Gene Dawson's Music Room
Blues Room Doors
My name is Gene Dawson. I began playing guitar in the early 60's in my home town of Memphis, TN. when I was in my teens. In 1966, I was drafted into the US Army and served 2 years , (67/68, Vietnam). While stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland in 1966, I met my wife, Susan. After I was discharged from the Army, we lived in Memphis for a year, then we moved to Maryland in 1969. That was a time when long-hair Hippies roamed the Earth. We lived in numerous places in Washington, D.C. and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, including a group house in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. There was always music going on. We've been married 38 years and have a 26 year old Daughter who was married on September 20th, 2003, and a 40 year old Daughter, Susette, (my step), who has a son, Jacob who is 2-years old and 2 Daughters, Brittany, 18 & Sharon, 23. Sharon has 2 children, and Brittany one, (yep, that makes us Great Grandparents).
We live in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb in the greater Washington, DC area. We have 2 cats, Oregano & Smoky, a shitz-tsu named Gwen and a miniature poodle named Bessie (all rescued but the shitz-tsu). One of my retirement wishes is to open a restaurant/nightclub that serves home cooking and showcases local and National music from Folk to Blues. (possibly in Memphis on Beale Street?). By the way, for a living, I manage Real Estate Assets for a Fortune 500 company.
I first picked up playing guitar as a kid in Memphis from a few friends who played, and we learned together, mostly "boogie woogie" stuff. I recall going down to Beale Street to hear the bands playing in the clubs, alleys and streets, then going home to learn what I heard on an old, beat-up Wabash guitar. I also frequented the local, East Memphis YMCA for the Saturday night dances to hear bands. My Mother bought my first guitar for my birthday when I was about 9; it was a Silvertone from Sears and boy was I proud! I still have it and have partially restored it and play it from time-to-time at gigs (see the picture in this page).
My first musical experience in front of an audience was in 1963 when performing at Memphis' Treadwell high school talent show. I played lead guitar in an all instrumental band with Alvin Simpson (rhythm guitar), Richard Zini (drums) and Bobby Fisher (sax). We called ourselves the "Imperials". We played proms and parties and appeared on Memphis's WHBQ TV dance party. (I have an old tape with a few of our songs recorded in a studio). We were popular, however fellow Treadwell students, Larry Raspberry and Jimmy Hart took the town by storm with a band named "The Gentry's" (remember the song "Keep on Dancin', Dancin' and a Prancin"?). Another fellow Treadwell student, Keith Sykes made a successful career of music and wrote and toured with Jimmy Buffett in the70's. Check out their Web Pages; just type in the name on Google or Yahoo.
But, back to where we were. My next musical adventure was the "Delvantes". As a senior at Treadwell High School in Memphis, I met two sophomores that were doing a Smothers Brothers-type act with acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, Murphy Odom and Don McNatt. We joined forces and started a "British Invasion" band with Billy Miller on drums. We grew our hair long (at least for back then) and played Beatles, Stones and other British act songs. We won "battle-of-the-band" contests, appeared on local Memphis TV and even had "groupies". (I have a studio tape of 3 of our songs). I left that band when I was drafted into the Army in 1966.
Recently, I made contact with Murphy Odom through Brad Webb, Son of one of my Mother's neighbors in Memphis who said he remembered me playing on the porch back in the sixties. Murphy has been in music ever since doing recording studio and engineering stuff. Brad made a music career as a blues guitarist. I heard that Don McNatt was in Nashville and hosts a songwriters cable TV show and coordinates songwriter presentations in the area. Nobody has heard from Billy Miller.
While in the Army, I met musicians, Rich Henry (Dallas, TX) and Terry Henderson (Memphian, Treadwell, '64) and we played and sang our way through the Army, including Vietnam (yes, got some old tapes). We're still in touch sometimes and exchange tapes. When out of the Army, back in Memphis and married, I developed "hippie" tendencies and that's when we moved to the Washington, D.C. area where my wife is from.
