Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My mom wanted me to get a picture with Rick dice....

Ben and I after hitting a few in the batting cage at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

 Sam taking a few swings of his own

 The boys holding signature Million Dollar Quartet Louisville Sluggers after a successful promo

The boys and m'am

 Another beer made just for us

 That's right!  We all got bats!!!!!

Me and The Babe

 Holding one of Mickey Mantle's game-used bats

Me and The Splendid Splinter

Me holding David Ortiz's game-used bat

For those of you who don't know, Rick Pitino coaches the Louisville men's basketball team. And coached our Boston Celtics for a while. And my mom just loves Louisville basketball and Rick Pitino. Random title for a blog, I know. is everyone doing? We got some pretty good weather here for our week in Louisville. I really didn't know what to expect from this town, but I can safely say it is one of the few places I really just wish we had some extra time in. Just a wealth of things to see and do, and we barely scratched the surface. But, here's what the week looked like....

Our drive from Columbus was pretty short, so once we got settled in, most of us headed to get groceries to fill our full sized fridges for the week. On Tuesday morning, I brought Austin to the theatre for his weekly piano tuning during load in. The boys and m'am did a promo at the Hard Rock Cafe, which by all accounts was one of the more successful and fun promos they have done in quite a while (picture above). I wish had hadn't missed it, but that didn't stop me from heading to the Hard Rock anyway to get yet another pin for my collection. After walking around a bit, I headed back to the hotel to chill before opening night. We arrived at the theatre as always for orientation, and let me tell you....not only is the Kentucky Center For The Performing Arts a marvel of modern architecture from the outside, the theatre itself was stunning (pictures above). And the crowd LOVED IT. They were attentive, appreciative and loud. Gotta love it. Following the opening performance, we were invited to the Bluegrass Brewing Company for our opening party, and to sample the beer they made especially for us, Jam Session Ale (picture above). It was a great laid back party, and a nice way to celebrate with the cast.

Wednesday morning marked the day I had been waiting for for quite a while....Amy's arrival in Louisville! She came in early that morning amidst a snow storm. And later that afternoon, she, Jam and I headed to the Highland area of Louisville. After a stop at a couple of guitar shops, we had an amazing lunch at Tom & Chee; a grilled cheese restaurant. They even had grilled cheese donut sandwiches....MMMMMMMMMM....I didn't have one, but what I DID have was fantastic. We made a stop at Why Louisville, a little curiosities shop, and got some souvenirs. Then, back to the hotel for me to prepare to go on as Sam! I had about a day's notice, which was great because Amy had never seen me play that role, and I was able to get her tickets. The crowd was pretty amazing that night, and it felt great to be welcomed so warmly.

Thursday was Valentine's Day, and Amy and I had a really pleasant day walking around Old Louisville and taking pictures of the gorgeous houses that surrounded this historic district. Then it was off to dinner at this elegant Italian restaurant, Vincenzo's. Amazing food, impeccable service and an old world feel inside a more modern decor, it made for a fantastic Valentine's dinner.

On Friday, a large group of us including Amy, Ben, Lizzie, Corey, James (along with his wife Tara and their adorable son Sam), Billy, Rosie, David Sonneborn and I headed to one the coolest places I have ever been: the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. We had so much fun walking around and seeing how they go through the process of making bats, and all of the memorabilia they have. I got to handle and swing game-used bats....Mickey Mantle for my mother, and that of Red Sox DH David Ortiz for myself. And if that wasn't great enough, I stepped into the batting cage using the Ted Williams model bat. It had been about 2 years since I had stepped into a cage, but I guess the muscle memory is still there. I hit every pitch. We even got Ben to step in and take some swings. He had a ton of fun, and even smacked a couple! Which is pretty awesome considering he had never hit a baseball before! After the museum, we headed to do a little browsing at an antique store while we waited to be seated at Toast on Market. A quaint and busy little place, but we clearly caught them at a bad time. They were busy, my food was cold and they were running out of everything. When they said they had run out of really just became comical. It was a great day though, and it was really nice for Amy and I to get to spend some quality time with Ben and Lizzie. I love those two.

