What’s Up, Doc?
Doc Holliday and Bruce Brookshire’s Southern Spirit
by Michael Buffalo Smith
One of the hardest working bands in the lexicon of Southern Rock was and is Doc Holliday. Oddly, Doc tends to be repeatedly overlooked by authors and writers chronicling the history of the genre. Fact is, they are just as deserving -- more so in some cases -- of inclusion as their fellow brothers of the road. Sporting an impressive catalog or recordings on A&M Records and a legacy that continues to evolve even today, Doc Holliday still creates tight, funky Southern Rock music.
At the helm since the beginning has been Warner Robbins, Georgia’s own Bruce Brookshire, a talented singer, songwriter, guitarist and Episcopal Priest. We spoke with Bruce about his band, their upcoming new album and his strong Christian beliefs.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but I was raised on an Air Force base in Germany called Spangdahlem. I moved to Georgia in 1969.
Who were your earliest musical influences?
My first records were by Peter, Paul & Mary. But my earliest influence, like so many of my generation, was The Beatles.
Were you from a musical family?
Yes, my father played blues harmonica and loved Josh White, Mahalia Jackson and many of the artists from his sons’ record collections like The Righteous Brothers and Steve Winwood. My Mom was quite musical. She sang in church choirs, in musicals and had a jazz radio show in college. I remember my parents doing “House Of The Rising Sun” for me when I was about 10, Dad playing harp and singing and Mom singing.
Were you exposed to Christian music as a child as well as secular?
I was exposed to all forms of music as a child. I saw The Vienna Boys Choir live, I listened to classical music like “Peer Gynt.” Buck Owens used to perform regularly at our base. The Everly Brothers appeared there. And anyone from England at that time caught my attention. I also used to listen to German rock bands like The Lords and Dave Dee on German radio. I saw Jimi Hendrix at Cincinnati Gardens in 1968 and Taj Mahal live that same year. Taj was a very big influence on me in my teen years, as was Peter Green, my absolute guitar hero at the time.
Tell us a little about how Doc Holliday was formed and a bit about your recording history.
In the summer of 1971, my brother Bob and I formed a blues band called Roundhouse. My brother plays guitar, piano and harmonica. Eight years later, Roundhouse, with different members (my brother had gone on to play with Johnny Taylor, Clarence Carter, ZZ Hill, Solomon Burke and other R&B artists) began to get hot and attracted some attention from Molly Hatchet manager Pat Armstrong. Later on we found the guys that managed a band called Nantucket, Bill Cain and Jet Matthews. We liked them and they managed to get us a record deal with A&M in 1980.
We went in the studio for our first LP Doc Holliday with Tom Allom, the guy who produced Judas Priest and Pat Travers, which was how we knew him. He did a fabulous job of making us sound like a world class band. He’s a class act all the way.
Our second album Rides Again was produced by David Anderle who worked at A&M and was a fan of the band. He later became head of the label. He was a very laid back and supportive producer. Not a Tom Allom, David was more of a “vibes” man. He just sort of sat there and bobbed his head along to the music and he would stop us every now and then and suggest something. Tom gets in there with both hands and works a band. So, different styles but great results either way. Rides Again was pretty successful worldwide and helped to get us a fair amount of European attention.
Our third album was recorded in Munich, Germany and produced by Mack, a guy who produced ELO, Queen, Billy Squier, lots of superstar bands. Mack scared us and intimidated us a little but we were pretty strung out on drugs so he did what he could. We intentionally tried to combine techno music with Southern rock and we failed miserably. That album went cardboard -- not gold or platinum. We lost our record deal, our house and tour bus, our equipment, everything. Techno was raging in 1983 and a
drugged out Southern band was not big business.
We broke up for about a year and a half and got Doc Holliday back together for another LP in 1986, Danger Zone. We were trying to remember how to play rock & roll with that one. In 1988 we recorded Song For The Outlaw for a Paris based label and toured Europe.
In the '90s we found a manager who was our partner and friend, Dave Hulme, a British guy, and we did an album for a German label called Son Of The Morning Star. We were beginning to remember how to play rock and roll by that time.
Next came album number seven, Legacy, which was a good representation of the band’s live sound. It took us that many years to get back on track since the crash of 1983. That’s Doc history in a big ‘ol nutshell....
What years was Doc at their peak and what are some of the fondest memories you have of those days?
It peaked in the '80s the first time at Madison Square garden with Black Sabbath. Ronnie James Dio is a gentleman and a good friend. He got us there. Lots of gigs were good, dates with April Wine, Loverboy, Charlie Daniels, Pat Travers. I’ll tell you, though, some of the best shows we ever did were as a package with Nantucket, our good friends and brothers from North Carolina. That is and was a great band. It peaked again in the '90s with festival shows in England, Scandinavia and Germany. We played The Marquee in London in the '90s a few times, that was a kick. The way we look at it, it’s always peaking. We are just fortunate to have been at it for so long and made good friends and stayed good friends.
