Tales from the Road, a Musicians' Journey...

The Mighty Mississippi Runs So Deep And Wide... 

January 31, Danny and I packed the van up, ensured we had our winter coats and boots and hit the road to begin our Blue Highway Tour.  We will travel through a multitude of States as well as crossing into Canada and working through Ontario, with a quick two week jaunt by plane to the province of British Columbia before we fly back to Ontario for another round of gigs and crossing back into the United States to begin the back end of the tour.  All this, in 4 short months!  Whew, I am tired just typing it…

While all gigs are important to us, and we love to have the time to play and the audience to play to, I think for this tour that I will try to minimize the gig by gig, play by play and perhaps focus more on the times that are meaningful and stand out in my/our minds and hearts.  After all, while we want ya’ll to come on the tour with us, I am sure that even for you as readers, all gigs must begin to sound the same at some point.

First stop, Katy Texas and the home of Janet (Latiolais) and Glenn Miller, for no tour could start without time to spend in our second home.  These two friends (more family than friends) have done more to encourage and support us as artists than we could ever have hoped.  Glenn and Janet accept us for who we are, and allow us our space as we invade their space on each end of every tour.  They put up with my moodiness and despair at being gone from home for so long and for that, I am eternally grateful.  Soon guys, the meds will get tweaked and all will be well (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)!

Debi, Janet, Glenn and Danny (we are going to have to take a new picture!)

With a few gigs under our belt, it is time to hit the blue highway and head on down the road to Angola Prison.  Can’t think of a better way to begin the tour, than by giving back and what better place to give back than in a prison.  So with the windshield wipers slipping back and forth across the window, the continuous drizzle and the grey sky we head down I10 out of Katy heading east to Louisiana.  From Katy to Angola is about a 6 and a half to 7 hour drive.  It rained the whole drive.  That is 381 miles of wet asphalt and grey skies, windshield wipers slapping time (I know, I know) and the dampness and cold permeating my body.  Who turned off the heat?

We arrive at the main gates to Angola around 3:15.  A large and imposing structure spanning over 18,000 acres, bordered on three sides by the mighty Mississippi River.  Angola is comprised of these plantations, Panola, Belle View, Killarney and Angola. The history of Angola is both disturbing and interesting.  In the 1890’s Angola’s death rate was the highest of all under lease.  The public was shocked by the accounts of brutality inflicted upon offenders.  1894 the General Assembly (legislature) outlawed leasing, which meant that the lease which had been held by a private firm owned by Major Samuel James since 1869 and was valid until 1901 would soon come to an end.   On January 1 1901, the state of Louisiana resumed control of all offenders after 55 years under the lease system, interrupted only by the Civil War.


  

Angola has housed some very renowned musical icons in its time, Leadbelly (attempted homicide for stabbing a white man in a fight) and Freddie Fender (possession of marijuana) both did time there.  Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, authors of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, said that Angola was "probably as close to slavery as any person could come in 1930." Hardened criminals broke down upon being notified that they were being sent to Angola.

Leadbelly is in the foreground (Angola)


Freddy Fender
Much has changed in the intervening years; in 1995 Warden Burl Cain took over the running of the infamous Angola State Penitentiary.  He is a religious man and believes the only way to give his inmates hope is in the form of eternal life, and to this end encourages a spiritual atmosphere in the prison.  He is the longest-standing warden in the history of LSP. Under his leadership, the inmate population of 5,000 has seen a major decrease in violent incidents.

Warden Burl Cain

Okay, okay, enough history…  I can’t help it, when there is such a deep history surrounding somewhere that I am or will be, it draws me in and takes me to another time.  But I will bring you back to the present.  This is the second time that Danny and I have had the opportunity to perform for some of the residents at Angola.  And it is an opportunity that we would not miss.  We can never be sure who walks away with more blessings, the inmates or us and this time in was no exception. 

Once through the main gate of Angola we were directed to Camp C (this is an area where inmates who are not being held on life sentences reside).  When we arrive at the gate we are met by Chaplain Gary who will be our guide/guardian during our time here. As we walk through the large heavy gates that will keep us in, until we are able to leave, your eye is immediately drawn to the barb wire, languishing, seemingly without malice atop the fence.  We traverse the concrete walkway enclosed by fencing and are greeted by inmates with polite “how are you ma’am”, “fine thank you sir”, smiles and nods.  When arriving at the next gate, we must wait briefly for a guard to arrive and unlock the door and allow us entry.  Two camp cats lounge beneath a pillar watching as inmates move to and fro along the corridors.  There is a metal roof overhead, but drops of rain still manage to find its way onto the concrete path.

 

Soon we find ourselves in the chapel.  Angola has 9 main chapels, and 10% of its prison population is papered pastors having gotten their degrees while in Angola.  We are greeted by two inmates who are waiting for our arrival so that they can find out what we will need for the performance at 6.  Needs quickly established, these same two inmates find a cart and follow our entourage to the main gate to Camp C to help us with our load in.  Within half an hour we have set up and had a sound check.  It is truly interesting to note the arrival of a few more inmates, I guess it doesn’t take much to figure out when something out of the ordinary is taking place.  We were later informed that this is one of the camps that do not usually receive this type of diversion, simply because the main focus seems to be on the lifers.  We are thrilled to be able to give an evening of music to these men.

Chaplain Gary then leads us back to the quarters that Danny and I will have for the night.  It certainly was more than we expected.  Atop a hill in the main village of Angola (Angola Penitentiary is also home to 1,800 employees who live in town, descried as the "safest in America," located in the middle of the penitentiary) there are three cottages, varying in size.  We are in Cottage 3, a lovely one bedroom cottage with a living room, full kitchen and laundry facilities.  A television in the living room, and one in the bedroom, all the pleasures of home.  The kitchen is stocked with coffee, cereal, water, pop, bacon, eggs, bread and other sundries totally unexpected by us.  Gary gives us 20 minutes to relax and tells us he will be back to get us to take us to dinner.  That was the fastest 20 minutes ever!

Chaplain Gary

Warden Cain, has a guest kitchen where an inmate prepares meals for visitors on the grounds.  All meals are comprised of meat, produce etc., which is raised or grown on the grounds of the prison, by the inmates.  The food is always beautifully prepared as Warden Cain will accept no less.  He is not a hard task master, but he expects each man to give his best in all he does, and it appears they do, and do so with respect!

Tonight dinner consists of potato salad, catfish, green beans, black eyed peas, homemade buns and salad.  Dinner will be finished with coffee, pecan cookies, chocolate cake or coconut cream pie (all homemade)!  We share the dinner table with 5 others who are on the grounds teaching the art of breaking horses to inmates and also those who are there to glean what they may to take back to the facilities they have been sent from.  Again, when something unusual is taking place everyone wants to be a part of the proceedings and these same dinner guests seek permission from Warden Cain to attend the evenings’ performance in Camp C.

Soon enough we are back at the Chapel, and as we traverse the aisles we are greeted on both sides by inmates already filling the seats in anticipation.  We ascend the stage and ready ourselves.  Chaplain Gary announces Danny and gives a brief bio on his accomplishments.  Immediately everyone is on their feet, greeting us with warmth that can only be imagined!  A standing ovation and all we did was show up!  We have two hours and we mean to give them every minute of those two hours.  Each song is ended with a rousing round of applause.  There is one inmate on the front row who had a tambourine and he accompanied us on every song.  As I look at the faces looking back at me, I see the smiles and am happy to note that for a few minutes, these men are able to forget about where they are, and be like everyone else that attends a concert.  Feet are tapping, hands are waving, and smiles are beaming!

Too soon the music is over and we have to end the evening.  Roll call has to be met as you can imagine by specific times and we certainly do not want to cause any disruptions that could possibly bring difficulties to anyone or hinder us from returning.  The inmates stroll to the front and we are able to meet and shake hands, spend a moment wishing them well.  Packing up is done quickly, and our helpers are quick to load the dolly for the walk to the main gate.  As we take the walk back along the same path that brought us inside, we are now being called out to by inmates on their way back to their dorms.  The van loaded, Chaplain Gary leads us back to the cottage and gives us our instructions regarding breakfast.

It is 9 p.m. when we enter the cottage, we have a snack, put on Turner Classics while we wait for the laundry to be completed.  We make our way to bed around 11 and soon enough we find ourselves awake and ready to start the day.  The view of the town and the lake which is below us is amazing, even more amazing when we remember that this is a prison.

           

Breakfast was no less wonderful than dinner, bacon, eggs, biscuits, homemade blackberry jam, fresh fig preserves, coffee, and orange juice.  Outside the dining hall window is the largest peacock I have ever seen preening himself atop the carport.  Finally it is time to leave, Chaplain Gary will once again escort us to the main gate and will pass through in a way that the majority of those within these barbed wires will not.  Free!



On another note we are getting added to more Americana/Triple A stations in the USA & Europe. Special thanks to Houston’s Czar of talk radio ‘Michael Berry’ who has been supportive of our new CD and has hired us for a gig in July at the Redneck Country Club.


 

The Other Side of the Cloud(s) 

Our gig at The Two Witches Winery and Brewery was tons of fun. The gig was to have been a house concert but it outgrew the venue and had to be held at a venue larger than someone's living room, but still intimate enough to be called a house concert. The audience was great, and many of those who attended had been at the house concert we had in Danville last September so it was good to see some friendly faces, although I don't remember many as I was very ill during our gig here last year. (When we finally got home after being on the road 2 months we discovered that I had pneumonia.) Happy to say, I will remember this gig. Landon got up with us to perform a few songs with his phenomenal guitar styling. Killer guitar player ya'll! Great evening! We are looking forward to our gig tomorrow night, in Randleman, North Carolina at HIS Place.

After a day of resting Danny and I head down the road to Randleman N.C. and HIS Place. HIS Place is a biker church which reaches out to the less fortunate in their community. What a blessing to be able to be a part of this church, if only for one evening. If you live in the Randleman N.C. area and are looking for a place of worship, this may be the church for you. Decked out like a club music venue with some serious gear! Check it out,  Pastor Donnie Neas would be happy to see you! This gig was arranged by Poppa T. Lineberry and we were so blessed to have him and his band opened for us! Always great to have the opportunity to listen to other great music!
 

Danny and Poppa T. Lineberry       Poppa T. and his Band


Sunday night finds us back in Gretna Virginia and performing at The Move, pastored by Landon Spradlin. This store front church graces the main street of Gretna, inviting all to come in and worship. The whole Spradlin family is a part of this ministry and they are a group of seriously talented singers/musicians/songwriters! They have a home studio and getting great sounds out of it! We got to meet and perform for some wonderful people, and we always enjoy the time afterwards where we get to chat and get to know people better! An awesome evening!

The next morning finds us up and on the road early as we are heading to Alabama. What a great day it is for driving. The sun is out, it is warm and there is nothing but sunshine ahead of us (I hope). Today we have set our driving distance at Duluth Georgia, a northern suburb of Atlanta (we have a few days to make the trip so we are not rushing the drive).

 
  

We decided to try “Hotwire” and see if we could get a deal on a nicer than usual hotel for a couple of days. As you all probably know you go online, search the area that you will be in for deals on 2 star plus accommodations, you can read reviews etc. and know how many stars the hotel has been rated but you won’t know the name of the hotel/motel until you have booked the room. We found one at a great price with 3 stars and booked it. Wyndham Gardens Hotel in Duluth Georgia. We received the confirmation of two nights booking via email and proceed on knowing that we have a nice room waiting for us at the end of the day’s drive.