Saturday morning came early, and Amy and I took a cab out to see Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby! Hard to believe that this May will mark the 139th year; so much history in that building, and so many elegant animals have run on that track. Now, horse racing really isn't my thing, but you HAVE to appreciate being in a place like that. I'm glad we didn't miss it. The museum was quite nice too, and it was a pleasant way to start the day before heading to do two shows. That night, the two of us and Corey headed to the historic Galt House Hotel, and the largest bourbon bar in the world, Jockey Silks. You can't be on the bourbon trail and not sample some local flavor, after all.

I am writing you from the bus as we make our way to Cincinnati this afternoon. I said goodbye to Amy as we headed out, and she is on her way back to Florida....but, she'll be back in Memphis! So, it won't be too long!

I am looking forward to the next city, and to explore yet another city I've never been to! Along with the great sights we saw in Louisville this week, I received a DVD of my show, Walkin' The Line. I have posted quite a few videos on YouTube, so please check them out! Below, you will find links to a couple of my favorites, but please watch the rest!

That's about it for now, but I will be back in another week with news from Da Nati! Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Why oh, why oh, why oh.....

Billy Bob and Kelly celebrating their 1,700th show of MDQ on the same night we celebrated 450 performances on tour

The Ohio Theatre; not where we played, but the first theatre I ever played on tour....12 years ago....

The beautiful Palace Theatre

Ben and his pig

Some of the cast and crew as we are preparing to watch Cody on Letterman

Waiting for soundcheck at the Thunderstudy promo

Riverside recording #3

"Especially not ole Liberace, here"

A blackjack table at Harrah's in Las Vegas, where our fellow MDQers started previews this past week
That's right, kids, we're in Ohio!  Or, at least, we were. 
Now, to preface.....Columbus didn't have a whole lot to offer as far as excitement, but it was a pretty big week in the world of Million Dollar Quartet.  So, on to the week....
We left Hershey, PA on Monday morning, and found a huge snow storm awaiting us on our 8 hour trek to Columbus, OH.  Tired and bit road weary, we all found our cozy hotel rooms, and awaited what we had all been looking forward to all week: Cody Slaughter on Letterman.  Now, I should say, that this wasn't some random occurence.  It was Elvis tribute week, so he had quite a few Elvis tribute artists on, including Brandon Bennett, who is Elvis in the Chicago company, and Lance Lipinsky and his band the Lovers; he plays Jerry Lee in the Chicago cast.  So, on Monday night, we all gathered round the tv set, and watched our buddy perform on Letterman.  And let me tell you....he nailed it.  He is just unreal.  And anyone who doubts that should see our show and watch clips from Elvis in the 50's.  If you don't see the uncanny resemblence and sound, you are not playing with a full deck (see photos above, and videos below).  That night also marked the first night of previews for our boys and m'am in the brand new Las Vegas company of Million Dollar Quartet.  We know they killed it, and can't wait to wish them well on opening night on the 18th (pictures above).
I walked around a bit when time and weather allowed to take in some of the interesting architecture and Captiol city sights, and of course take pictures.  It was pretty cold there, so I didn't do a whole lot of exploring.  We did however, have a great unofficial opening night party at a local bar, and that was pretty awesome.  We hadn't had one in a while, so it was fun to be out with everyone and get to let loose a bit. 
Thursday marked the first time the Thunderstudies and I had done a promo in quite a while (pictures above, and videos below).  In fact, by our estimation, the last time we had done a promo together was when we performed at half time at the Miami Heat just before New Year's last year.  Along with that, Katie had NEVER done a promo before.  So, it was a great experience for us all to be able to get up there and do it again.  That afternoon, I met up with Billy and Rosie for dinner at one of our haunts, Potbelly Sandwiches, and then headed to Sugar Daddies; an amazing brownie store.  The woman who worked there was nice enough to give us 15 BAGS of brownie pieces for the cast......damn, they were good. 
On Friday, Billy, Rosie, Jam, Ben and his wife Lizzie and I took a trip to a trendy part of town, Short North.  It happened to be the area that housed the bar where we had our opening night party, and an establishment we had been to the night before.  After a failed attempt to eat at a highly regarded restaurant, we decided to walk a bit....and freeze...and ended up at The Press Grill where I had a fantastic meatloaf sandwich; perfect on such a cold day.  After that we stopped in for some gourmet coffee at Union Cafe, which was pretty amazing, and much needed as we braved the cold walk to the North Market.  Filled with different shops and vendors, our favorite stop was Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream; yes, it was freezing outside.  But no temperature stands between me and good ice cream.  I had Ugandan Vanilla Bean, Salty Caramel and Black Coffee.  Hell Yes.  After wandering a bit, we took the frigid walk home, and then defrosted in our rooms until the show that night. 
On Saturday morning, Jam and I headed to another part of town to get hair cuts at easily the coolest and best barber the cast has visited on tour: Old Familiar Barbershop.  If you are in the area, it is a must.  Just really rad guys, and the best hair cut I've had, maybe ever.  We stopped for coffee at Upper Cup on our way back for the matinee. 
Sunday seemed to go pretty fast, and before I knew it, I was on the bus headed to yet another city I had never been to, Louisville, KY. 
I'm writing you from our theatre here, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, and in a couple days we will be making our way to Cincinnati.  So, I hope you enjoy this week's blog, and trust me, there is more to come from Louisville in next week's!  Take care!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sweetest Place On Earth, Beardos, and old friends

