Remembering Nick Nixon

On February 28 James “Nick” Nixon passed away. He was 76.

Nick changed Nashville’s music scene forever, and touched the lives of so many in the community. One such individual is Shannon “Bayou” Williford, who has been kind enough to share the following words in celebration of his life.

From Shannon…

When I came to Nashville – ’95 – I was looking (since I came from the Baton Rouge blues scene – Kenny Neal, Larry Garner, Henry Gray, Chris Thomas King, etc…) for the “real” blues; the blues that was the modern version of what was played when it was kicking, in the ’50s and ’60s. I figured Nashville had a large Black population, so there had to be some real blues folk here. I knew nothing of the amazing history of R&B/blues in the Music City. So I poked around and found Casey Lutton, who was playing guitar with Marion James. I went to hear her. She was most certainly the real deal! And Casey told me about everything in town. He sent me to see Marion’s “cousin,” Nick. I think they are actually cousins by marriage in some way… I went to Parks and struck up a friendship. He introduced me to his boss, Wayne Hill, the supervisor for Metro Parks Music. Wayne’s dad was the leader of the Fairfield Four, and Wayne was a jazz trumpeter of some renown. Wayne invited me to play with he and Nick, and later he invited me to join the staff. He and Nick had been there since the beginning of Parks Music in the early ’70s. Nick teaching guitar and Wayne doing medieval recorder (which he loved) and jazz. Nick started a lot of great musicians there. Ask Mike Doster, who was learning bass and playing with Nick and Wayne, when one day, when Mike was 17, BB King’s band called Wayne and Nick, looking for a bassman. They sent Mike, and he stayed for many years on that gig.

I came on teaching harmonica. Nick and I started what became our Centennial jamBand program by combining my harp students with his guitarists and doing some showcases. We had some great times working/playing together. We would play at all the parks events. Nick and I also traded lessons. I learned guitar and he learned harp. We were still embarrassed to play these things in front of each other. I’m equally as weak on guitar as Nick was on harp! From there we developed the Blues in the Schools program and presented it to the Music City Blues Society. In 2000, thanks to Dave and Melinda Kunkel, MCBS leaders, we were nominated and won the Blues Foundation’s Keep the Blues Alive Award for our Blues in the Schools. They launched us and we eventually left that organization and formed – with the great Buffy Holton leading – American Roots Music Education, and did a lot of stuff thru them. When the economy crashed in ’08, our ARME thing sagged away. During the 12 years of Blues in the Schools, Nick and I would do as many as 70 school appearances a year. We were the first (according to Ronnie Stein and Howard Gentry) musicians to play at the Metro Council meeting. We were the only music program to be invited to play every school in Nashville. It was good stuff.

I loved the way Nick was so positive with the kids. He genuinely loves people and loves children. He would constantly tell them how good they were doing. And when correcting them, he didn’t come across as anything but helping. He would tell kids that there was the way that he thought was the right way to play a chord or a lick, but he would also show other ways to get the same thing. And he was always a student of guitar, too, asking others to show him a lick or a change.

Nick was such a font of history and knowledge for me. The best thing was his humility, I think. It goes with a deep self-confidence, though. He knew who he was and who he was not. Musically, he showed me so much about groove and harmony. And again. Nick loved people. He was a giving man. In his neighborhood, he was the first guy to help folks who are down and out. He didn’t even get mad at ’em if they mess up and do him wrong. I’ve seen him be so sweet and respectful to homeless/lost soul types. It was inspiring and certainly a reflection of his spirituality.

Spring 2015 Nashville Fringe Festival Sampler

Spring 2015 Sampler Cover

The Spring 2015 Nashville Fringe Festival Sampler features contributions from AL-D & E.T., Captain Captain Cutie Pie, Aryk Crowder, Indie Chris, *repeat repeat, The Upper Middle & We Speak in Colors.

Listen below, or download the entire sampler by registering for the Nashville Fringe Festival’s newsletter.

(Additional credits: Downtown Nashville skyline image courtesy of Giovanni Rodriguez. “DON’T NEED ANYBODY” is a B-Side off *repeat repeat’s upcoming album Floral Canyon. “Truth Will Wreck” courtesy of Laura Lynn Williams, Captain Captain Cutie Pie Music 2014. We Speak in Colors is: Andrew Armstrong. “Train That’s Passed” features Mercy Bell and was produced by Mike Marsh at Paper Mill Studio in East Nashville, TN [].)