At 3:30 we arrive and proceed to check in, “What is the name again?” Really? So we pull up the email on our phone and give them the confirmation number, the computer is checked again. No, we are not there. So the master book is checked, this is where the “Hotwire” or other “Search out good packages” paper work that is faxed to the facility is filed once it is entered in the computer. Ours got filed, not entered. So once we are checked in, (I must say that I did feel some condescension from the clerk), we asked if they had a luggage cart (this is a huge hotel with 3 or 4 floors), but alas no cart was to be found. During the first trip to our room, I discovered that there were no towels or complimentary shampoo etc., so on our second trip down to get our things from the van, we informed the front desk know about this error. When we returned to the room, room service was just entering with the desired towels. It really was a nice room, the view was lacking but that was totally due to the location. Although as we settled in we began to notice a few things, the tap on the sink was very loose, the textured “bath mat” that is part of the bottom of the bath tub had been totally worn off and there was no rubber mat to put down to avoid slipping. Sitting at the desk we noticed the top layer of the fake leather seat was peeling off the chair and hanging. Upon retiring for the night we discovered the duvet was torn at the top. I have to wonder if this was part of the normal conditions or was the room we were given because we went through a service to receive a better rate? I tend to think that it is the latter. They are very quick to ask if you enjoyed your stay when checking out, well normally, apparently at this particular hotel they didn’t care whether we did or not. When I went on line and filled out a survey regarding our stay and stated the above, I received an automated “we have received your email and will get back to you in 24 to 36 hours, well I am still waiting for that response and that was in September. Would I stay there again, let me think about that….NOT!

 
   

September 23 arrived with the sun shining, so very glad to see the sun as it had gotten a tad cold and dreary at times while we were in Canada. As we were sitting having breakfast Danny realized that he had missed a phone call from a very dear friend, Frank Garcia, and that this was very odd because there was a voicemail left and Frank never leaves a voicemail. So with great concern Danny listened to his voicemail. The tearful voice of Darlene, Frank’s wife, had left a message for Danny to “please call”. Danny immediately called back, with no answer, he left his message.

Frank and Muddy

A great sadness engulfed both of us immediately even though the sun was shining brightly in the sky. A chill seemed to overcome me. We both knew that the call was about Frank, and Danny was trying to be optimistic and said that “Frank was probably taken to the hospital”, but I knew that this was much worse. Darlene is a very strong woman who works in the healthcare industry, I knew in my heart even though I was hoping to be wrong, that Darlene would not have called in tears if Frank was merely taken to hospital, she would have been in control. While the message was not of a hysterical woman, it was a woman whose voice was tearful and full of pain. Sadly an hour later Darlene called back and confirmed our worst fears! Frank was gone. Oh, my! The sorrow was overwhelming, both of us recalling the last time was had spoken with Frank, the fact that we hadn’t seen him on this trip because he was ill when we played his area. I could hear Frank’s voice so clearly in my head; he had such a distinct manner of speaking. Of all our Canadian friends and family, Frank was the only consistent caller to our home in Texas. He was a great encourager and sounding board. Frank was the one who really encouraged me to perform with Danny. I remember distinctly the first time that Frank heard me perform with Danny; it was in Collingwood at the art center. After our show, as we were loading the van, Frank was outside helping and I was standing talking to him (dreading in my heart what he would say about my performance, for you see, Frank would not have lied to me to save my feelings, I knew he would “tell it like it is”, like it or not!) and he was so encouraging to me. He said that he loved the differences in our voices, the burlap of Danny’s and the lace of mine! Since that gig, I have improved a hundred fold, and have now included the playing of the Cajon as part of my performance and was looking forward to Frank’s critique of me the next time he saw us perform; I guess that next time will be in heaven. We will greatly miss Frank. He was a true friend, and an ever present sounding board, a wonderful man. Frank leaves behind Darlene, his wife of 40 years and two beautiful daughters, Kallie and Katlin, and many, many friends, and musicians who will miss him! Please remember Frank’s family in your prayers!

 
The pic on the left is a more current Frank and Darlene
and the one on the right is Frank and Darlene on their wedding day!



Three days later we arrive in Columbiana Alabama for our gig at the Shelby County Arts Council. What a fun gig, as Danny and I our doing our set, local artist, Scott Owen is creating his own masterpiece beside the stage. It will later be auctioned off (totally by whim) to a member in the audience. How wonderful is that for the artist! Once our set is over, Bruce Andrews and his band, 2BLU and THE LUCKY STIFFS take the stage to a rousing applause, midway through their set they had an unexpected visitor. Elvis is alive and well and apparently living in Columbiana! A great time was had by all!

     

           

The next afternoon we had the privilege of performing for a group of young people at The Columbiana Youth Detention Center. Pastor Leslie and Theresa Whiting (The Church at Columbiana) afforded us the opportunity to share through music and talk, the message of hope! The teens were attentive and very respectful and as usual we came away very blessed for being able to share.

When we finish at the Youth Detention Center we hurry to make it to the next gig for the day at The Green Lantern in McCalla Alabama. What a funky place The Green Lantern is, the club has been around since the twenties. We arrive and drive around back to find a flatbed set up, and a young girl in a mini dress and platform stilettoes strumming a guitar and singing her heart out. This young girl clearly had talent and can have a career in music ahead of her; I just wish that her choice of songs were a bit more uplifting, not I’m hell on wheels look out!





Once her set was over and the gear cleared off, it was our turn to set up our gear and get ready to rock. The owner Dick Maben and his wife Alma were so warm and friendly and certainly went out of their way to ensure we had everything we needed, including sending us home with BBQ chicken and potato salad! MMMMMM good! The sun was beginning to set and it was time for us to begin performing. As the sky began to grow dimmer, people began to filter outside finding themselves places to sit around the tables set up for them. Cars were driving in, and parking around the parameter of the stage area. Too soon our set was over and it was time to pack it up and tear it down.

Tomorrow morning will come early after the late night, as we need to be up and at The Church at Columbiana for 9 a.m. to set up for the 10:00 a.m. service. Pastor Leslie and Theresa Whiting are wonderful couple who truly have a passion for their community and a love for Jesus. It comes through in so many ways. We were very thankful to be a part of their Sunday service.

After service we packed up the van and got on the road, this time heading for Florida. Danny’s mark for the day travel is Pensacola. We are not in too great a hurry because our first Florida gig is not until the 3rd of October and it is the 28th of September so that gives us 5 days. But because Danny has booked a motel in Fort Meyers for the week beginning on the 29th (always trying to save money as much as possible and because a weekly rate is better than a nightly rate) we will press on be make it to Fort Myers the next day. For now we will stop in Lake City Florida, near the junction of I 10 & I 75, just north of Gainesville for the night.


This is our second excursion into Florida and we are still breaking ground with respect to gigs and so while we haven’t got two weeks fully booked in Florida we do have five gigs over the two weeks we will be here and will be working towards booking other rooms for our next trip in February.

Once checked into the motel in Fort Myers we have 4 days to rest and relax until our first gig at The Olde Fish House in Matlacha on Pine Island. This is a really quaint fish house sitting at a dock, the restaurant open to the inlet from the Gulf that runs along beside it. We will actually perform here twice during our stay in Florida.

I am really hoping the weather is sunny and we have an opportunity to get to a beach this trip, last February we never had the chance. The area we are staying in is very commercial but a newer area, lots of shops and restaurants and pavement, not the ideal place to be but a convenient one. Each day during the first few days we have had a bit of rain throughout the day and then the sun breaks through the clouds and brightens the skies!

The morning of the 3rd is sunny and warm, and because we have been off for a few days we are eager to perform. We are also looking forward to the wonderful seafood dinner we will have at The Olde Fish House. http://oldfishhousemarina.com/ Shrimp, I love shrimp, have never really acquired a taste for hush puppies but they are part of the dinner none-the-less as is the tasty coleslaw! The drive isn’t too long to get there and we arrive with ample time to set up and then have dinner before the gig.

It is very humid under the roof and although we have a fan blowing behind us and the two fans that Janet and Glenn bought us blowing in front of us at the end of the first set our clothing is sticking to our bodies.  Every table is filled and toes are tapping, in fact we have people up dancing in the tiny space in front of the stage. What a great night!

That Sunday we attended a church that is pastored by Heidi Grueser (we met her at the Olde Fish House gig). What a wonderful heart for her community, a true passion for the people of Pine Island.  Pine Island Community Church, the people of her church are super friendly, we so enjoyed being there, and look forward to being able to attend in February when we are back. But if you are in the area, check out the church, and come away feeling blessed!

 

We now have a few days to relax and check out the beach. Yea! Before we get to the beach we are off to meet Lennie and Rachel, friends of Bruce Andrews (Columbiana). The Jones live in the Naples area Lennie is an accomplished artist (self-taught) and I love his paintings. Visit his website and check him out, you won’t be disappointed. Lennie's Folk Art Blues.   What a wonderful couple, down-home friendly, even though we had just met them, it truly felt like we had known each other a long time.

 
     
Lennie Jones and Danny                                             Lennie Jones         

  
Rachel Jones                                       The Mojo Tree

When we left the Jones home we headed to Clam Pass Beach Park at the referral of Lennie and  Rachel. We were not disappointed, although we arrived late and stayed a short time, we plan on coming back to spend the day. The beautiful white sand, the waves washing over the beach, the sun shining on the water certainly felt relaxing, can’t wait till we come to spend the day.

The next day we changed our motel. The one we were staying at was alright, but it really didn’t feel like a Florida place, so we found another place on Palm Beach Blvd called Rock Lake Resort. So off we went, suitcases in hand to our new home for the next week. This one is surrounded by Palm Trees, has a one acre lake that the cabins are wrapped around, with a concrete dolphin spewing water into the lake in front of each lanai. It also had a swimming pool! When we have down time this week, it will be nice to be able to sit on the lanai and listen to the spitting dolphin or just go for a swim in the pool, under the palm trees. So much nicer that the other motel.
 
   
 

The following Tuesday is the day we decide to go to the beach and doesn’t Danny decide that we will go to the beach in Fort Myers, it is a large beach and has a very touristy feel to it, for those in Canada (Ontario specifically) it would be like being in Wasaga Beach, with all the funky shops and eateries, very commercial. The beach is nice but I found it to be too touristy and decided then and there that the next beach-day would be spent at the Clam Pass Beach in Naples. 



Wednesday evening we will be performing at the Oasis Restaurant in Fort Myers, two of the proprietors Bonnie and Cheryl always make us feel so at home. Always greeted with a warm hug and kind words! So wonderful to play here, and they are quick to let us know that they are completely booked for the evening.

The evening’s performance is before a full house, not only are they content with the music, the food is good down home cookin’! Love to eat and play here!

The next day is a day for us to rest so we pack up and head to Clam Pass Beach Park. After a bit of negotiations with the resorts staff, we decide to purchase an umbrella for the day (as much as I would love to have rented the luxury cabana (double wide lounger with 12 inch mattress, and full domed tent over our heads), just cannot justify the $100 that it would cost. Glad that we didn’t as we watched other people come and rent the lounge chairs and umbrellas next to us, and after staying for an hour they pack up and leave and the resort re-rents the equipment…. Hmmmmm we are in the wrong line of work.

The beach is a bit busy (I can only imagine what it is like during peak season) but we spread our towels under the umbrella, lather on the sun screen and stretch out to watch the water and the water people frolicking. There is a young couple with their 8 month old child in the daddy’s arms and the momma is taking pictures as daddy dips the child’s legs in the water, then stands her up and holds her hands to help her walk through the tiny waves at the shores edge. You can see that they are recording the child’s first moments and it is a pleasure to watch. Then they switch places so that mommy can be in the pictures too!

We have a lovely few hours at the beach, then pack up and head back to our little cabin in Fort Myers. It has been a good day! Lots of sun, dips into the ocean and relaxation!

         

 

The next day finds us leaving for our gig at 2:30 so that we can drive to the other side of Florida to Lake Worth and our gig at the Southshores Tavern. We make good time getting there and are set up and ready to go by 6:30 which leaves us an hour and a half to eat before the gig. Yeah! (Really don’t want to eat at the end of the night, it is so not good for me.) As we are waiting for our dinner, a woman stops by our table to tell us that she has seen us at the Gruene Hall in Texas, and decided to come out tonight because we were there, and she wanted to introduce her two friends to us. So nice to see a friendly face, thanks Shelly we look forward to coming back in February and seeing you again!

Another nice surprise was seeing Pat and Bev Carey (Danny’s old sax player from Canada and his wife). We had seen them when we were at the Wasaga Beach Blues Festival but we had forgotten that they were going to be in Florida at the same time we were, yeah! So great when friends come out to see you! Thanks Pat and Bev for coming out, it was great to see ya’ll!


