Article By: Sara Liberte
Originally Published In The November 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
At every Sturgis rally, it seems I’m disappointed with the lineup of bands. It’s either the same old cover band shit or some lame-ass mainstream band that no one likes, well no one with good taste in music anyway. One late night, while we were working in the production trailer, the Cycle Source and Rally TV crew were discussing the terrible Sturgis music lineup. This is when Rob and Lemme told me about Blackberry Smoke, and how I would not be disappointed when A these guys took to the stage. Scheduled to play at the Easyriders’ Saloon, I was told to expect a mix of bluegrass, arena rock, soul, a little gospel and a decent blend of southern rock and outlaw country. Okay, I like the blend of influences, so I agree to make it a point to see these guys play. Rob actually scored some time with them in the back lot of the saloon and they ended up having a really cool, casual conversation. He was able to get us up to speed on the band and the direction these guys are going, or I should say have been going all along. All I can tell you is that you don’t get more grass roots than Blackberry Smoke.
The band is sort of based on the musical pairing of the two brothers, Brit and Rich Turner (drums and bass). After playing with a number of musicians in numerous bands, they joined together with Charlie Starr after some late night “after gig” shenanigans. They eventually ended up making tracks together and digging the sound they were coming up with. Blackberry Smoke delivers music with rhythm driven soul performed by guys that enjoy nothing more than playing live. Brit actually said that’s the drive behind this band. “It’s not necessarily dreams of stardom, it’s simply the love of the game. We love it or we wouldn’t do it,” said Brit. In a little more than a decade together, Blackberry Smoke has released three full-length albums including The Whippoorwill. This was the group’s first one for country megastar Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label. When we got to talk with the band, the album wasn’t even released yet; it was due to be released a week later.
The guys are no strangers to Sturgis, having played most of the venues over the last 7 years. Both brothers ride and sometimes find it a little frustrating to be out in the Black Hills on the tour bus instead of on bikes, but they enjoy their time in Sturgis regardless. Guitar player and lead singer Charlie Starr shared a great Sturgis memory with Rob. “I remember one year waking up on the stage at the Full Throttle where we slept because we didn’t have a place to stay. I saw the stage manager was completely naked having coffee; he was a guy, so it wasn’t good. It is a horrible memory; it’s actually a scar. I just asked him where he found the coffee so I could get me some.” Well hell, hasn’t everyone had a Sturgis morning that starts the exact same way? The Whippoorwill is an amazing album; one of those albums you can listen to in its entirety. Remember those albums like Led Zeppelin CODA or The Stones Tattoo You? Actually, some of these guys’ influences are bands like these, and they even had the great luck to tour and befriend idols like: The Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top (with Billy Gibbons jamming with them on a Florida stage), Lynyrd Skynyrd and George Jones.
The Whipporwill features songs that they wrote together and have been playing live over the years with Charlie writing most of it in his La-Z-Boy recliner. “It’s a good chair for writing music,” Charlie told us. The music is blue collar and about life experiences they have all lived and continue to live. Most of the tunes came together while playing live. That is how people became fans of the band: the live shows. “Our fan base is as organic as you can get,” said Brit. “Each fan has been won over by live performances or good old word of mouth.” Well, I personally fit that statement because the second I heard these guys, I was a fan. The music was tight, clean and full of rhythm. There they were up on that stage jammin’ one of their new songs off the album and then instantly grooved right into a classic such as the Whipping Post by the Allman Brothers. They even threw in some Zeppelin and well frankly, if you play Zeppelin and play it good, I’m a fan. The members of Blackberry Smoke are no strangers to hard work. Playing up to 250 dates each year, the guys are on the road more often than not, and man do they put on a killer show. Now here is something pretty cool about this band, and I think most of our readers that support our Buy American or Die column will dig. The band really focuses hard on using only American made clothing and companies for their product lines. Shirts, hats, stickers…that’s right, they get it all done right here in the US of A.
Seriously, you need to go look at their schedule and make it to one of their shows. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it all on black that after watching them play, you too will be a fan and spread the word of this talented band: Blackberry Smoke. Hey Easyriders’ Saloon…shout out to you for your great music lineup that was totally free to everyone! We are looking forward to listening to these guys next year. Maybe we outta have them play during our Cycle Source nighttime chopper show? What do you guys think? Tell us your thoughts if you’d like to see Blackberry Smoke play our Sturgis show. Send it in to sara@ rallytvonline.com