Posts Tagged ‘Willie Nelson’

In 2008 Willie Nelson released a 4 CD Box set entitled “One Hell Of A Ride”.  It’s a great historical perspective of Willie Nelson’s writing, choice of covers, recording career, etc…  Mickey Raphael can be heard on a lot of it and contributed to the liner notes.  He’s played with Willie Nelson for 39 years.  Personally I love his playing and I always look forward to hearing him whenever a Willie Nelson album comes out.

In this Rockonomics Interview, I’m thrilled to be able to feature a Q & A with Mickey…

Q:  Michael Bloomfield said something like “even if Paul Butterfield was a tuna fish sandwich he could still play the blues”…   In other words, it didn’t matter what color he was or what his background was, Butterfield was a blues player.  I’m a huge fan of those early Paul Butterfield albums…  Growing up, what player knocked your socks off and is there a story that goes with it?

A: I always loved Paul Butterfield. His tone and phrasing were like nobody I’ve ever heard. In the mid 80s I was spending a lot of time in LA and Leon Russell took me to see Paul play at the Roxy. Paul was doing a gig with Gary Busey and Rick Danko. 

He was amazing and I finally got to meet one of my idols.

A year or so after that I was in new York and Paul called me up and wanted me to come downtown and hang out. I ended up taking him to Miles Davis’s 60th birthday party and after we just cruised the streets of New York jamming on the harmonica with the notes just bouncing off the tall buildings till wee hours of the night.

Q:  You’re heard on Motley Crue’s “Smoking In The Boys Room” and you’ve played with artists like Neil Young, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, Emmylou Harris, just to name a few.  Is there anyone living or dead that you’d like to collaborate with?

A:  I’d love to do something with Paul Simon. I played a couple of songs with him at the Ryman in Nashville last June. It was an amazing experience and we have kept in touch since then.

Q:  What was the most challenging album you recorded with Willie Nelson?

A:  We recorded Teatro with Daniel Lanois and he said everyone pick an instrument that’s not your main one. I used the bass harmonica which I dont play all the time so it was a challenge.

Q:  What’s the secret to playing with Willie Nelson this long?

A:  Can’t hit a moving target

Q:  I know your schedule keeps you busy, but it’s been years since you released a solo album…  Do you plan to release another one sometime soon and who have you been recording with lately? 

A:  I’ve been writing a little with Joey Burns from Calexico. We have 5 tunes half finished. I carry the hard drive with me on the road and when I run into muso friends I have them play on it. Bill Evans who played soprano with miles just played on one tune.

Q:  You seem very involved with the Willie Nelson Catalog.  Your efforts on the box set and your involvement with the Naked Willie album, where you “unproduced” some of the early RCA recordings from the

late 60’s are two recent examples…  What other projects might fans hear?

A:  We are searching for live recordings of the Highwaymen  which might turn into a future project.

Q:  Do you have any Bob Dylan stories from the Willie Nelson / Bob Dylan Ballpark tour?  

I’m such a fan of Bob and his harp playing. While we were on tour he loaned me a bunch of DVDs of some of the old blues greats. Little Walter, sonny boy Williamson  , howling wolf and a copy of the tv game show ” to tell the truth” with Paul Butterfield as a guest.

Bob was also a great inspiration for me.


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The new site had it all.  It’s still one of the best band sites out there.   Very easy to navigate and resourceful without giving the user a headache.  Video’s, Music, Bio’s, Photo’s, Tour dates, News and contact information.  I can assure you not one email or phone call went unanswered.  The voice mail number was set up so when fans called they heard a message from Dan or Eddie: “Hello This is Dan Thunder Bolton of the Supersuckers please leave a message,” and we’d call them back.    There was no customer service it was me, chris@supersuckers.com .  As Eddie Spaghetti said

“If you have any comments or questions just email, call, or write The Mid-Fi Guy, Chris Neal at chris@supersuckers.com He’s one efficient, friendly and thorough fella and he’ll be more than happy to help you with all your romantic queries”.