Bev Carey, Debi, Danny and Pat Carey

Our gig ends at 11 p.m. and by the time we pack up and get on the road it is midnight, we stop for gas along the way, and eventually get home around 2:30 in the morning. Oh my, going to be tired in the a.m. because we have to get up early and be on the road by 10 so that we can get to our gig at the Olde Fish House and be ready to play at 12:30.

   


It is always a pleasure to play at The Olde Fish House. This is probably one of the easier load-ins that we have even though we are using most of our gear, we have no stairs to climb and no doors to maneuver through so it is a quicker set up. We get set up in no time and are ready to play. Again we have a good audience but about 10 minutes into the first set, we look up to see Bucky and Danielle Berger (Danny’s drummer from Canada and his wife) YEAH!!!! Love to see those smiling faces. A little intimidating for me to be playing Cajon in front of the master of rhythm, Mr. Bucky Berger! Wheeeewwww! After our first break and we resume playing Danny asks if I mind if Bucky sits in, “are you kidding” I love to watch Bucky play. The hard part was getting back on the Cajon to play following Bucky!

Bucky and Danny jammin' at the Olde Fish House

Had a great gig, had a great time of fellowship with the Bergers and their friends! Who could ask for more!

Bucky Berger, Danny, Danielle Berger, Debi

The Olde Fish House ended our gigs in Florida and so tomorrow we will pack up and head for Pensacola before heading to Katy Texas!

By 8:30 in the a.m. we are on the road heading north to Pensacola, and it’s a great day for driving. We make good time but as we get closer to Pensacola the clouds begin to darken and get closer to the ground until they open up and let the rain come. The winds began to get stronger. We finally arrive around 3:30 and get checked into the hotel. Just as we are unloading the van, the heavens split open and the rain comes down in sheets!

 

During the night the winds howled, the thunder cracked and the lightening lit up the sky in a light show that would make Pink Floyd envious! The rain kept coming down but by morning it was over, and even though the weather station said that there were severe weather warnings for the state of Alabama and Mississippi, the sun kept shining. We decided to go and check out a club in Flora-Bama on our way to Katy so we drove along the gulf for a bit. When we got Flora-Bama it was pure sunshine and joy cause I got to hit the beach one more time. What an incredible place Flora-Bama is, lookin’ forward to the opportunity to play a gig there!

  







From there we headed for Lafayette, Louisiana. Today we are going to stop in and have a coffee with Luna Latiolais (Janet’s mom). We have never met before, but we have spoken on the phone, even though it was a brief conversation. A half an hour before we get to Lafayette, I give Luna a call to be sure that it is okay to stop in for coffee. We are given a green light to come on through, but not before she warns us to "...be careful coming through Lafayette cause dere are some crazies dere".



We arrive with cinnamon buns in hand (Danny’s contribution) and a small potted Aloe Vera plant (my contribution) because you always take a gift when visiting. The door is opened by a woman who could be my mom. She is wearing a brightly flowered muumuu that allows her freedom of movement and adds color to her cheeks. We are greeted by a warm hug because I am a hugger, and quickly ushered into the heart of the home to sit around the kitchen table and share coffee and conversation. The things we learned about Janet, oh, my! It was a bit like sitting across from my mom, the french accent, the blunt conversation that seem to be a natural way of talking. I love to listen to the stories that this generation is able to tell. A different time, a different place.

As though Janet knows that Luna is going to share Janet stories with us, she texts me to ask “what’s happening”, so I call her cell and put her on speaker phone. First Glenn gets on and tells Luna to treat his friends right, in fact Luna should be making us gumbo according to Glenn. There is a practiced comradery between the two, a gentle teasing. Janet then has her chance to chat with us (this allows her to be sure her mama is okay with the guests dropping in on her). The next thing I know Janet and Glenn are disconnecting so that they can go to the concert (The Eagles).

Luna being silly when I told her to smile or I would tell Janet the stories she had shared about her...

We spend an hour visiting with Luna, sharing stories, sharing coffee and laughter and some gentle chiding to ensure she takes care of herself. Luna walks us to the door to see us off, standing on the front stoop and waving until we are out of sight.

 
Lovely Luna!

For the next four hours we travel down highway 10 towards Katy Texas, arriving around 12:30. Janet and Glenn aren’t home, so we let ourselves in, take our things upstairs and I am sure we are sound asleep before they get home.

Time enough to visit in the morning, we will be here until Sunday the 19th, the last gig of this tour is to be played at the Wild Wing Café (this was also the first gig of the tour). And then we are headed home to Llano, Yippee! Can’t wait!

Debi, Janet, Glenn and Danny

We had a fun night at the Wild Wing Café and certainly look forward to our next gig there on January 31 but I can’t think about the next tour (4 months next time) before I have even got home from this tour (3 months). The next day has a slow start but once we get going we pack it full. Janet, Glenn, Danny and I went creative visualizing, and visited a used RV and Trailer lot, to look at the various styles of trailers (a trailer would be a huge plus in the touring factor, we would always have somewhere to stay, privacy (not that we don’t love spending time with our friends but sometimes “I vant to be alone”), being able to control when and what we eat (eating on the road can be dangerous to one’s health), being able to pack the closet and the fridge and not have to worry about re-packing every day or other day, and the savings on motel/hotel rooms (I know we have to pay to park and tap in to water/electricity) we can park the trailer in a central location and be stationary for a few days. Most important for me is the fact that I won’t feel so nomadic, I need to feel connected to my home! Anyway it is a fun day! And oh, some of the trailers, WOW or YUCK! Depending on the age of the trailer some are very awful and then there are some that are oh so luxurious! I mean there are some that have more beautiful kitchens than I have at home! Then there are others that you can lie in bed, cook dinner, watch TV, and soak your feet in the tub all at the same time (4 months on the road in a unit like that would be a challenge to any marriage)! Anyway, we all came away knowing what would better suit our needs and what certainly wouldn’t work!

After that we went for Shawarma at Phoenicia Deli. I love, love the food at this place and Glenn and Janet are wonderful about taking me whenever the opportunity arises! I am in heaven whenever we eat there, after our meal of shawarma with pickled turnips, beet salad, roasted cauliflower, hummus I am very satisfied but the after meal ritual of gelato and Turkish Coffee is a must! 

When we get back to the house Janet and Glenn get ready for Glenn’s high school reunion. I am sure that it is going to be a fun evening for them. Seeing the changes in class mates over the years, how interesting can that be… Note of interest Glenn attended the same high school as Patrick Swayze and Shelly Duval, pretty cool huh!

With the house to ourselves for the evening Danny and I settle down to watch a movie “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. What a great movie! Loved all the acting and the story, a wonderful way to relax and spend two hours. After that we watched a John Wayne flick “The Searchers”, great story but the acting was a bit stinko (not the Duke), the supporting actors over emphasized their roles (felt like they were trying to emote to a theater audience) and in the end more often than not in a dramatic scene Danny and I would find ourselves laughing rather than “nail biting”. None-the-less we watched the whole movie. Then it was off to bed, because tomorrow we go home! Won’t see the “Lights of Llano” because it will be daytime, but I can wait to see the city limits….

Did I Tell You The One About The Procrastinator... 

After a good night’s sleep, I find myself writing the balance of this blog post. At the beginning of this tour I said that I wasn’t going to write every day because I found it very stressful to try and keep to the deadline, I decided that I would write whenever I felt the desire or need, thinking this would be once a week, two at the most. Well that didn’t work out too well because I have just written a month’s worth of travel. Enough with the procrastinating… Okay, next tour, once a week!

Now I know some of you are going to take one look at the length of this blog and say forget it!  I don't blame you, it is long, and I am sorry!  But I do hope that you will endure, that you will enjoy traveling that "blue highway" with us and find some part of our adventures fun, or insightful.  We love that you are interested in our travels and that you are here right now!  Hope that you find this post interesting and if you are like me, like viewing the pictures!

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I love early morning! It is my favorite time of day. The grass is glistening with dew, the air smells fresh and clean (cars and trucks haven’t had the chance to leave their exhaust trails)! No one is up and about, it is just me and the universe for a short time, eventually, I begin to hear car doors closing, people talking and cars moving to and fro, sigh, it is time to interact! The day has begun. Danny and I will take a trip into town with Connie to surprise Rollean and Archie at their favorite haunt “the mall”. They like to sit at the mall and have coffee, meet with friends and walk. It is the perfect place for them, when it is wet out, or too hot, they can still get their exercise and be dry and warm. They are so smart!


Archie and Rollean
 
Our evening will be very different from any evening I have ever been a part of as Connie is an avid target shooter and belongs to the Peterborough Revolver and Pistol Club. So for this evenings’ entertainment Danny and I will join her for some target practice. This should be interesting as I have never held a gun before never mind fired one… As an aside, a few years back Danny and Caitlin were on a road trip in the Nashville area and a good friend of ours took them to a target range. As a mom, I had never imagined Caitlin or any of my children firing a gun. I happened to call Danny while they were at the target range and was shocked and a bit miffed when I discovered where they were and what they were doing. Now having said that, I have to say that I was quite proud of Caitlin’s ability with the firearms (she tried a few different ones that day as instructors felt she was a natural and wanted to have her try an assortment of guns). She is very good!

Caitlin's Target
 
As we went into the range and prepared ourselves for shooting, I have to say there was fear in my heart and I was quite aware of the power and danger of the Smith and Wesson 422 handgun that I was being instructed to use. I was taught the proper way to pick up the hand gun, load the cartridge and insert it, release the safety, use the sight, etc. As I picked up the gun, my hands were shaking and it took every ounce of my being too will myself to calm down, take some breaths. Sighting the target was a long process for me. At last I squeezed the trigger and fired my first shot. After the first clip was empty and the safety on, I then asked the instructor if I had hit the target, to which he replied, “Yeah, you did good”. When all was said and done, I had fired 10 shots, 9 within the target and grouped. Not too bad! Do guns still frighten me, yes; I have a healthy respect for them. Do I think they are evil, no, I think there are evil people.

 

  
                                                                                               Debi's Target

The next day was a day for resting before the gig at The Dobro in town. The weather sure made it feel good to laze around, the rain was teeming and it was cold! Sure have become sissies when it comes to the cold since we have moved to Texas. Around 6 we went down to the club to set up and do a sound check (the gig begins at 10 p.m., that is something else that Texas has spoiled for us, most of our Texas gigs are over by 10 or 11, finishing at 2 in the morning and then having to tear down and load the van puts us at getting to bed around 3:30 or 4). Also people seem to change after midnight

When we arrive for the gig it is still raining outside, the dampness getting into your bones. The lights are dim inside the club; the smell of beer lingers in the air. Walls support the framed posters of artists who have performed at The Dobro, attesting to the talent that has graced the stage before us. The evening is filled with music and good conversation and we are invited to come back before we head for Texas in September.

The next day we pack up and head further east to Ottawa for a gig at the Nepean Sailing Club and an outreach at the Jericho House (halfway house). It isn’t a long drive, but it is one that we do in the rain, all the way. We manage to arrive with enough time to have a nap and shower before heading to the gig. We are so blessed that Hal and Janet are very understanding. We are basically arriving, napping, and heading out to the gig without any real opportunity to sit and visit. This trip will be a shorter time with the Schafer’s than usual. We know that we will have a chance to sit and chat a bit at the gig because Janet and Hal will be there, but we normally have time for a good visit when we are in town and it is disappointing to know that this trip won’t really give us the time.



Oddly enough during the drive to Ottawa I discovered that Lydia Stork (we stayed with them during our winter tour and excursion to British Columbia) was in the Ottawa area visiting family and would try to make it out to the gig. As we are performing our first set, we see Lydia come in, and are thrilled to meet her extended family during the break. These people drove and hour and a half one way to come and see us!!!! That isn’t quite what I would classify as in the area, but I am thrilled that Lydia thinks that much of us that she would spend 3 hours traveling time to come to our gig! Thanks Lydia, and family!

