Pit Stop.

Oooooh yeah. Worley and I are listening to audio of last night’s Ken Kesey-era-esque Holy Rollin Road Show. I pulled up to Bill’s Pit Stop in Dandridge TN about 5 pm. Just in time for happy hour.

Bill had come out and led me into the bar after seeing me takin pictures of the blinking illuminated roadsign with the band’s name on it. “You’re Jon’s friend?” Yes. “I figured.” Nice piece of country.

Cinder blocks painted blue, Nascar and Marlboro signs, mason jars to tip, storied faces warm in welcome. The door swung and I saw the graphic sign: no guns, no knives, no bullshit. “So you’re that New York City boy Jon’s been barkin about?” Yes ma’am, yessir. “Nice to meet you…well, you’re in Bumblefuck now.” My kinda place. Sure is nice to be here. “Y’all want something to drink?” Yes ma’am.

His name is Ray, and he stands tall, his lady, Karen, stands small. “You’re from NOO YORK CITY?” Yes ma’am. “It’s okay. I’m from CHEECAHGO.” All laughed. Ray drawled, “I love Vermont. I’m a plumber, and in the off-season I go on up there and plumb the big lodges.” He got wistful. “Sure is pretty country. I’d go up there any excuse I have.” He had a long gray beard with streaks of white, and wore a shirt with a pirated gentleman looking just like him and the moniker “WhiteBeard” underneath.

Worley was hung up down in Morristown, his homeplace in Hamblen County. So I got me a High Life and began working on a few charts for the guys, which we didn’t wind up using that night but no matter. Good to have em. Got the Tele out of the case and tuned it up, loosened up, talked to some more folks and watched the sky.

Jon rolled his van in about 45 minutes later, and promptly got a bucket of Yuengling. He then apologized for having Yankee beer in Tennessee. I love Yuengling, I said. So we popped the tops and leaned up against the van and shot the shit.

The rest of the band rolled in pretty quick after that…Wooloughby on bass, Dave “Animal” Campbell on drums, Tom Pryor on pedal steel, and Colquit on ‘bone. We all got friendly, set up on the plywood and carpeted stage in the backyard, which was slowly retreating back into the earth. Moss and grass growing up out of the front. Had some mushroom pizza, a little whisky and a whole lot of beer, tuned up, then as the sun was going down I hit playing a small acoustic set. Brought up Pryor and played “Honky Tonk Downstairs” ala Poco, “Train to Cross”, and something else I can’t remember, then pulled up the band, and we did “Virginia Blues.”  The Worley machine took over after that.

Well, what can I say. We stretched and rolled and streamed through the evening as the stars came out…Jon’s got that dirgy backwood Derek and the Dominoes meets the Dead by way of Marshall Tucker kinda vibe..the four-chords and the truth thing that a musician can really jump on and build…and build we did. To psychedelic proportions. All of these cats are top area players. Animal plays with Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir.  I really vibed with Pryor…it was obvious from the start that there was a shared influence. We rapped a bit about the Byrds and Burrito Bros and Parsons, and then let it roll. It was like one big guitar..neither of us, at times, could really know where one of us stopped and the other started…it was magical. Then combined with the ‘bone player…long strung out notes…I was drifting between the lead and rhythm section…a few of us later talked about the fact that we’d take a step back and just realize that you couldn’t hear your own part because it was the sound of the entire lot of us in sync. it was truly an amazing musical night.

Jon said one of these good ol’ boys came up to him after and said, “I got here and it was weird as shit. it was crazy. was like, what the hell are these boys doing? then I drank two beers and smoked a bowl, and then I figured it out. you guys are badass.”

At the beginning of the penultimate set Wooloughby’s dad, Joel, brought us a mason jar of (legal) moonshine in a bucket of ice. It sat chilling and we broke that seal as soon as we finished. Good, clear, corn liquor. Passed it around, though Joel drank most of it. Jon’s dad was there too.  stately gents both, they were positively destroyed at the end of it all.

