A Week with Bill Madison

drunkenmermaid.com first “met” Bill Madison when he posted a spectacular version of the traditional song “Buffalo Skinners” on our facebook page. Bill has had a long and accomplished career, some of which we will be sharing with you this coming week. We lead off today with our interview, and will be featuring his songs and video throughout the week…

drunkenmermaid.com: You released your first album, Sunday Mornin’ Hayride, in 1973. Who were your primary influences at the time?

I had moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts from Boston in 1969. At that time, Newburyport was becoming quite the place for artists and musicians. Many of my musician friends moved there as well from Boston and they all were major influences on me. Great players and writers like Paul MacNeil, Kenny Girard, Rocky Rockwood, Diane Gagner, and Joyce Katzberg. In addition, I was influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, Tim Hardin, Eric Andersen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jesse Colin Young and of course, Bob Dylan. There were new players there to work with in Newburyport like Charlie Bechler, Fred Click, Bill Plante, Bobby and Russ Keyes, Chip Chase, Josh Dubin, Chris Pimentel, Jeff Lind, and Chuck Saloio. And there was Doug Johnson and Lana Pettey, known as ”Sweet Potato Pie”. We had even formed a musicians’ cooperative that we called “Rosewood”. We played together often and congregated at a pub called The Grog and at The Stone Church. The concept for the album came out of this interchange and environment and it turned out to be quite a grass roots group project involving the musicians, our fans, and the community as well. It was truly a magical time!  That is why I believe the album has passed the test of time being re-released in 2009 by Riverman Records and being placed in the top 10 retro re-issues for that year in The Acid Archives.

drunkenmermaid.com: How did Them Fargo Brothers come about?

In 1974, a friend of mine had opened a pub/restaurant in North Conway, New Hampshire and invited me to play there for the winter ski season. Brad Cardoza, who had been playing guitar with me, came along to sit in on some of my gigs. Then we met Bill Rost and Danny McCarthy who had a duo called “Thud and the Mudrat” and were playing in town as well. We all ended up playing together and formed the new band – Danny came up with the name – “Them Fargo Brothers!”

I became Doc Fargo, Bill Rost became Slim Fargo, Danny became Orville Fargo and Brad became Buck Fargo. A short time after we added Sonny Finnan on drums. So after many years and many member changes, we evolved into New England’s Premier Country Rock Band and toured extensively; North up to Canada – South to Jersey, West to Buffalo and sometimes beyond, and up and down the East Coast. And we’ve had two reunions in North Conway, New Hampshire – November of 2009 and again last year in November of 2011 – to rock out for ourselves and our fans! We recorded and videoed our performance last November and are working on putting together an album of that music.

drunkenmermaid.com: Who were some of the other key figures in the New England Folk/Country/Rock music circuit during the seventies and eighties?

Well, there were many great groups and musicians playing then. Here’s a long list and I hope I don’t miss anyone – let me know if I do.

  • John Lincoln Wright and the Sourmash Boys – great Country/Country rock
  • The Estes Boys – Outlaw and Country
  • Tom Dean, Alana MacDonald and Herbie Ludwig as Devonsquare – Folk Rock
  • The Blend – a hugely popular Rock group
  • The great Singer/Songwriter Bill Morrissey
  • Tom Chandler, Curt and Mike Bessette in Ethan’s Green – Folk Rock
  • The Franconia Notch Band – Country/Country Rock
  • Scorpio – An amazing one-man band – early computer programmer
  • The Shaw Bros. – Folk group
  • Travis Shook – Folk Rock/Comedy
  • Neil Thomas and the Monroe Country Outlaws – Rogue Country
  • Ina May Wool Band – Folk Rock/Great original songs
  • NRBQ – (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) – Great band
  • Oak – Great Rock Band
  • The Fools – Very popular band
  • Aztec 2Step – Folk Rock
  • Room Fool Of Blues – Powerful Blues Band
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Southern Rock
  • The James Cotton Band – Great Blues

drunkenmermaid.com: Who do you most enjoy working with? Why?

