of Stomp | Sons
of Crack Daniels |
Articles and Commentary
"official" recording career began in 1980 with the
first Pat MacDonald & The Essentials album, Lowdown,
released on 12" vinyl by Mountain Railroad Records, a
regional indie headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.
The closing song featured a cameo vocal by my
girlfriend at the time, Barbara Kooyman, who also
co-wrote the music. It was the album’s only co-written
song, ironically titled "Makin’ It On My Own."
couple years later, with a growing musicality and
greatly reduced surname, Barbara K joined The
Essentials, playing fiddle and singing backup.
In the next two years, we married, had a child, and
recorded the EP, Essentialist Propaganda before
splitting off to form the duo Timbuk3 and moving to
Austin, Texas. Our live rhythm section consisted of
homemade drum and bass tracks played on a boom box.
That’s when my "official" recording career took
Our debut, Greetings From Timbuk3, contained a
crowd-pleasing carryover from The Essentials days
called "The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades."
It went to Billboard’s top 20 and our little duo
became an "overnight" success.
From 1987 through 1995, Timbuk3 made lots more albums
but never followed up the hit. During that time, my
main job (which I absolutely loved) was to keep
cranking out songs to make albums to fulfill recording
contracts. We might have sustained the initial success
longer if we’d toured more, but we enjoyed home life
and home recording, investing the recording advances
into equipment for our backyard studio. And that
follow-up hit was always just a hook-laden chorus
But I wasn’t trying to write hits. And I wasn’t trying
to write a hit when I wrote the hit. I was just trying
to write songs. Well, I knew I could write songs, but
now I was trying to write albums, and enjoying my
work, my "official" recording career.
After Timbuk3’s breakup I moved to Spain and was
provided the means to produce several more "official"
projects for the German label, Ulftone. Many European
critics said they were my best, most cohesive work
yet. Troubadour of Stomp, my first U.S. label release
in ten years (and perhaps my last label release ever)
(I’m hating labels at the moment) has been getting
similar reactions. No longer judged on "hit
potential," I’ve been accepted as an "album oriented"
artist. My job and my passion is making albums and
this raises a need for certain songs at certain times.
INVOLMENT IN THE HOLIDAY MOTEL:
Holiday Music Motel was purchased in May 2007 by
Holiday Motel Management, LLC, a group of musicians
and music enthusiasts. This group came together while
working on the Steel Bridge Songfest (SBSF), a benefit
to raise money and awareness for the preservation of
the historic Michigan Street Bridge. The motel sits at
the approach to the bridge.
Singer/songwriter pat mAcdonald (co-founder of SBSF)
organized a songwriting workshop in 2006 called The
Construction Zone, which took place for the first time
in conjunction with that year's festival. The Holiday
Motel (owned and operated at that time by fellow
"bridge lovers" Peter and Marilyn DeVaney) was used
headquarters for the workshop. Twenty-five songwriters
were invited to stay at the motel and write songs in
collaboration. A recording studio was installed in one
of the rooms, and some 60 original songs were written
and recorded at the motel. One of the current owners,
Anna Sacks, was among those songwriters. She was so
inspired by the event, she commented to pat that she
wished they could just buy a motel and make the
workshop available year-round. Pat pointed out that
the Holiday Motel was for sale.
Friends began to tell friends and soon a collection of
like-minded people banded together to buy the motel.
(One of the owners is noted Rock and Roll Hall of
Famer Jackson Browne, who appears annually at the
Steel Bridge Songfest.)
mother, Heaven Williams (aka: Heaven Hill), rest her soul, was
a distiller's daughter, and a tea-totaler all her life. She met
my father, a rounder, a drifter, "a good client..."
in the burlesque house she managed in Memphis, TN. She gave me
the name "Purgatory" because it was, she said, "the
nearest thing to Heaven I could find" and handed down the
surname "Hill" (her stripper name) because she "liked
it." (More details of my life will become available as they're
I suppose i fit the category "one-man band" because
i make all the noise of a band (due in large part to the main
instrument i play, the Lowebow or "Purgatory Hill Harp"
invented and built by the great John Lowe, aka "Johnny Lowebow")
and because, despite multiple identities, there's only one of
me. I also play harmonica on a neck rack, and a stomp board developed
by my mentor pat mAcdonald (aka "Troubadour of Stomp")
i recently recorded a CD called "PURGATORY ON EARTH"
that should be out soon.
did an old steel drawbridge in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, provide
the impetus and center of gravity for such a large-scale musical
event? The steel-age technological marvel known originally as
Memorial Bridge, built in 1930, has long suffered a
questionable future. "My
sister Christie is a bridge lover from way back.
