SCOTT SHARRARD IS BEST KNOWN as lead guitarist and bandleader to the late Gregg Allman. But his personal artistic journey – which includes singing, songwriting, producing and arranging – began long before he first teamed up with the rock icon.
It’s a mission that resumes with Saving Grace, Sharrard’s fifth album -- and his first since Allman’s death.
Gregg had a pure passion and heart, Sharrard says of his friend,
especially when it came to being a musician. That authenticity and dedication is a daily inspiration, and I will always carry that with me onstage and in the studio.
Saving Grace, with the blues at its core, bears a distinctly southern spirit, seamlessly assimilating the sounds of American roots music that Sharrard has long embraced. Sessions took place in Memphis and at the historic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Half the album employs the Hi Rhythm Section, the other The Swampers of Muscle Shoals.
These guys are legends and heroes of ours who have played on so many life-changing records, Sharrard says.
This record was steeped in the best the South has to offer. We cut the rhythm section and lead vocals all live on the floor, direct to tape. Old school. We let the songs and the band speak. We also had some of the best barbecue and soul food you could ever imagine, and a lot of laughs and good times with our heroes. How can you lose?
Sharrard’s travels to the heart of the American South began in his native Milwaukee. He was born December 28, 1976 – the day his hero Freddie King died – and was a club fixture in Brewtown long before he could legally take a drink.
Milwaukee at that time was an oasis for a whole group of musical masters, Sharrard recalls.
Mel Rhyne, Buddy Miles, Hubert Sumlin, Luther Allison, Clyde Stubblefield… They were our local bar bands! All those cats schooled me in different ways, backstage, on gigs and at jams.
Sharrard was 15 when his father took him to a local blues joint called the Up and Under Pub. There he sat in with singer/guitarist (and local one-named legend) Stokes, who would become his mentor. Another was powerhouse
Chitlin’ Circuit singer and guitarist Willie Higgins.
Sharrard soon graduated to occasional dates in Chicago, with tutelage coming via jams alongside two fabled Muddy Waters sidemen, drummer Willie
Big Eyes Smith and pianist Pinetop Perkins.
Then came a chance 1996 move to New York City. The 20-year-old Sharrard, eager to bolt Milwaukee, had his mind on New Orleans. But his friend Sean Dixon, with whom he had a band called The Chesterfields, had found a rent-controlled apartment in the East Village.
That settled it, Sharrard remembers with a laugh.
I became a New York City resident for the first time. My next-door neighbor was Allen Ginsberg, who was already one of my literary heroes at that time. I used to eat at Mee’s Chinese restaurant sitting across from Allen. It was our corner restaurant with a cheap dinner special. He’d always order the ginger fish and write! … It was like a dream, really. All those giant buildings spreading into infinity. It was so overwhelming.
Sharrard had been in the Big Apple but a year when he met iconic Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegun, who mentored The Chesterfields and gave the young guitar-slinger some sage advice.
Ahmet told me that you must do it all – and well – if you want to survive as a musician, Sharrard remembers.
He told me to get it all together: writing, singing, producing, playing, arranging. He convinced me to work twice as hard because around 2000 he saw the end of the music business as we knew it. He felt no one was around to support artists like back in the heyday of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.
The Chesterfields cut three albums and toured nationally before Sharrard began to chart his own course. A series of releases followed, including Dawnbreaker (2005), Analog/Monolog (2008) and Ante Up (2009). Ertegun wasn’t the only legend with Sharrard on his radar back then: The young guitarist also forged a relationship with Levon Helm – performing with The Band drummer about a dozen times, including his final gig just before his death in April of 2012.
Sharrard remains close with Helm’s daughter, Amy, and a host of other artists on the Woodstock scene.
It was through Amy’s then-husband, multi-instrumentalist Jay Collins – already a member of Allman’s band – that Sharrard embarked on the collaboration of a lifetime. In the fall of 2008, Sharrard began a nearly decade-long run with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
I grew up on the music of the Allman Brothers, says Sharrard.
I consider first hearing them to be the ‘Big Bang’ moment for me as a pre-teen. I’ve always been chasing what I like to call ‘Real Rock and Roll,’ a blend of blues, jazz, soul, country and folk – with the central goal being to create an original sound of your own. In that respect, working with Gregg just solidified everything I’ve believed since I was a kid.
Sharrard joined the Gregg Allman Band as a touring guitarist and later became Musical Director.
The fruitful partnership ended with the 69-year-old Allman’s death on May 27, 2017. But not before Allman covered Sharrard’s Love Like Kerosene on 2015’s Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA, and again on Allman’s eighth and final solo album, the posthumous, GRAMMY-nominated Southern Blood (Rounder Records, 2017).
