Delta Moon Uber Germany – 3

The autobahn is pleasant and easy to navigate, once you learn to watch your mirror like a hawk. You may decide to pass a truck, and in an instant that little dot back on the horizon becomes a Mercedes on your tail, and the guy driving it is giving you the stink eye.

Our van is a Ford Euroliner with a five-speed stickshift. Neither Darren nor Franher can operate the clutch, so Mark and I are doing all the driving. In exchange, the others agreed that to load the gear after every show. That’s okay by me.

In Amsterdam there are plenty of cars and pedestrians and boats, but the main mode of transportation is bicycle. The Dutch bike is not a sports bike, like the racers or mountain bikes you mostly see in the States. It is a practical street bike, with a chainguard to keep the rider’s pants from getting caught and handlebars set high so the rider sits up straight. Some pull cargo wagons behind them. Some have big wooden boxes out in front like wheelbarrows. I saw a rickshaw-like contraption with one guy in front doing all the work while a couple sat side-by-side behind him.

We rented four bikes and spent a day exploring the city, stopping here and there for tapas and Belgian ales. About 1:30 in the morning we headed back to the hotel. Darren was pedaling along in front of me when suddenly down he went. He scraped his hand and hurt his wrist. He couldn’t ice down his wrist that night, because European hotels don’t have ice machines like American hotels do. But with the help of some ibuprofen, the next day he was sore but okay. We didn’t need to advertise for a German drummer.

From Amsterdam we hit the road back to Germany for our gig in Ratingen, near Dusseldorf. Here we met and had dinner with Alfie Falckenbach, the head of our European record label, Blues Boulevard. Alfie and I had been communicating for some time by phone and e-mail, but it was good to put in some hang time and get to know each other. Everyone seemed to hit it off.

The venue, Manege-Lintorf, was in a local youth center, but the room was set up like a rock club, with a round bar and a good stage. When we came out for the start of the show people were standing right up to the edge of the stage.

The gig went very well. Everyone on stage and off was all smiles. Alfie told us, “I knew I had signed a great band, but I didn’t know it was a great live band.”

Back at the hotel we settled in with cold pizza and a bottle of red wine. On TV a pair of rough-looking nude women were laughing and batting at each other with boxing gloves. Brother, this ain’t America.

Delta Moon Uber Germany – 2

How can I describe the Blues Garage in Isernhagen? Maybe it would be better to describe the man himself, since everything else flows from him. Henry is 58 years old, with a muscular build, a strong chin, bright blue eyes and shoulder-length blond hair. He grew up in East Germany, where the Russians renamed his native town Karl Marx Stadt. In 1974 he went to prison “for speaking my mind.” In 1980 he escaped to the West, and his wife Ramona followed in 1982.

The way it looks, American rock and blues music is to Henry a symbol of freedom. He has made his club a shrine to it.

When we first pulled up to our lodging, the Motel California, and saw a portrait of Jimi Hendrix flanked by two electric guitars on the wall, we knew we had arrived someplace. Parked on the street and in the yard were two Lincoln limousines, a few Winnebagos, a Smart car, and a red American fire engine.

Henry greeted us and showed us to our rooms. “This is not yours yet. Darren, this is yours. Franher, this is yours. Okay, Tom this is yours.”

In my room, under a portrait of John Lee Hooker, was a double-manual Wurlitzer organ. Within five minutes I had it on and was jamming with the latin rhythm box. This might be my favorite hotel room ever!

Isernhagen is just outside Hannover, on the edge of the countryside. After we’d settled in we took a walk along a path through the fields and woods. Flying over France and Germany on Thursday we had noticed a lot of bright yellow fields scattered across the landscape. Now were were walking among them. When I asked Henry about them, he told me they were a biodiesel fuel called something that sounded like “raps.” Henry’s son told us you can also use them to make beer or eat them in a salad.

Darren among the biodiesel fields

When we walked into the Blues Garage for sound check, one of the first things I saw was a poster with photo of my former bandmate Keith Christopher, along with some other old friends, Dan Baird, Mauro Magellan and Warner Hodges, who are playing the club later this month as Dan Baird and Friends. Mark asked Henry, “What’s the craziest band that ever played here?” He said, “That Dan Baird band is pretty crazy.”