We were talking one day about the bridge and hit upon
the idea: That old bridge is a symbol of Door County.
Its past, its present, and especially its future
should be celebrated, not debated. We decided to throw
a free concert to raise awareness and donations.
So I asked a couple of good friends for favors.
Jackson Browne, great humanitarian that he is, agreed
to come play for free. Then Sheila Turner of Great
Lakes Yacht Services generously donated the use of her
boat yard, a dream-come-true outdoor venue. There's
even a roof in case of rain (you can just barely see
the roof behind the bridge on the far left hand side
of the photo above).
So Saturday, June 11th, 2005, The Steel Bridge
SongFest was born. The free concert was a huge
success. It drew 3,000 people and raised roughly
$60,000 in voluntary donations, which financed the
event and started a special fund, held by the National
Trust for Historic Preservation, earmarked for all
expenses related to saving and preserving the bridge.
With the first Steel Bridge SongFest came a dramatic
shift in awareness and sentiment. “Bridge lovers” are
now out of the closet and the Steel Bridge SongFest is
becoming an annual event."
-pat mAcdonald, Steel Bridge Songfest host and co-founder
INVOLVEMENT WITH AN OLD STEEL BRIDGE...
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin's historic Michigan Street
Bridge, the "Gateway to Northern Door County," has
long endured a questionable future. A decade of debate
preceded the state's decision in 2004 to maintain the
unique drawbridge, yet still its needed restoration is
not a done deal. Questions and controversy persist,
and needed funds have yet to be appropriated.
In spring 2005, musician/songwriter pat mAcDonald and
his sister, historic preservationist Christie Weber,
decided to throw an outdoor concert for the bridge's
75th birthday. Local philanthropist Sheila Turner
donated her venue: the historic shipyard at Great
Lakes Yachts. MacDonald's friend, Jackson Browne,
offered to play for free. Thirty other musical acts
fell in line, and the first Steel Bridge Songfest was
The money raised (over $50,000) paid for the event and
created a fund held by the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, earmarked for "all expenses relating to
preservation and enhancement of the Michigan Street
Steel Bridge Songfest is now an annual event. Its
influx of creative energy, merging forward thinking
with historic preservation, brings young and old,
tourists and locals, the struggling and the fortunate,
the conservative and the not-so-conservative, together
in a common cause. New bridges made of music and song
are helping to save an old one made of steel.
hideous whiskey-soaked love tryst begat the sons of Crack
Daniels I fear to imagine. Somewhere in the backwoods of
radio free America, their cracklin souls scratched out of
the transistor speakers into our generation. Like time-warped
Troubadours from a past with talent unlike todays, the sons
of Crack Daniels have grown together in a new musical form.
Cracker and Blacker create something entirely unique and
apart from their own sounds. Together they create something
that Morphine, Primus and Hank Williams would all hear in
their waking nightmares.
-Adam Mackintosh, Audiocinema
sibling pay tribute to dead father)
liked to do him a little drinkin" says Blacker,
the younger of the two half brothers.
Born just days apart, "our time of conception was even
closer" says Cracker, "You see ol' daddy Crack, rest
his soul, and our mommas did a little partyin one
night. and Blacker an' me...well, we're as close to
twins as you can get, him bein colored an' all..."
Blacker nods, adding "We never knew pappy, except from
one old picture and the stories our mommas tell."
Records show that the senior Daniels died of unknown
causes prior to the birth of his sons, and the grief
stricken mothers rented a Memphis flat and raised the
"Our mommas always spoke highly of him," says Cracker,
"They say that even though pappy had a reputation for
bein wild, he was a good man."
best known for their hit song The Future's So
Bright I Gotta Wear Shades, enjoyed Top 40 radio
success, resulting in multi-album recording contracts,
television appearances, magazine features and
In 1987, TIMBUK3 received a Grammy nomination for Best
New Artist. Their unforgetable video was nominated for
MTV`s Best New Artist Video. Television appearances
included Saturday Night Live, Late Night With Conan
O'Brien, Austin City Limits, MTV and Solid Gold, among
Besides headlining their own shows around the world,
TIMBUK3 opened for Bob Dylan, Sting, Bonnie Raitt,
Jackson Browne, James Brown and others. Commander
William Walker of NASA's space shuttle Endeavor played
Timbuk3's music in outer space - the highest rotation
an earth-bound artist can achieve.