I felt we weren’t in a position to make ourselves hard to reach.  I wanted the fans to know they had someone they could count on and the fans were the most important part of the operation.  If someone wanted to book the band or license a song, I believed in making us easy to find.  This paid off a thousand times from the band playing private parties to getting songs on MTV.  My cell phone number was included at the bottom of the emails that once went out to 40,000 fans.  One time during a show in Eastern Europe my cell phone rang and it was Eddie Vedder looking for Eddie Spaghetti.  In fact this happened more than once.  I often wonder if the Supersuckers would’ve gotten those dates in Canada with Pearl Jam if we weren’t easy to find.  I’ll never forget that first call “Hello this is Ed from Seattle… I’m looking for Eddie”.  I mean I about died.  The Pearl Jam tour was a highlight for sure and it deserves it’s own chapter.  But first let me say, it was 5 shows in Canada and as much as we talked about it, you’d think we toured with them for at least 6 months.  And I was even able to get fan club members free tickets to the shows.  The respect and admiration I have for Pearl Jam is immeasurable.  Everything about them and their camp is top-notch.  And I’d work for them in a heartbeat if they ever called me at 213-944-9200…hint hint hint

All the work and set up we did for Must’ve Been Live, paid off for Motherfuckers Be Trippin’.  Some people thought it was a silly name for an album and that having that title would hurt sales but most retailers ordered it and only some had us put a sticker over the title.  I printed off thousands of stickers and problem solved.   No big deal.

I was thrilled with the album, title, art, and most importantly the songs.  Fox used the “Fight Song” during an NFL game and MTV used it a few times as well.  In fact, a lot of the songs off of this particular album were used in too many places to list.  I always thought the “Fight Song” would be  a stadium classic.  “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” was Eddie’s obvious homage to Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” “Rock Your Ass” was an instant classic, “Bruises to Prove It” I believe was inspired by someone close to the camp.  My least favorite song was “Bubble Gum and Beer” and I felt that song was an insight into how Eddie’s writing would begin to change.  One song that didn’t make the album was “Flying Into The Mid-Day Sun.”  This song appeared later on Devil’s Food. Regardless, the album was stellar and was one of their biggest selling albums.

We used Ken Phillips Publicity press (again), hired Planetary to work college radio (again) and we hired one of the larger radio consulting companies to work the single “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year).”  And when KROQ in Los Angeles played “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” one sunny afternoon in April, 2003, I knew we were onto something…

The band even had a video for the song.  Directed by Jeremy Hunt.  Jeremy was a huge fan and made the “Cracked” logo even more recognizable when he wore a Supersuckers hat in the internet movie sensation “405”, which yahoo named as “one of the most important events in the history of the internet.” I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the incredible video.  We mailed it to everyone from VH1, MTV, etc… We got turned down from a lot of the big places but it did get played in Europe, Canada, and on some local markets in the US.

I did most of the servicing (mailing out the video myself, including some record stores and online stores) and reached out to everyone I knew for help.  We hired a company called Rive Video to help with more serving and distribution too.  Even if we didn’t have huge success on a national level we still had it regionally and Rive helped a lot.  Also, it was a great promotional tool too.  Promoters could use the video on their web site to advertise a show, record stores could use it to advertise the release, and  sites like Yahoo would have something to feature.  We were lucky to have it and we included the video on the CD as a quicktime file too.  Years later, it’s still one of the highlights with my time with the band.

My Thoughts on Making “Rock and Roll Records (Ainʼt Selling This Year)” – Jeremy Hunt 8/24/2010

Where to begin? Well I’ve been a fan of the Supersuckers since the La Mano Cornuda record and probably saw every show that they played anywhere in Southern California for the next 10 years. I am a huge fan.

Fast forward to around April of 2000. I was a digital VFX artist working on various television shows. A friend and I wanted to make a short and set out to do just that. We had zero money to hire actors and on the day of the shoot, since I didn’t protest as much, I was tapped to star in our little movie. It just so happened that on that day I was wearing my trusty Supersuckers hat. The film went on to become 405 which is now considered the first viral original short on the Internet.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

That success got me and my co-director a lot of success and opportunities. One gig was directing a commercial for the Seattle film festival. While eating lunch on set with the agency creatives I mentioned that the upcoming weekend was going to be awesome because I was going to see the Supersuckers on Friday night and AC/DC on Saturday night. He chuckled and asked how much of a fan of the Supersuckers I was. He then informed me that he was friends from high school with the suckers and played in a weekly poker game with them when they were in Seattle. Wow..so cool. The next day, while we were in a transfer session for the commercial he whipped out his phone and called Rontrose to get me tickets and VIP access to the show.

