I met Susy Marker and Pat Walker at a song swap. Listening to their great harmonies I suggested we put some songs together and get some gigs. As a trio we sang at coffee houses and local events. Our strongest suit was our vocals. I had just started playing dobro, Pat was a novice claw hammer banjo player and Susy had rarely played fiddle in a band setting. We met Bill McCasland at the Podunk Music Festival playing his bass in the camping area. We four became the core of Red Dirt Road.
I envisioned Red Dirt Road as a vehicle to present my own songs. I had been writing songs since my teen years. I had several country bands where I was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Today most of the songs in the Red Dirt Road playlist are my originals. Some of the most requested are “Southern Wind,” “Down That Red Dirt Road,” and “Goin’ Down To Texas.”
The name Red Dirt Road came from my memories of the red dirt gravel roads in Arkansas where I would spend summers with my mom’s family. Pat Walker grew up in Alabama where you could dye a shirt with red dirt. The name evokes the rural roots of America. Most of the songs I write are reflective of America’s human experience and music. My songs are a mixture of country, bluegrass, and swing.
We did an open mic at the Towne Crier and the owner, Phil Ciganer, became interested. After our second open mic he asked if we had enough material to do an hour. After opening for Carrie Rodriguez and Eilen Jewell, Phil gave Red Dirt Road it’s own show.
When we played the Towne Crier we were lucky to get Missy Alexander (vocals) and Bill Petkanas (guitar and mandolin) to join us. Missy is a Broadway trained vocalist and a talented songwriter. Bill is a natural soloist on guitar and mando. He seems to be able to pick up any stringed instrument and make music.
I was also lucky to get an old friend “Fooch” Fischetti to play fiddle and pedal steel with us on several gigs. Fooch played a lot with my country bands. I met him when he played with the fabulous Dixie Dough Boys, a Bob Wills western swing cover band.
Mel Paskell had recorded my song “West Texas Crazy” when he had his studio. We became friends and Mel has joined us on several gigs as well. We do one of Mel’s songs, a nifty swing number called “The Slippery Truth” which has some great 4-part harmonies.
Harmony is what our band is all about. From the camaraderie to our vocals we have a great time. Pat Walker is our harmony director. She grew up in a musical family where it was natural to sing in four parts. She is rock solid comping with her banjo and does some nice rolls to back up a song. She’s also likely to start dancing with one of us on stage. Pat helps make our performances fun to watch.
Susy Marker has a great, classically trained voice. To hear her sing “Dixie” is a musical memory worth keeping. Susy has spent 25 years as an award-winning radio news anchor, reporter, writer and producer. She has also performed in musical theater.
We are looking forward to our next gig August 5th at the Towne Crier. This is a reprise of our successful Americana show last November when Bob Stump and The Blue Mountain Band shared the bill with us.
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