Real Country in RVA
You know it’s going to be a night of old school country when you see a pedal steel guitar and cowboy hats on the band stand. That’s exactly what was in store last Saturday at JJ’s Grill, when Brad Spivey and The Honky Tonk Experience took the stage. If there was any doubt, that was erased after just the first three songs: “Just Walk on By”, “Momma Tried” and “Together Again”.
According to band leader Brad Spivey, keeping traditional country music alive is the band’s mission, “We’re playing music live that folks just don’t get to hear around here anymore and keeping that music alive.” Honky-tonk music, for those that may not know, is described by Spivey as country music played in bars – it’s danceable, it’s drinkable and just about having fun.
Spivey says today’s country music radio is fine if that’s what you like, but for him…and evidently for a lot of fans around here…it’s the more traditional country tunes that speak. In high school Brad was into rock like most of his other friends. He credits listening to his mom’s radio and hearing Kris Kristofferson singing Ray Price’s “For the Good Times” on WRVA that lead to discovering the founding fathers of country music. “It spoke to me and I loved it.”
The Experience was formed in 2003. Today’s lineup includes:
- Spivey on acoustic guitar and lead vocals
- Mike Lucas (electric guitar & veteran of the Good Humor Band)
- Mark Watts (drums, formerly with the Fredds)
- Clark Ball (bass, known to many from the Big Posse Band).
In 2013 Ryland Tinnell brought his authentic pedal steel sound to the band. Tinnell might be new to the Experience, but he’s been around 70 some years and his steel playing cuts through directly to the roots of country music.
His band gained a bit of notoriety last year when they were supposed to open for new country act The Band Perry at Innsbrook. They were dropped from the gig at the last minute. Many thought it was because The Band Perry considered the Experience to be “too country” for their fans. Spivey emphasizes it wasn’t the band’s decision at all but, ironically, the band’s Nashville management nixed the deal. That was a true loss for those ticket holders.
Spring is shaping up to be a busy season for the band. You can catch them 3/29 at the ShucknPul benefit, 4/3 & 4 they’ll be playing a two night stand at the Cultural Arts Center in Glen Allen, where local country celebrity Donna Meade Dean will be joining them on vocals. In May, on Mother’s Day, the Experience will back up Dean as part of her “Jimmy Dean Music Festival” at the Richmond Marriott. This festival will benefit Henricus Historical Park in Chester.
The Jimmy and Donna Dean connection is no accident. Spivey went to Highland Springs High School as did Donna. He later became good friends with Donna and Jimmy Dean, who both became fans of Spivey and the band, after a band performance at the State Fair. After Jimmy Dean’s death, Spivey was given one of Jimmy’s signature black cowboy hats by Donna, as a token of their mutual respect for what Spivey is doing with the band. I’m willing bet you’ll see that hat on stage soon.
Listen to how Spivey found country music.
Brad Spivey photo: Suzanne Isaacs
Band photo courtesy of the band.