The sound quality on stage for our show was excellent. (In fact, all of the German venues we’ve worked so far on this tour have had first-rate sound systems.) The crowd was a lot of fun to play to. After the show we hung out a while and had a couple beers and some really good bratwurst from the stand outside. Here’s a video from the show (thanks, Ulrich!):

Delta Moon – “Nightclubbing” – Blues Garage, Isernhagen

Back at the Motel California, Franher and Mark stopped by my room for a late night Wurlitzer jam.

Mark and Franher jamming on the Wurlitzer organ.

Henry graciously offered to put us up another night, and having a few days off we took him up on it. Sunday we slept in till noon, then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and took another long walk in the country. We heard a cuckoo just like in a clock – probably not a big deal in Germany but a novelty to Americans. That night Henry, his wife, son and daughter, along with her boyfriend, took us out to an excellent Italian ristorante. The whole family lives upstairs at the Motel California and works at the Blues Garage.

Back at the ranch, after our hosts had gone upstairs, the four of us sat around the kitchen table, sipping weissbiers from a case Henry had brought over from the club and listening to his Creedence CDs. Henry had offered to let us stay another night. He said, “I don’t have another band in until Wednesday.” We didn’t have another gig until Wednesday ourselves, but we didn’t want to wear out our welcome. Some time after midnight we decided that it would be a mistake to lose momentum. We resolved to pack in the morning and head for Amsterdam.

Delta Moon uber Germany – 1

After 24 hours of travel – by plane from Atlanta to Paris, then Paris to Dusseldorf, by train to Cologne, then bullet train to Montabaur to pick up the van, by autobahn back to Dusseldorf to pick up Darren and Franher, and autobahn and country road to Wergen – we arrived at the Hotel Henriette Davidis for one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

The hotel is named for the author of a famous 19th-century cookbook. The restaurant serves meals prepared according to her recipes, using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms. We washed them down with local beer.

By the time we unwound enough to look around and see where we were, where we were was a little pub in a half-timbered house that dated back to 1541 (picture below). At first the locals didn’t know what to make of us, but before long we broke the language barrier. Udo, our host, started producing secret bottles from under the bar and pouring into little glasses. Everyone in the room just kept laughing. Finally some kind of corn liquor from a brown bottle convinced us that it was time for bed. Later I wondered if that hadn’t been what Udo was trying to do all along. So it was “gute nacht” all around, and we crossed to street back to our hotel, resolving that for the rest of the trip we should be careful with anything in little glasses.

I woke up the next morning, if not in synch with the local time at least not too far off. Mark and I had breakfast and took a walk up a hill where we discovered the town cemetery. It was May first, a national bank holiday, and people were all through the cemetery, jogging or talking or tending graves. This was no broad grassy lawn like an American cemetery. Each plot was a separate garden, arranged with natural stones and planted with bushes and flowers. We saw a few stones saying something like, “1st Lt. So-and-So, 1921-1942,” from back in the days when this village was the home front.

Once everybody was up, we drove to Wetter, the next town, and found our venue for the night, Earth Music.

Gunter Erdmann runs a musical equipment sales and rental business in an industrial area on the edge of town. He and his wife and sons, who all work in the business too, live in the rear of the building, on the bank of the Ruhr River. Twenty-some times a year, in conjunction with a non-profit group promoting live music, Gunter volunteers his room, gear and time to put on a show. Our deal here is that we waived a cash fee in exchange for the use of Gunter’s backline (amps and drums) for the rest of the tour.

The backline proved first rate. Mark and I scored matching Egnater Rebel 20 amps, made in America by Bruce Egnater, with a unique design that allows the player to blend a pair of 6V6 tubes (a classic American sound) with a pair of EL84s (classic English rock sound). Very cool.

It’s a little strange starting your first show in a different country. You wonder what in the world these people think of you. The last chord of the first song died away into complete silence. But then the applause started, got louder and kept going. We ended up doing two encores and, I think, making some new friends. After the show we had soup made by Gunter’s mother from her vegetable garden, and a taste of schnapps distilled by his father.

Germany was working out okay.

Delta Moon uber Germany – Prelude

Hi, this is Tom Gray. I’m determined to keep a blog for our German tour, which starts later this week. So here’s a warm-up post to get me up to speed and you up to date.

Our Story So Far

Week before last we traveled to Kitchener, Ontario, where our Canadian friends wined and dined us and generally treated us like kings. We played a killer show at the Starlight in Waterloo — wonderful venue, wonderful crowd. Everything was beautiful.