Hello, and greetings from Hershey, PA!  It was a pretty great week despite the snow, cutting winds and bitter cold.  Here are some of the highlights!
When last we left our heroes, we were making our way from Schenectady, NY where I had just rejoined the tour after my week in Arizona.  We arrived in Hershey late Monday afternoon, and looked forward to all the day held on opening day. 
I woke up pretty early on Tuesday morning to drive Austin to the theatre to tune the pianos, and then to Harrisburg to pick Vince up from the train station after he took a couple of days in NYC.  And, Cody rejoined us in Hersehy after a month traveling around doing that whole....ya know....Elvis thing. I dropped them off at the theatre for a rehearsal (I did quite a bit of running around that day) and then went home to chill a bit before opening night. Having worked at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster for quite a while, I knew the Lancaster County area quite well, AND I had quite a few friends coming to our opening show. Unfortunately, I had explained to them that it was near impossible for me to go on on opening night in any city, unless it was an absolute emergency. So, I went to the theatre for our orientation as usual, and after taking my pictures of the lobby and house (what a gorgeous theatre! Pictured above), I went to my dressing room to find something to do for the evening. No sooner had soundcheck started, did I get a phone call from one of the stage managers asking me to come to the stage.....I was being called on to be Johnny Cash. Now, I've done the show on relatively short notice before, but only twice when I was already at the theatre. The first was when I went on opening night in Minneapolis as Sam Phillips. So, I went through sound check, keeping an eye on the time, knowing that I needed to get to Susan and get into my wig as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I was trying to let all of my friends know that I was on, and to breath as much as I could.
Opening night went extremely well, and I couldn't have been happier to be able to perform for my friends. It had been 2 years since I had seen any of them, and it was a great way to catch up. After the show, we headed to a local bar, Finnici's, to have a bite to eat and enjoy a coctail and some nice conversation. The next day, I read the review.....I was shocked, humbled, and quite pleased. I won't bore you with what it said, but you can find it on my website,
Because I had spent so much time in the area, I offered to bring a group to Amish country. So, Wednesday morning, Corey, Ben, Billy, Rosie and I headed off on a little road trip. We stopped first in Lancaster to see my friends who had seen the show the night before, and they welcomed us with open arms; giving us a tour, and making my cast mates feel as though they had worked there for years. After that stop, we headed to a few of my favorite places in Intercourse (see Ben with the welcome sign above) and Bird-In-Hand. The first stop was the Mt. Hope Winery. All of their wine is made locally, AND they had renovated the space to add a brewery! After sipping a bit, and trying their new beers, we headed to the Kitchen Kettle Village, one of my favorite stops. There they have a fudge shop (which, was closed unfortunately. I missed seeing my dear friend Deb who works there), a smoke house (with the best sweet bologna and cheeses I've ever had), various little shops, and the queen of them all....the Jam and Relish Kitchen. There, you can sample everything they have to offer; jam, relish, pickles, hot sauce, cookies, pie....EVERYTHING. It's one of my favorite places, and was a hit with my pals. I couldn't leave empty handed, so to compliment my bologna and cheeses, I picked up some honey mustard, pickled beets, cookies, and a new addition....BACON FLAVORED PICKLES....MMMM....PICKLES.....MMMM.....BACON.
After a quick trip to the Olde Candle Barn, we made our way to a place I had never been: the Shady Maple Smorgasbord.  Now, I had heard a lot about this place, and that it was supposed to be the best buffet around (pictured above).  However, I didn't know it was HUGE.  It could've easily seated 2,000 people at once.  Options upon options; hot buffet, salad bar, made to order, desserts....just unreal.  It was a major hit with my people, and we left there stuffed.  I should point out, that as we drove around, Ben would point out every Amish person we saw....and jokingly referred to the bearded Amish men as BEARDOS.....I don't know why, but I found it so damn funny, and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. 
On Thursday, Billy, Rosie, Jam and I braved the wind and the cold to head to one of my favorite places, Hershey's Chocolate World.  With a cute little tour, a 3D movie, a chocolate tasting and the biggest selection of Hershey's related products you have ever seen, it is a great time.  And a trip there is not complete without getting a shake, or on this cold day, a hot chocolate. 
There was a lot of hibernation going on among the cast, but I did head out on Friday to take one more trip to Lancaster to say goodbye to everyone.  I planned on stopping by a few places downtown, but a few of them had permanently closed, and it was way too cold out there. So, I headed back to Hershey and warmed up inside before heading to the theatre that night. 
Saturday was the eve of Jam's birthday, and so we headed out to a local bar for some food.  I had some amazing crab and havarti dip.  I think he had a pretty great time, and it was awesome to be able to show him some love on his special day...or the eve of it, anyway. 
Sunday marked our last day in Hershey, the Superbowl, and also the 56th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.  Having to be at the theatre, I got the idea that the Thunderstudies should order some pizza and have our own little party while we watched on Austin's giant computer screen.  That really was a lot of fun.  When not watching the game I paid tribute to the Day The Music Died by listening to all three artists' songs.  Overall, it was a great way to end the week. 
I am writing you for Columbus, OH where we have just finished our week.  The trip here was long, cold and snowy, but we were thankful to be here in one piece.   It has been a big, eventful week for MDQ, but I will save that for my next blog!  I hope everyone is staying warm, and not wearing themselves out shoveling that snow!  Please take care, and I'll be back with more in a couple of days! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Freezing temperatures, the desert, and forgotten American heroes


