The Hillbilly Renaissance Man, Chuck Mead and his Grassy Knoll boys, will be playing a show June 8 at the Republic Brewing Company in Republic, Washington. Mead is on the west coast portion of his tour to promote his latest record “Free State Serenade.” Free State Serenade is Mead’s third solo album; it focuses on his home state of Kansas. Mead says, “I got this idea that I wanted to do something that was a whole lot of little stories to make up a big story, without making it some weird concept record, though it ended up kind of conceptual in that all these songs on my new record are about Kansas — legends I grew up with, things that happened to me. My trippy Kansas, you know — in my mind.”
Mead has been the musical director for the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet. Chuck stumbled into this gig when a music writer and friend, Colin Escott, asked him to help with a theater project he was working on with Floyd Mutrux. They needed help making authentic rockabilly work in the theater setting.
Million Dollar Quartet (MDQ) started on Broadway in 2010; it was nominated for three Tony awards that year and actor Levi Kreis won Best Featured Actor for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis. MDQ is based on the gathering of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins at Sun Studios in Memphis on December 4, 1956. Carl Perkins had a recording session, Lewis was making extra money playing on Perkins record, and Elvis had stopped by the studio fresh off his successes with RCA records. Sam Phillips called Johnny Cash’s house and had him come over. The rest is rock n roll history. In his role as musical director for the show, Mead has to make sure performances stay true to what you would have heard in Phillips’ tiny studio on that December day in 1956.
During and prior to the Million Dollar Quartet, Mead has been working as a solo artist releasing three albums and co-producing popular tribute albums to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, guest-lecturing at Vanderbilt University, and working as a staff writer at one of Nashville’s top song publishers. Mead intertwines his personal singer-song-writing style with Rock, Country and Rockabilly, echoing his work with his old group BR5-49, which he co founded in the 1990’s
BR5-49 fans will be happy to know that Mead includes some of the bands favorites in his set list. In the mid 1990s, BR5-49 cast a light back on the honky-tonk roots of country music. The band’s seven albums, three Grammy nominations, and the Country Music Association Award for Best Overseas Touring Act would build an a bridge between American Roots music and pop country music.
Chuck Mead’s latest solo album is being released on Plowboy records and is produced by Joe Pisapia (kd Lang, Ben Folds Five). The album features BR549’s Don Herron (Bob Dylan side man), Old Crow Medicine Show’s Critter Fuqua, Alan Murphy, Will Rambeaux, and Mark Andrew Miller. Mead says “It’s been incredibly liberating to do all these things I’ve never done before.”
His last solo album, “Back At The Quonset Hut,” released in 2012 and was recorded at Nashville’s famed Quonset Hut where Patsy Cline, George Jones, Merle Haggard Roger Miller, Loretta Lynn, and Johnny Cash cut some of country’s greatest tracks.
Mead says, “I’ve already gone from the bars of Lower Broadway in Nashville to the Broadway stage, and the upcoming album is one of the most unique and rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of. I’m looking forward to where it all brings me next.”
You can find out more about Chuck Mead’s music at chuck mead.com.
If you go
Chuck Mead And The Grassy Knoll Boys. June 8, 8p.m. at Republic Brewing Company. Tickets $15, Very limited seating. Purchase at online at chuckmead.com or at the brewery.