I wasn't playing music for a while and my wife, Susan, knew something was missing, so she placed a listing in musicians wanted section Georgetown University's underground paper, without me knowing about it. The next thing I know, all these people started calling and we met some students from Georgetown University and formed a group named "Meretrix". Michael Dellaria, Bob Smith, Joanne Dodds (from Catholic University) and Barry Holloburg comprised the band. I played lead 12 string acoustic guitar and contributed to the songwriting. Michael played 6 string acoustic guitar, vocals and did most of the song writing. Joanne and Bob sang and contributed to the songwriting as well and Barry played drums. We performed original songs in local coffee houses and clubs, then landed a gig as opening act for Livingston Taylor at Catholic University in Washington, DC. (See Below)
A local Washington, DC area promoter took us to New York City to audition for Warner Brothers, Columbia, Capitol and RCA records. Though none of them signed us, Paul Tannen, the East Coast new artist representative for Warner Bros. at the time, saw potential, signed us and convinced Warner Bros. to fund a recording session, which was done at Track Studios in Silver Spring, Maryland. Warner Bros. paid for the session, but didn't sign us. Paul took us to New York City for another session at A & R Studios. He tried to sell our music to producers without success. Everyone moved on but it was a memorable experience. I just finished putting our studio recordings on CD's. I'm still in touch with Michael and Bob, but we don't know where Joanne is. Barry went on to play with the "Fabulous Hubcaps" (an oldies band), and has been with them for almost 40 years.
After Meretrix disbanded, Joanne Dodds and I played as a duo in the Washington, D.C. area for some time. When we stopped playing together, my wife took up guitar and singing and she & I continued to play in the area and developed a trio with a bass player. I picked up finger picking and bluegrass banjo. We came across the opportunity to travel to Europe and took our instruments with us. We played in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Holland) for food, then got booked at a few clubs. The best was the "Folk Fairport" where we played on a Saturday night to a packed house. Don McLean, "Bye Bye American Pie" actually played there once and sang "Starry, Starry Night", which he wrote about Vincent Van Gogh. The owner of the club recorded the entire evening when we played and gave us the tape (our Daughter, Erin loves it!). We met a lot of nice people there, still remain friends and even visited on a subsequent trip to Europe. We also played in England in wine bars.
Back in the states, my wife and I formed a new band and called it "Meretrix" even though I was the only original member. My wife's cousin, John Christopher Lyerly played bass with us. We played "Mid-Seventies-L.A. Pop", you know, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mack, etc., plus originals. We played in a number of local clubs then landed a gig as the house band at a club in Washington, D.C. on Wisconsin Ave. called Babes for a few years until our daughter Erin was born in 1979, then we quit music for a while. Meanwhile, I attended college and majored in classical guitar (it was difficult to play in a rock 'n roll band and play classical).
In the mid- 80's I started writing and recording songs again. I recorded them on a Tascam 4 track. I was really excited about it because it sounded so good compared to the old reel-to-reel tape decks. I used an electronic drum machine. I played a 1968 Gibson SG Standard, bass, simple keyboard and a Guild D-40 acoustic to round it out. I did vocals too, thanks to special sound effects. I contacted Paul Tannen, the previous Warner Brothers artist representative who recorded our 1970's group, Meretrix, and he said he'd listen to my tape. By then, Paul was a successful independent publisher/producer in New York and Nashville. He liked my first song and thought it had "hit potential" and published it. It's called "Baby Be Mine Forever". Nothing ever came of it, but, I sure enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it, plus was able to send my tapes to family and friends, (some of my best fans). Paul still owns a publishing company and we are in touch periodically.
BACK TO THE "BLUES"
Bassist, Chris Lyerly and I got together and learned that we were both really into Blues. I used my old Gibson SG and got a practice amp and we put together some songs. That's when we got the bug and found a harp player through a local music paper who knew a drummer, so we had an instant band. We named ourselves "Big E & The Blues Cats" (E for the big guitar string).
We put together a few sets of Chicago style blues songs that were hard drivin' and loud. The harp player and I kept getting bigger amps. I think I went through 4 amps and as many guitars in the first 6 months. We played blues jams and a few gigs (I think my hearing was permanently damaged). We still play together from time to time for fun.
Chris and I played with various other drummers and harp players for a while. After a while, we found that we were good as a duo. So, we just called ourselves "The Blues Cats" or "Dawson & Lyerly". As a duo we appeared live on local TV with over 30 spots between Jan. & April, 2000.