A bit of a contradictory title, but the best way to describe the past week!  I hope this blog finds everyone well, and that your January is great!
This past week was an interesting one, as it was the first week since I have been on tour that I was not with everyone as the tour continued.  I certainly missed everyone, but it was also great to be out on my own.  So, this blog will be a little split, but I wanted to make sure I still talked about what the boys and m'am where doing in Schenectady, as well as what my experience in Arizona was like. 
The boys and m'am spent the week in the subzero temperatures of Schenectady, NY, home of one of my favorite theatres, Proctor's.  In the 6 years I toured with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan's production of A Christmas Carol, I played the Proctor's 4 times.  It is an unbelievably gorgeous old theatre; it also it attached to an "arcade" with an historic hotel, music store, and quite a few little shops inside it.  The theatre went through a massive renovation the one year my tour didn't head there, and though it is very modern now and able to accomodate bigger national tours, it definitely lost a smidge of the charm behind the curtain.  The theatre itself remains relatively unchanged from the time it was built, but the back of the theatre now hosts many more modern dressing rooms, and a larger loading dock.  Originally, the dressing rooms were on a series of 4 or 5 floors with railings that gave a look all the way down to stage right.  One of these, in the middle of all of the rest, was never used by actors; in fact, it had become a bit of a storage room to deter anyone from going inside.  Why, you may ask?  Because.  It is haunted. 
Now, I realize that there are quite a few people that don't believe in ghosts, and may think that that type of thing is extremely far-fetched.  I assure you, with the things that I saw, it is.....VERY MUCH HAUNTED.  I'm sad that I didn't get to be there, but I certainly didn't miss the cold.  It was cold there, even for a Maine boy.
But, the cast was honored by being presented the key to the city (pictured above), and they had a great experience at the Blue Note record store; again, jealous. 
However, I was out in the sunny weather in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona, premiering my show, Walkin' The Line: A Tribute to Johnny Cash.  This is something that has been in the works even before I was on tour.  JR McAlexander is a friend of mine who music directed me in countless shows.  He now owns a production company of his own, and had approached me with the idea of putting together an original Johnny Cash tribute.  I got the week off, and for the majority of tour in my spare time, I have been piecing together bits of biographical dialogue, and finding exactly the right songs for the show.  And now, all of my work was about to come to life. 
I arrived in Phoenix on Sunday night while my cast was closing Million Dollar Quartet in Providence, and after moving into my condo for the week, I went straight into rehearsal.  I knew JR and Chris Rose on bass from working with them before.  But the other three musicians I had never met.  Things gelled very quickly, and we opened the next day.....gulp. 
Monday night we ventured to the Sunland Village East RV Park and set up.  It was a moderately small stage, but the room held a couple hundred people.  It was nerve-wracking for sure to get up there for the first time, but we all made it through with limited problems.  The next day we did two shows at another park, this time the first show had about 350 people, and the evening show was sold out with about 400.  They had asked for a show with no intermission, so me and the boys cut 4 songs; crazy to be up there so long without a break....but both crowds really seemed to enjoy it. 