Another Southern Blood track, the unforgettable farewell My Only True Friend – co-written by Sharrard and Allman – earned a GRAMMY nomination for Americana Song of the Year.
Sharrard’s deep respect for Allman factored heavily into the 2018 release date for Saving Grace. Tracking was completed in December of 2016. But Sharrard – knowing Allman’s health was failing and that Southern Blood would be his last hurrah – chose to delay its unveiling.
He’s now begun a new chapter with an album he consciously wanted to summarize the last 20 years of his work – and one that showcases the totality of his artistry: as guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and bandleader.
In short, he says, it’s rock n’ roll rooted in everything else.
I basically have a rock ’n’ roll band Sharrard explains.
When I was growing up, I loved bands like Little Feat, Led Zeppelin and the Allmans. They would explore so many styles and experiment. That’s something I have always tried to embrace, and that’s how I want to present my music today. This is what I tried to do with Gregg. Now I’m continuing that as a solo artist.
Dave Perkins is an artist whose musical journey crisscrosses the map of American music. Perkins' work as a guitarist includes playing bluegrass and swing with fiddle-great Vassar Clements, Texas renegade-country with Jerry Jeff Walker, singer-songwriter pop with Carole King, alternative rock with Chagall Guevara, Americana with Guy Clark, blues and jazz with violinist Papa John Creach, reggae with Mystic Meditations, and industrial hard-core with Passafist. Then, there were the occasional odd jobs, such as accompanying Ray Charles on his "3/4 Time" video. Dave's musical career also involves the studio arts—engineering and producing. He has performed on many recordings as an instrumentalist and produced albums for numerous artists such as Over The Rhine.
Music critics heralded Dave's 2009 album Pistol City Holiness as a "blues-rock masterpiece." Following that project, Dave was called upon to score the feature film Deadline. Both Pistol City Holiness and the soundtrack to Deadline are available on Lugnut Records. A new Dave Perkins album is now in production with an expected release date of January 2016.
While music remains Dave's first love, he has added an extra dimension to his life and work. In 2002, Dave earned the M.Div. (Master of Divinity) degree at The Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and, in 2011, the Ph.D. from Vanderbilt's graduate school. He is Associate Director of the Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture program at Vanderbilt and teaches graduate-level courses aligned with that program—several involving music.
A bluesy Southern rock guitarist with soulful vocals to match, Georgia native Chris Hicks honed his skills playing lead guitar for Gregg Allman, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band, among others. Inspired by Otis Redding and James Brown, Hicks grew up in the Macon area and later joined the Experience. After playing the blues festival circuit for several years, the band opened up for Steppenwolf and Charlie Daniels during the 1980s, and Hicks was asked to join the Outlaws later that decade. After the Outlaws disbanded in 1996, Hicks joined the evolving lineup of the Marshall Tucker Band, serving as the group's lead guitarist while simultaneously launching a solo career with 1998's Funky Broadway. Hicks stayed with the Marshall Tucker Band throughout the following decade, and 2008 saw the release of his second solo effort, Dog Eat World.
EG Kight’s sound transcends musical boundaries. With a blend of blues, country, americana, southern rock, jazz, gospel, and funk, her music appeals to the masses, no matter their taste. Taylor Guitars, who supplies her with the tools of her trade, wrote in their Wood & Steel Magazine that she has a “…uniquely rural, deeply personal sound and style.” A veteran of the road, Kight has traveled the world, bringing her diverse musical menu to clubs, theaters, festivals, house concerts, fundraisers, and corporate events around the globe. And she’s garnered many accolades along the way.
Kight was nominated for a 2015 Blues Music Awards Award, was named one of the 2014 Top 5 Best Blues Artists on AXS.com, and her latest album debuted at #9 on the Living Blues Chart. She has also received various music industry nominations, including six for Female Artist of the Year, three for Song of the Year, and one for Album of the Year. She has appeared on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, and an original song from her segment was re-broadcast on the Listener’s Choice Program. She also appeared on Mountain Stage, and Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour.
A notable songwriter, many artists have recorded Kight’s songs. Several songs ended up on Grammy-nominated albums, and on two compilations that maintained Billboard chart positions for over a year. Her original songs have aired on three major TV networks. And she placed five songs in a film slated for a spring 2017 release.
Long considered one of the few true blues vocalists, Georgia Music Magazine noted that Kight is “…a gentle and elegant woman who manages to channel Southern charm, sophistication and a fierce passion for the blues into one tremendously intoxicating voice.”
