Sometimes you have shows you go to that are a complete let down and you feel like you wasted your money and time. Last week, I went to the Lucky Tubb show with great excitement and anticipation and when he first walked out with just a two piece band consisting of a middle-aged stand-up bass player and a teenaged-looking guitar player, I started quickly to think this was gonna be a letdown, so pour another whiskey. This all changed as soon as Lucky opened his mouth and started singing and now I know why they call him the Prince of Hard Honky Tonk.
I’m not sure where the genre term “Hard Honky Tonk” came from but the lineage clearly leads back to the man singing at the top of this post, Lucky’s grandfather Ernest Tubb. His vocals are very gruff and he once walked into a recording studio drunk with a .357 magnum to shoot a producer he didn’t like, but he is true blue honky tonk.
Some country music historians credit him with making the honky tonk sound famous with his hit “Walking the Floor over you” in 1941 which I included on my preview. He was on the Grand Ole Opry for decades and continued making public appearances right up until his death in 1984. This all has left an indelible mark on his grandson Lucky and we are all lucky for it.
Lucky Tubb, age 37 or so, gave us his life story on the street while sampling my friend’s medical marijuana last night on a street corner near my hometown. Yes, we got to hang out with him and he signed a very cool poster which is getting framed and put in our practice space, but more on that later. I brought my bandmates to the show because we cover one of his songs and we thought maybe we could convince him to come the next night.
Lucky has played music his whole life mostly, getting good during a five year stint in jail when he was 17 for what he called “about 52 pounds of weed and a bad attitude”. He also had just copped a gun charge in NY while headed to this show but said he’d gotten out of it. He was telling us this while huffing on my band mate’s prescribed weed so try to imagine the surreal aspect of it all. His father was an outlaw biker and he spent much of his life in that world.
When I asked him if his touring van was a three on the tree transmissions, as it looked like it could have been from my redneck mechanical experience, he launched into a story about driving a three on the tree Dodge Dart of his fathers that made a god awful noise whenever in motion. I’m getting ahead of myself so I’ll lean back a mintue.
I learned about Lucky through Hank3 (as this video shows they used to tour together). According to a little research, Lucky has opened for and played with everybody from Ray Price to Dwight Yoakam, but it appears that Hank3 was his close friend for several years. His reaction when I asked him about Hank3 was somewhat dismissive, with some comment like “Oh he’s got a lot of good friends” or something. Clearly, something soured their relationship which is too bad because I love what they are both doing. Now for the show and the interesting opener from the local vicinity, Pete Witham and the Cozmik Zombies.
These guys do an amazing job of doing Rockabilly for real but adding their own flavor. As I said, I attended with my lead guitar player and singer. Kirk, the lead player, invited his sister who is also a local musician and is good friends with the drummer of the Zombies. As things go when you live where you grew up, his sister was friends with the Elder and told me she had just had lunch with somebody he had been “obsessed” with back in the days of High School Chorus. The Elder disputes this but who knows, he can be very intense at times and people can take it in different ways. Anyway, I chatted with her during the set which the Zombies killed.
When Lucky came on stage, we were all pretty dubious. His bass player looked legit but his guitar player looked about 17 and kind of like a heavier-set Steven Segal. Also, much to my chagrin, he had no drummer or pedal steel player. This all changed as he launched into the first song which I think was this one. This is not the show and he must have a fluctuating cast of band members which I am sure is financially related, but you get the deal. As much as he’s a honky tonker, he has equal parts Rockabilly which I think is a genre I need to get into.
His guitar player was not offended that I thought he was 17 and was actually the ripe old age of 22. He played rockabilly and country leads with a jazz twist and also sang a mean backing harmony along with the bass player who looked like Lucky’s brother. They played each song with a different twist that was either honky tonk, rockabilly or early rock. I was impressed throughout and when they were getting off stage I yelled “Play Damn the Luck”,which is the song our band covers above. He gave a funny look and jumped back up and sang the song, albeit very quickly.
Immediately afterwards, I went right up to him and said “Mr. Tubb, I just want to say I love your music, my band covers “Damn the Luck” and thank you for playing it?” He was surprised to hear we covered it and while signing posters, he grabbed one and signed it with, “Lucky Tubb, Damn the Luck!” Then, my ballsy guitar player asked him if he wanted to try his medication and Lucky looked at me and said “Let’s take a walk son”. That’s how we ended up standing on a street corner watching one of my current country idols smoke a joint while discussing obsolete transmissions.
We talked with the man for some time and he had a lot of great stories about bikers in Texas, electric bass lines on Motown records like the “Cool Jerk”, and what it’s like to be a touring musician. He was the most honest and cordial musician I’ve ever met, a truly gracious dude besides the rough edges. The best line I got out of him was when I asked him what it was like to tour the world and play music. After thinking a minute, he said “You know what man? The fuckin world is my cubicle man”. Yes it is Lucky, it certainly is.