Beale Street Y2K
Our family went to Memphis to visit my family and, as traditional, we all went down to Beale Street. It was a warm day and a Blues band "Big Jerry" was playing in W.C. Handy Park. I ask if I could sit in on a song and they let me. We did Stormy Monday and I played like I didn't even think I could (guess it was the magic of Beale Street). People were dancing and taking pictures and when done, the band all gathered around for high-fives and more pictures (photo link above). What a way to bring Blues into the new year!!!
We dropped the name "The Blues Cats" and went by the name, "The Dawson/Lyerly Band". Also, we were back to an electric trio. We played at the May, 2000 D.C. Blues Society Jam at Taliano's in Takoma Park, Maryland. We got it on video and that appearance netted us a picture on the cover of the D.C. Blues Society's monthly publication. We got the opportunity to attend the King Biscuit Blues Festival in October, 2000 in Helena, Arkansas with my family. There was a cold spell and we froze, but the music was great.
HOUSE CONCERTS, 2002
My wife & I recently got back into contemporary folk music after hearing some great singer/songwriters on a televised Takoma Park, Maryland Folk Festival, including Tom Prasada-Rao. We saw Tom live and met him to learn that he's a Takoma Park native as is my wife. I asked if he ever played Birthday parties and he said it sounded similar to a house concert, which we'd never heard of. As it worked out, he played for my wife's Birthday at our house on March 30, 2001 and we had about 35 people there.
It was an awesome event and we were hooked and Dawsonconcerts house concerts was born (see link below). Tom Prasada-Rao was the first performer on 9/28/01 and we've had monthly concerts since then. I play at some of these concerts as well as sit in on guitar occasionally with the scheduled Artists. After the concerts, we have what we call a "song circle" where anyone in the audience as well as the scheduled Artists get together in a circle and play songs with each other, sometimes late into the night.
We're linked with the National House Concert circuit via the Internet and are promoted on radio, newspapers and other media. A major Washington newspaper did a large article on House Concerts and the reporter interviewed me by phone, which resulted in 3 paragraphs of the article. There have been numerous newspaper articles on Dawsonconcerts as well as a 2003 TV special. It's really nice to get involved in this type music and get to know many local and National Artists both in our house as well as out in the clubs, festivals and concerts. I've been inspired to write a lot of new songs myself, some which are posted on my MP3 page, also linked below.
We've booked FREEBO, Bonnie Raitt's long time bass player, twice. He is now on his own as a singer/songwriter. I was the "Opening Act" for him once! Memphis Treadwell High School friend and very successful musician, Keith Sykes has performed at our house concert on three occasions, 2003, 2004 & 2005. I was lucky enough to sit in with him on guitar. There's a picture on the Photos link. Go to the Dawsonconcerts web page for more pictures.
With all the songwriters coming through our house, I became inspired to write more songs and have put together a collection of songs I recorded. I established an MP3.com music web page with a selection of those songs. Since the web site became active in April, 2004, my songs have received over 10,000 downloads. Most of my songs have been ranked in the top 10 in their category, with Boogie Woogie Breakdown ranking #1 recently in the Country/Rockabilly category. They can be heard free at http://music.download.com/genedawson . My songs have been selected as "picks of the week" by MP3.com and by the Washington Post/MP3.com music web page. Some of my songs have been played on the radio in Washington, DC, Seattle and Slovenia. My songs "Good Nutrition Blues", "Boogie Woogie Breakdown" and "Trip Stumble & Fall" have been ranked among the top 30 on the Internet radio station, Rockabilly Radio, http://www.rockabillyradio.net/ .
September 20, 2003
Our Daughter, Erin, was married to Matthew Tevelow at a beautiful cerimony at Maryvale Castle in Baltimore. It was just after a hurricane came through the area and knocked out power for a week. On the wedding day, the weather cleared up and we had a perfect day, although the power was via gas-powered generator. That was okay, since it was an old castle anyway.
Erin asked me to write a song for their wedding, so I wrote "You Are the One" and sang it as part of the ceremony. I got choked up and barely made it through the song. People have told me it's my best song. It's not recorded yet, but will be soon.
