THE LITTLE ROXY, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
From late 1983 - 1984 my bandmate Wayne Hackett and I had the sound production account at a concert club in Little Rock, Arkansas, named "The Little Roxy", which was located in the Breckenridge Village Shopping Center right off of I-430. Wayne and I were playing in a band called "Touch of Class" (Little Rock version) as well as doing sound production. This was a two-level club with a balcony area and small eatery upstairs with absolutely killer fajitas, my first experience with them. This was a concert club which hosted many famous recording artists as well as very popular regional acts. I was only there for a few months before being offered and accepting a gig in Tulsa, OK, where I still live today.
When Wayne and I first started at The Little Roxy, we were more concerned with taking care of the production end of things rather than worrying about a production company name to go by. But that all changed when one of my favorite female blues/folk/R&B singers headlined at the club. Her name is Tracy Nelson, who began her fame in the San Francisco band Mother Earth back in the '60s. When talking with her before her show in the dressing room, she asked me what our production company name was. I told her we didn't have one. She asked what our names were and I told her, "John" and "Wayne". Well, that did it. She told me to name ourselves "John-Wayne Productions". Wayne and I liked it so much we used it from that day forward.
The video above with Tracy singing has some very famous artists in their own right performing behind her. One of my favorite all-time blues guitarists, Robben Ford, very famous alto saxophonist David Sanborn, very famous bass player Marcus Miller, were all kickin' it behind Tracy. Tracy is definitely one of the most underrated and least known of the best female blues singers. She has been compared to Janis Joplin, although I think, as many do, that she has a smoother and more vast appeal than Janis did. Tracy is very well received by audiences and stars alike. She not only is a great talent, but is also a person with a great sense of humor and a great personality. I just spoke with her last year (2008), which was the first time since those Little Roxy days. She still performs live some, but not enough according to what she told me.
One of the countless famous recording acts who performed at the Roxy was none other than the Gregg Allman Band. Gregg Allman is, of course, the lead singer and B-3 keyboardist for the internationally famous act, "The Allman Brothers Band", one of my all-time favorite bands, and he was once married to another very famous singer/actor, "Cher". Gregg is a great guy and musical artist, very laid back. An irony is that right after I graduated High School, I immediately went on the road traveling mostly to the east coast. We played Georgia and Florida a lot in those days. One of our gigs was in Macon, Georgia, right next to where the Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet, and .38 Special were playing outdoors. I was fortunate enough to meet Gregg and all the rest of those band members and crew.
While we were doing his soundcheck at the Roxy, he asked that we not use a lot of fancy lighting nor sound effects that night. "Just keep her simple and clean", he told me. So, that's what I gave him that night, but, much to my disappointment. I liked the effects, both sound and lighting. But, Greg was absolutely "right on" with his request. They would have not sounded or looked quite right with the effects. They sounded absolutely outstanding just clean and dry, with simple basic lighting and just a bit of delay on vocals. Not only was that night a great performance, but one of the easiest mixes I ever did.
While I was head of production for "Redneck Kountry" in Tulsa, about 2005, one of the famous recording artists I engineered for was Ricky Lynn Gregg. Ricky Lynn was originally a rocker, converting later to Country music, with several major hits to his credit. I first met Ricky Lynn while I was at the Roxy when he had just joined "Head East", a very popular cult recording act. Ricky Lynn is not only a great tenor vocalist, but also a very good guitarist, not to mention a producer as well. At that time, Ricky Lynn primarily sang backup vocals and was on lead guitar. The night Head East performed at the Roxy, I ran monitors for them, standing right next to Ricky Lynn on stage. Funny how ironic it was that I ran sound for him so many years later at "Redneck Kountry".
I'm fairly certain that all of you know who Billy Bob Thornton is...he's the very famous Academy Awards/Oscar winning actor who was once married to another very famous actor in her own right, Angelie Jolie, John Voigt's daughter, yet ANOTHER very famous actor. Billy Bob is originally from the Hot Springs, Arkansas area, and began as a musician and baseball player. His main instrument was/is the drums, but, he's also a lead vocalist, producer, composer, and studio owner. Today Billy Bob has a popular "Americana" band named "The Boxmasters" who has several albums, concerts, and T.V. appearances to their credit. The photo to the left is of Billy Bob Thornton, present-day, sitting on his drum kit at his home studio in Los Angeles, California.
One day I showed up at the Roxy to do a soundcheck for a band who was unknown to me, named "Tres Hombres", who was a ZZ Top tribute band. I distinctly remember how very, very...VERY loud they were during soundcheck. So much so, that the guitar rig was drowning out the P.A. system! I went up to the stage and asked them to turn down just enough so that I had some control over the mix. Well, guess who it was that I spoke to most of all? It was Billy Bob Thornton! He was the drummer and vocalist in that band, had long black hair and kind of resembled a pirate in appearance. Of course, he was not an international star yet so I did not know him from "Adam", although I knew who the other two band members were.
I'm so glad that I was diplomatic and complimentary to them then, due to where Billy Bob's fame is today. "Tres Hombres" members had two brothers from Benton, Arkansas, Mike Shipp on guitar/vocal, Nick Shipp on bass/vocal, and of course Billy Bob Thornton on drums/vocal. Mike Shipp has performed with some of Billy Bob's other bands in recent years. About a year ago Mike, Nick, several famous guitarists, and my old friend and bandmate for many years, Kenny Hall, who played with me in several bands going all the way back to my concert band "Happy Jack", recorded a CD produced by Billy Bob at his home studio in Los Angeles.