I enjoy working with everyone I play music with. Of course, Them Fargo Bros. stands out because of our long tenure together and the many great times we had on the road! For example, when we got together for the reunions is was like we had never stopped! Our rehearsals were just like they always were, and when we hit the stage we always put on a great show!

drunkenmermaid.com: Which of your songs is your favorite? Why?

I really like all the songs that I have written or have had a hand in writing,  although, All She Wanted stands out because my wife Nancy wrote most of the lyrics, and the song has such a strong message. Desperate Wind is another great song with a strong message and the song is also on the All She Wanted CD – written with my friend Scott Roby. And I like the newest song that Nancy and I wrote called Shadows On The Wind. These are songs with tremendous substance.

drunkenmermaid.com: Which one of your albums is your favorite?

That would be All She Wanted!  It is such a culmination of many feelings, moods and styles. It took a few years to get it where I wanted it to be.

drunkenmermaid.com: Tell us about The Stone Church in New Hampshire. What was it like to play and record there?

On a snowy night in 1971, my friend Chris Biggi – who later on would be the recording engineer on Sunday Mornin’ Hayride – picked me up to take me to the Stone Church to audition. The place was in fact an old granite church that had been vacant until three guys took it over and decided to make it into a music venue. It was very rustic – the tables they made were from plywood and 2X4’s and they rounded up every kind of used chair they could find. They served light and dark beer up and down a long wide rustic bar. They instituted a Sunday afternoon open mike program and along with that they served a buffet style roast beef dinner – They charged $3.00 per person for the meal! That became hugely popular – people and families and musicians flocked to the place on Sunday. Chris recorded just about every session and to this day there are hundreds of reels of tape still on the walls in his studio. I’d really like to archive that music someday – it would be a huge project, though. There were some terrific jams that went down on those Sundays played to a very enthusiastic audience.

There was one time when everyone was maybe a little to “high” and the tape didn’t come out that well. Chris nailed the tape to the wall of the Stone Church and it is still there to this day. Yes, the Stone Church is still there in Newmarket, New Hampshire, open for business as usual. You can see their page on Facebook. And I was the first person to play there!

drunkenmermaid.com: How has your music evolved over the years? What impact has your wife had on your music?

Nancy is my best friend, my sounding board and my greatest critic. If she says she doesn’t like it, she always has a good reason why. She’s an incredible quilter and designer.  Her vision is amazing. (We can attest – check out her work here – the Eds.) We work very closely together on every thing we do. I help her pick out material for her quilts – she writes some really great lyrics. I come to her with a melody, and she comes up with some really great lyrics. We’re quite a team – 24/7!

I think the biggest evolution for me was when I set up home studio. Not having anyone nearby to work with as far as other musicians, I saw the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do – play lead guitar. I actually surprised myself with how easily I took to it. I’m not a flashy lead player – but as B.B. King said, “make every note count” and I have tried to do just that. I also started playing piano again, picked up bass guitar, doing some percussion – it’s amazing what you can do with some stuff laying around to get some great percussion sounds. Another thing that home studio has helped me do is explore different musical styles. I’m also experimenting with different acoustic guitar styles and using the mountain dulcimer to come up with some pretty unique arrangements for acoustic instruments. I love the basic soothing nature of acoustic instruments. I am also realizing that my music is way beyond just one genre. This leaves so many different approaches open to writing and arranging a song!

drunkenmermaid.com: Looking back over your career, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I suppose I could have worked more diligently in trying to get that all-allusive record deal. But I’m a do-it-myself kind of guy, which is why I love being an independent musician. I have to be in control of my music.

drunkenmermaid.com: What’s next for you musically?

I’m working on a solo album – just me and my guitar. I am doing a couple of traditional sea songs, and want to do more. I have a desire to play some Celtic music.  I love writing and or covering songs with historical content and great stories. Good stuff for movies, which is why I am also working to place songs in films and such. When writing new songs, I’m keeping that in mind – writing themes that would fit in movies.

I am also involved in working with the Traffic Jam Campaign – musicians working to stop child trafficking and slavery, as well as Arts 4 Humanity, a Not for Profit Association – musicians performing for charity. And I think come fall I’d like to find a nice little pub somewhere where I can play a few late afternoon cocktail hour gigs. Sounds good to me!!!!

drunkenmermaid.com: And to us; but you might have picked up on that by our name…stop back regularly this week, Bill’s tracks will be here to brighten your day…


Exhibitions: Michele Kishita

drunkenmermaid.com is pleased to present recent works from Philadelphia-based artist Michele Kishita.