Kathy, Danny, Debi and Lydia

The next evening we will be performing at the Jericho Road House. This is a halfway house for addicts and is situated in a very dark area of Ottawa, but we love the opportunity to perform and offer encouragement to addicts, prisoners etc. whenever possible. “There but for the Grace of God go I”.


The following morning finds us up and on the road by 7:30 a.m. to make it to Kingston to perform at the Rideau Heights Community Church. Nothing like flying by the seat of your pants! The drive is a good one, it is early on a Sunday morning, the sun is shining and we don’t hit any construction till just before we get off the highway in Kingston. Terry and Dawn Harris have arranged this gig for us and of course are there waiting for us as we arrive to assist with the load in of gear. We faced a few p.a. challenges but nothing Danny couldn’t get us through and the show went on as planned.

As a thank you to Dawn and Terry for all their hard work we took them to lunch at Chez Piggy in Kingston. The atmosphere is awesome and so is the food (they have great baby beef liver and onions)! Of course Danny opts for the crepes with tons of whipped cream and syrup, to make it healthy he has fruit…


Debi, Danny, Dawn and Terry at Chez Piggy

We spend an enjoyable couple of hours there with them before we head over to the Joyceville Penitentiary to perform for the inmates. As we wait in the parking lot for Terry and our contacts for the prison, Robert and Laura, to arrive Danny and I decide to close our eyes and grab a few winks. We winked right through their arrival and when we realize that we may have missed them we head to the main entrance to see if they have arrived. Yes, there they are, waiting for us. Terry, Laura and Robert. Sorry to have kept ya’ll waiting!

 
Joyceville Institute          Laura and Robert Burrell with Terry Harris in center

As usual, we walk away from this evening feeling so very blessed to have been able to perform for these inmates. The part of the facility that we are in is minimum security so the inmates have a little more liberties than those on the other side of the barbed wire. We are in a dining hall or perhaps it is a recreational room, and every chair is filled and others standing. Music is made non-stop for the next 2 hours before the Chaplain tells us “one more song”. Too soon the evening is over, but not before we get to meet and shake hands and share a few moments with quite a few of the inmates.

This night we will spend with Gary and Melody Quinn in Belleville and so we drive for an hour. Construction is brutal in this area. We arrive at their home around 10:30 and have a half hour of chat before Danny and I retire for the night. Tomorrow we will be at the Open Door in Kingston to perform for a men’s addiction group, some of whom will be brought in from the jail. Phew, some days make me tired just thinking about them.

Next we move on down the road to Oakville and the Moonshine Café. Christine Legien, once again has graciously invited us into her home (actually we will stay with her on three occasions during this tour). I know, I know, I say this all the time, but it bears repeating…we could not possibly do this (touring) without the love and hospitality of our friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you! A thousand thank yous!

Being in Oakville gives me the chance to visit with my mom, and I take that opportunity and head into Streetsville to see mom. Because we are playing tonight, I can only spend a few hours with her; we sit and talk while she is having her lunch. Mom loves music and the old songs, so as we sit and wait for her lunch to arrive I sing some of the old songs she likes “Red Roses for a Blue Lady, Your Cheating Heart, Walking after Midnight”, Mom singing beside me. Memories!

Debi and her Mom

Danny books us at the Moonshine (a very funky listening room which would fit in very well in Austin) on each tour. It is a great venue, very intimate. John always makes us feel very at home. It is a wonderful evening with lots of friends old and new here to share the evening with us.


The next day is our gig at Hugh's Room in Toronto, another listening room. There are too few listening rooms in the GTA. Listening rooms are a delight for the performers as well as the audience. The artists are there to give it, and the audience is there to receive it! Win, win! Tonight is no different! Well, it is a little different as the band is comprised of Danny, myself and the man with the beat that just don’t quit, Dennis Pinhorn on bass! It is a very intimate band, performing in a very intimate setting! I had a ball! I do believe the audience did as well! Nicole and Kyla arranged to be at this gigs so it was a real added bonus to see those beautiful, smiling faces looking back at us!

Danny, Debi, Richard and Dennis

Dennis, Danny and Debi

Danny Brooks

Dennis Pinhorn

Debi Brooks


Nicole, Danny, Kyla and Debi

Late night, early morning. This time we are headed to stay with our good friend Pete Pascetta in Guelph for the next 5 days. Blessings upon blessings! We arrive in time to drop our things at the house (Pete has left us a key as he is busy running around getting Sydney (his daughter) together to head to University and his girlfriend’s son is getting married the next day so he is a man running many errands on many levels). Once our things are in our room we shoot back out and down the road to load in at the Lancaster Smokehouse, in Kitchener. We get set up and have a quick bite to eat then head back to Pete’s for a nap before the gig. The food make us a little homesick as their BBQ would be loved in Texas! Being on the road for such an extended period of time has taught us to take advantage of the opportunities to nap. Tonight’s gig is the third one in three days with another tomorrow so naps are good!

We get back to the gig and find Tommy Alcatraz (Rock Solid Images) waiting for us (those of you in the London area will know Tommy for his wonderful portrayal of musicians through the art of his camera). It is wonderful to walk into a venue, especially one that you have never played before and see a friendly face.


Sunday night finds us at the London Music Club performing with The Blues Masters (Rick Taylor, Sam Hurrie and Paul Langille) a fundraiser for Vanier Children Services. An awesome night of music, and all for a good cause! Love it when we make new fans! Much thanks to Brian Mortimer (Karma Productions) who is the king of creating and promoting musical events in the London area, there is none like the Mortz!

Thankfully we have the next three days off and we will be able to catch up on sleep. Pete is still really busy as he has to take Sydney to Kingston, this year she will live off campus and so apart from her clothing etc., he has had to move furniture as well. We love the chance to spend time with friends, but something we always stress to anyone we are staying with is that we don’t want anyone to feel like they need to entertain us, or change their life for us. It feels good to know that we haven’t made anyone feel that they cannot carry on with life as it comes just because we are here. Too soon our time at Pete’s is over and we head to Mississauga and the Southside Shuffle (hard to believe this is the 16th year, way to go Chuck Jackson)!

We arrive at our hotel and get settled in before we have to head to the kickoff event, The Beggars Blues Banquet. As we head to our room, a voice booms out from behind “Danny Brooks”, we turn around to discover Watermelon Slim. We spend a few minutes catching up on the happenings in Clarksdale since our last visit, assured that we will have another chance to talk during the next two days. We also met up with Stan Street (artist and performer), and proprietor of the Hambone Gallery in Clarksdale, who introduced us to Dave Duncan (another wonderful musician). While we were waiting for the shuttle to take us to the Beggars Banquet we get to talking with a fellow musician in the lobby, Chris Gill (another feller from Mississippi), love when we make new friends! We also become fast friends with renaissance man Joe Murphy, a formidable talent from Nova Scotia.

Watermelon Slim

Our driver for the evening is Sharon or as Danny refers to her “the great Sharonski”. Sharon is a volunteer as are all the workers at the festival and I believe she has been volunteering for 15 of the 16 years the festival has been in existence. Sharon safely navigates the rush hour traffic and gets us to the legion in one piece, assuring us that we need only look for her or ask one of the other volunteers to page her and she will be there to take us back to the hotel.

Seemingly, chaos reigns as we arrive to set up. Tonight the house band is the Hog Town All-stars and they will back all the performers, with Johnny Max announcing (he is too funny). This band is comprised of Mike Fitzpatrick on drums, Gary Kendall on bass, Teddy Leonard on guitar, Pat Carey on sax and Michael Fonfara on keyboards (Michael will always hold a special place in my heart, he played Amazing Grace as I walked down the aisle at mine and Danny’s wedding 25 years ago). Everyone is setting up their gear, and while it looks as though people are tripping over each other, it is rather like a well, choreographed dance. Everyone knows their part and when and where to come in, beautiful to watch.

Debi and Danny (photo by P.J. Bell)

Danny (Photo by Dave McDonald)

Debi (Photo by P.J. Bell)
Debi (Photo by P.J. Bell (I love this pic))


Johnny Max and Debi (giving Johnny a hug for Janet)

Al Clarkson and Danny

Nicole showed up with her beau Surav and so not only did we get to take part in and watch great music, we got to spend time with one of our kids. Who could ask for more, well I could, I would have been over the moon to have all our kids there! What a great night and great performances by all!

Nicole and Surav

We awake to a dank and cold day. The weather forecasters are saying there is a 45 percent chance of rain around the time that we are to perform on the Enersource Stage. The day is spent watching TV, relaxing and napping until it is time to get ready. Nicole is going to meet us at the Southside Shuffle with one of our grandkids Elijah. Something else to look forward to tonight. We arrive at the park and have time to walk around and listen to few of the acts. Stan Street and Dave Duncan were amazing! We checked in at the Enersource stage and the manager for the stage warned us that there was a front moving in that was going to cause possibly 20 minutes of downpour or more. When we relayed to him the saying in Texas “when it calls for a 20 percent chance of rain, it really means 80 percent chance it won’t”, he informed us that this would be happening (his real job, meteorologist).

Dave Duncan and Stan Street

Nicole and Elijah arrived just before 8 p.m... After a brief debate on what we would like to eat, Danny and Nicole went off to buy dinner. As Elijah and I sat listening to Stan and Dave, we noticed the clouds in the north becoming more ominous and advancing in our direction (toward the lake). By the time Danny and Nicole returned with dinner, it was beginning to sprinkle. So we grabbed everything and headed under the canopy behind the Mississippi stage thinking that we would have good shelter. The next thing we knew the wind was whipping up the tarp covering the gear behind the stage and lightening was streaking across the sky. The stage manager pulled Stan and Dave off the stage right before things began to get really bad. We were told to head to the library or the arena as it wasn’t safe to be where we were. So with Elijah in the stroller, dinner boxes in hand, we darted in and out among others heading in the same direction. We decided to sit it out in Nicole’s car while we ate our dinner. With the cover for the sun roof pulled back we watched the light show. A half an hour later Chuck informed us the evening would be called off, but everyone could meet at the Legion (typically after the night at the park there is a jam at the legion). So off we went guitars and Cajon in hand. A little damp, but no worse for wear we had a great time. Even though our show was rained out, it was still a fun evening. We did feel badly for the loss the vendors would face in loosing this evening of sales, praying they would make it up in the following days.

Grandson Elijah

Met up with the boys from Fathead
(Left to right:  Papa John King, Al Learman, Debi, John Mays, Danny and Omar Tunoch)

Mark Stafford and Danny

Dave Duncan and Danny

Danny and long time friend and former bandmate Alec Fraser
 
Nicole and Danny

Nicole and Debi

Saturday we checked out the hotel and headed back to Christine’s home in Oakville. Today is a day of rest. Sunday we will perform for The Ark Aid Mission in London. Sometimes things happen, and they aren’t good, but lead into something else that is. Originally we were to perform at a house concert in London but it was cancelled at the last minute, but God gave us this opportunity instead!

Monday we rested and again caught up on our laundry. I don’t know how we can have so much laundry… I think I need to buy shares in Tide. Or Bounce.

Tuesday night we perform for a Celebrate Recovery group at our good friend Michelle Sim’s church, Solid Gold Foundations. If you are a musician, looking for a place of worship that has a heart and understanding for the arts, this is the church for you! Check them out on Facebook and on their website, better yet, check out a service and see for yourself!

Wednesday is a travel day; we pack up and hit the road for Peterborough to perform at The Dobro again. Using the key that Connie left us with, we are able to get into the house and relax while we wait for Connie to come home. Tonight is Connie’s night at the shooting range, and because we are so tired we have declined the invitation to join her. We sit snuggled up and relaxed as the rain and the cold beat against the windows. What I want to know is “Who turned off the summer?”
 
Thursday before we set up for our gig, I venture into Peterborough to find a place to get my nails done. I think that is one of the challenges I face on the road, trying to find a good place to get my nails done. I may have to write a travel book on nail salons in North America. “Where to get your nails done” or better yet perhaps I will call it “Where NOT to get your nails done”. Cause believe me there are quite a few places that I shall not return to again. Anyway, before I head out, I, you guessed it, I throw a load into the wash and transfer it to the dryer, leaving Danny with instructions for switching the next wash load into the dryer. Mission successful I return with lunch and freshly manicured nails. All is right with my world for the moment.

