If you dig Elvis, which I can suppose if you read this webzine, you probably have heard about Hamburger James, a member of the "Memphis Mafia". But do you know Hamburger James the band, from Richmond Virginia? They are a relatively new quartet that plays american music with a fresh approach. Their first release "Last Plain To Memphis" - read the review below - is excellent and we thought, here at Jumpin' From 6 To 6, you'd like to know more about them.
So here it is, an interview with Andy, Slawdaddy, Bill and Will, respectively singer, guitarist, drummer and bassist of Hamburger James
by Fred "Virgil" Turgis

   
 

Tell us more about you. How did you get together?
Andy: Well, we’ve been good friends for a long while. Then in 2005, the four of us decided to go on the ultimate music geek road trip. So we piled into my ’63 Ford Galaxie and drove to Memphis, since that city is kind of the hub of the universe for the music that really moves us the most. And on the way back home, it hit us. It was a realization of, “Hey, I can play rhythm guitar and sing. Bill, you’re a fantastic drummer. Slaw, you can play the hell out of the guitar. Will, if you’d just learn to play bass, we’d have ourselves a band!”
We drug our feet getting started because of the distance between us- Will and I live in Richmond, and Bill and Slawdaddy live about 100 miles away in Northern VA. But finally, on New Year’s Eve of ’06, the three of us got together (Will hadn’t started learning bass yet) and played a few Elvis tunes we all knew and one or two songs that I had written, and it was like magic. The chemistry was instant. Will had just started getting into doing music promotion, and a few weeks later he booked Janis Martin for a gig here in Richmond. Janis needed a backing band, so Will asked if we thought we could do it if he found us a bass player. So, we said hell yeah, got our good buddy Hank Fauerbach (from The Ultra Kings & The Dregs) to play bass, and went from there!

Slawdaddy: I've known Bill forever, and through Bill I met Will and Andy. We discovered we had some common musical territory on a trip to Mexico, and this became the catalyst for the trip to Memphis. We just had a blast. We started talking about coming back in a year and recording some songs at Sun Recording - sort of the ultimate souvenir. Things just kind of happened from there.

Is Hamburger James your first band?
Slawdaddy: No, my first band had no name, no drummer, no vocalist and featured Danny Hanz (guitar) and Bruce Daigle (bass). We did one original ("Danny's Song") and some Stone's covers - those were good times. I was eleven years old. I've played in about a dozen bands over the years, including one called Pegasus II. The last band I was with before Hamburger James was the Fee Foe 5 which had Bill on Drums.

Andy: My only other serious band was a ska band called The Eskalators in the mid 90’s- yeah, funny how things change. That band was also my first foray into songwriting. After that, I really didn’t play with anyone ‘till Hamburger James started.

Will: This is the first band for me. In fact I've only been playing an instrument since March of 2007. Andy and Slaw are patient as saints and thank God for Bill Pettus. I wouldn't be able to do it unless I was camped out next to the human metronome. The man keeps impeccable time.

Bill: I started paying in bands around 1980. My first was called "Prep H"- a DC/Hardcore punk group. I've honestly lost count of the number of bands that I've been in since then, but it has to be over 20! I've played everything from psychedelic rock to swing. I enjoy the challenge of playing different styles. For the last six years, I've also played weekly with a gospel band.

Did you grow up in a musical environment?
Andy: Absolutely. My Dad is a musician- he sings and plays guitar & mandolin mostly. He was in several bands when he was younger- rock n’ roll, soul, psychedelic- and was in a great bluegrass band called the Bluegrass Clippers when I was growing up. I remember being a kid and going to bluegrass festivals and gigs that Dad was playing, and I loved it. Dad also loved country. So being around all of that definitely helped instill a lot of my love for honest, soulful roots music. Also, my Step-dad worked in radio, and he’s big into old rock and roll. He’s a big Elvis fan, too.

Bill: Everyone in my family is musical. I grew up listening to my dad play trumpet and my sister practicing piano. We always had music playing in the house, although it tended to be my dad's classical records. I had to discover rock n' roll on my own which made it all the more interesting.

Slawdaddy: My Dad always played good music on the stereo - dixieland jazz, big band, pop, musicals and some classical, but I didn't grow up in a musical family per se.

How did you discover rock'n'roll music? Through the radio, a band, a record?
Andy: Well, I was exposed to a lot of it growing up. I remember being a kid and loving the oldies station on the radio. Then I listened to a lot of different stuff as a teenager and into my 20’s. I was quite the angst-ridden teen and got into hardcore, punk, oi, and then ska. But, as I got older, I started really getting back into the stuff that I grew up with- bluegrass & country, which lead to rockabilly, which is of course tied right in to rock n’ roll.