Timbuk3 disbanded in 1996. Six years later they were
inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.
NEWS and WORLD REPORT: (5/25/98)
Shake, Rattle, and Please Buy
Madison Avenue pays big bucks for tunes
By John Marks
company boss Miles Copeland recently invited
nearly 100 songwriters to his chateau in the South of
France for two weeks of music, foie gras, and
fellowship. When songwriter Pat MacDonald showed up
for the annual event, he was asked the same old
question: Why in the name of Elvis Presley won’t he
let his songs be used in television commercials?
In 1986, Bausch & Lomb offered MacDonald $150,000 for
the rights to use his Top 40 hit "The Future’s So
Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" to advertise its Ray-Ban
line of sunglasses. But the singer-songwriter, then
fronting a band called Timbuk 3, said no deal. A few
years later, Clairol upped the ante to $450,000 for
another of his songs, "Hairstyles and Attitudes."
MacDonald turned that down, too. And last year, the
artist rejected a $500,000 offer from fast-food giant
McDonald’s, once again for "The Future’s So Bright."
The company hinted that it might go as high as a
million, but MacDonald still wouldn’t budge--even
though his only permanent address is a rented motel
room in Austin, Texas. "I’m constantly feeling like
somehow I have to justify my choice to people," says
the scruffy, soft-spoken MacDonald.
Often, the owner of the rights to the song can block
its use. The family of Hendrix, for example, closely
monitors the licensing of his music, frequently
refusing the rights when requests are deemed
inappropriate. Some, like MacDonald, deny use
altogether. This was so important to the songwriter
that the last time he negotiated his contract with the
Copeland Group, he had a clause inserted granting
himself the right of refusal--a move that cost him
other points in the contract, including money. Other
artists are similarly stubborn: Neither Bruce
Springsteen nor Paul Simon allows his music to be used
in TV commercials.
That, says Copeland, should be a lesson to MacDonald.
"He needs $100 for groceries," says the executive,
"and I tell him, do one commercial, and you could buy
a damn house and live happily ever after." But the
songwriter won’t compromise because he feels that his
own songs would be ruined for him, as Lou Reed’s "Walk
on the Wild Side" was for MacDonald, by its use in a
DEPRESSION MAG, ARTICLE:
No Depression Magazine Article that is on
the news stands now:
about Pat MacDonald, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
by Andy Moore
years and a thousand songs ago Pat MacDonald got the shit kicked
out of him by members of the Green Bay West High School football
team. MacDonald wore his hair long and in those days, particularly
within three miles of the hallowed ground that is Lambeau Field,
that just didn't fly. The football coach himself, soon to be principal,
ordered the hit on the rangy, teenaged musician. The attack happened
just as MacDonald was getting expelled for his hair. Long haired
rockers were getting beat up all over the country in 1969. What
makes MacDonald's whupping different is that Bob and Elaine MacDonald
sued the Green Bay Public Schools, holding them liable for the coach's
instructions and the players' actions, and took their case all the
way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The phone started ringing almost
immediately after the lawsuit wa filed. You just didn't target the
high school football coach in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Neighbors, former
friends, and strangers called to let them know it. Smilin' Bob MacDonald,
a loyal member of the community and journeyman engineer at the Charmin
paper mill, became a pariah overnight. MacDonald vs. the Green Bay
Board of Education was settled before the high court ruled. Attorneys
drafted a settlement awarding the family a million dollars. Bob
MacDonald turned it down. Instead, he asked for $1,500, a sum sufficient
to cover his legal expenses and travel. And he asked that his son
be allowed back in school."They didn't want people to think
they did it for the money," remembers Christie MacDonald Weber,
Pat's sister."They were saying, in their own way, 'We won't
sell out.'" Today Weber believes their parents' actions are
directly tied to her brother's reputation for turning away millions
of commercial dollars for his songs, including Timbuk3's camera
ready 1986 hit "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)"."So
many musicians write Pat off as a whack job for turning his back
on those millions," says Weber. "But many of those same
people know deep down music sales are abused by corporations."
MacDonald himself is less pragmatic. "Everyone has to find
their comfort zone," he told performermag.com. "The meshing
of commercialism and music is not the death of art.> Music adds
a bit of magic to a product being sold, but for me it robs some
of the magic from the music.