It is still drizzling as we head out for the gig. Windshield wipers slapping time, Danny holding hands with mine…. Oh wait that songs already been written. Interesting evening at the Dobro, a different group of people, but fun none-the-less! Kevin (the owner) is a great guy and has extended the invitation to return on our next tour, in April for our new CD ‘This World Is Not Your Friend’.
 

  
The Audience at The Dobro

Because last night’s gig was added in, we will be doing a bit of doubling back in the next few days. We will be tired and a little road weary but we will carry on. Today we pack up and head for Wasaga Beach Blues Festival.

The Wasaga Beach Blues Festival also has a kickoff party which they call “The Wasaga Boogie Woogie Blues Bash” and the same core band backs the artists, the only one missing from this evening was Johnny Max. The theme for the evening is Mardi Gras. What a magical night, we are able to meet up with a few of the same musicians from the Southside Shuffle, Joe Murphy, Chris Gill; it feels like ole home week.

From Left to Right:  Michael Fonfara - Keyboards, Teddy Leonard - Guitar,
Debi Brooks - BG, Mike Fitzpatrick - Drums, Danny Brooks - Guitar, Lead Vocals, Gary Kenall - Guitar
(Photo by P.J. Bell)


Mike Fitzpatrick and Danny Brooks (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Gary Kenadll (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Michael Fonfara (Photo by P.J. Bell)


Pat Carey (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Danny Brooks (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Debi, Teddy Leonard and Danny (Photo by P.J. Bell)


Debi Brooks (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Joe Murphy (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Chris Gill (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Chuck Jackson (Photo by P.J. Bell)

Joe Natale
(It was a pleasure working with one of Canada's premiere sound companies
(state of the art gear and great ears!!!)

Sharing food and fun before the Boogie Woogie Blues Bash
Left to right:  Chris Gill, Danny Brooks, Mike Fitzpatrick, Cher, Teddy Leonard, Pat Carey and Joe Murphy

Once again, we wake up the next morning to gray skies, and rain! It is cold! We are not set to perform unit 6 p.m. so we spend a good portion of the day looking out the window at the sky and praying for the rain to stop and the ground to dry.

Around 2, another of our daughters arrives with two of our grandkids, so happy to see Kyla and two of her children Dylan and Danika (Drew is away at University in Ottawa). We are able to spend an hour in our room catching up on their lives, not to mention a few hugs and tugs!

Danny, Debi and daughter Kyla
Grandad and Dylan
Danika, Grandma and Dylan

Off we go to the gig (we have to be there an hour and a half prior to our gig). The sky is still gray and overcast but the rain has stopped. Chris Gill and Joe Murphy are on the stage when we arrive and we are blessed to be able to listen to these two great musicians! A little southern soul mixed with that Nova Scotia Cajun sound!

Tonight Danny and I will be joined on stage by Dennis Pinhorn on bass, Lance Anderson on B3 and keys, Al Cross on drums and Terry Blersh on guitar. These boys are monster players and I feel so honored to be on the same stage with them. Man, can those boys play! The sound is great; the audience is hanging in, even though the sky is threatening to open up again. In fact, at one point, Danny is so concerned with the misty rain hitting us at the front of the stage that he has us pull back so that we can continue to perform. The only change in front of us is the umbrellas opening and the hoods being pulled up over heads. You guys rock!

Band from Left to Right:  Al Cross - Drums, Terry Blersch - Guitar,
Debi Brooks - Cajon, Dennis Pinhorn - Bass, Danny Brooks - Guitar and Lance Anderson - B3/Keyboards

The evening doesn’t end with our performance, Danny is scheduled to perform with Lance Andersons’ “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” set. This show is a repeat show and one that continues throughout Ontario to be performed by various singers, in various venues, giving it their all and paying homage to the songs of Leon Russell and Joe Cocker! Tonight the singers are Chuck Jackson, Cheryl Lescom, Matt Weidinger, Selana Gittens, Kolette Easy, and my soul mate Danny Brooks. The incredible musicians include double drummers Shamakah Ali, Mike Sloski and percussionist Art Avolos; guitarist Terry Blersh, bassist Howard Ayee, Simon Wallace/sax, David Dunlop/trumpet, Matt Weidinger/piano and musical director Lance Anderson on B3. What a powerhouse band!


Seven hours after arriving at the festival, we head back to our room, a little colder and more tired, but a good tired. Need to sleep because tomorrow we head back to Peterborough one last time.

The day dawns bright and sunny. We have arranged to meet with Kyla, Dylan and Danika to have breakfast before we head out and so we arrive at the Sunset Grille (the place to have breakfast in Wasaga), and apparently we are not the only ones having breakfast out this morning. We join the line and wait for our turn to dine. Eventually we are seated at a table by the window. Breakfast ordered and coffee in hand, we notice Joe Murphy and Chris Gill are waiting outside for a table. We are able to add another chair to our table, and soon the seven of us are enjoying good food, and good conversation. Too soon, breakfast is over and we must say our good byes and hit the road.

The drive to Peterborough is uneventful and we arrive at the church around 4 with hopes that we are able to set up and then have a nap (I know, we nap a lot). All the stars have aligned themselves because when we pull up there is a man walking his dog outside the church and he assures us that we can certainly set up. We quickly set up and are assured that the gentleman who does sound will be there by 5:30, the gig starts at 6. Now the debate is whether we should spend 15 minutes to drive to Connie’s house and rest or relax in the van. We opt for resting in the van.

Soon enough it is time for our gig. Pastor Brian is a great guy and we have a nice time prayer before we perform. Just before we are ready to go on, Connie arrives and not far behind her, Archie and Rollean (Connie’s mom and dad). Love to see this family. Two hours of music and story later, the show is over and it is time to tear down. Danny goes to the back to see to the CD sales and I begin to pack up. Next thing I know, there in front of me are Laura and Robert (the contacts for the Joyceville Prison). Both Danny and I had forgotten that someone from the prison would be coming to pick up CDs that the prisoners had been allowed to order after our show. Never did we expect it to be Robert and Laura! What a wonderful surprise! Once we were packed up and ready to go, we decided to go to Wendy’s for dinner together. It was great to have that hour to get to know Robert and Laura better. A great team!

When we get back to Connie’s it is late, we pop into the living room and say our hellos and then head off to bed as it is our plan to get up early and head into Toronto so that we have one more chance to visit with our moms before we cross back into the U.S. and the journey back to Texas.

The morning is beautiful, well at least to me. I love sunsets and sunrises and this morning it was a beauty! God paints such beautiful landscapes. The ground was shrouded in mist gently covering the grass and trunks of the trees; the orange orb of sun pushes its rays through the pine trees! Wow!

Peterborough Sunrise

Danny and I quietly dress and gather our belongings. We had decided last night that we wouldn’t bring in anything but bedclothes and toiletries because we were both so tired and we didn’t want to be too noisy in the morning when getting ready to leave. Once we are ready, I write a note thanking everyone for allowing us into their home. Danny and I hop in the car and we are on our way!

We get into Toronto around 10 a.m. and sign in at the facility where Danny’s mom lives. Mom has Alzheimer’s and is bound to a wheel chair. She doesn’t know us, though if we are lucky there may be a moment where a spark of recognition is ignited. But not always. Most often she doesn’t even open her eyes. Today is like this. It is heartbreaking to see her this way, but a part of me wonders whether she is better off than my mom who knows who we are but is still bound to a wheel chair (she has dementia) and feels so lonely. Getting old is not for the faint of heart, it more often than not robs us of our dignity. Once we are finished with our visit we head to Christine’s home once again! Hi honey, we’re home!


Danny visiting with his Mom

Christine has things to do and is on her way out the door when we arrive. So we settle in for the day, planning to relax and yes, do laundry. Tomorrow I will get the chance to visit with my mom again. Wednesday Danny and Christine head into Toronto for a meeting with a music company re Danny’s music catalogue. Thursday morning we hit the road!

Debi and Mom


Thursday dawns cold and cloudy. Around 8:30 or 9 we get moving and point the van in the direction of the Peace Bridge in Niagara. We get to the border around 10 a.m. and find that with all that is going on in the world, the border guards are more diligent than ever. In April we began the process for our green cards and so this is the first time we are entering the U.S. with the work cards (we are paroled into the U.S.) and this is a different process. So for the first time in almost 4 years and many entries into the U.S. later we are told to go in for processing. Part of the delay is the new work cards but part of it is the high alert that the world is now in because of ISIS. An hour later we are finger print checked, iris checked, passports stamped and on our way.
 
Border Crossing at the Peace Bridge

The following pictures are a collage of our drive once we were processed across the border to Gretna Virginia.  Of course these are pictures that really touched us as we drove through small towns and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

   
             Highest Point East of the Mississippi               Small Town Church                         
 

 
The Beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Taking the route through the Blue Ridge Parkway was done without the knowledge of the beauty we would see and these pictures certainly do not do it justice, it was breath-taking and even though it took us 50 miles out of our way, it was worth every hill, curve and downgrade!  Now Danny might not agree because it certainly was a very curvy and and his attention was required during the whole route.  I kept blurting out, "look at that", "this is beautiful", then I would retract it by saying "no, don't look, I'll show you the pictures later"!

 
The GPS shows you only one area of the rather circuitous route.


 

 

Danny has planned for us to spend the night in Winchester Virginia before we continue on to Danville Virginia and our gig at the Two Witches Winery and Brewery on Friday. As we travel farther south/west, we happily watch the thermometer rise from the 58 degrees that it was in Oakville when we left to 75! Starting to warm up! YEAH!

We are staying once again with friends in this case fellow musician Landon Spradlin and family in Gretna VA. Landon make a great record years ago in the UK with Eric Clapton’s rhythm section. The record is entitled ‘No More Blue Mondays’ and has an absolute killer version of a Rev. Dan Smith tune ‘Seminary Blues’.

 

                     Spradlin home in rural Gretna Virginia            Jean and Landon Spradlin                                      

Running for the Border 

Thursday morning finds us spending the day relaxing in anticipation of our gig at the Hill Country BBQ in Washington, D.C. The load in for this gig is one that is particularly difficult as parking is at a premium in the city. As we near Washington, traffic becomes more and more congested. Arriving in the capital at rush hour is the cause of the delays but this can’t be helped, in order to be set up and ready to play at 7 we need to arrive by 6 p.m.

Entering the capital is almost like entering New York City in terms of the energy and vibrancy of the city. People move about with purpose, and deliberation. The city teams with life. When you catch sight of the Washington Obelisk or the U.S. Capital Building you are reminded of the vast history that this city contains, the enormity of power that is Washington D.C.

CAPITAL BUILDING - Washington D.C.
Load in takes place in a back alley where we enter the Hill Country BBQ via the back door. There is barely room for the van to back into the alley and tonight we are not able to back up right to the door as the dumpsters for the various establishments that open on to the lane way are lined up along the brick wall, garbage spilling out and onto the pavement. Once we have traversed the back corridors and stairs of the restaurant we find ourselves in the downstairs room of the Hill Country BBQ. Once we have all the gear loaded in to the club, Danny has to move the van to a parking lot.  While he is gone I am able to get all the stage gear set up and ready for sound check when Mike (sound man) arrives and is ready to go.

Hill Country BBQ - Washington D.C.
Tonight there is a good crowd which is always welcome. For the next 3 hours we play to our hearts content to a receptive audience! Great crowd, great food….

When we are finally loaded up after the gig, Danny allows me a little tourist time (not normally on the agenda) and he drives me around to get a closer look at the Capital Building. It is a clear night and the moon is bright and not quite a full. Most of my pictures are taken while driving (usually at 70 mph) but tonight after much whining on my part, Danny is finally convinced to stop where I can take a stationary shot of the State building. It was Jefferson Park that is mentioned in so many of the political intrigue books Danny likes to read. Vince Flynn is one of his faves. I think I must be used to taking pictures at high speeds, I don’t think my stationary shot turned out any better.
 
 
Capital Building and The Obelisk - Washington D.C.