Will: I first discovered rock and roll through my father. I was starting to show an interest in music and listening to the radio. I remember latching on to a certain Van Halen song. My father clued in really quick that he needed to do something. He brought home a large box set of Buddy Holly with Chuck Berry soon to follow. I was hooked on that early rock and roll sound ever since.

Bill: I grew up listening to 1970s AM rock stations. I had an ancient old tube radio that just got AM. I heard a lot of oldies and loved them. Once I started playing drums, I got into virtuoso drummers like Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham. When I finally got a good stereo, I was able to play along with records- usually 2-3 hours a day. My parents were saints to put up with all that racket!

Slawdaddy: The Beatles- I heard the song "I'll Get You" on TV and that was it. I was aware of rock and roll before then, but nothing had hit me like they had. My cousin had played "Meet the Beatles" about a year before and I couldn't stand it. One year later I was watching TV and that song came on - obviously something had changed. It was like being hit by lightening.

Elvis seems to have a certain influence on the band. Do you remember the first time you heard him?
Andy: I honestly can’t remember the first time I heard Elvis- he’s just always been there!

Slawdaddy: I’ve always loved Elvis. The first time I was aware of him was via one of his movies - it might've been "Jailhouse Rock" or "Loving You" - it was definitely one of the early ones.

Your bio says you even "stayed in the apartment where Elvis lived as a teenager"...
Andy: From ’49 ‘till ’53, Elvis and his parents lived in the Lauderdale Courts apartments in Memphis. It’s still a regular apartment complex where people live, but they rent out the unit that Elvis lived in to tourists and other assorted Elvis freaks like us. And lemme tell you- it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! They have it decorated with period furniture, and there’s photos of the Presley family on the walls. Elvis’ room is even done up just like it would have been in the early ‘50’s. It was so freakin’ cool to be able to stay there!

Slawdaddy: Real good times - neat vibe. It made me giddy just being there. Bill discovered that you could rent it out and we were there!

Who got the idea for the name of the band by the way?
Andy: James Caughley, AKA Hamburger James, was part of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia in the 70’s. The guy’s one and only job responsibility was to get The King burgers whenever he wanted. And there’s an absolutely hilarious story about Hamburger James stealing Elvis’ “kit” of money and pills in Vegas and trying to catch a plane home to Memphis- but E & the boys actually stopped the plane on the runway and pulled the guy off.
Anyway- the Hamburger James story was one of our favorite funny, bizarre Elvis stories. So one day not long after we first decided to do this yet-to-be-named band, inspiration hit me and I wrote a song called “The Legend Of Hamburger James” that told the story. Well, I was totally excited about it, finished it that night, and then went to go email the guys the lyrics the next morning. And- I kid you not- when I opened up my email, there’s a message from Will to all of us saying “Hey- look what I wrote last night- The Legend Of Hamburger James!” Unbelieveable! He had written a song about the exact same thing, on the exact same night, and he and I had NEVER talked about it before! So that settled it right then and there to call our band Hamburger James. We had even both written a line that said “Last plane to Memphis”, and that became the name of the CD. I combined Will’s lyrics and mine into one big epic ballad which became the full “Legend Of Hamburger James” song. We jokingly call it our “rockabilliad”.

Will: I first heard of Hamburger James Caughley after Slawdaddy told the legendary story at the dinner table on Bill's 40th birthday cruise through the Caribbean.
I remember joking that if we ever had a band we had to call ourselves Hamburger James. You could look and see the immediate spark in Slaw and Bill's eyes. I remember that Andy wasn't so hot on it at first. He didn't want people to think that HE was Hamburger James. Kind of the Hootie and the Blowfish effect. That guy will be Hootie for the rest of his life.

