interest in bringing back real country music to Indianapolis, along the lines of Stockwell Road & 19Clark25, who'll be doing a kickin' country set after HTP. The guys of 19Clark25 has been a big inspiration in bringing HTP back together.
NUVO: Has the sound of the music changed?
SH: Country was slick back then as now. That's about the time Nashville got hip to de-twangin' Country to appeal to the widest audience. We twanged too much for theem back then. Americana/Roots music as a subgenre was in its infancy back in our days. We fit nicely in there nowadays.
NUVO: What are five songs from your setlist that you love?
SH: They're all great so I'll pick 2! "The Fall" is (the) favorite song we're doing. Ralph damn near wrote the perfect country song with that one. A song of leaving with that stern "I'm a man" stoicism to it, yet underneath you can hear the pain caused by the death of love in the lyrics.
"Cryin' Drinkin' & Drivin" is right out of Marty Robbins' country-rock and roll phase with some Johnny Horton thrown in. Song about drownin' your sorrows at the local honky tonk (or club these days). A perfect blend of Country twang and rock and roll drive!
NUVO: Online offerings?
SH: We haven’t got a website yet but we will be giving away cassettes of the album to each person who comes in the door. And you can check punkinhollerboys.com or find Craig Small on Facebook for now.
NUVO: How are the Punkin Holler Boys?
SH: Punkin Holler Boys have been at it since '98. We're a quintet now with the addition of Stuart Poe on dobro in 2008 and Old Truck Revival duo John Bowyer (mandolin/guitar) & JunkBox Mike Calvert (upright bass) this year 2012. PHB for Ralph and me is what we'll do until we just can't anymore. We've worked together for 25 years and have that intuitive feel where we know what each other are likely to do and can respond musically to compliment it.
Ralph does singer/songwriter shows and hosts an Open Stage at The Ole Pub in Plainfield. I've got The Fabulous SlimTones RocknRoll Trio out doing straight-up rock and roll.
NUVO: What is next for the Honky TonkProwlers?
SH: I have no idea if we'll continue, but it's too much fun not to. I imagine we'll just play it by ear. Music for us is about entertaining people. If we're having fun, it shows and then the audience has fun, too. Nothing better than someone coming up after a show & saying "I dont really like that kind of music, but you guys were great! I'll be back!" And, we're fortunate — they do.
The Cousin Bros (HillbillyHappyHour) - 7:30-9:30
The Honky Tonk Prowlers 20th Anniversary Reunion - 10:00-11:00pm
19Clark25 - 11:00-12:00
The Fabulous SlimTones - midnight - close
HonkyTonk Prowlers personnel
Ralph Ed Jeffers: Vocals, Electric Guitar, Songs
Craig Small (Slim): Electric Lead Guitar, Fiddle, Harmony
Greg Lewis: Harmony, Bass, Harmonica
Stuart Poe: Lap Steel Guitar, Dobro
Jeff Lewis: Drums