Well, every day can’t be Christmas. I guess that’s why we have the 4th of July.

This Friday we drove down to the Mojo Kitchen in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The audience seemed enjoy to the show. But when it came time to load out, we found a wide brown smear down the side of our van. Franher sniffed it and said, “You can’t please ‘em all.”

We drove the van around behind the restaurant kitchen. A waitress hooked up a hose to the hot water in the dishwashing sink, and we blasted the van clean. To cut the BBQ grease on the dishes, they run the water scalding hot. I found that out when I got a shoe full of it.

Saturday we grabbed bagels and coffee and drove six hours back to Atlanta. After a quick stop at the house to change clothes and down a plate of pasta I met the others at the Moon Shadow Tavern in Tucker. We set up our gear, then learned the club provided PA but no soundman, no microphones, no stands and no cables. They don’t trust musicians not to steal (for reason, I’m sure). But this was news to us. We tried calling friends in the area for help – no luck. So I drove back to our rehearsal studio in Atlanta, taking deep breaths and thinking relaxing thoughts all the way. We hooked up and tested everything while the audience watched us, then started the show about an hour and a half late.

I wanted to sing “Lodi,” but Darren and Franher didn’t know it. Mark said, “No, you’ve got the wrong attitude. These people here are our friends and fans. Let’s just relax and have a good time.” And of course he was right.

We had a great time.

Delta Moon uber Germany Tour

Have you ever thought about going on the road with a band? Delta Moon invites you to come along with them to Germany when they play a blues festival and other gigs in some fantastically famous towns. Share hotels and meals with Delta Moon band members. Travel along with them on an unforgettable trip.

Dates: May 10-18, 2009

Sample Itinerary:

May 10 – Arrive in Munich.

May 11 – Castle Neuschwanstein (pictured above) and a hotel in the Austrian Alps.

May 12 – Blues Festival in Ingolstadt.

May 13 – Day trip up the Romantische Strasse to the medieval town of Rothenburg (pictured above).

May 14 – Visit to Prague, Czech Republic

May 15 – Sightseeing in Bautzen. Concert in Singwitz.

May 16 – Sightseeing in Dresden. Concert in Lauchhammer.

May 17 – A day in Berlin.

May 18 – Return to the USA.

Estimated cost for coach class air, hotel, food and ground transportation (high end quoted): Single room $2400, Double room $2100 per person.

Interested? Questions? Send your contact information by February 27 to: dmoongermany@yahoo.com

Tom Gray of Delta Moon Wins Blues Songwriter Award

Blues artist Tom Gray, of the band Delta Moon, won the “Blues Songwriter of the Year” award in the 2008 Roots Music Association Music Industry Awards, announced last week.  Gray, who has brought the same skill, craft, and dedication to his blues-oriented music with Delta Moon as he once did with his popular 1980s-era rock band the Brains, won the award over stiff competition from talents like Alvin Youngblood Hart, Marcia Ball, Davis Cohen and Liz Mandeville.

Other winners in this year’s awards included Pinetop Perkins as “Blues Artist of the Year,” Alligator Records as “Blues Record Label of the Year,” and Blues Deluxe as the “Blues Radio Station of the Year.” The Roots Music Association is based in San Marcos TX, and the organization keeps its own national charts for such American music genres as blues, roots-rock, bluegrass, country, zydeco, and folk music. Check out the Roots Music Association website for a list of this year’s other award winners.

>ABOUT.com: Blues December 1, 2008 Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Il Blues Magazine reviews from Italian Tour:

Rootsway Roots ‘N’ Blues and Food Festival, Parma, Italy (translated)

We had listened to them in 2003 at the King Biscuit Festival (it was still called that then) in Helena, Arkansas and, although they were fresh from their victory in the I.B.C of that year, they did not really knock us out.  Having reformed the band as a quartet, with a repertory comprised of their own compositions, the Delta Moon of Tom Gray gave life to a show of high tension, stirring blues and southern rock with great ability. Outstanding moments included the slide riff of “Midnight Train,” Gray’s charged voice supported by the dry and powerful job of the drummer [Darren Stanley] in “Hellbound Train,” and the homage to Hemphill with “Jessie Mae.” Also
interesting was their version of “You Got to Move” with the guitars of Gray and Mark Johnson in beautiful evidence, but R.L. Burnside’s “Going Down South” has lost its energy because it has just been covered too much.