You backed the late Janis Martin, any special memories you'd like to share with us?
Andy: Man, that was one of the most amazing nights- the most fun I’ve ever had playing music in my life! Janis was so awesome. It was a crazy scramble to get ready for that show. We weren’t even really a band when we agreed to do it. We had less than three months to learn to play together, put together an opening set of 14 or 15 songs of our own, and learn the 20 or so songs that Janis wanted to do. All while working and living our lives, and having to drive 100 miles to practice together. But it was totally worth the effort. Janis was amazing! We had no idea what to expect, and we were completely blown away! Her voice was as strong as ever, she was so full of energy and life- just incredible.
The whole night is a great memory, but there is one thing that always sticks out and makes me smile. Janis had sent us a tape of the songs she wanted to do. I’m not sure when or where it was recorded, but it was very different than the original RCA recordings from the 50’s. When we were learning all the songs, we usually referred to it as the “bar band tape”. So we learned to play the songs like the “bar band tape”, but we also learned to play the songs like the original 50’s recordings, too. On the afternoon of the gig when we met Janis for the first time for rehearsal, I asked her if she wanted to do the songs like the tape she had sent, of if she wanted to do them more like the originals since we had learned both. Well, she said, “Oh honey- those old one’s are so boring!” We were all so surprised, and there was this weird moment of silence. Then, I sheepishly spoke up and said, “But… but, Mrs. Martin- we LOVE those old recordings. You had such great session players on ‘em. I mean, Chet Atkins…” She just laughed and said, “Aww… Chet was great, but he wanted to make everything sound like Christmas music! I really just want y’all to rock it! Just ROCK IT!” So, that’s what we did!
Right after that gig, Janis went to Austin and recorded an amazing album. It hasn’t been released yet, but it is absolutely incredible! Rosie Flores produced it, and Janis had an all star lineup of the best musicians play- Dave Biller, Beau Sample, Bobby Trimble, T Jarrod Bonta. Well, shortly after getting back home, Janis was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And before long, she was gone. It was so sad. But we’re real proud to have been a part of her last show, and we’re happy that we helped make it a good one for her. It was the first time that some of her family and friends had gotten to see her perform, including her granddaughter. It’s where we got our start, and Janis is someone we’ll always hold very dear to our hearts.

Will: I was the promoter for that show and every time I spoke with her she wanted to make sure I got her a band that "really rocked". The night of the gig, I was standing to the side of the stage during "Bang, Bang". When Bill attacked the drums after the first 'Bang Bang' in the chorus, I remember the look on her face as she spun around to watch him. When she turned back around to sing she shot me this look with a huge smile on her face and just shook her head - like - DAMN. At one point later on she walked over to Slaw who was in the middle of another ripping solo, dragged her finger down his face and licked the sweat off. The play of her and Andy when he would sing back up brought a lot of life to the night. It was really fun to watch. "You told me you get me a band that rocked!" she told me later. I've never been more proud of my friends.

Slawdaddy:
She was just a real special person and a true professional. About halfway through that show, it just hit me that I was sharing the stage with the Janis Martin; I just got goosebumps. That gig was a real privilege. I'm so glad Will set that one up.

Is backing artists something you regularly do?
Andy: No, the only one we’ve ever backed was Janis. We’d be up for doing it again sometime, but it would have to be the right person. We have talked about it, though. It’s worth it, but it’s a lot of work!

Slawdaddy: That was one of our first gigs together as a band. I just went back and listened to her records and tried my best to cop the feel and groove - I wanted to my performance real and true to the genre.

Will: I got involved in promoting music because the bands that I liked weren't getting booked in Richmond. The first show I did brought Deke Dickerson to Virginia. It was a decent success.
I honestly didn't know at that point that Janis Martin was even still performing until our friend Lisa let me know. Lisa kept after me to book Janis Martin. She even got me her number - so, I called her up. Turns out that all I needed to do was match her fee and get her a backing band and she would come do the show with her piano man Willie Hayes. I told her we could do it before I had even talked to the boys about backing her up.
Slawdaddy is a professional guitar instructor, Bill's amazing at any number of different drumming styles, Andy is a great song writer and singer. They had always teased me that if I learned the bass we would automatically be a band.
I was pretty naive as to the amount of work that it would take to get a band up and ready to back up a legend like Janis Martin. Not only that, but I wanted Hamburger James to open for her too. That meant learning an entire set of original music, plus Janis Martin's set in less than 3 months. This band has always been about the trials by fire.
Turns out it was too ambitious of me to promote the show and learn bass in that amount of time - so our good friend Hank Fauerbach filled in for me until I was ready later that summer. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. The band wouldn't have happened without Hank.
Janis Martin's piano man Willie Hayes became a good friend of ours through that gig, too. We were lucky enough to get him to play a couple of tracks on our record. That's him on Hammond B3 on 'Are You the One' and honky tonk piano on "12 Ounces at a Time".