After we shot moonshine, well, things got crazy. I will post the last set soon…

Bill locked up the bar and left us all to our own devices. And our fucked up selves had what Jon would probably call an “authentic hillbilly experience”. It started to rain.  And the fucking tent poles, attached to ‘lectricity, carried a light current. And everyone was like, “shit!  there’s a current. you gotta check this out!” and took turns putting their hands on it til they got shocked. Me being the Jewish mother, I scolded ’em all. Then touched the pole. Zing.

We finished packing up and in celebration, tucked into a half-pint of Joshua Brooks whisky I’d picked up for 6 bucks in a rest stop about fifty miles before Knoxville. “Rated 91,” it said, and it was pretty tasty despite being distilled in Kentucky and subsequently bottled in..San Jose? So odd. Now, none of us had eaten in hours, and I voiced my strong desire for Waffle House. “No, there’s only a Perkins,” Kelly, Colquit’s ladyfriend, said..then said, “no, wait, if you go on down the back road turn right then it the next light and left then around the bend by the other store, there’s a Waffle House at the bottom of the hill..” Well now, I said, sounds like you know what’s going on. So you lead the way. “Alright, then,” she said, and we proceeded to have ourselves a great lil’ convoy, all the way to a rarity these days, a standalone old-school double-wide WaHo.

My truck looked pretty good next to all of the other 4×4 Chevys, Rams, and F-150s littering the lot. We got in right as a bunch of kids coming from a race in Bristol were coming out, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves and rolled the jukebox…lots of Allmans, Doors, Roy Orbison..and I put in some Bon Jovi (“Blaze of Glory”) just for a lark.

I ordered hash browns scattered, smothered, covered, chunked and diced. (If you don’t know what that means you’ll just have to go find out, now, won’t you?) Well-done. With an egg and cheese biscuit and grits. I just ordered ’em, then Tina, our tattooed rock n’ roll young lady waitress, said, “They’re not on the menu. I have idea why. They should be.”  Everybody’s order was a little messed up..but in a good way. Colquit’s patty melt had bacon on it. And my biscuit had a bonus slab of sausage. Nice.

I had never had a Waffle House waffle, so I took a bit of Kelly’s…yum. Joy G, who was rollin with Pryor, hadn’t had biscuits and gravy. So she had some of Pryor’s. A night of firsts all round. It was the perfect amount of food, and we sat chillin, laughin, drinking coffee, listening to the jukebox. I made some casual mention of dessert as an aside, as we were all stuffed, and chuckled. On that note, Worley says, “You ever had you some WaHo apple pie steamed on the grill with butter?” No, I had not, I said, and Worley started to explain in a Worley-esque fashion (he’s a bit like Neal Cassady in his raps) what it was, and I said, No man, don’t talk about it. Just make it happen.” And thusly took me to the counter, where he grandly told the good ladies behind, “All right girls, it’s time to for a real Waffle House experience. My friend’s never had apple pie steamed on the grill with butter. Can you make him one?” “No, we actually are out of apple pie. How about pecan?” Bring it on, I said. And on it was brought.

Take one piece of pie, slather the top with a huge pat of butter, throw it on the grill for a minute, then put a few pieces of ice on an inverted big ol’ pot lid, and quickly and precisely turn it on top of the pie, till you can smell it start to caramelize. “We can’t get the middle of the pie to get hot,” Tina said, “But I like my pie cold.” It was perfect, with grilled, crispy edged-nutty goodness, big pool of melted butter on top streaming onto the sides, the edges slightly burnt.

We paid and gave cheers to each other and exchanges of information and warm handshakes and embraces, then sat for a few on the Chevy’s opened tailgate while the others smoked cigarettes, and looked at the sky. Then Worley and I drove back to Dandridge, grabbed my instruments out of the truck, got in his clapped-out van and rolled to his folks’ place. I made a pallet in his mom’s former floral workspace, among the bobeches and frames and pipe cleaners and silk stems. Fell asleep with my boots on and a pencil in my breast pocket.

Woke up and got the java, wrote this and now it’s time to mosey. Says Jon:

“In the next 30 mins we have to get in the vehicle, go to the pawn shop and head over to Jenks’ studio.” All right. Let’s roll.

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