I made a promise to myself a long time ago. It's good to keep promises
to yourself." These days the troubadour of stomped is the Troubadour
Of Stomp, the name of his new solo CD, a dozen brazen new songs
packed with MacDonald's lusty, low-end guitars, stormy harmonica
and falsetto singing. Oh. And some of the best word play in American
music."Someone said a good song reveals stuff you don't want
others to know about you," MacDonald says over afternoon eggs
last October, 2006 at the Pudgy Seagull in downtown Sturgeon Bay,Wisconsin.
"A great song," he adds, "reveals stuff you don't
want to know about yourself." MacDonald writes like a trickster,
and he looks like one, too. As we talk his craggy face appears briefly
and then dashes behind a curtain of auburn hair. He looks at you
like you're an idea, albeit a good one, rather than a person sharing
a late lunch. And then there's his speech pattern. Talking with
MacDonald is like dialing in a signal on a ham radio. The listener
has to resist the urge to reach across the table and bang the radio
on the head to establish transmission. Long time MacDonald friend
and collaborator Jackson Browne described this phenomenon best:
"You have to actually slow down and sort of get on his wavelength
and time. He starts. He starts over again. He repeats part of what
he said and then, 'yeah, uht, uht, uht...'' and then he lunges headlong
into this amazing thought. In that regard he's like a jazz soloist.
He plays with words. He's always playing." And he's always
writing. MacDonald figures he's written a thousand songs. "These
days I get better and better at rejecting songs that aren't working,
which is good because lots of them are crappy." He sips his
juice and shoots a mischievous smile. "A miscarriage of poetic
justice." Live, MacDonald gets a maximum sound with a minimalist
set-up, and this crowd is about to get its ears waxed. Troubadour
Of Stomp is driven, and driven hard by MacDonald's left foot. Clad
in a custom made black Spanish boot, the musician stomps a quarter-inch
piece of plywood with a kick-drum mike for a pick-up. When he first
explained it to me I thought of John Hartford's kick board. But
that's like comparing a Ford Taurus to an Alpha Romeo. "I always
stomped anyway," MacDonald says. "The stomp board turns
something that once disturbed the downstairs neighbors into something
that anchors and drives my music." He first experimented with
stomp in Spain during his expatriate post-Austin years in the 1990s.
He had broken up with first wife and Timbuk3 partner Barbara K.
Heck, he'd broken up with the whole city of Austin. Jackson Browne
loaned him the use of his Barcelona apartment."Aside from being
one of the great lyricists in the English language, he is a totally
unique voice," Browne said, calling from LA."I saw him
play a little gig in a Spanish bar in the Pyrenees. These people
had no way of knowing how good the lyrics were because they didn't
speak any English at all. He got going with his stomp board and
playing his guitar and it was just so hip. It was so driving that
they just turned on the strobe light and started dancing. While
he takes his explosive solo shows to clubs all over the country,
it's the paradox of Pat MacDonald that most of his post-Timbuk3
recordings remain unavailable in the U.S. I had to obtain two relatively
recent Pat MacDonald discs from Pat MacDonald himself. Both produced
by John Parish (yes, PJ Harvey's collaborator) and built in Spain,
2001's Degrees Of Gone, which features lush orchestral support from
the Inchtabokatables, and 1999's Begging Her Graces. (Not to mention
an entire album of Depeche Mode covers called Strange Love.). In
the meantime, MacDonald will continue to play small clubs and write.
He'll also continue to turn away commercial offers for his music.
Though "The Future" is now in the past, the raw nerve
of MacDonald's indifference to commercial success is still just
below the surface for people like Miles Copeland who managed Timbuk3
in its Austin City Limits/Saturday Night Live-playing hey day."I
turned down almost $3-million on his wishes to not 'sell out,' even
though I had the legal right to license the song," Copeland
told me. "Pat was always one of the nicest people I worked
with and he did have integrity to match his talent. But he was an
'art monster' in the full meaning of the word which would have been
fine had we all been making a living from all our efforts."
Even Copeland still carries deep respect for him."I could always
count on Pat to write great lyrics, and in fact I'm considering
hiring him again to put English words to some great Arab melodies
I have. Hopefully he will be up for it." I asked Pat what his
view of fame was. "From what I've seen of it, it means people
treat you special, which means you get the kind of respect and consideration
everyone deserves but so few get. Everybody wants to be known and
loved in their community. Life is better that way. Anonymity is
only a luxury to those who can afford to not give a shit."