All I can say is “You should have been there.” Talk about a dream come true. We had been planning an event like this for several years, so when the opportunity presented itself for GRITZ to throw a benefit shindig for our friends who head up the SAFE-SCHOOLS non-profit organization, we put the wheels in motion for what would turn out to be an outstanding Southern Rock jam in the tradition of Charlie’s old Volunteer Jams of the seventies. The show was dedicated to our brother, Ray Brand of The Crawlers, who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sadly, Ray passed away a few days later.
The show began with a tribute to our own hometown hero, Toy Caldwell. The band, made up of Toy Caldwell Band members Mark Burrell and Tony Heatherly (Tony is also a veteran of The Marshall Tucker Band), Tommy Crain (veteran of The Charlie Daniels Band), Michael Buffalo Smith, Mark Emerick (Commander Cody Band), Mark McAfee and Donnie Winters (Winters Brothers Band). The group took off with “I Hear the South Calling Me,” which served as the theme song of the evening. Tony sang his heart out. They also performed “Midnight Promises,” “Texas On My Mind,” and “This Ol’ Cowboy” with Rick Cash of The Silver Travis Band on lead vocals. It was awesome. They closed with a rousing rendition of “Long Hard Ride.”
Tommy Crain and The Crosstown Allstars took the stage next, and simply burned on a 45-minute set of original blues rock. Crain has truly put together an amazing band, recorded an equally amazing album, and is sounding better than ever.
Silver Travis, a Spartanburg, SC based band that was a reigional favorite in the early 1980’s, recently reformed after 20 years to record a new album and perform again. They stepped up and rocked the full house with original tunes like “Point of No Return” and a great cover of Marshall Tucker’s “Runnin’ Like the Wind.” The band closed out with a rocking “Southbound,” which brought Bonnie Bramlett out to the stage for the first time of the evening.
Michael Buffalo Smith stepped up to the center position next to perform, backed by Silver Travis with Tommy Crain, performing “Natural Born Cowboy” and “Redneckin’” from his new album. He was joined by Bonnie Bramlett on Shaver’s “Gerogia On A Fast Train,” and Bonnie and Rick Cash sang backup on “Into the Light” and “Something Heavy,” the title track from Smith’s new album. The set closed out with a jam on “Crossroads.”
Next, Smith introduced the legendary Bonnie Bramlett, who was backed on her set by Tommy Crain, Buffalo, and Silver Travis. Bonnie performed “Only You Know and I Know,” “Who Will Wear The Crown,” her tribute to George Harrison, “Something,” and the classic “Come On Into My Kitchen.” The band left the stage, as keyboardist Terry Collins accomponied Bonnie on a heartfelt and beautiful version of her classic song, “Superstar.”
After a short break, Tommy Crain and The Crosstown Allstars returned to the stage, along with Donnie Winters and Darren Brothers (current guitarist with The Winters Brothers Band), to back up Dru Lombar (Grinderswitch) on an amazing blues set, beginning with “Kiss The Blues Goodbye,” and leading into an outstanding, sweat soaked, late night, smokey blues jam. Lombar was hittin’ the note to be sure.
Over the course of the evening, Denny Walley (Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart) boggled the minds of the collective audience singing and playing “Sweet Home Chicago” and more hot blues. Walley is a helluva a slide player, baby.
For the finale, Michael Buffalo joined back in and C.P. Owens took the lead vocal on Charlie Daniels’ “Trudy.” Buffalo brought it all home singing “Can’t You See,” backed by everyone.
It was great fun, great music, for a great cause.