Though your album can be described as rockabilly/rock'n'roll, you're by no mean a retro act, tell us a bit more about your influences...
Andy: We have a pretty wide pool of influences. Of course there’s the obvious influence of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and pretty much anyone else that walked through the doors of Sun to Sam Phillips. Chuck Berry is very high on the list, too. Buddy Holly & Gene Vincent definitely. But, yeah, we aren’t trying to sound like 1955. There’s so much more that we all listen to and incorporate into our music. There’s soul stuff, particularly the Stax records stuff from the 60’s- man that’s awesome stuff. Blues too- especially the real gritty Southern stuff. Howlin’ Wolf is just the coolest. I’m a very big fan of country music- honky tonk and outlaw country are probably closer to my heart than anything else. Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and I love Waylon Jennings. Bill & Slaw are both crazy for Beatles stuff. And Will’s probably the biggest Stones fan I’ve ever met. As far as contemporary influences, there’s Dwight Yoakam, Chris Isaak, Big Sandy, Deke Dickerson, Dale Watson- the list goes on.
Pretty much nothing’s off limits. Whatever we write, we bring it in and see what happens. It’s going to shape up and come out as some form of roots music, ‘cause that’s what we do. But we don’t necessarily set out to make songs that sound a particular way. There’s a lot of fantastic bands out there that are straight retro/roots rockabilly bands- and I love ‘em! And when we first started Hamburger James, that’s what we thought we were going to be. But that’s not really what we ended up doing. There’s a whole lot of rockabilly in there, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff too. We just write and play songs from the heart, however they come out.

Bill: My friend's dad turned me on to Gene Krupa in high school. I was able to see the legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich several times in high school and college. The first time I saw him play a solo, I couldn't believe my eyes. He had super-human speed. I've been studying his style and technique ever since. In fact, one of my favorite parts of playing music is studying and then reinterpreting things that I've learned over the years.
Rockabilly drumming is particularly fun. I love the collision of styles that you hear in the older records. Many of Rock n' Roll's early hits were played with a swing or shuffle beat, rather than the straight rock beat that became standard during the sixties. I love adding in the crazy elements like random rim shots and crashes. Bill Haley's drummer was especially adept at that. I try to put everything I've learned over the years into what Hamburger James is doing.

Slawdaddy: There are so many- I love good music from across the board. I listened to everything as a kid, thanks to radio. I’m a big fan of good songwriting. I like music that has soul.

It's just curiosity but what's in your record player right now?
Andy: Deke Dickerson’s new one, “King of the Whole Wide World”. Man, what a great album!

Will: My first child is only 2 weeks old. I've been keeping the record player pretty mellow lately. She settles down to Django Reinhardt and Getz and Gilberto. I can always get her to stop crying when I sing her "Mother's Little Helper" by the Stones.

Bill: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Talk about a soul groove that you could hang your hat on!

Slawdaddy
: James Hunter’s “Believe What I Say”. I saw him last night (with Chris Isaak) and he just blew me away. The brother’s got soul.

What are your projects?
Andy: As far as recording, we want to hit the studio again in January to start laying down our next album. We’ve been doing a lot of songwriting recently, and I’m really excited about all the new stuff! We have some other goals of doing a 6 or 7 song EP at Sun Studios of all our very rockabilly-est stuff, and we’ve also talked about doing a “heroes” album- but those are the next projects…

Bill: Well, keeping a band going with 100 miles between us is quite a challenge. I'm also raising a wonderful son.

Slawdaddy: I teach guitar and bass for a living. My big personal goals are to constantly improve my playing and songwriting. I’m trying to write as many (good) songs as I can just to keep up with Andy!

A last word?
Andy: Just “thanks!” I appreciate you taking the time to help promote good music! And, not just from us as a band, but from us as fans of all the roots music that you help spread the word about at Jumpin’ From 6 to 6!

Bill: "Laissez les bon temps rouler!"

Slawdaddy: Rock and Roll is here to stay.

Thanks a lot guys...

   
 
 
   

  Last Plane To Memphis
This quator from Richmond, Virginia takes his name from one member of the Memphis Mafia, whose job was to bring burgers to Elvis whenever he needed it. With such a name it's no surprise to hear the influence of the King all along this album (that comes in a well designed digipack by the way). But influence doesn't mean copy. They just take some elements, from the Sun days (That's Allright) to the 60's (Little Sister) via the classic RCA 50's sound (Red Dress features some fine Scotty Moore licks), assimilate them and turn them their own to give their brand of rockabilly/rock'n'roll, a music with roots but not dated, with a majority of self penned songs.
Andy Vaughan, the lead singer, has a great voice that finds him equally at ease with straight rockabilly, wild rock Óla Little Richard ("Rumble Tonight") or the soulfull "Are You One?" that features an Hammond B3, I bet those who like The Paladins' "You & I" will love this one too.
Country music is well represented too with notably "Ounces At A Time", a solid honky tonk with piano and the Cash-esque "The Story Of Hamburger James". "Wait For The Morning" is one of my very fave, a beautiful ballad with Roy Orbison's accents that wouldn't be out of plave in Chris Isaak's set. A female guest singer, Jennifer Vaughan, is present on Janis Martin's Bang Bang, a way to pay hommage to the rockabilly queen the band backed as one of their first gig.
Plenty of styles for a solid and original debut album.
Available at
cdbaby.