I think just about everybody has heard the story of how BR5-49
started out playing for tips at Robert's Western World on lower
Broadway, just down the road from the legendary Tootsies Orchid
Lounge in Nashville. How it cost John Michael Montgomery $600 when
he offered Chuck
Mead $25 for every Hank Williams song he could sing….Montgomery's
wallet gave out well before Chuck did. This 5-piece band playing
authentic honky-tonk music took the UK and Europe by storm when
they first played over here in 1996. More recently there have been
a few changes within the band with Gary Bennett being replaced by
Chris Scruggs (son of Gail Davies and grandson of banjo playing
legend Earl Scruggs) and bassist Jeff Firebaulm taking over from
Over the past few years Chris Scruggs has been travelling to
Britain, playing with the Gail Davies
Band and back in his hometown of Nashville has been creative with
his own rockabilly band the Nashville Tigers. Early in 2002 Chris
put his own solo debut album together with all songs written by
himself and released around May/June 2002.
While BR549 were appearing at Notts. American 2002, I took the
opportunity to talk with the guy who they call the professor….the
guy who can play virtually anything with strings on it…fiddle and
steel player with BR549….Don Herron.
Well it's good to see you back in the UK again Don. It has
been far too long since we last saw BR549 over here.
"It has been too long and was a lot
of fun though. This gig we just did was a blast."
It was!!! Everybody's talking about it. The two new lads have
fitted in very well.
"Yeah!!! They're amazing….they've done a fine job with
Perhaps you can just tell me briefly why the change has come
"Jay has gone doing some film editing and working in
films and movies, videos and things. Garry's got him a publishing
deal and he's been writing songs and stuff. They came off the road
is more or less what happened. They decided that they wanted to quit
livin' a carnival life, (laughs) and actually have maybe a wife and
some kids…and you can't blame a person for that! We had a lot of
fun with them and they got to do a lot of things….see the world
with those guys and I'm sure that they had a lot of fun as much as
we did and will be something that I'll never forget. But these two
guys that we have now…they're a blast to play with!!!"
You now have with you Chris Scruggs and Jeff Firebaum. I know
Chris is based in Nashville is Jeff
also based in Nashville.
"Huh hah….all five of us are. I actually live out of town.
I live in a little town called Columbia, Tennessee, which is just
south of Nashville. I live there cos I don't like the rush hour
traffic and stuff. So this way I catch rush hour traffic whenever
I go to town.….which is every day. (laughs) But it's great….it's
a great place to play music because there are so many musicians
there. That means a lot you know, when you have so many different
pickers to choose from. You feel that there will always be somebody
over there who is always ready to play some music and have some
fun. And we have two of the best…two of the best in Nashville."
So what can we expect from BR549 for the near future?
"The Best Of BR549 has just come out. We're glad that did…that
worked out perfect for us for
this run. We'll be back in the studio and doing some more recording
and we'll be back out with an album real soon.
We've been planning with these guys…we've been talking about
making two trips to Europe a year and hopefully we'll get that
started in the next six months."
I know that the British fans will be pleased to hear this.
"Oh!!! It's great to play for them, they are a lot of fun.
We played Dingwalls this time. We've got to play all kinds of venues.
This is a festival…The Americana Festival. We were in Spain this
and Sweden and Holland. A couple of festivals in Holland went really
well…it's been a great tour!!! We've been out here for three weeks.
It was a lot of fun and we can't wait to come back! It went by so
fast it seemed like just one week."
Is Chuck still writing new songs for the band?
"Yes! He is probably writing right now!!! (laughs) (Actually,
Chuck Mead was married in Scotland just a few days after my interview
with Don.) He's been working on a bunch…he's got a lot of great
songs, he's been writing some with Chris and writing with us too.
We've been all getting together and coming up with stuff, then of
course he sits down by himself and comes up with brilliant things
too. We're looking forward to just keeping him going….having fun
and going out there and do what we love to do…that's just playing
music and see the world."
The British fans have loved to see you come back.
"Ho man!!! What was it….three years???….That's way
too much. We promise it won't that long again. As I say we are
planning to come over twice a year….coming over every 6-7 months…making
a habit of it!!! So you all keep coming out and seeing us and we'll
keep coming back!"
True to their word BR549 are back in the UK to headline the
North Wales Country Music Festival in Llandudno over the weekend of
27th 30th March 2003. Also Chris Jackson has re-booked them for
Americana 2003 taking place over the weekend of 11th - 13th July.