Chuck Mead has a pretty cool ghost story.
The Nashville artist last year recorded an album of classic country songs in that city’s famous Quonset Hut Studio. Mead said he felt spirits.
“They were all behind me, so it was great,” he said. “I was standing in the same spot where Patsy Cline stood when she sang ‘Crazy.’ And Roger Miller was standing in the same spot as he was when he sang ‘King of the Road.’ … It was pretty spectacular and supernatural, and I’ll never forget it.”
Mead has come a long way since coming 20 years ago to Nashville, when he played on Lower Broadway.
“It all happened very quickly although it seemed slow at the time,” said Mead, who became successful with the alternative country band BR549. “They gave us a record deal and sent us out on the road. We were pretty cushy going out and sleeping in our own beds every night.
“Hillbilly music has taken me all over the world. I’m pretty thankful for Nashville. It’s a pretty unique place. There’s creativity in the air of all sorts.”
Whether it is called country, alt country, rock or blues, Mead has made people smile with his music.
“Labels are just so people know where to find music in record stores,” Mead said. “I go to a record store in Austin that files music alphabetically. That’s how I keep my records. You will find Buddy Holly next to Slim Harpo and the Ramones next to Roy Orbison.
“I just like what I like. Country music is what I grew up on but I grew up on a lot of rock and roll, too. I’ve got a rock and roll heart. Hank Williams was just as much a blues man as Robert Johnson and Ray Charles was just as country as Ernest Tubb.”
Mead spoke by telephone to Tahoe Onstage Friday afternoon from a San Francisco North Beach bar which was frequented by Beat poets in the 1960s. Chuck Mead and the Grassy Knoll Boys make their Crystal Bay Casino debut Saturday, before heading to Arizona to play Bob Corritore’s Rhythm Room, of which he said, “It’s a great little cinderblock shithole. They barbecue out back. It’s pretty fun.”
When he’s home in East Nashville, Mead lives up the street from Elizabeth Cook and Todd Snider. His connections may have helped set up the special recording of “Back at the Quonset Hut,” which includes a DVD of the sessions.
“Between that and RCA Studio B in Nashville, there were hundreds and hundreds of hits cranked out. It’s the music of your life in all genres. Mostly country but, then again, there was Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Simon and Garfunkel. Bob Dylan was upstairs.
“We decided to go back to the source and do it all live in the spirit of those recordings, so I called in some of the Nashville ‘A team’ studio players to play on it because they knew exactly where to sit and how to make it sound good and make me sound really great. It was all pretty much live. Most of us weren’t even wearing headphones. We had to listen to everybody and play music together instead of ‘Ah, we’ll fix it in the mix.’ There was none of that.”
Chuck Mead and the Grassy Knoll Boys
When: 10 p.m. Saturday, July 13
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Red Room after-party: the OriGinALz with Fresh Touch