Golden Graham talks with the stars of country music

BR549 BR549
Return To UK

Don Herron talks to Graham Lees


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 & Jeff FirebaulmChuck 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 Jay McDowell.

Over the past few years Chris Scruggs has been travelling to Britain, playing with the Gail Chris ScruggsDavies 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.Don Herron playing steel guitar

"Yeah!!! They're amazing….they've done a fine job with us!"

Perhaps you can just tell me briefly why the change has come about.

"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 Chris Scruggs & Don HerronJeff 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 forDon Herron playing fiddle 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 time, Chuck MeadNorway 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."

Chuck Mead & Chris Scruggs

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.