2015 Valentine’s Day Fringe

The 2015 Valentine’s Day Fringe video runs through a slideshow featuring friends and family of the Fringe, accompanied by “Love That Never Ages” by *repeat repeat, from the group’s 2014 release, Bad Latitude.

The video also features public domain footage from Penny Serenade and Love Affair.

[Photo of the Nixons by Paul Rowland Photography, courtesy of Jeremy Nixon. Photo of *repeat repeat by Amber Davis, courtesy of Kristyn Corder.]

2014 Holiday Fringe

The first video of our Holiday Fringe series features winter views of Nashville with “A Christmas to Remember” by The Saturns.

Our second video runs through a holiday-themed slideshow, featuring friends and family of the Fringe, accompanied by “Christmas Ain’t Christmas” by Markey Blue.

The final video of this year’s holiday-themed trio takes a look back at just 30 of the wonderful performers who took the stage at Nashville Fringe Festival events this past year. This final video features “We Three Kings” by Magic in Threes, which appears on GED Soul’s Super Soul Xmas EP.

Churchyard: Collaborative to the Core

Churchyard at Mercy Lounge 03

“[With Dead Legs] I learned how to front a band and be comfortable on stage,” writes Churchyard‘s Meghan D’Amico via email, the vocalist and guitarist reflecting on her time in the now-defunct four-piece. “Churchyard is different from Dead Legs because we are a band,” she continues. “We are both intentional and collaborative with our song writing.” The resulting sounds have been described as “lo-fi, grungy garage pop with more than a hint of ’60s psych, surf pop influence,” where Dead Legs’ sound blended “the Duke Spirit, the Dead Weather, Polly Jean Harvey and maybe a dash of the moodiness of the Dum Dum Girls all spliced together in some sort of Frankenstein experiment gone right.” When asked what the band was aiming for with the Ben Spinks-produced demos they released in late-2013, D’Amico says: a “very minimal” and “raw” sound. While each descriptor is accurate, they both fail to shed light on the group’s unique musical chemistry. Continue reading Churchyard: Collaborative to the Core

Justin Kalk: A Stiff Necked Rocker

Justin Kalk
photo by Joseph Rini

Reading about Justin Kalk‘s musical development brings to mind something of an artistic trident: the first prong a reverence for the past, strengthened by an early introduction to instruments and past masters, enhanced by a formal musical education; the second, a tendency to experiment and take chances; and the third a dedication to always move forward. Somewhere at a crossroads between each of these elements is the new Justin Kalk Orchestra album, VoLcanO, though in keeping with the latter, despite having just released the new full-length, Kalk is already looking ahead to what’s next.

Speaking of his father via email, Kalk reflects being surrounded by music at an early age, “I remember crawling up to his Gibson 335 and strumming it back when it was taller then I was.” His great uncle taught him how to play lead guitar — early influences that still ring throughout Kalk’s music included Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jeff Beck — and his grandparents would take him to jazz concerts at a young age, introducing him to many of the musicians along the way. While recognizing early on that music was going to be an essential part of his life, looking back Kalk says he had to fully invest himself in music if he was going to make something of his calling. “Berklee just seemed like the most logical next step if I was going to be serious.”

Continue reading Justin Kalk: A Stiff Necked Rocker

The Long Road to Markey Blue

Markey Blue

“I think in life you need to reinvent yourself,” reflects Markey — the namesake and frontwoman of the Nashville blues act Markey Blue — via email. “I don’t believe in being stagnant,” she continues, “[I] always wanna be growing, learning, and getting better at a craft.” However broad the statement, if ever there were a person to which the term “reinvention” could be ascribed, it’s Markey. The band’s debut album, Hey Hey, started with a meeting between Markey and guitarist Ric Latina, conceptually evolving from a four-track EP to a full-length release, and in the process morphing from a more traditional blues sound into a self-described genre bending “New Indie Soul/Blues” mix. “I had to re-learn how to sing. My gut bucket belting was not gonna work for this project. And Ric, holy cow he really worked to find different sounds for this album.” Markey’s history of reinvention runs far deeper than this most recent musical shift though, as her journey as an entertainer winds back through country music, the Pacific Northwest, and periods working as both a stand-up comic and impressionist, which all kicked off at the age of 19 when she became the youngest chorus member among one of Las Vegas’ premier dance troops.

Continue reading The Long Road to Markey Blue