Friday morning we pack up the van and head for Parsippany New Jersey where we will stay for our gig at the Hill Country BBQ in Brooklyn. Traffic is very congested at times and the skies threatening, our destination is reached 6 hours later (should have been 4). We make a quick trip to Costco to pick up a few things, most especially Starbucks French Roast coffee (must have coffee and at 19.95 for 2.5 lbs, best deal around). Then back to our motel for a good nights’ rest. You can sleep on dark roast

       

Soon enough it is time to head into Brooklyn for our gig at the Hill Country BBQ. Another pain in the butt load in, as you can imagine there is no parking in Brooklyn on the streets (well it is not so much that there is no parking as that parking is grabbed as soon as a spot becomes available). So we stop and put on the 4 way flashers and proceed to load our gear into the restaurant. This particular Hill Country BBQ has been voted the best BBQ in New York! And it is! The original restaurant that spawned this venue is out of Texas, and as we all know “Texas makes the best BBQ”!

This venue also supplies the p.a. and the sound man and as per our last gig there, Gaby did a great job with our sound! Tonight is a straight 90 minutes playing time, which means we will finish at 10 and if we are quick we will be able to pack up and be back on the road to Parsippany and the motel by 10:45 at the latest. We got a little bit behind when Danny got turned around after picking up the van and got lost getting back to the club. Soon enough we were loaded and on the road, 11 p.m. not bad. By 12:30 we are back at the motel and in bed. Tomorrow we drive to Smith Falls, Ontario for a gig at 6:30 under the water tower in the park. Gonna’ be a long day!
 

8:30 a.m., and we are on the road, the sky is overcast and mist is constantly on the windshield. Seven hours is the estimated time it will take for us to get to Smith Falls, and we are hoping that this is true so that we are able to grab a nap before we head to the park to set up. The route will take us through Pennsylvania and New York before we cross over at The Thousand Island, Hill Island Bridge into Ontario. We hit a few spots where traffic bunches up and construction abounds.

We make one stop in Goldsboro New York to use the washroom and I decide to purchase breakfast at the attached fast food restaurant so that we do not have to stop any more. BIG mistake!!! Now I am not going to name the chain but I will tell you that if I were king, some heads would roll. If the food preparer moved any slower we would have been back in Texas by the time the order was ready. They use sausage patties rather that crumbled sausage and it was overcooked. If there was one whole egg in the combined 4 burritos I would be amazed and it was barely warm! Horrible food, I have never had a good eating experience at the king’s house and this was no exception. Needless to say I went on line and let the good king know that this loyal subject was abdicating the kingdom and would never darken the doors again! Okay, now that that is off my chest I can move on.

      
The drive was beautiful once the sun began to emerge, the scenery gorgeous. Pennsylvania is hilly and lush. This part of New York is equally as stunning, lots of bodies of water, green grass and trees and blue skies with puffy white clouds dotting the horizon.

Crossing over into Canada we cross the Hill Island Bridge and have a magnificent view of the mighty St. Lawrence River. It is odd to think that midway of the river is the line marking Canada and the U.S.! Love this view and all the tiny islands that dot the river with houses tucked neatly among the trees.

      


We arrive at the motel and get checked in with two hours resting time before the gig. Danny really needs the down time as he does all the driving I navigate from the passenger side of the van. While being a passenger can be taxing, it isn’t as taxing as the driving part so I am thankful that he has the opportunity to rest.

There is a hub of activity at the park as the volunteers set up the stage and p.a. for the evening. The evening is part of a series that Bethel Pentecostal Church puts on every Sunday evening from July to Labour Day weekend, featuring “Music under the Water Tower”. What a great turnout we had for this evening. People began arriving at 6 p.m. to set up their chairs along the river for the evenings’ program.

We began playing promptly at 6:30 and continued until it was dark. So thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this evening. We were able to see old friends (Connie Garvey drove from Peterborough to support our gig and to sell our C.D.s and we are grateful for her in so many ways! Thanks Connie!) We even met a gent who once played football for the Oakland Raiders, who was up from southern Alabama and he was a good ole boy and even called his wife and had her speak to Danny. He was in fine form, but he as a good ole boy and we know he felt the Spirit in the music. Hoping to see him in southern Alabama sometime.

Pastor Paul Birley is so gracious and kind to us! The congregation at Bethel Pentecostal Church is blessed with a wonderful Pastor. After everything was all said and done, Paul took us to the Swiss Chalet for a late dinner. As we stood waiting for our chicken, we talked about a number of things and as Paul had taken one of his son’s over to Kenya and had visited Danny’s brother Michael and his wife Sheila (Michael was the Dean at the Bible College in N’yangori, they recently returned to Canada and are pastoring at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in Hamilton), he was telling us about this trip and their time together, the next thing we know there is a voice behind us speaking in African (I assume he said hello) and it is Michael and Sheila. What a wonderful surprise! We managed to sit and chat for an hour before the staff at Swiss Chalet flashed the lights on and off to let us know they were ready to go home. In other words, “don’t let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya”!

BROTHERS - Michael and Danny

So outside we went to spend another 10 minutes in the parking lot talking. We made arrangements to meet with Michael and Sheila in Brockville for lunch the next day.  It is important to spend time when we can with family because that time does not come up very often.

Monday morning we packed up the van and headed to Brockville with the intent to have a nice lunch with Mike and Sheila and then spend an exciting couple of hours doing laundry. Oh, the life of a rock star, ha ha! Tait’s Bakery in Brockville has a wonderful lunch menu. Lunch with the brothers Middlebrook can be quite interesting, and the time that we had to sit and was very enjoyable. Hopefully we get to check in with them again before we head home.

Michael, Sheila, Debi and Danny

Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men! Laundry didn’t get done in Brockville instead we kept driving towards Peterborough in hopes of finding a Laundromat in one of the small towns along the back roads. Hastings Ontario, a beautiful little town met that criteria so laundry was done and then dinner at the local Fish and Chips restaurant. Haddock and chips – so good!

We arrive at the Garvey home around 8ish. We will spend the next few days here in anticipation of our gig at The Dobro on the 21st. So very thankful for friends that open their homes to us, and the Garveys are no exception! Thanks to Mike and Connie and Lana and Doug!

Sunset in Keene, Ontario

The next morning we were up early and at the Peterborough Square to do a live interview at Magic 97.6 with Dan Duran and Linda Kash. Thank goodness it is radio because that is pretty early in the day to be up and coiffed for public viewing. The interview a relaxed and fun time thanks to Linda and Dan. Best of all for me anyway is that we got to have our dog fix. Dan Duran’s dog Clifford was wandering the studio and allowed us to love him while we were there! Yeah! Interview done, we crossed the road and had a great breakfast at the Speakeasy, great breakfast and lunch restaurant.

   Magic 96.7 Peterborough - Dan Duran and Linda Kash
Danny and Clifford
   
Clifford

After doing a brief grocery shop, we got back to the Garvey home and spent some time catching up with Mike (Connie was still in Smith Falls, spending time with a friend and fulfilling some appointments) before he headed off to work. Afterwards (around noon) it was time for a siesta, ah! Texas heat has taught me to enjoy siestas.

Connie arrived home about 9 p.m. after a full day traveling (that girl really gets around) and we sat up and chatted till 1 in the morning. Tomorrow, we will run a few errands, oil change for the van and a nail appointment for me. Afterwards we are going to surprise Connie’s mom and dad (Rollean and Archie) for a visit and then Connie is taking us to the shooting range. Not sure that I should be handed a gun, especially a loaded one, but I’m game if they are!

 
Archie and Rollean
Danny and Archie
Tomorrow – The Dobro in Peterborough. Come on down ya’ll!

Do Ya'll Want Gritts with that? 

5:30 and it is time to get up and ready to hit the road. This morning we are leaving Cindy and Dick Casey’s home in Beaver Dam to begin the trip to Washington D.C., but not before we join Greg Martin for breakfast at Cracker Barrel in New Glasgow. Coffee has been made and drank, dogs scratched behind the ears, the van is loaded and with Dick and Cindy following behind, we begin the drive with thoughts of a good southern breakfasts spurring us on….



CHLOE


An hour and a half later finds us seated at a window table in the Cave City Cracker Barrel, (not without a little prodding to keep Cindy and I moving through the gift shop portion of the shop) sipping coffee and catching up. Breakfast was superb! Conversation enjoyable.


Debi, Greg, Danny, Dick and Cindy Casey


 


Soon enough it was time to say our good byes to not only Greg, but the Casey’s as well. Each of us pointed our vehicle in a different direction, with a different destination in mind, the road taking us miles apart. While our visit was at an end, memories always live on to be brought out and reviewed at our leisure!

On the road "selfie"

Our destination for todays’ drive is Charleston West Virginia. Not too far, about 4½/5 hours. The sun is shining, it is a lovely 74 degrees, the windows are down and traffic is good. We couldn’t ask for better conditions.



By the time we reach West Virginia the sky is beginning to take on a darker hue, and we are not quite sure if it is going to rain or not. By the time we reach Charleston, we are no longer questioning whether it may rain or not, it is coming down in torrents. Thankful we do not have to drive much further and that we will not have to endure the rain and rush hour traffic at the same time, we focus on reaching our motel.

The Capital Building Charleston, West Virginia

The days’ drive is done and we are able to have an early night. Tomorrow, Washington D.C. here we come, well actually we will stay in Laurel, Maryland. FYI ‘Red Roof Inn’ has a special on that gives a free night stay after every 2 nights of using Red Roof Inns’.

The drive to Maryland was an uneventful 6 ½ hours, lots of big hills to climb, beautiful green valleys and forests. West Virginia is truly a beautiful state. The scenery is “almost heaven”! We endured a little rain along the road but nothing too heavy. Our day started out at a whopping 63 degrees (thankfully it didn’t drop any lower) and at times with the windows open for air, I would wrap my traveling blanket around my legs and doze. By the time we arrived at our motel in Laurel the temperature had reached 80 degrees but it sure wasn’t a “Texas 80”, it was a “mountain 80”.

           
    
   
 
We got checked in and settled in our room. And then the most special part of the day…Janet and Glenn called from Katy Texas! Sure is nice to know that we are missed at home! Thanks you two, we miss ya’ll too!  You made our day!

 
Glenn and Janet

Tomorrow, Hill Country BBQ in Washington, D.C., if ya’ll are in the area come on down and say hi, we would love to see you!

Three months on the road isn't so long, is it? 

What a great night we had at the Wild Wing Café in Katy, Texas. New friends and old friends came out to help us celebrate Kevin Miller’s 30th birthday and to have a bang up start to our tour! The club was full and the audience receptive. New songs were brought out, including one that Danny wrote just before we hit the stage; the crowd was responsive to the new songs, which always brings a smile to our faces as we don’t have to worry about ducking any flying objects.

Kevin and Glenn Miller - Happy 30th Kevin!


Debi, Janet, Glenn and Danny at the Wild Wing Cafe - Katy Texas

We were blessed to be able to spend another day and a half with Glenn and Janet. Lounging outdoors around and in the swimming pool on the Saturday even though the sun was not shining it was a very restful day.

Sunday morning came soon enough and Glenn had to leave us to spend a week in Louisiana working a trade show and visiting his clients. Seven a.m. and he was out the door and on the road. The whole house was up to see him off. Danny and I were saddened to realize that we wouldn’t see his smiling face until mid October. But we still had half a day with Janet!

One of the flowering plants that survived Janet the Conqueror

Lounging beside and in the pool on Sunday was even better because the sun came out and allowed this white skin to get a little color. While I lounged in the pool, I watched as Janet (the conqueror) attacked flower bushes that were hindering growth for other bushes, these plants soon succumbed to her shovel (truth be told, they didn’t stand a chance once she decided they were going and going they did). Must admit I felt a little lazy as she attacked those bushes, but not quite lazy enough to get out of the pool. Sorry Janet! Danny rehydrated us with fruit smoothies, allowing Janet to continue on with her task and moi to continue to lounge.

