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Posted: Dec 08, 2006


By Michael Buffalo Smith

November 2006

Buffalo and Paul with an old Southern recipe.


It was a beautiful drive from Greenville, SC to Rome Georgia on Saturday morning, November 18, 2006. Crisp and cool, yet beautiful and sunny. The leaves were just past their peak, and all around me it looked like one of those paintings we had hanging behind the sofa in the den when I was growing up. One of those "Dollar Store" pieces of high art with all the fall colors. You know the ones.

I made it to Rome, Georgia in the early afternoon and drove right up to the High Lonesome, where I met the owner, Michael Proctor inside, along with his co-workers and friends whom I had met on my first visit last year to see Chris Hicks and Jimmy Hall.

The High Lonesome is a very special venue. Located far back in the woods among the winding country roads of Georgia, driving to the place is akin to finding the Bat Cave ‘neath stately Wayne Manor. (As a matter of fact, there was a bat that flew in at one point and flew back out! Hmmmm...)

Proctor has an affinity for Southern Rock memorabilia, and this converted horse barn if filled with it, from the Gibson Les Paul, signed by past and present Lynyrd Skynyrd band members, framed in front of a Confederate battle flag, to a famously red guitar signed by Dickey Betts, a used fiddle bow from Charlie Daniels and a guitar signed by members of The Marshall Tucker Band. Of course there are many framed photos of Southern rock icons, as well as posters and the like, all mixed in with a Western and Native American decor that made me feel like I was back home again.

The High Lonesome is a private club, and most of Michael’s gigs are staged for friends and family, with many of the patrons returning for each show.

I met Donnie Winters and some of his friends in the afternoon, and Donnie and I sat down for a brief rehearsal in between conversations and rock and roll war stories. Proctor and his crew were busy getting everything ready for the arrival of Paul Thorn and his band, who soon arrived and began setting up their gear.

It was great seeing Paul again, along with his partner in crime, Billy Maddox. Two cooler guys you will never meet. In fact, Paul’s whole band are just really down to earth, nice guys who just happen to be one of the best rock and roll bands on the planet

Paul was onstage sitting behind the drums, playing a few soft riffs, while Dr. Love set up his keyboards and everyone got their equipment up and running. Pretty soon, Paul came to the back of the room where I was seated on this red velvet camel back style sofa. Paul sat down and we talked and caught up a bit. I really think a lot of Paul, both as an artist and as a human spirit.

It seemed like only the blink of an eye, and it was time for the opening act, a duo called Backswing. They were very good, with tight harmonies and multi-instrumental prowess, and dished up some great covers of Little Feat and other classic tunes, mixed in with some killer originals.

I made my way around the outside of the barn to the ramp and into the backstage area, waiting my turn at the boards. I signed the big white poster Michael has there for the artists, and shook hands with the duo as the came off stage.

It was time to play. The moment I live for. The culmination of all the hours rehearsing, writing, and traveling. The moment all musicians love, when we step into the spotlight and bare our very soul to a room full of strangers. Stripped naked in front of the jury. It’s not until the end of the first song that you begin to get an idea as to how the jury will vote. Hopefully, it will be thumbs up all the way around.

It felt good. It felt right. Proctor said some nice things about Donnie Winters and some nice things about me and we were off and running. All I could think of was how fortunate I was to have Donnie beside me, playing guitar like a ringin’ a bell. His style always reminds me of my favorites -Toy Caldwell, George McCorkle and Dickey Betts. The man can riff.

Buffalo and Paul with Donnie Winters and Michael Proctor.

We played 45 minutes, ending up with “Can’t You See.” Then they called for an encore. I was a bit taken aback and unprepared for that event, but we launched into yet another Marshall Tucker tune, “Searchin’ for a Rainbow,” to wrap it up. I was in a daze as I left the stage, shaking hands with gentlemen, getting hugs and kisses from the ladies. You gotta love that feeling.

Paul Thorn and his band were up next, and blasted off with the rocking “Something Out There.” The band played for about 45 minutes, then Paul did a few solo acoustic before returning to the stage. I love Paul’s solo stuff as well as his work with the band. It’s all good.

By the time the band hit on “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand,” they had an entire room on converts on their hands and the makings of an old fashioned revival. I was again taken aback when Paul called me to the stage to sing with him on “Will The Circle Be Unbroken, “ swapping verses and singing together on the chorus. Two ministers sons, singing together. Hallelujah!

They closed with yet another gospel classic, “I’ll Fly Away,” and the audience was on their feet with approval. It was a great feeling standing in the wings and watching the band win over an audience who, for the most part, had never seen Paul live before.

After the show, we all hung out and talked, packed up equipment, and I said my goodbyes to Michael Proctor and company and then I joined the wagon train of Paul and the band back through the dark country roads to the motel. I said farewell and hit the hay.

The next day, I drove to Huntsville, Alabama, to Mill Kids Studio, where I tracked the vocal on a song I wrote with The Crawlers for an upcoming Ray Brand Memorial album. I was joined there by good friend George McCorkle (Marshall Tucker) who brought our buddy Bruce Wall along for the ride.

George played some cool lead guitar on the song, and just that quickly, the session was over at 3 PM. Highly unusual. Billy and I agreed on this point. I said farewell again to Billy, George and Bruce and took off. It had been quite an eventful and absolutely fun weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving, with a lot to be thankful for, including my Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi friends.

Buffalo with George McCorkle at Mill Kids Studio.

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