Ramblin' Rhodes: O'Brien, Scott to bring bluegrass sounds to Imperial

Two extremely impressive singers and songwriters are heading for Augusta’s Imperial Theatre to perform next week for the first Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series concert in 2014.


Wheeling, W.Va., native Tim O’Brien and London, Ky., native Darrell Scott will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at the Imperial . Tickets are $15, $22, $27 and $40 from (706) 722-8341 or imperialtheatre.com.

The two met for the first time when they teamed up in 2000 to create their album Real Time.

They since have continued their musical collaborations over the past 14 years, which includes their 2012 CD of live concert recordings We’re Usually A Lot Better Than This and their 2013 CD Memories & Moments.

O’Brien won a Grammy Award (Best Traditional Folk Album) for his 2005 album Fiddler’s Green.

Scott has toured with rock legend Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and has co-authored such hit songs as Sara Evans’ Born To Fly, Travis Tritt’s It’s A Great Day To Be Alive, Brad Paisley and Patty Loveless’ You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, Dixie Chicks’ Long Time Gone and Sam Bush’s River Take Me.

It was at age 12 hearing a Bob Dylan album played by his sister, Mollie O’Brien (now a noted artist in her own right), that really sparked Tim O’Brien into focusing on a music career.

His love of Dylan’s music eventually resulted in his 1996 album Red On Blonde, which took many of Dylan’s classic songs and flavored them with a bluegrass sound.

O’Brien, who was co-founder of the ground-breaking bluegrass band Hot Rize, has co-authored songs that have been recorded by many artists including the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea and Nickel Creek. He and Mattea had a No. 9 hit duet recording with The Battle Hymn of Love.

Just last November, he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Scott’s first trip to Nashville was in 1964 when his father took the family on vacation to see the Grand Ole Opry show in Ryman Auditorium. The next year Scott bought his first instrument in a pawn shop on Nashville’s Broadway.

Scott’s latest independent album without O’Brien, Long Ride Home, was recorded at his Nashville, Tenn., home. It is a tribute to both classic country music and to his steel mill-working father, Wayne Scott, who died in a traffic accident in November 2011.

He used some of Nashville’s greatest musicians who have played on scores of hit recordings including Hargus “Pig” Robbins, whose first hit recording was playing piano on George Jones’ White Lightnin’, and Kenny Malone, whose first hit recording was playing on Dobie Gray’s Drift Away.

“It is country music how I remember it with some of the players that made the very music that was both lifting and breaking my heart as a kid,” Scott notes of the album on his darrellscott.com Web site.

“What I find is the country music industry has changed, but country and working people have not changed so much. They still love country music when they hear it. I hope they get to hear this.”


REMEMBERING PHIL EVERLY: In the fall of 1980 I flew to Los Angeles and got to attend the first taping of Barbara Mandrell’s TV show, danced at a country music nightclub with movie star Janet Leigh, met Ryan O’Neal at a Beverly Hills drug store and had breakfast at an L.A. suburb diner with Phil Everly who died last Friday, Jan. 3, at age 74.

The year before I had interviewed Everly by phone about his brilliant 1979 Elektra Records vinyl album Living Alone, easily one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.

Since I had his home phone number, I called and offered to buy him breakfast during my L.A. visit. He accepted and we set a mid-morning time and a place he knew. I took along my close friends and L.A.-based singers and songwriters Larry Dean and Mieke Appel.

It was an incredible couple of hours of great conversation, and Everly could not have been any nicer. He and my two friends especially enjoyed swapping stories about their life on the road as musicians.

“I played a place in Arizona once that had more bouncers than customers,” he recalled. “It was so rough the bouncers were always carrying people over the crowd and out the door.

“One time at the Palomino Club in Los Angeles, the big bouncer they called ‘Tiny’ was standing in the doorway when somebody drove by in a pick-up and shot Tiny using a bow and arrow. He just chased after the truck with the arrow in him.”

He spoke of his recording sessions musician father saying, “There is no way anyone can say to me that I’m not country. My father (Ike Everly) was an originator. He was the thumb-pick guitar player who taught Merle Travis who taught Chet Atkins.”

Everly said that he and his brother, Don, were heavily influenced by The Bailes Brothers, stars of the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry shows.

Lead vocalist Johnnie Bailes spent much of his life in Swainsboro, Ga., near Augusta, managing three Georgia radio stations owned by Hayride and Opry star Webb Pierce.

“Don and I were semi-removed from being packaged as country music singers; not so much on our doing but more of an industry thing,” he added. “A lot of musical lines that were created were for commercial reasons.

“A lot of people pushing the banner of pure country music in the 1950s and 1960s were not qualified to be making indictments. We were country singers who carried the new musical disease called rock and roll. People may have thought early rock singers were trying to destroy country music, but we were only making the business bigger.”

Everly concluded, “It was just wrong if anybody thought rock and roll would put anything out of business. The proof of the pudding is that country music today is bigger than ever.”


AUGUSTA’S OWN TOOTSIE: One of my favorite TV shows, Sunday Morning on CBS at 9 Sundays, did a profile last Sunday, Jan. 5, about the Tootsie company, which makes Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops.

Oddly, the feature didn’t mention how the world-famous name came about, which also happens to be an interesting tie to Augusta.

Clara Hirschfield Ludwig was 85 when she died in an Augusta nursing home May 5, 1976. Memorial services were held a week later at St. John Episcopal Church in Larchmont, N.Y.

The native of New York had lived in Augusta for 10 years, with most people not knowing of her international fame. Her fame came because Clara’s childhood nickname was “Tootsie” and because her father, Leo Hirschfield, named his candy product after her when she was 5.

And that’s Augusta’s connection to the Tootsie Roll.

UPCOMING CONCERTS TO NOTE: Don Williams, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, Imperial Theatre; Zac Brown Band with guests Levi Lowrey & A.J. Ghent, 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31,
James Brown Arena; Gaither Vocal Band, 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, Bell Auditorium.