David Rhodes Brown marks his 50th year in music! (Part 1)

Reality Check with KT: Stay Gold, DRB!  David Rhodes Brown marks his 50th year in music! (Part 1)

I really try to listen to people when they talk.  Even in passing, I try to catch the little details of what my friends are saying, so when my band mate and dear friend, David Rhodes Brown, mentioned to me some months back that this is his 50th year playing music, you can bet I tucked that little piece of data away in my mind, to be retrieved later.  Seeing as he is playing no less than THREE times this weekend at the inaugural Buckle Up Festival, now seemed like a good time to marvel at this milestone!

As I gathered my notes (and lord, were there notes-that’s a lot of history to try to gather up), I began thinking about the article I wanted to write and what is the most important thing to share about DRB and this accomplishment.  It really wasn’t hard for me, once I pushed the pile of “facts”, dates, the extensive list of; bands, songs, venues, awards, recording contributions, aside, and I was able to focus on what has always stood out to me about Dave and that is an unwavering enthusiasm and reverence for music and for life. 

Dave is an imposing man standing a full six feet four inches; his voice is a raspy, gravel road that can scare the most ornery young men, into shutting up and going to sleep (more about this later).  He can be intense in wanting to have things his way (he and I got into a hilarious power struggle (argument) when cutting the Tammy WhyNots album at Candyland Studio.  He wanted to punch a track that we had agreed was going to be live.  I think he and I scared our engineer, poor Mike Montgomery, half to death!) He can bring a room to a standstill or a frenzy either by delivering a heartfelt song or by ripping out an ass kicking lead.  But, I believe the real magic to DRB and what keeps him relevant, is that EVERYDAY when his eyes open, before his feet even hit the floor, he says “OH MY GOD!  I”VE GOT THE BEST IDEA!  EVER!!”  I chuckled and told him this when we sat down at his incredibly picturesque farm out in Rabbit Hash, KY (I fed chickens outta my hand people!!).  His reply was a great way to sum it up; “Writing the next song is where your next chance for joy comes from.”  I love that.  And he is extra special because he does not only want that joy for himself, he wants it for any young artist he comes across, that he sees that spark or true potential, to have that joy as well.

Celebrating 50 years of amazing writing and performing demands that respect be paid.  I will be writing a second piece that will detail out some of Dave’s fondest memories, hilarious stories and all of his accomplishments in the fall.  There will be a Roast and a party at Southgate House Revival, that celebrates DRB and all the joy he has spread through his music too, so watch for details!  But for this part of our look back, I really wanted to get little tid bits and thoughts from those whose lives he has touched.  I asked some of his cohorts for memories or stories and got many, but, these are the two that stood out for me and I honestly believe, show you who Dave is, good to his very core and with a knowledge of how precious music is and to the amazing places it can take you, and his unbelievably generous spirit, to share that with others and live it, every day!

Jesse Feister (Formerly of Hollowbodies/MarkingTwain)
Dave brought me into to play drums with his band the Hollowbodies when I was 16. It was the first time I'd ever played music in a bar, and my Dad ended up coming to all the shows - probably at first to make sure I didn't sneak drinks (which I did anyway), but eventually because he loved Dave's songs.

I ended up playing with Dave for about 2 years, and I fell in love with songs and the craft of songwriting through his music. His music is so close to my heart -- it never left me. Playing his songs at such a formative time in my music career left me a better musician with an appreciation for simplicity. I'll never forget the fear of God the sound of his boot stomping on the wooden stage floors instilled on me to keep the groove in the pocket. I went on to get record deals with MySpace Records, Island/Def Jam, and a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, where I wrote professionally for a few years. Now I'm working with American Songwriter and am building music biz technology for publishers that helps songwriters monetize digital music when songs are played on the internet.  

Long story short, Dave was the guy who helped me fall in love with songs, and it's changed my life for the better. 

Ryan Malott (500 Miles to Memphis)
My first impression of DRB:

I was bartending at Neons at the time and there was a songwriter pitch thing happening at the bar. Everyone involved in the event would play a recording of one of their songs and this dude from Nashville would tell you how much it sucked basically. I threw one of my songs in the ring and it caught Dave’s ear I guess. I don’t remember but apparently Dave and I exchanged numbers. Flash forward a month or so… I was putting on a Hank Williams fest at Cooper’s On Main (MOTR Pub). My band was playing along with others where we would cover Hank songs and throw in some originals. All week long I kept getting voicemails from this raspy-voiced crazy man about my Hank Fest. I just ignored it, because… well he sounded crazy and I didn’t know him. The night of the Hank fest had finally arrived. I was getting all set up and this 7 foot tall cowboy walks in the room with a lap steel and an amp. He walks right up to me and tells me that he’d like to play with some bands at the fest. I said sure why not. What’s the worst that could happen? He sets up and plays with Elliott Ruther first. I was floored! He was a complete badass. Next up was 500 Miles to Memphis. I asked him to sit in with us and he said of course. After the show I asked him if he would be available to play more shows. Dave said, “Hell! I’ll just join your damn band.”

The rest is history. I’ve been playing music with Dave for ten years now and he still amazes me. Just when I think I have his playing style figured out he throws me a curve ball. I’ve never a met a musician more versatile than Dave. He can pick folk and bluegrass with the best of them, but just this past weekend we were riding back from a show in east Ohio and we were listening to his old stuff from over twenty years ago. It was incredible. He was shredding a guitar and writing killer rock n roll songs before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s eye.

He’s an amazing friend as well. If you’re ever down and out he’s right there for you without question. He has gone above and beyond to help me. I’ve learned an immeasurable amount about how to live and love life just by being in Dave’s presence. He has been one of the most influential people I have ever known. Nothing but love and respect for Colonel Reverend Dr. David Rhodes Brown.

Ps - whenever the boys and I are getting a little crazy on the road, all Dave has to say is “Shut her Down!” and we all know it’s bed time.


Thank you Dave.  Thank you for blessing us with your beautiful songs, for making us laugh with your funny stories, for presiding over our weddings and being by our sides when the sad things in life happen, for your seemingly unending creativity and spark, and most especially for your generosity and love for music, and for all of us.  You are so loved, by so many,and we can’t wait to make many, many jokes at your expense at your Roast and 50th anniversary party this fall!!  YOU’RE GOLDEN!!!

DRB will be at Buckle Up Fest:

Lonesome Jared & The Heart Attacks
Friday, July 18th, Lawn Stage, 2:45 p.m.

Kentucky Timbre
Saturday, July 19th, Amphitheater Stage, 3:30 p.m.

Kentucky Struts
Sunday, July 20th, Amphitheater Stage, 2:45 p.m.

DRB, Golden Anniversary Roast and Celebration
Sunday, November 16th, 7:00 p.m.
The Southgate House Revival, The Revival Room
7 p.m.