After that show I was determined to find Ron just to say thank you for the tickets etc. I patiently waited while he finished a conversation with some ladies. I stuck out my hand intending to explain who I was and say thanks and he immediately said “dude! you’re the guy in that movie where the airplane lands on the old lady!” what?! Ron knew who I was? Turns out my Supersuckers hat prompted a lot of people to search for “Supersuckers” and they had a huge spike in traffic to their site. Over the next few weeks Ron and I chatted on the phone a few times about the band and what was going on, the heartbreak that was Evil Powers…he even sent me the original version of the songs that were recorded for Interscope. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. Ron is a really cool guy and he hooked me up for the next show that they played in LA. At that show he wanted me to meet Eddie, so after the show I was backstage shooting the shit with Eddie, talking about everything from the band to his lip synch performance of Ratt’s Round and Round as a high schooler. If you haven’t had the opportunity to talk to these guys, yes, they are that cool. Just really nice.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

Those guys have a really great way of making you really feel like you are a part of the band if you just get that first big toe in the door. And honestly, I never felt like they wanted anything, they were just into the idea that I was a fan and gave them some props on the net.

A couple of years later, my directing partner and I were writing a lot of music video treatments. It’s a horribly frustrating process because you fall in love with an idea and rarely get to execute it. We came up with one such idea. It was this concept where a band was going to perform in the middle of a nuclear explosion. Destruction and debris falling all around. The label ultimately passed on it, but I wasn’t willing to let it go. I knew the Supersuckers were getting ready to release MFBT so I pitched an idea to my partner. Let’s see if we can fund a video as a demo reel piece and see if the suckers want to be the band. I figured it was a win win. We would get to make the video we wanted and the suckers would have a kick ass video for virtually free. I pitched it to Eddie and he immediately bit. We rewrote the treatment to fit the vibe of the suckers, adding some humor etc and set off to get the ball rolling.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

The guys were coming through town so we secured a location in the Lucerne valley outside of LA. We got a production company to hook us up with insurance & producer and we begged, borrowed and stole all the gear we’d need. We ended up with a rather hefty and professional crew. I’ve since done a number of music videos and I can safely say that the Supersuckers just get it. A performance video has to have some good performance or it’s going to be boring. We had no problem there. Take after take, every setup, the guys were at 110% acting like idiots as we would yell “a huge chunk of plane is flying right at you! duck!” seeing Eddie drop down into some James Brown splits right on cue without missing a beat floored me. It was like that all day.

Once we got back, we spent the next month on post production and visual effects. It was a lot of hand painting the guys off the background in order to wrap them with the wind and derby and junk we added flying around them. It was a ton of work. Thank god they write short songs.

It was a really great experience. The band let us do what we wanted and in return I think we gave them a pretty memorable video. Chris ended up making me a lifetime fan club member and I have never paid for a bit of suckers merch or shows since. Not only that but I rarely had to ask. If they were coming through So Cal, I would usually getting an email asking if I needed any tickets.

A couple of years later they flew me up to Seattle to film Eddie as he recorded his second solo album, Old No. 2. We turned that into a little video that was included with the cd I believe. Another great experience.

I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite stories from the shoot. Call time was 6am but I was nervous about being late so I got there a bit early. Slowly everyone started to arrive and we had an area

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

sectioned off so that no cars would drive on it. I wanted a pristine cracked desert floor and tire tracks would ruin it. We had all of the production trucks positioned and people were setting up gear. Out of nowhere a little pickup truck veers off the road, flies past the production trucks, and starts doing donuts right in the middle of my set, totally tearing up the ground. I was fuming. I’m begging for this asshole to stop so I can literally kick his ass. It’s a fucking desert, I was willing to walk a few miles and bury a body. After five or six donuts the truck stops and I’m right there. Out pops Bolton grinning ear to ear. He looks right at me and says “Lets make a video!” I burst out laughing. Fucking rock stars… We had to tear down and move all the gear. But it was totally worth it.

Inside the CD packaging was a paper insert advertisement that was shaped like a CD and placed on top of the actual CD.  This insert was an advertisement for the web store. Another brilliant idea.  And Rontrose gets the credit.

And here’s one of the contests we did around the same time.  I’ve included the radio spot!!!  Hear the radio spot – click here

Do you like chicken? Do you like rock-n-roll? Do you like Arkansas? Well if you’ve answered yes to at least two of these questions then do we have a deal for you! The winner of our latest Ebay auction will receive two plane tickets to Little Rock Arkansas, (that’s right, you heard me, Little Rock!) to join us at Sticky Fingers Chicken Shack where we will be hosting a chicken wing eating contest and playing a rock show to help celebrate their 15th year of sticky digits! You’ll also be put up in a nice little hotel room to help you sleep it all off that night.

