by Dawn Barham & Ron Williams
Dawn Barham is the quintessential female rocker of the local rock music world. If we have a true Queen of Rock locally, Dawn would far and away fit the bill! She’s the real deal – and more!
I recently asked Dawn to write down her thoughts and share some memories of herself and her band. As you’ll soon read, she didn’t disappoint! Dawn has lived the life of a true musician, as well as taught others her talents along the way! The following is her story in her own words…enjoy!
The battle between my mother and Elvis Presley for my musical soul began early. Growing up, we did Saturday morning chores to the strains of classical music coming from the stereo via Mother’s Norton Scores albums. The music was familiar which leads me to believe she was playing the albums long before I was old enough to do chores. I suspect my mother’s particular affinity for Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” may be partially responsible for my choosing to play the flute. I was leading a double life though. Secretly, in my room I would grab my toy guitar, don my cowgirl boots (the ones with the fringe), and with my toy box transformed into a stage, I would sing Elvis songs. I held countless concerts before the ripe old age of 7! No one was there, but I was not deterred! Mother relented and purchased Elvis records for me to play on my personal record player and a red, white and blue “real” guitar with stars on the pick guard. I fell in love with the guitar way back then and still am. Unwilling to give up the fight so easily, Mother also bought my Gemeinhardt flutes. I was a band geek! I still play Gemeinhardt. My first guitar lessons were with Mr. Townsend in Columbus. As a teen, I studied guitar with J. Dee McKay – hence, my love for the telecaster. J. Dee’s influence on my musical path is probably much larger than he knows. A good teacher knows their stuff and can transfer that stuff to their students. An excellent teacher goes beyond and advises a student about college, helps that student to find the right classical guitar for their collegiate career as a classical guitarist, encourages the student to stick with it and asks about the student’s progress. J. Dee was an excellent teacher. At the University of Southern Mississippi, my undergraduate professor and advisor was Giovanni DeChiaro, a world renowned classical guitarist, teacher and true friend. Again, I was blessed with an incredibly talented musical influence.
Fast forward to various solo, duo and trio acts. Some may remember, “Sweet Tea” – that was Mike Cockerham and I many moons ago – we played a bunch of duo gigs in the area. Cindy Goza and I also flew under the name of “Two Girls.” We had a really cool t-shirt. Susan Ray Fulgham and I played as a duet for some time – classical and contemporary – (the battle for my musical soul continues). We still do the occasional wedding or anniversary type gig. Big Joe Shelton and I certainly have played our fair share of duo gigs. Bart Owings, Big Joe and I did the trio thing for a while. That was cool! Those guys are so talented! Dana Clark and I have played a bunch of gigs together, too. Dana and I have been picking and grinning together since 1990 if my memory serves me.
I was a closet songwriter throughout high school and college. I began songwriting in earnest some years after college. I credit my friend, the late Ean Evans (Big E as I affectionately called him) with encouraging me to record my stuff. He loved the creative process of writing and the meticulous process of recording. Ean was pure genius at both. Eva’s (Little E as I affectionately call her) belief in him and love for him allowed him to create without inhibition. Rock n Roll is a boys club. You know that if you are a rock chick. Ean was different. He didn’t have a problem with women in the band. He had a great respect for women. If you knew Ean at all, you know I had to say that. He was instrumental in the formation of the Dawn Barham Band (pun intended 😉 Big E played guitar in the band. He was the producer for the band’s first cd, played guitar and bass as well as some backing vocals. That was a cool line up. Ean, John Staggers, Big Joe Shelton, Bobby Shannon. Robert Staggers was the engineer for that project. The extremely talented Robert played drums very early on with the DBB, however, due to his engineering responsibilities could not be in the drum booth and sound booth simultaneously. His brother John was an obvious and excellent choice for laying down those tracks. The track Sunday Morning Blues was selected for the “Southern Belles Raising Hell” compilation disc on Damien Records (Indigo Girls). It has also been downloaded numerous times in France as a ringtone. I dunno either…maybe it translates into something else…
When Ean got the call to play with Lynyrd Skynyrd, he made sure that I was surrounded with the best available musicians in the region. Most importantly, though, Ean introduced me to Mike Chain. Together, Mike and I have weathered several transformations of the band, countless road trips, festivals, rallies, wedding receptions, clubs, benefits, etc. Some really great times with incredibly talented musicians! Memories of running from tornadoes in Black Betty (our old tour bus), running from – never mind – we cannot print that… ha! We have stories for a lifetime! We have shared the stage with many national acts but I am most proud of sharing the stage with; Ean Evans, Bobby Shannon, Big Joe Shelton, Bart Owings, John Simpson, Mike Swain, Robert Staggers, Edwin McCain, Ray Noe, Randy Norman, Dana Clark, Keith Shaddix, Gary Shaw, Mike Chain and Tony Foster. The DBB recorded a second project at HollyHouse Recording Studio in Biloxi, MS. The late Clyde Holly, a friend of Ean’s and the man credited with recording Three Doors Down first cd, owned the studio and engineered the project. Clyde told me he was responsible for the riff in “Kryptonite” Holla! That project was a lot of fun.
Recently, we changed the name of the band to protect the innocent (another lame joke). We are now the Juke Joint Gypsies – Tony Foster, Gary Shaw, Mike Chain and me. It has come to our attention that we are mostly referred to as “The Gypsies,” which is cool with us. “A rose by any other name….” Why this name you may ask. We feel it is representative of this group of musicians – a unique blending of varying styles and a healthy respect for those differences. Gary has a sophisticated ear for intricate rhythmic patterns. I am over the moon for his unique ghost snare technique. His vocals rock my world, too!
Tony Foster – wow! Where to start…. His impeccable tone and technique are objects of envy and admiration. I am sometimes so awe stricken by his chops and tone that I forget to play – heck, I’d rather listen! One should not miss that stuff! I am learning so much from this man. He inspires me to be a better musician. I am so grateful that he loves to share what he knows. Mike Chain – bass player extraordinaire and EVERYONE, including anyone living under a rock, knows it. He is unflappable on stage. A beast, I tell you! His quiet confidence is reassuring. I have so much trust in him. That ain’t easy for a control freak. But with Mike, it is easy – his bass is an extension of him – you know – the way it is supposed to be. The energy on stage with the band is both intense and intoxicating. Not only are these guys amazing musicians, they are kind and genuine people who I love dearly and am proud to call my friends. Making music with them is a humbling experience as well as an honor and a privilege – I am a lucky gal! If you were to measure my success in music by the musicians I keep company with, then I have been “riding the top of the charts for years.” That’s what counts in my book!
If you want to catch the band in the act, we will be at Market Street, Saturday, May 7 at 1:00pm on the main stage. We will debut a couple of new tunes that will be on our cd due out in the fall. You can find the Juke Joint Gypsies at www.jukejointgypsies.com, Juke Joint Gypsies on Facebook and at Reverbnation. P.S. Thanks Ron for your tireless promotion of indie, roots and Americana music!0