Soon enough it was time to leave Janet and head to Lufkin Texas, but not before we had to make a return trip to pick up Danny’s day timer which was left behind. Back on the road again, I discovered that I had left my bathing suit in the dryer, I decided that we would forgo a second return trip to pick up the swim suit, we will get it when we return to Katy for the last gig of the tour in October.

The drive to Lufkin was uneventful but pretty. Danny giving me some history lessons (apparently Davey Crocket told congress in D.C. that “I am going to Texas, ya’ll can go to hell” and settled in the area where the Crocket forest is located). Four p.m. found us at the home of Richard and Sasha Sutton, who allowed us to impose on their family time for the night. After a wonderful dinner with Richard, Sasha, Caleb, Tyler and Seth, which consisted of BBQ chicken by chef Richard (his own special sauce), corn and a wonderful salad by chef Sasha (sauce and salad dressing recipes please) we spent the evening with Danny and Richard swapping songs on guitar and accompanied by either Sasha or myself. A very pleasant evening, indeed. Soon enough it was morning and time to hit the road and head for Homer, Louisiana and the David Wade Correctional Facility.

Monday morning found us heading North East into Louisiana. In recent years we have traveled these same roads so often that they are now so familiar that I am almost able to know where I am (however, I am not brave or sure enough to travel them without the GPS). As the day advanced to noon hour so too did the heat and the humidity, Louisiana is one hot, humid state!

At noon we checked into our motel to have a rest before leaving to play at the prison. The temperature in the van read 103 degrees when we got back in to leave, but that didn’t factor in the humidity. Glasses steamed up upon entering the van, whoowee it was hot!

Once we cleared the gates at the jail, we were greeted by a trustee who has helped us load in on other visits and while we would rather he wasn’t imprisoned it is always nice to be greeted by a friendly face, Dennis didn’t let us down. We always come away from prison visits feeling, if possible, more blessed than we feel we are leaving the inmates. Chaplain Ray always makes us feel welcomed. While this is a jail, we are treated very well in this facility by the staff and the residents. The sound technician is great, in fact, Danny has told him that he could have a job doing our sound….hmmmm, not sure that this will ever be possible but I do believe Raymond appreciated the sentiment. Not so sure that the warden would. Ha Ha!



Time really flies when you are having fun and this evening was no exception, before we knew it 2 hours was up and it was time to leave. We got everything packed up and were escorted to the front where we would load our van (which as usual was, and is packed to the gills from front to back). As I was standing at the back of the van with Chaplain Ray commenting on this very thing and telling him that at least we would be 25 lbs. lighter when we left Kentucky as I had some things to leave there, he looked at me with a bit of a chagrined smile and said “Uh, well, I have some bad news there. See, I have had this guitar in my office for two years and I never play it and tonight the Lord impressed on me that I am to give it to Danny.” Oh, Lord! How do you argue with God, you don’t, so with some adjustments Danny managed to get the guitar in the van and we could still close the door! Phew! It was an Ovation Celebrity 12 String!

The next morning we had arranged to meet some of the Louisiana clan for breakfast before heading out again. Seven a.m. finds us at Sophie’s restaurant, sitting around the table with Jim and Charlotte Bowen, along with their daughter Gurpie (Rachel), JoeDan and Kenny . Danny and I really enjoy the time, no matter how great or small that we get to spend with these guys (saddened that we didn’t get to visit with Brother Mike Thompson or Denise this time) and today was no exception. Conversation is always lively around the table, we love to tease JoeDan (he can reach a very lovely shade of red with very little effort), catch up on everyone’s life, you know, exchange stories.

During our conversation we discussed the “new guitar” and the problem it presented, Charlotte graciously offered to ship it to us at home or they could bring it to us when we got back to Texas. Since we love having visitors, we opted for the “bring it to us” and so the guitar was left with Jim and Charlotte and an October or early November visit! Yeah!

Breakfast over it was time for good-byes and to hit the road for Eads (Memphis) Tennessee, and an overnight visit with Eddie and Bettye Wilbanks. We arrived just around dinner time and so we all climbed into Eddie’s sporty black BMW convertible and headed out for BBQ at Jim n’ Nicks. Nothing quite as good as Memphis BBQ and the BBQ was exceptional. Upon returning to the Wilbanks’ home, Danny and Eddie went to Eddie’s workshop while Bettye and I sat at the kitchen table, all of us having a good chin wag until our eyelids refused to remain open and it was time to hit the sheets.

I know I say this often but it can never be said enough, if we did not have such wonderful friends, the tours would not be possible. We are welcomed into their homes, fed, bedded and laundered before we head on to the next stop! Words cannot express the gratitude in our hearts for all the love and caring that we receive from so many, thank you all!

Wednesday morning found us on the blue highway once again and headed for Beaver Dam Kentucky and our Kentucky Cousins, Dick and Cindy Casey’s home in the hills and Wolf Creek Music. Warmer greetings would be hard to come by, cause we are always encased in warm hugs and big smiles when we arrive, we never doubt our welcome!

Our first evening is spent catching up and scratching dogs’ ears (not only do we get to spend time with Dick and Cindy; we also get our dog fix in because Banjo, Chloe and Bandit are a wonderful part of the family and our visits). As usual we are so at home here so the next morning finds me doing laundry and hanging it on the line (there is something very therapeutic about shaking out the creases and stretching the clothes out and pinning them to the line). Once that is done we leave Danny and Dick to their own devices and Cindy and I head into town to pick up a few groceries and visit the consignment stores. Sure do love the consignment stores. What was meant to be an hour turns into two or three and it is after two in the afternoon when we finally make it home.

Wolf Creek Music - Beaver Dam Kentucky

Time to start making dinner and I had decided that I would make my own Seafood Gumbo (I know, even though I am now Texanadian, I have my nerve making a Gumbo, but I like to cook, and if I do say so myself, I can make a purty good gumbo. My Cajun sista’ Janet said so too!) (unless of course she didn't want to hurt my feelings)) So with my assistant beside me Cindy and I cooked up some purty good gumbo! IEEEE!



After dinner we ‘retarrd’ to the living room, Danny and Dick on guitar and Cindy on standup bass. They was all “pickin’ and a grinnin’”, can’t lie to ya’ll now cause I was grumpy and having none of that. Can’t help but hear, even if one is feeling grumpy and they sure did sound good!

Friday morning found us on the front porch with guitars, bass and Cajon picking and a grinning and a singing and since I was in a better mood, I participated with a full heart. That night we would be playing a half hour set at the Rosine Barn in Rosine Kentucky (birthplace of Bill Munroe).

As we prepared to leave the house the heavens opened up, the thunder cracked and rumbled in the hills and the rain came down in torrents. Somehow we managed, well Cindy and I, managed to get into the van relatively dry, not so for Dick and Danny. We wound our way through the winding roads in the hills, the rain continued to come down in buckets, blanketed the windshield in a fuzzy blanket, even with the wipers on full. When we arrived at the Rosine Barn the rain continued to pummel the van leaving muddy rivulets along the grass and through the mud. We all sat in the van looking behind us at the door that would take us into the barn, I guess we thought if we stared at it long enough, it might get closer. Although it was only 60 feet away it looked like a mile, and even though we beseeched God to stop the rain, it was not in the cards. Down to 15 minutes before our set, we decided there was nothing to do but go for it. So we all grabbed something and headed into the barn and down the aisle to the “green room”, Danny and Dick ventured back out to get the rest of the gear (thank goodness it was an acoustic set) and by the time they got back in they both looked like drowned rats. There was nothing to be done to dry them off. Both of them removed their outer dress shirts (T-shirts were soaked also, but had to remain on) and we hung those to drip (I would have said dry if there had been hope of that happening but there wasn’t) and they wiped their faces with paper towel. Soon enough we had to get our gear on stage and do our set. What a wonderful venue, while the outside appears as a barn, the inside consists of two aisles and on either side of the aisles are theater chairs. Up front is the stage and behind that is the “green room”. The four of us entered the stage and commenced to playing. Imagine that, playing on the same stage as Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Ricky Skaggs. Musicians come from all over the world to play this stage, to stand in the same spot that the greats stood and played. Now, those that know Danny’s music know that he is not typically cast as a blue grass musician but he does have some songs that could bring a blue grass fan to their feet and have them dancing in the aisles. With the help of Dick and Cindy Casey we did just that. 30 minutes is not long and soon we were venturing outside once again to pack the gear back in the van, thankfully the rain had stopped. They have a policy that you can throw vegetables or fruit at the band if you don’t like them but you have to take it out of the tin first; thankfully we just had to contend with the rain.

As many of you know, Danny and I like to always play in prisons, halfway houses or missions on any tour that we do and so on Saturday we set out to play Andrea’s Mission in Morgantown, Kentucky. The facilitator of the house had the woman’s residence brought over for the show. Such a thankful group of people could not be asked for, and we all had a great time, playing and sharing for these men and women. Afterward we went to Farm Boy Restaurant for a late dinner; we all sauntered in about 8:45 and took about 15 minutes to decide what we were having. Our server was a lovely lady who was quite willing to put up with our tardiness and chatter. When we had finished our main course, Cindy asked for another sweet tea, to which the reply was “it’s been tipped out”, Dickie asked for the fried Oreos for desert to which the response was “the fryer has been turned off and the oil tipped out.” (Thank goodness, that wouldn't have been good at all, at least not when we had to step on the scales.)  He settled for the Chocolate Lava Fudge Cake with four spoons (I am quite sure that there were no calories in that cake at all, well that’s my story and I am sticking to it). As we cashed out, we discovered that the restaurant actually closed at 9 p.m. OOOOpppps! Kentucky hospitality in action.

Dick and Cindy Casey playing with Debi and Danny Brooks at Andrea's Mission in Morgantown, Kentucky

Sunday morning found us playing at the Rosine Methodist Church (Bill Munroe’s church). The Pastor, Mike and his wife Janell were very accommodating as were the folks who helped unload and pack. We had a great time playing and there is something special in the sound of a small country Church. We look forward to coming back to the area in April 2015 while we are out touring the new CD ‘This World Is Not Your Friend’.

Well, it is Monday as I write this, and I have a load of laundry washing and one to go. Soon, Danny and I will head into Beaver Dam to connect with the internet so that I am able to post this entry and Danny can do some networking and hustling. That is one thing about the hills of Kentucky; the internet has a difficult time making its way to our devices. Oh, well, it makes for a more relaxing time…. Tomorrow, we head out. We will stop in New Glasgow to have breakfast with Greg Martin; I believe it is going to be a Cracker Barrel morning! Not much more southern than breakfast at the Cracker Barrel! Then we will head on over in the direction of Washington D.C. and our gig at the Hill Country BBQ on the 14th.

Wolf Creek Musics' inviting front porch, come sit a spell!

READY TO HIT THE BLUE HIGHWAY  Podcast

August 1, 2014

This morning we are preparing to hit the road once again. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day pack up and spend three months traveling the U.S. and Canada in a vehicle with my wonderful husband. But here I am, and this isn’t the first time. In fact, Danny is already scheduling our Winter Tour. I have been so blessed to be able to see so much of the U.S. and Canada. Both are equally beautiful in their own ways and I cherish the opportunity to see this magnificent land!

So, the house is tidy (hate to come home to a messy house, besides what if someone has to come in while we are gone? It has got to be tidy) Can’t say as I am packed just yet, but the laundry is done, the mending is complete so it is just a matter of deciding what my wardrobe for the next three months should include, hmmmmm. Wouldn’t it be great to just pick up outfits along the way? I think that I would enjoy that immensely. Not sure that Danny would enjoy it so much.

This morning as I sit in my living room, mourning the time that I will be away from Llano, Texas, I sip my coffee and view that amazing scenery here on the Schneider Ranch. Just look at the sunrise that God has given me this morning! Can’t wait to see the sunsets and sunrises God has in store for me on our travels…. Thank You God for such beautiful, beautiful, breathtaking scenery!



We will head out soon to our first stop on this tour, Katy, Texas and The Wild Wing Café. Blessings come in many sizes, shapes and colors and we are so blessed to have such wonderful friends along the way who enable us to continue to tour by offering their homes and hospitality along the way. You will hear me shout our thanks from the rooftops many times while we are on the road (well maybe not from the rooftops but certainly from the web)! Tonight we are blessed to stay with Janet and Glenn who initially began as Danny’s fans but have taken a very special place in our hearts and are dear, dear friends! Thanks for always being there for us!