The contest will feature Mr. Dan “Thunder” Bolton and myself as well as at least ten to fifteen local contestants. The winner of the contest will get a free, brand new (and clean!) Supersuckers t-shirt AND they will get to choose five songs from our extensive catalog that we will play in a block during our show that night! Second place just gets the shirt and third place will receive a moist towellette, a firm hand shake and a hearty “nice try buddy” from the band (okay maybe a key chain or something too).

So get to bidding and come and join us in Little Rock. Who knows, you might even get to meet Bolton’s brother or my mom! The entire event will be dedicated to some good people in Arkansas who can’t make it for reasons beyond their control.

Eddie Spaghetti,
rock guy.
May 7, 2003

Some of my favorite contests involved ordering from the website.   We gave away loaded Eddie Spaghetti iPod’s, Fan Club Memberships, subscriptions to Rolling Stone Magazine, Snowboards, etc.  There wasn’t a band in the world doing this kind of stuff and there’s probably still not.  Everything in the store was set at a fair price too.

Oh, check this out. We recently auctioned off a couple of iPods loaded 
up with Supersuckers songs on Ebay and it was such a success that we 
want to give one away!  Here’s the deal – everyone who makes a purchase 
from our web store during the month of May will have their name entered 
into a drawing to win a brand new 20 GB iPod all loaded up with 
’suckers gold!  Also, any orders over $50 will receive a 10% discount. 
How’s that for good business? They don’t call me Crazy Eddie for 
nothing! We’re blowing it out! Everything must go! Good luck to you, 

Eddie Spaghetti, on the road between here and there, Cinco De Mayo, 

And of course we had the eBay auctions.  Now eBay accomplished a few things for us; first and foremost it was a great way to advertise…  I could list concert tickets on eBay as a means of advertising the show.  Also It was a great way to market potential new store items to see if there would be a demand.  We did this with the coloring books and bottle openers.  The New Years Eve shows were always terrific and the auctions we did in conjunction with the NYE shows were awesome  One show in particular, we provided a hotel room, van transportation to and from the venue, a goodie bag, and tickets to the show obviously.  And I got pretty close to having a show in Hawaii once where I was going to do an all-inclusive trip with the Supersuckers selling a certain amount of tickets on eBay at a fixed price…  I wish I could’ve pulled that one off.

We auctioned off guitar lessons, drum lessons, weekend trips with the band where we’d put you up at a hotel and invite you to soundcheck and of course load the winner up with merchandise.  And we always donated a percentage of the monies to the West Memphis 3 Defense Fund.  It was so fun knowing that not only were we doing something fun for the fans but it was a great cause.  And the band were good sports about these crazy ideas.  These auctions were so effective and fun. It was one of the highlights of working with the Supersuckers and we become known for it.

Do you like The Supersuckers? Do you like baseball? Wanna come see a great game with us? We’re offering you a once in a life time chance to come with us and watch the Seattle Mariners play the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 9th in Seattle from one of the best, private, VIP suites at Safeco Field. That’s right, see the game in style, with The Supersuckers, from right behind home plate and know that any profit (should there be any – these things ain’t cheap!) will be going to the Free The West Memphis Three Support Fund. We’re going to be putting a few pairs up to bid on over the next few weeks, this first pair comes with some deluxe hotel accommodations but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing that for all of the ticket winners. We hope to, but we want to make sure that we get enough money to make a nice donation to the WM3. So get to bidding! I love going to the Mariners games, Safeco Field is awesome, I dig the Red Sox and I’ve always wanted to check one of these suites out. This is gonna be a lot of fun!

Eddie Spaghetti

Everything we did seemed to have a marketing twist to it but we didn’t have a choice.  We had to be creative, take chances, set trends, and blaze trails.  We weren’t on the cover of Rolling Stone or USA today.  The band wasn’t played much on the radio and didn’t have much mainstream exposure.  We created our own excitement and embraced the help and support from the fans.  It wasn’t before too long that Billboard Magazine even did a feature on our marketing campaigns.  I think it was one of the few times we were ever in Billboard and it was a nice spread and a great article.

I always wanted to do an auction for “Tour with the Supersuckers for a Weekend” but we never pulled that off.  Although there’s still time to donate and enter to win a guitar and lesson from Rontrose.  This contest ends on 8/31/10 and it will be an amazing experience so please consider it and know how much the support is appreciated and how much it helps keeping this thing moving along…

More stories coming soon…  thanks

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