Six decades in, it’s clear that guitarist and songwriter Tommy Talton is still making music for the sheer joy of it. He manages to perform with both the energy of a music-obsessed kid and the restraint of a seasoned veteran – because, at heart, he is both.
He began his musical career in Central Florida and in 1966 was a founding member of a group called “We The People.” The group had several top ten hits throughout Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Recording with RCA Victor Records, they gained much critical acclaim and are still considered to be in the top three of the most listened to and appreciated “garage band” genre groups of all time.
To this day they have re-releases of recordings from the ‘60’s with Sundazed Records from upstate New York, sales being reportedly steady.
In 1970, Tommy Talton, along with Scott Boyer, was a founding member of Capricorn Records group “Cowboy.” From 1971 through 1977 Cowboy recorded 4 albums for Capricorn.
Talton also recorded an album titled “Happy To Be Alive/ Talton, Sandlin and Stewart” with producer Johnny Sandlin (Allman Bros., Delbert McClinton). Essentially, it being a solo effort with all but one song being written and sung by Talton.
While in Macon, Ga. through most of the 70’s, Tommy was a studio musician recording with artists such as Billy Joe Shaver, Bonnie Bramlett, Martin Mull, Corky Lang (West, Bruce and Lang/ Mountain), Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Clarence Carter, country music legend Kitty Wells, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Arthur Conley of Sweet Soul Music fame, Johnny Rivers, and more.
He toured extensively throughout the U.S. with Cowboy and with Gregg Allman’s “Laid Back Tour” as Gregg’s ‘Special Guests’ from Carnegie Hall to Fillmore West in San Francisco and most cities in between. Tommy was also the guitarist on Gregg Allman’s certified Gold “Laid Back” studio album.
Throughout the ‘90’s, Tommy lived and toured in Europe and formed a group there called “The Rebelizers” with members of Albert Lee’s band, Hogan’s Heroes.
Also at that time, he was guitarist on a Belgian television program, “Sommer Kuren” (“Cures Summer,” translated,1997) and played with numerous European musicians such as Toots Thielemans (jazz harmonica) while gigging in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain.
In 2005, after returning to the States, Talton formed “The Tommy Talton Band.”
Lindsay Bridgers is a local artist who was born and raised in Middle Georgia. She knew she was meant to create from the time she was old enough to hold a pencil, and after graduating from Warner Robins High School in 2008, she went on to get her Associate of Arts Degree in Studio Art from Macon State College, followed by her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Georgia College & State University, where she concentrated on painting and printmaking. She currently lives in Milledgeville and recently became a middle school art teacher. You can check out some of her work or request commissions at www.lindsayartstudio.wixsite.com/lindsay
Exceptional musicians are the exception. Gary Anderson is exceptional with a capital E- a master picker with an earthy voice that goes to the heart of the song. A veteran of the Nashville club circuit, Gary is a multi-instrumentalist and singer with a passion for traditional music. Audiences are pleased to find Gary's performances remininiscent of Doc Watson, John Prine, and other traditionalists, a rare treat in today's music landscape. Gary has opened for many greats, and his interpretations never fail to please. Gary hails from the Tennessee mountain country where his family was deeply rooted in traditional country, bluegrass, and blues, and the result is a set of pure entertainment.
A self-taught blues-rock musician and soulful vocalist, Junior Mack has been playing guitar since 1968. Influenced by countless blues, rock and gospel musicians and singers, he’s combined years of listening and learning into one unique style. Aside from his own band (The Junior Mack Band) and solo efforts, he’s currently the front man for Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and a founding member of the Grammy Nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra.
His style of music has been enthusiastically received by audiences within the United States, Europe and as far away as India.
Junior has sat in or worked with numerous artists including The Allman Brothers Band, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, The Marshall Tucker Band, Honeyboy Edwards and Cyndi Lauper among others.
A Macon, Georgia artist and promoter of music and art. During a career that has spanned the last 35 years he has produced art for albums, tee shirts and posters for many rock bands including the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi.
John donates his time and talents to the Skydog event through design work and marketing. And he holds a “yard sale” at the event which includes an art raffle that has supported the event and musicians in need. As of last year he also has the “Church of Duane Allman” on site for all to enjoy. It’s a small art museum dedicated to Duane and enclosed in a trailer. The church is ever evolving and will have more art works and installments this year. Be sure to stop by and check it out!
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DISCLAIMER: Skydog 75 is an annual, for profit event benefitting Depaul USA Daybreak and has no legal or business connection with
The Allman Brothers Band/Organization.