On Wednesday, I had the day off with no show, so I went to Milano's music in downtown Mesa to look at guitars, Bookman's music (one of my favorite resale stores) and bought entirely too many books, and just chilled for much of the night.  The next day we had probably our best show at Mountain Brook Village, close to Apache Junction in Gold Canyon.  Just goregeous in that area....and, the show was sold out in this great little space with a band shell.  The crowd was so raucous (perhaps it's that they all brought their own alcohol....), that when I stepped onstage after intermission to sing A Boy Named Sue, it sounded like the original recording at San Quentin!
I used my day off on Friday to drive far out into the desert and visit the Ira Hayes memorial.  Now for a little history lesson.  Ira Hayes was a member of the Pima Indian tribe, located in the Phoenix Valley.  His tribe was quite poor when WWII came around, and Ira enlisted in the Marines in the hopes that he would bring prosperity to his tribe.  He was one of the 5 Marines who hoisted the American flag after the battle of Iwo Jima, imortalized on film and in pictures.  When he came back from the war he went on tours around the country; but his "fame" was short lived.  There was nothing for him on the reservation, and he began drinking and was often in jail.  He died on the reservation, face down in a ditch...where he drowned.  It's a horribly sad, yet very important story.  This man who was a war hero who was all but forgotten, along with his people.  As I drove out there, the desolation I witnessed was just unbelievable.  Dirty faced kids playing in the desert sand.  Mangy dogs roming the streets.  Homes and buildings that look like they belonged in WWII era France after having been bombed by Nazi planes.  Just awful.  The park was closed, but I was able to take some pictures through the the trip was a success overall.  If you would like to know more about Ira Hayes, I suggest the book A Heartbeat and A Guitar; it's about Ira, Johnny Cash, and Peter LaFarge, the Native American singer/songwriter who wrote the song.  On a sidenote, I was pleased that that song got such a warm response; the whole reason I added it into the show was that we were in the very land his people lived in.  So I was glad the meaning was not lost on them. 
My final show was on Saturday night at the Apache Junction High School Performing Arts Center.  A great little theatre, that by showtime was completely filled with 650 people.  Again....just crazy to think that there were that many people in an audience waiting to see my show.  A show that at one point was just a pipe dream, but now had become a reality.  The show went extremely well, and I will be getting a video of the performance soon that I will share clips of!
I flew out of Phoenix on Sunday morning, and after a long day of travel, arrived in Albany, NY at 1 AM on Monday morning.  Let me tell was cold.  And, quite a bit different from the desert climate I had just come from.  The next morning, after little sleep, I put all of my belongings on the bus, and was greeted with warm welcomes and questions from everyone I saw.  It really was great to be back. 
So, it seems like the cast and crew, though having to deal with bitter cold, had a great week, and mine was quite a success.  I am writing you now from The Sweetest Place on Earth, Hershey, PA.  We close the show tonight and head off to Columbus, OH tomorrow.  So, I will be working on this week's blog hopefully in the next few days.  I apologize for the lack of videos lately, but there will be more soon I hope!  Anyway, enjoy, and thanks for following!!!