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Bloodshot Briefing: Whitey Morgan and the 78s

Who says time travel is hard?

If you're interested in classic country, just open up the record player and put the needle to Whitey Morgan and the 78s. Close your eyes and you are transported back to a time when Willie, Waylon and Merle ruled the airwaves and the honky tonks.

The fivesome from the Detroit area have one album out, Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels, and are finished with another. The big news came when the outlaw outfit signed with Bloodshot Records. The newest album most likely will be on shelves in the fall.

Whitey Morgan and the 78s aren't blazing any new trails with their sound. They just do classic country the way you're supposed to do it. Ain't nothing wrong with that. And after a dozen beers, this is a band best heard live.

I recently spoke to bass player and band spokesman Jeremy Mackinder to better to get know these guys and gals. And yes, there is a Whitey Morgan. His real name is Eric Allen.

Beachwood Music: I first heard about you when I talked to Kurt Marschke last summer. He said Whitey Morgan and the 78s are the Deadstring Brothers' brother band. How did the band hook up with Kurt, also a Detroit guy?

Mackinder: We decided we wanted to do a bigger kind of show, like put a package together. That was Whitey's idea. We needed to figure out how to build a scene. We were drawing well, but we needed another band.

We tracked down Kurt's number and told him what we were planning, and he got it right away. We spent that summer in 2007 listening to country records and playing as two-band headliners.

We all became brothers the minute we got together. No doubt was it the right thing to do.

Beachwood Music: I am assuming Kurt was instrumental in getting Whitey Morgan signed with Bloodshot Records. You had been on Small Stone, a Detroit-based label.

Mackinder: Yes. That has a lot to do with him. He certainly kept our name mentioned to Rob and Nan quite a bit. He was very huge with us ending up with Bloodshot.

Beachwood Music: Tell me more. There's got to be good stories. There always is with Rob and Nan.

Mackinder: We first met last year at SxSW. But there was no way we were going to go, "Hey, you guys should sign us." That's not who we are.

We toured with the Deadstrings and did a tour with Wayne Hancock. We wanted them to notice us, and they did. Kurt also constantly kept at them, and they finally came out and listened.

We played the Magic Bag in January. It's a place in Ferndale, near Detroit, and Rob and Nan came to see us. They loved the show. It was on from there.

Of course, we had to negotiate out of Small Stone. But we drove to Chicago, I think that was still in January, and we went to Delilah's. It was funny because both Rob and Whitey were drinking tequila and me and Nan got after the whiskey. We definitely tied it on.

We got up and talked in the a.m.

Beachwood Music: Who's in the band?

Mackinder: Me on bass. Whitey Morgan is lead singer, guitar. Ben's on
guitar. Mike Popovich plays drums, and Tamineh Gueramy is on fiddle.

Beachwood Music: How did the band get together? You all from the Detroit area?

Mackinder: Whitey is from Flint, while me, Ben and Mike are from Chelsea. Now it's a city. When we were growing up, it definitely was Hicksville. And Tamineh is from Midland. We all are from an hour of one another.

I met Whitey through an old guitarist. Me and Ben are best friends since 15 years old. Then, it was a slow evolution of having everyone come into the band. We went through a lot of players before we settled her and took off. Tamineh came in last October.

Beachwood Music: Does everybody still live in and around Detroit? I recently read where Kurt finally left the Detroit area to move to Nashville.

Mackinder: Everybody except for Tamineh. She lives in Austin. Except for her, we all are still within an hour drive. We don't rehearse, so it doesn't really matter.

Beachwood Music: Say what?

Mackinder: We played 200 shows last year. It's not rocket science. We are not re-inventing the wheel here. We are doing a classic form of music and just adding our touches. Mike Cooley from the Drive-By Truckers said it best: If you want to break up a band, rehearse.

Beachwood Music: I love DBT. I am from Georgia and went to college in Athens, where the Truckers got it going back in the mid-1990s. They recently rolled through the Midwest. Did you catch them?

Mackinder: I did. They were great. But there was this hip-hop show in the basement of Saint Andrews. Any time they stopped playing or took any kind of break in the music, you could feel the floor shaking. I have been going to Saint Andrews my whole life. I was pissed off, and I won't go again. I was not pleased with that, but the band was great.

Beachwood Music: Whitey Morgan does sound a lot like the Deadstring Brothers. By that I mean, both bands love the road and don't much care for the studio.

Mackinder: When we get home for a few days, we all leave each other. But then, we hit the road again. It's addicting. I'll talk to Whitey, and he's ready to go again. There's nothing I like better than this. Every day I'm not on stage, I've made a mistake. I love playing.

Beachwood Music: So a new album is done. I read where you recorded it in Levon Helms' studio in Woodstock. That's legendary.

Mackinder: We are pretty excited about the record. We have to turn it in to Bloodshot by the end of April. It's definitely classic country. That's what we do, and that's all I listen to in my house.

As for Levon, we all fell in love with his two records. Whitey wanted real bad to go out there and take the next step and advance the band by going to a pro studio.

Beachwood Music: What are some of your favorite Chicago venues?

Mackinder: Most of the times we came through Chicago was during the weekdays, in transit. We played the Horseshoe. We did Reggie's one tour and FitzGerald's on another.

I liked Reggie's a lot. They treated us real good. It was a Wednesday night, I think, in a snowstorm. I believe January 2009. Brutal snowstorm. Anyway, we came in and played, and they offered us a place to stay. We didn't take them up on it because we already had a place to stay. They definitely are supporters of our style of music.

Beachwood Music: When will you pass through Chicago again?

Mackinder: Not sure. I don't want to jinx it, but we might play at FitzGerald's this summer for their festival.

Beachwood Music: This is perfect. I've been listening to your album, and the song Honky Tonk Angel features the lyric, "Now, pick me a song on the jukebox." Yes, please, pick five for me.

Mackinder: "Colorado Cool-Aid" by Johnny Paycheck. "If Drinking Don't Kill Me" by George Jones. Anything by Drive-By Truckers, if it's available. If I had my choice, "Women Without Whiskey." Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way." I always like Merle Haggard's "Bottle Let Me Down."


And here they are:


Matt Harness brings you his Bloodshot Briefing (nearly) every Friday but this week Thursday. He welcomes your comments. He really does.


Posted on April 15, 2010

MUSIC - Pandemophenia.
TV - NBC's Bicentennial Special.
POLITICS - Defund Private Schools.
SPORTS - Beachwood Sports Radio & A Blackhawks Proposal.

BOOKS - The Slave Who Escaped George And Martha Washington.


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