Institute of Musical Traditions, June, 2004
I recently a member of the Board of Director's with a local music organization, The Institute of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, Maryland. The IMT, whose President, David Eisner, also owns a retail music store called The House of Musical Traditions and is a professional sound engineer. He also records artists.
MEMPHIS, NOVEMBER, 2004
We visited my family in Memphis this Thanksgiving for my Mother's Birthday. The whole family got together for dinner and the immediate family rode in a stretch limo. Joining us was a musician named Barbara Pittman, who is a neighbor of my sister, Faye. Barbara is known as The Rockabilly Queen and is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She recorded some hit songs in the 1950's at Sun Studio in Memphis. Sun is the studio where Sam Phillips discovered and recorded Elvis Presley. Barbara knew Elvis and recorded with him. After dinner and a limo ride around town, we went back to my Mother's house and I played some music. Barbara liked one of my songs called "Trip, Stumble & Fall", and asked if she could perform it at a Rockabilly Festival in England in March, 2004. Of course I said yes!
My Mother told me that one of her neighbor's Son who plays music knows me. His name is Brad Webb. I didn't remember him, so I looked him up on the Internet to learn that he has had a music career since the 1960's and currently tours around the world wit blues legend Blind Mississippi Morris. He also writes songs and owns his own recording company. When I contacted him, he said he used to hear me play my guitar in the neighborhood when he was 10 years old and I was 15. He said I influenced him to start playing guitar. I guess it worked! While in Memphis, we went to his gig with Blind Mississippi Morris at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, so I finally got to meet him. He also re-connected me with Murphy Odom, who was in a band with me in the 1960's. He also said I was an inspiration to him and the other musicians and has made a career out of music and builds recording studios. It looks like I'm the only one who didn't make a career out of music, but went into a corporate career instead. Oh well, I'll retire in time and by then maybe someone will make a hit out of one of my songs.
RED RIVER, NEW MEXICO MUSIC FESTIVAL, AUGUST, 2005
Friend and musician, Keith Sykes, suggested that Sue & I attend the Red River, NM Music Festival held every August in northern New Mexico in the mountains north of Taos. Since we love to travel out west and love music, we went this year. What a cool little town, high in the mountains, (8-9 thousand feet). The music was held at various places around town, including at the top of the ski lift, but the center of it all was the Motherlode Saloon, where it was hoping until early morning. Keith was great, and we heard Richard Leigh, ("Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue"), who has appeared at tour house concert series too. We also heard artists new to us like Kevin Welch and Chuck Pyle. Chuck Pyle appear edat our house concert series in December, 2005.
After Red River, we spent a week in the Taos, NM area staying at B & B's and listening to music. I played at the open mic in the Adobe Bar at the famous Taos Inn. We stayed in an earth ship B & B on the Rio Grande River Gorge called The Dobson House. It was constructed of all recycled materials and is solar powered. The owners haven't had a TV in 40 years.
I'm a member of the Washington Area Music Association, (WAMA). The president, Mike Schreibman, used to be a major concert promoter back in the 1970's, booking such artists as The Who, Country Joe & the Fish, Iron Butterfly, etc. A few months ago Mike announced a new off-shoot business of WAMA called Vintage New Era Poster Art. I checked it out to see that included in the featured items was a poster of a Livingston Taylor/Meretrix concert at Catholic University April, 1971. I was a member of the opening band Meretrix! (see above). The band recalled that the poster was very cool, and heard that it was seen on the wall of a music club in Bethesda called the Psychedeli decades ago. Well, now we are certified Vintage. The band members bought all the posters on hand, and I have one on the wall of our concert room along with other music memorabilia.
Well, that's it for now, and thanks for visiting this web page. To get in touch, click on the E-mail link at the bottom of the page or sign the guest book.
Breedlove Performance Focus Maple 8585 Acoustic/Electric, 2005
Guild D-40 Acoustic, 1973, with Fishman pickup & L.R. Baggs Pre-amp
Sears Silvertone, 1955 above (semi-restored)
Fender American Stratocaster, 2003
Fender Deluxe tube amp, 2003
Mackie powered mixer with Sennheiser & Shure mics
I record at home on a Tascam.
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