Still a few more things to do before we leave, need to run vinegar through our travel coffee maker (we are coffee snobs and need to know that we are locked and loaded with good coffee) and once the van is loaded and I am 100 percent sure we have everything, need to set off those bug bombs. Some of you who read my first attempt at blogging will remember the trials Danny faced once the bombs were set off (forgot my pillow, couldn’t find his cell phone, where did my books go?)! In hindsight it is funny remembering him going in one door holding his breath and running out another before making another attempt at finding something else. Promise Danny, I won’t do that to you again!

Okay, I won’t promise ya’ll that I will blog every day because I did that the first time I posted “Tales from the Road” and it was a lot of pressure. Also it is sometimes impossible to post from some places due to poor internet connection, or no internet connection. So this trip the Tales from the Road may happen a couple of days in a row, or once in a few days, but I will post, cause we want ya’ll to come on this tour with us! Feel free to comment if you are so inclined, we love to hear from you.

Well, I must stop and get ready to hit the Blue Highway!  Can’t wait to see ya’ll on our travels, all our old friends and fans and the chance to meet new friends and fans! God Bless ya’ll!
 
P.S. I have attached a rough mix of the song, Blue Highway, that we have just recorded for our new CD (to be released January 15, 2015) entitled This World is not Your Friend.
 
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  1. Blue Highway

Howdy Ya'll! 

Howdy ya'll! We have spent the last three months on the road and have covered North America from one side to the other and back. I can't believe how many miles we have put on our van. We began in Texas then moved on to Florida for the month of February (that was so hard to take - sunshine and warmth). A huge thank you to Connie Garvey and her mom and dad (Rollean and Archie) for opening up their home to us while we were in Florida, as well as a big thank you to Harry and Myrtle Witt for taking us in as well!  We had the pleasure of being special guests with Cedric Burnside at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton Fl. before we began the trip to Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary LA and on to The House of Blues in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Had time for a short trip back to Texas for a brief visit at home (4 days) and then we were off and running again. We began the next leg of the tour in Clarksdale Mississippi and then on to Hartford Kentucky (Dick and Cindy Casey always make us right at home.)

Cedric, Debi, Danny and Trenton at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton Florida

Rollean, Danny, Debi, Archie and Connie

Debi, Danny and Watermelon Slim at the Hambone Gallery in Clarksdale Mississippi

We crossed into Canada on the 15th of March and did 4 gigs in Windsor within a 36 hour time frame.

New Song Church Band with Debi, Danny and Pastor Kevin Rogers (far right)

From there we went to Oakville and then on to Brussels where we ran into our first snowstorm in a while (see pic) We only had to drive a mile to where we were staying that night but it sure was the longest mile (it was the kind of snow that comes at you and can give you tunnel vision when driving). Sure have become wooses since moving south!
The Load Out

We stayed in the southwestern end of Ontario (Windsor, Ridgetown, London and Guelph) for a bit and were once again welcomed home at Pete Pascetta's place in Guelph while we were there performing. Soon enough we moved on to Peterborough, and the Nepean area. We were blessed once again to stay with the Scharfes while in Nepean and were able to rest in between gigs. We were thrilled to be able to spend a few hours with our granddaughter (she attends the Ottawa University) while at one of our gigs before heading back to southern Ontario. It was wonderful to watch Danny and Drew perform a few of Drew's original songs! Sadly, we are always working when we are in Canada and unless family seeks us out we typically do not have the leisure time to visit and so we do not always see our family as much as we would like.

Debi (Grandma), Drew and Danny (Grandad)

Before we know it we are back in Oakville at Christine Legeins dropping off our van and heading to the airport to fly to British Columbia (told you we were from one end to the other) for 10 days and 8 gigs. So very grateful to the Storks (Norm and Lydia) for taking two strangers into their home for those 10 days and giving us the use of one of their vehicles! Could not have done it with out their generosity!

(Back row) Norm and Lydia Stork, (Front row) Debi and Danny Brooks

During our stay in B.C. we were able to connect with our daughter Caitlin who lives in Coquitlam (we hadn't been able to see her for a year) so it was wonderful to spend time with her at gigs. She is an amazing person in her own right, (artist/musician)! Caitlin handled our merchandize sales at our Long & McQuade Music Store Clinics. They workshops were a success and we will be taking part in their University Month next March 2015 in Ontario and B.C.

Danny (Dad), Caitlin and Debi (Mom)

Debi, Danny, Heather and Glen Warner

On the 20th of April we flew back to Oakville and home to Christine's place. Again so much of our tours are supported by friends and fans and without them...well, we couldn't do it! Thank you. The 21st found us back in the van and headed to New York for The Hill Country BBQ in Manhattan and Brooklyn where we had a great time and were able to connect with Memo Acevedo (percussionist extraordinaire) and get a visit in before the gig.

Then we headed for Alabama for 2 gigs with the Magic City Blues Society's 'Blues Stages' held at Jamey & Carrie McMahon's beautiful home, and one at the Shelby Arts Centre that was hosted by local Blues/Americana artists Bruce Andrews and George Dudley. They also played with us and set the stage on fire, musically speaking! Bruce was the man who put it all together and we look forward to coming back to do something with him through the Shelby Arts Center and the Mayor of Columbiana Dr. Stancil Handley and his lovely wife Anne when we are back in late September. We plan to go into a prison, a youth detention center along with a church and a club or two.

Carrie, Debi, Jamey and Danny (Birmingham, Alabama)

George Dudley, Debi, Danny and Bruce Andrews

We left Monday morning for Houston dodging some extreme weather that hit the area where we had been staying later that evening and Tuesday in southern Alabama and Pensacola there was major flooding of 'historic proportions'.  We bee-lined 687 miles to Houston where we are comfortably decompressing catching up on some biz and preparing for the next 3 gigs before getting home next Wednesday.  We have a gig at the Wild Wing Cafe in Katy TX, The Miracle Ranch in Brenham TX., where our good friends Angie and KD Cline work with troubled youth.  Tuesday its River City Grille in Marble Falls and then Wednesday 'back home on the range!'  But for the moment we are quite content resting at our second Texas home (Janet and Glenn Miller), now it would be absolutely perfect if Janet would get herself back to Texas!

Janet and Glenn Miller

Day 52 - Doing the Tourist Thing 

Danny is so excited to show me New York, he believes everyone should experience Manhattan once in their lifetime. I am not excited in fact I really have no desire to see New York. I dislike large cities and try to avoid them at all cost. I am unable to do so today. For one we have an appointment at TCG (Traffic Control Group and we highly recommend them for any kinds of Visas/Green Cards) regarding our green cards today and tomorrow night we will perform at Hill Country BBQ.

We decide to find out about train service into the city, that way we won’t have to drive. After studying the train schedule from Mahwah N.J. to Manhattan, we discover that it will cost over $50 return, so we opt for checking to see if we can find cheap parking. Once we have found and printed a coupon for parking we believe we are all set and head out. Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel we find ourselves in the wrong lane for our turn when we exit the tunnel and have to rely on the GPS to get us to the parking garage we have the coupon for. Now for anyone heading to N.Y. and thinking that because you have a parking coupon you will actually get a parking spot, let me set you straight. You won’t!


Manhattan is a city full of hustle and bustle. It is a cacophony of noises! Horns honking at you because you are waiting to be able to move forward, even though there is nowhere for you to move, cars scream at you for stopping. Trucks make their lefts knowing that the light is going to change and they will end up blocking an intersection. People cross in front of your vehicle even though you are moving. Cars cut you off with a certainty that you won’t hit them that is most frightening! After trying the parking garage we had a coupon for (how naïve we were) we continue driving in hopes that a parking spot will open up. It is time to adapt the same driving habits as a native New Yorker, eat or be eaten! Somehow we find ourselves on 43rd. Street (please don’t ask me whether we are going north, south, east or west because I have no idea) and notice a parking garage on the left. We decide to give it a try. Entering the underground parking we notice that vehicles are parked along the ramp going down making it a tight fit to navigate the corners when you meet up with a pickup truck whose back end is taking up half of the one lane that is available for driving. When we reach the bottom an attendant comes out and quotes us $25 for 8 hours. This is good for N.Y. and we are more than ready to try traversing Manhattan on foot.


We hand over our keys gladly, leaving the attendant to park our van, and pray that it will still be intact when we return. Once outside, we get our bearings and head for W43rd. Street. Walking isn’t much easier than driving. People, gawking up towards the tops of the skyscrapers, those who decide to stop walking immediately in front of you or those who simply want to saunter along completely in their own world. I really hate large cities, never more so than I do right now! Manhattan holds no allure for me, there is nothing calling me to be a part of the crowd. Finally, after a 20 minute walk we reach our destination and arrive for our appointment on time. When the meeting is over we will had towards Times Square to meet our friends Memo and Gail Acevedo whom we haven’t seen in years.

Now in fairness to Danny, I am plodding along next to him as he shows me Manhattan but find myself becoming more miserable as time passes. There is nothing here I want to see. Memo and Gail will not arrive for another hour and then we will go to a service at the Time Square Church just off Broadway (David Wilkerson’s church (Cross and the Switchblade)). Danny and I decide to have dinner at a Thai Restaurant while we are waiting and enjoy a very tasty dinner.



Seven o’clock rolls around and we find ourselves seated in this palatial theater, holding two extra seats for the Acevedo’s. The church (theater) is beautiful, gold gilding adorns the balconies and wood trim. This theater holds about 5,000 people and it is filling up quickly. It is a Tuesday night and this is going to be a full church! The Acevedo’s finally arrive and we greet each other briefly as the service has started. Tonight at this church we witnessed 52 water baptisms! Can you imagine! What a phenomenal evening, being able to watch 52 people, young and old, commit their lives to Christ! After the service we go to a Starbucks to have a coffee and catch up a bit before the Acevedo’s have to leave us. Promising to see each other at the gig tomorrow night at the Hill Country BBQ, Danny and I begin our brisk walk beneath the towering skyscrapers and neon light to the parking garage and the drive back to the Jersey side. Thus ends our first visit to New York.

Day 51 - The Big Apple 

The day dawns overcast and a mist is constantly present threatening to dampen our spirits as well as the van. We head to the Buffalo New York border with hopes that traffic isn’t heavy today. It isn’t a long drive from Oakville to the border, just a little over an hour and we are able to make time. Although I am hungry and really would like breakfast, I agree to wait until we have crossed the border. What a mistake that was, by the time we cross the border and find somewhere for breakfast it is 2 in the afternoon, but never fear Denny’s serves an all-day breakfast. An omelet with bacon and avocado, hmmmm, good!


With breakfast out of the way we continue down that ribbon of highway headed for the New Jersey side (motels/hotels being a premium price in New York City). Thinking that perhaps we will stop in Woodstock and possibly have a chance to visit with Maud and Garth Hudson I set the GPS for Woodstock. We really should make our plans in advance with people, but sometimes it is fun to be spontaneous. Sadly today isn’t one of those days. Danny sends an email to the Hudsons but no response is received when we finally reach Woodstock. We search for a motel for a while at a little town just south of Woodstock, but man, oh man for a Super 8 it is too expensive for the quality of the property and we decide to keep going to New Jersey and the motel we have booked for the next night in hopes that there is a vacancy for tonight.


A few hours later, I wait in the car outside the motel while Danny inquires about vacancies. Again, we really should phone ahead, but sometimes when you are travel weary, you don’t think clearly. No room at the inn! Finally, I get it, and go online (IPhones can be a blessing) and call Super 8 to see if there are any vacancies nearby. The only one with any rooms is 30 miles north in Mahwah New Jersey, so a room is booked and we start the drive back north. Arriving at the motel around midnight, it has been a long day on the road (we left at around 11 a.m.), we check into the motel and inquire about the room for another 2 nights (the thought of packing the van again tomorrow has us thinking tonight), a room is secured and we email a cancellation for the one previously booked). Alright, I think we have this planning ahead thing coming together!