I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I can hardly believe this was the final Winters Brothers Southern Summer Jam. But man oh man, was it ever a good one. I can truthfully say I have never seen a bigger crowd at the jam, and I have never heard The Winters Brothers sound better than they did on Saturday night. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We spent Saturday chilling at the motel, talking to friends like Tom Whitten, who drove in from Cleveland, and my buddy Don Swensen and his wife Molly from Washington. You may recall Don as bassist of the band Rebel Storm, which GRITZ named as the best new group of 2002.
We headed out to Dennis and Lynda’s farm at about 4:30, and from the time we got there, it was a constant line of meets and greets with old friends and new. Lots of “grip and grins.” That’s what we used to call them in the newspaper business when folks would pose for a photo shaking hands or presenting an award.
John Ryan introduced me to a band I have been enjoying for many years, The Dublin City Ramblers. These guys came from Ireland to join the final jam. They are great friends with the WBB.
I was running around trying to assemble my “high tech pickup band” for an impromptu rehearsal. I had Don “Big D” Swensen with me, and Mark McAfee, I just couldn't find Donnie Winters. I eventually did. It seems everyone was wanting to see Donnie and chat with him. It ain’t easy being a Southern Rock Star!
There were so many great folks to talk to I felt like a spinning top. It was just good ol’ Southern fried fun, to be sure.
The music started out with Dennis and his wife Lynda taking the stage to welcome everyone out to the 30th Winters Brothers Southern Summer Jam. Then Dennis played a new song that he had recently written. From what I heard, the tune has all the earmarks of a real country hit.
Throughout the day, various bands and songwriters performed, including a certain Buffalo. Rather than just do my usual solo acoustic set, I invited some top flight musicians to join me in a set in memory of George McCorkle, Toy and Tommy Caldwell.
Just before we played, I was thrilled to debut my friend Scott’s son Steve Greene, who has joined us at these jams since he was a little kid. He’s just 15 now, but he looks older. Big kid. You oughta see him eat! I strummed the guitar as he played a magnificent version of “Amazing Grace,” which I dedicated to my pal Doug Gray, who’s wife passed away last week.
Our set was all Marshall Tucker and Toy Caldwell, and began with “This Ol’ Cowboy.” Then Mark McAfee sang “Midnight Promises,” and we ended with “Fire On The Mountain.” The guys were just great. We did pretty well for a band who had never played together and never had a single rehearsal!
The band was billed as Hash a Plenty, named for Toy Caldwell’s favorite plate at The World Famous Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC. Band members included Buffalo, Donnie Winters of The Winters Brothers Band, Mark McAfee (who also has a band with Donnie), Chad Booher, drummer for the WBB and Don Swensen from Washington, whom I spoke of earlier. We had a blast, and those guys just knocked it out of the park.
The Dublin City Ramblers, featuring the legendary Sean McGuinness, played a simply amazing set of Irish folk rock that had everybody dancing. There’s a reason why they are the number one Irish vocal group in the world. They are great.
The Winters Brothers Band sounded better than ever. Along with current members Dennis and Donnie Winters, Chad Booher, and Ricky Burke, the band welcomed back long time WBB guitarist Jamie Laritz and original WBB band member, keyboardist David “Spig” Davis. As always, background (and some lead) vocals were provided by Dennis’ daughters, the lovely Southern Belles, Casey, Cody and Carly.
The band hit the ground running, with Jamie and Donnie teaming up many times on some awesome solos. Jamie was having a blast, and really reminded me of Eddie Van Halen back in the eighties.
Dennis Winters is always the consummate showman, and he was giving it all, pouring buckets of sweat and playing to beat the band. Of course, the apple don’t fall far from the tree, and the Southern Belles danced and sang the whole night like fighting fire. I did take note that Casey Winters should get the award for “most intense physical workout.” That girl dance, jumped up and down, and swung her hair around for the entire show. I turned to a guy beside me and remarked, “If I only had half that young girl’s energy!” He agreed.
The band played all the favorites, including “Smokey Mountain Log Cabin Jones” and the jam-laden “Sang Her Love Songs” and “Devil’s After My Soul.” Sean McGuinniss joined in on mandolin. Amazing stuff. You should have been there.
Cody joined her dad onstage for “Seven Bridges Road,” and Casey sang a couple of good rockers, and the band wrapped up the set with a version of “I Can’t Help It” that must have been at least 45 minutes long. It was stellar. Off the scale. The crowd went nuts.
The end jam was great as usual, with various musicians joining in to play songs like “Roadhouse Blues” and “Can’t You See.” Casey did an acapella "Mercedes Benz."
The final jam was great. We made our way back to the hotel and crashed. Sunday we would converge on Cracker Barrel for breakfast with our friends Don and Molly Swensen and Tom Whitten, before driving six and a half hours back home. I’m still humming “Sang Her Love Songs,” and probably will be all week.
Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.
All Pictures by Scott Greene and Buffalo
Buffalo meets The Dublin City Ramblers. (Manager John Ryan in blue shirt.)
Lynda Winters onstage with daughters Cody, Casey and Carly.
Mark McAfee and Donnie Winters perform with Hash a Plenty.
Hash a Plenty.
Steve Greene on sax.
Young Steve signs his first autograph.
Sean McGuiness of Dublin City Ramblers.
Winters Brothers Band
Donnie Winters and Spig Davis.
Dennis and Donnie Winters.
Ricky on the bass.
Jamie, Dennis and Donnie rock it.
Donnie Winters and Sonny Edwards during end jam.
Casey Winters rocks out with her dad Dennis and Uncle Donnie.
THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!