What are the differences between touring in the '70s and touring now?
Now, we are not drug addicts and alcoholics. We can have a couple of beers with our friends, maybe listen to some music, read our Bibles and pretty much remember everything that went on each night of a tour. That’s an improvement, I’d say.
Tell me a little about that great Travis Wammack tune you guys recorded and how that came about?
As many Southern bands did, we did some sessions early on in Muscle Shoals. We were at Broadway Studio and Travis came in with a 45 that had the song “Keep On Running” on it. He told us to try it out and see if we liked it. He doesn’t remember this, but I’m sure he met a lot of young bands. We loved the tune, started playing it at all our shows and recorded it on the first A&M LP which sold quite a few. It has become a signature song for us.
Is Doc Holliday a full time gig now or do you just do reunion shows with the band?
Music is full time for Me, Daniel Bud and Cadillac. Our music ministry is very important, with The Damascus Road CD, but all shows are top priority when they are on.
Tell us about Doc Holliday’s European market and audience.
It is very special to us. It’s what has kept the band going for so long. There are European fans that still appreciate and support this music. It’s not quite the same at home, I’m afraid.
Tell us a little about these Southern Rock bands in Europe. Lizard is awesome!
Well, there are quite a few good European Southern bands but Lizard is the best one without a doubt. Georg Bayer, Lizard’s lead singer, is my brother. Our families are very close, our kids, wives, friends, everything. It seems that European bands, especially German bands, take a lot of pride in Southern music and heritage. The Allmans are very important. Skynyrd, too. Southern music is an art form that finds appreciation everywhere.
Let’s talk about the new Doc Holiday CD. Tell me everything. The fans want to know.
The new CD is called A Better Road. It chronicles our past and our present. There are five newly recorded tracks on it and five tracks recorded in the '80s, produced by Tom Allom that have never been released before. I think it’s a pretty good CD. The new tracks were recorded at my studio. The old tracks were recorded in Orlando at Bee Jay, which no longer exists. I think it’s a good follow up to Legacy. The mastering was done by Michael Hauff in Germany. He did a great job pulling it all together.
I absolutely love your gospel release Damascus Road. Tell us about how and when you gave your heart to the Lord and how it has affected your life. Also how you came to record this beautiful CD.
I think The Damascus Road is the CD that I was always meant to record. My mom died in 1990, bringing me to God through her experience in growing to meet Him face to face. She led me to the place where I could open my eyes and experience God in a personal way. She led me to the people of God, the Body Of Christ, and they helped along the way. Mentors like Marian and Obie Waldhauer, Bob Dunbar and Lee Harris and spiritual directors like Dennis Smart and Bob Gibson, to name just a few, helped to make me the Christian I am today. I also have a four year degree under my belt which has been a major influence called Education for Ministry.
Do you think there is a growth overall in people coming to know God or a decline?
A growth, definitely. Definitely. Look around, Jesus and prayer are more a part of our culture now than in any time in my memory.
There are several Southern Rockers who proudly proclaim their Christianity. Have you worked with Charlie Daniels, Larry Howard or any of the others in a gospel setting?
Larry is a good friend. Charlie is an acquaintance. We recently went to Memphis for the One Festival and the Cornerstone Festival as backup band for Larry. It was a blast and I’m looking forward to working with him a lot more. He is an inspiration. I knew him when, and he knew me when, so, it’s a kick to get together now. We pray a lot more together now than we ever did, that’s for sure!
Let’s talk music. When you listen to music, who do you listen to?
If I can grow up to be John Michael Talbot or Michael Card I will be happy. I listen to those two far and away more than anyone else. I listen to Yellowjackets, a great jazz band, I listen to Gypsy Kings, a great, great guitar band, and Keb Mo’s blues reminds me of Taj Mahal. I listen to some new rock stuff on the radio and some oldies radio too. Not much new country.
If you could offer one piece of advice to a fan who wants to be a “rock star” or at least a working musician in 2001 -- what would it be?
Those are two very different things. Work at your instrument or your voice if you want to be a professional musician. If you want to be a “rock star,” you had better be very good looking, find a well-connected manager and prepare yourself to be miserable.
What are the immediate plans of Bruce Brookshire the solo artist and Doc Holliday the band?
God is our CEO. Wherever He leads, we will try to ascertain His will and follow. Please join us in prayer that we will always keep His standards as our goal and we will not be led by our own egos. That’s such a tough thing for a performer. Our prayer partners are our lifelines. Please join.
UPDATE: Bruce and Doc Holliday are still rocking the USA and Europe, putting out records and sounding great. Bruce continues his musical ministry as well.