Ramblin' Rhodes: Musician finding new fame without forgetting roots

Augusta-reared musician and songwriter Daniel Antopolsky, who now lives in France, had ordered a meal in the front courtyard of the Pizza Joint on Broad Street last March when he needed to wash his hands.


He went inside and was about to ask someone where the bathroom was located when it dawned on him that he knew exactly where it was – the very same place where it had been a couple of decades earlier when his family owned the building then known as Antopolsky Brothers hardware store.

Antopolsky and his brothers, Ray and Steve, had spent many a day as children in the building co-owned by their father, Harry, along with three of their uncles and two of their aunts in the early 20th century. Eventually, Daniel and his brothers would come to own and operate the business.

Sitting out in the courtyard having lunch with me, Antopolsky talked about how the Pizza Joint building originally was a warehouse of the original building that existed a couple of doors down.

But the original structure known as the Silver Block Building, housing Antopolsky Brothers’ Army Store on the ground floor and apartments on two upper floors, was destroyed in February 1964 by wind-whipped flames.

The current building holds a lot of memories for Antopolsky who showed me where he and his brothers grew watermelons in the summer.

Although he has loved music since an early age, Antopolsky just in recent years has been attracting worldwide attention in being profiled on television stations and in magazines and major newspapers.

“My brothers gave me a guitar when I was 14,” said Antopolsky who graduated from Richmond Academy in 1966. “I was all right playing it, but I was bashful. My good buddy, Henry Wynn (the Greater Augusta Arts Councils’ 2016 Artist of the Year), knows a lot about playing it, and he’s also such a great guy.”

The international media is fascinated that this humble guy of Jewish immigrants didn’t record his first album of original songs until he was 64; that he names and talks to his chickens on a farm in Bordeaux, France, and that since the age of 4 he has been drawing cartoons of this weird-looking character he calls The Sheriff of Mars.

They are intrigued that he is the fourth person in a well-known photograph taken at a house in Nashville, Tenn., with rock legend Townes Van Zandt and the house owners/country stars Guy and Susanna Clark. And they love it that just quite possibly Antopolsky is the Pancho in Van Zandt’s classic song Pancho & Lefty.

Antopolsky met Van Zandt in Athens, Ga., where Van Zandt was performing. They clicked as friends and hit the road together sometimes playing separately and sometimes together.

The story goes, as Antopolsky has confirmed, the two were at a motel in Dallas, and the street was blocked due a big revival taking place. So the two challenged each other to write a song in 30 minutes and then play and sing them to each other. Antopolsky went outside and sat under a nearby oak tree and wrote Sweet Lovin’ Music. Van Zandt stayed in the motel and wrote Pancho & Lefty.

Van Zandt recorded it on a 1972 album, but the best known version is the 1983 duet by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Just a few days before a return visit to his hometown of Augusta last March, Antopolsky took part in the world renowned South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, performing songs off his 2015 debut album also titled Sweet Lovin’ Music co-produced by Grammy nominees Gary Gold and John Capek.

The website savingcountry music.com noted, “Saving Country Music featured Daniel Antopolsky last year as being the mystery man in a famous photo of Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, and Townes Van Zandt, and being the man who saved Townes’ life in 1972. ‘I’m playing my third show in 45 years,’ Daniel said as he took the stage for an intimate official SXSW showcase.

“He had traveled all the way from France to play just the one show, and a camera crew had followed him. Though he was incredibly nervous, Daniel had an excellent performance, and brought with him high-caliber songs that showed why at one point he was a peer of Townes Van Zandt.”

Just recently, Australia’s leading roots music magazine, Rhythms, did a profile of Antopolsky in which writer Chris Lambie noted, “His songs celebrate nature, simple pleasures, love, humor and hope.”

Much of Antopolsky’s musical rebirth is due to filmmaker Jason Ressler, who with Matthew Woolf has been filming the documentary The Sheriff of Mars to be released later this year. They were in Augusta in July 2014 filming Antopolsky at The Fox’s Lair, Enterprise Mill and the Pizza Joint.

Ressler thinks he might have done the last interview with Augusta music superstar James Brown for a film called Sid Bernstein Presents that never
was released because of music rights issues.

As a follow up to the Nashville-recorded Sweet Lovin’ Music album made with backup vocalists and Nashville musicians, Ressler is going the opposite direction in recording Antopolsky acoustically.

“After the South By Southwest festival, things took an unexpected turn and the CBS Sunday Morning TV crew came to France to do a piece on him, which will come out later this year,” Ressler said in an email.

“We decided to make the most of it and my thoughts turned to the fact that we should be recording Daniel acoustically. So we did and came up with a masterpiece of a double album called Acoustic Outlaw.

“This album will show the true depth and brilliance of Daniel’s ability,” Ressler added. “It should be nominated for a Grammy.”

Ressler expects the album to be released sometime in July.

Learn more about Antopolsky at danielantopolsky.com.


LAST OF THE ORIGINAL BLUE MOON BOYS: Guitar player Scotty Moore, who along with upright and electric bass player Bill Black comprised Elvis Presley’s original Blue Moon Boys, died June 28 in Nashville at age 84.

Ironically, that was exactly 60 years and one day from his second appearance with Presley and Black at Augusta’s Bell Auditorium.

Drummer D.J. Fontana would be added to the trio in 1954 after they hooked up with the staff drummer for the Louisiana Hayride show in Shreveport. The trio needed a drummer for Presley’s first appearance on the show and Fontana was available.

Moore and Black had been part of a country music band called The Starlite Wranglers when Sun Records owner/producer Sam Phillips put them together to record with Presley.

Black died in 1965 at the age of 39. Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42.