Minor league baseball is, in many ways, more exciting than the big leagues.
The really exciting thing about the minor leagues is the discovery of a new talent and the way these communities can get behind a player and claim them as their own. The players are much more accessible. In some cases, you can actually walk onto the fields and meet and greet the players and coaches before a game, getting autographs and collecting stories that kid and adult fans alike can pass along to their friends and family. So it is with the local music scene.
Musicians gigging along in the minor leagues create a similar atmosphere. They carry their own gear, they drive their own vans, they have to change their oil and the strings on their guitars and the heads on their drums. Before a show, you can walk up to them and shake a hand or get them to sign a CD. Shreveport has a huge population of minor-leaguers, some of whom will become stars in “The Show,” and some of whom will simply continue to play a game that they love to play.
The upper echelon of these ranks is comprised of musicians I am almost positive that you have never heard of. You may have heard them play locally, and even thought to yourself that that guy, or girl, was really good.
Troy Verges was nominated for an Oscar, for best original song in a motion picture for “Coming Home” from the movie “Country Strong”. He has written No. 1 hits for Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, and most recently Hunter Hayes. He is from Shreveport, born and raised. I used to play basketball with him in his back yard on Dudley. His family was one of the first in this town to have a Commodore 64 computer, with the tape deck storage drive! His older sister was and still is hot. A mutual friend of ours made him cry one time when we were kids because he told him that he sucked playing guitar. That friend was NOT nominated for an Academy Award, Troy was.
Ron Johnson has also won a Grammy Award. He played and toured extensively with Ike and Tina Turner, The Gap Band, Keith Sweat, Cameo and Rick James, bitch! You can hear him play all over town with Windstorm, possibly the longest continuous working band here in Shreveport. He’s an incredible guitar player and really makes that band go, and he’s actually a super sweet guy. I have often joked with him, that if he ever wants to desegregate Windstorm, I will gladly be the first white member!
Adam Hamilton is a music producer in Los Angeles and spends his time producing albums for such notable artists as Vanilla Ice and William Shatner, yes THE William Shatner. He writes and records music that is used in national television programs. When you watch Duck Dynasty, and you know you do, and you hear the banjo in the background, that’s Adam; that Radio Shack commercial that will air over 2,000 times nationally, that’s Adam’s music in the background. He has a music production deal with a major label and when he isn’t producing hit records, he also performs. He was a member of Tracii Guns band, LA Guns and toured the US and Europe. I saw him perform with the Counting Crows on the Conan O’Brien Show, and his band Joe 90 opened for the Crows on their tour. If you run into him, ask him about the parties at C.C. DeVille’s house, if you really want to learn how a real rock star parties, and ask him how influential Chris Campisi was on who he has become as an artist.
James LeBlanc writes music for some of the biggest stars in Country Music. He is a stalwart in Nashville, writing and recording and performing for a living. Nashville is a little bit of a stretch from Dixie Garden, where James grew up. James is a great example of what can happen when you give a kid an instrument at a young age. He has played in bands his entire life, picking up the guitar at 7 years old. He has toured playing guitar with Jamie O’Neal, Sara Evans, and Martina McBride. Travis Tritt, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean and Gary Allen can thank him for writing hit songs that charted on National Country Radio. You might also know him from the popular local band of the 80’s, the Hysterix.
The Hysterix, now that is a blast from the past. This is the first band I ever performed with. We had our inaugural show in a parking lot of a strip mall that is long since gone. The first song we ever played live was ZZ Top’s Tush. The band consisted of James LaBlanc on guitar and vocals, Adam Hamilton on drums and vocals, Jimmy Nutt on guitar and lead vocals, myself on Keys and Shane Rogers on bass guitar and vocals. I know that, to a man, we all continue to perform music. As is the case with most bands, members came and went. We fired James for some odd reason, or maybe he wanted to do more original music and we were a cover band and so we hired a kid from Bossier named Craig Bradford on guitar.
Craig is the Tour Manager for RATT, today. Most recently Craig and RATT tour the world alongside the Scorpions and Dokken and he survived an emergency landing in the bands’ chartered plane. Craig also writes music and plays today and places music in TV shows and commercials. Jimmy Nutt left to front James new band, The Underground and Shane Rogers took over on lead vocals, thus allowing the hiring of Chris Wynn on bass. Wynn was a member of the band Becky Sharp that were signed with MCA Records recorded a hit called Beach Ball back in 1995 and had an actual music video and everything. Jimmy on the other hand simply moved to Muscle Shoals, Alabama and now owns the Nutthouse Recording Studio where Jason Isbell just recorded his latest album. Shane Rogers and I both went the “family” route; my daughter is now the exact same age I was when I joined the Hysterix and is a sophomore at Byrd High School. Shane lives up in Indiana, I think, and still sings, but mostly just at church these days.
Nick Scallorn, Sean Stroope, and Ryan Daugherty have all toured with country superstar Neal McCoy. Jimmy Wallace is a phenomenal keyboard player and was just named a permanent member of The Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan’s band. Last year Jimmy toured with Gavin DeGraw as his keyboard player and Gavin DeGraw IS a keyboard player, what does that tell you about his talent? Robby Emerson, one of my personal hometown idols, is Jake Owen’s band leader and touring bassist. He was only named Touring Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association. Robby played bass with James LeBlanc, Jimmy Nutt and Kevin Cupp in the Underground, and I wanted to play and sing just like him, he’s at least 2 years younger than I am!
All these cats are from right here in Shreveport and you have probably seen them play, you just didn’t know it.