Waves and Birds by Michele Kishita

From Michelle’s website:

“My most recent paintings are inspired by the serenity of Milton Avery’s ocean scenes and Katsushika Hokusai’s depictions of waterfalls and waves. I build up layers of acrylic paint and collage and then work through them with a hand sander to create a weathered or aged look, after which I juxtapose or intermingle silver, gold, or copper leaf, reminiscent of Japanese screens and scroll paintings. In each painting I strive to capture the memory and spirit of the landscape.”

Spring Thaw by Michele Kishita

Michele’s work will be on display at the LG Tripp Gallery in Philadelphia in July and at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, CT beginning in September. Michele will also be part of the Philadelphia Open Studio Tour this October.

See our Events page for details and visit Michele at www.michelekishita.com

The Winner of the 500 Dollar Battle of the Bands: Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands

Our first contest since we resumed publication is in the books, and it was literally decided by one vote:

Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands win it; congratulations to a great band and our thanks for participating. Our first runner up, Floozzie Shooz is also a winner and will receive a 100 dollar Sam Ash gift certificate.

If you haven’t already checked out either of these great artists, visit them on their sites and like them on facebook – drunkenmermaid.com is incredibly lucky to have two bands of this caliber on our pages.

Look for our 500 dollar Photography contest and Fifty dollar Artist of the Week contests to begin later this summer. In the meantime, we have upcoming features on Bill Madison, Cat in the Box, and Michele Kishita…

All the best.

Fashion Profile: Maria Smirlis of HARAH Designs

Maria Smirlis and her family have been product developers and manufacturers in the fashion industry for 5 generations in Europe and for the past fifty years in Australia. The HARAH name was established at Byron Bay NSW Australia in early 2006; the hand made limited edition and the one off products have been available to an existing client base for several years. HARAH Designs is always in touch with current fashion trends in London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, New York and with an added individual edge creates a unique, eclectic product. Maria has held shows at venues such as Royal Brighton Yacht Club in Australia and other prominent venues throughout Melbourne and Sydney.

All HARAH products are designed by Ms. Smirlis and she controls and supervises their manufacture in Australia.

drunkenmermaid.com: What inspired you to launch HARAH Designs?

Maria: At age 12 I began making my own clothes and by 13 I had my own clientele. I was really alternative and loved punk music so I use to make some wild, unique clothes that you could not buy in the shops so there was quite a demand for it. By about 16 I was singing in punk bands and making all our stage clothes. I left the music career behind at about 18 and went and studied fashion design. I ended up working for a lot of the major corporations like Holeproof, Dunlop Pacific, Clarkes, and Country Road. This meant going a bit straight and coping with the politics and all the red tape, which was not easy. So after 25 years in the corporate world in Melbourne I moved to Byron Bay and Launched HARAH Designs.

drunkenmermaid.com: Tell us about your background. Did you study fashion design? How did your career progress?

Maria:  I am a fifth generation fashion designer. My family have been in the business of product development and manufacturing for generations in Europe and Australia. So you could say it is in my blood. I was taught to use all the machines when I was about seven in my parents’ factory. I worked in the factory afterschool and on school Holidays to help my parents. Believe me, I was not always happy about it – one time  I even chopped up some garments in a complete rage!

I ended up just loving fashion and went to Melbourne College of Textiles, RMIT and Box Hill TAFE to study fashion.

drunkenmermaid.com: Where do you draw your inspiration?

Maria: Simply, I draw my inspiration from people and their personalities.

drunkenmermaid.com: How many designs does HARAH usually produce in a year?

Maria: We make a lot of custom made to measure garments for our clients so we can produce hundreds of variations over a year.

drunkenmermaid.com: You currently offer several established product lines. Can you tell us about any upcoming collections?

Maria: Never – it’s always top secret (ha ha). But I can assure you it will be based around comfort and glamour.

drunkenmermaid.com: Who would you like to see in one of your dresses?

Maria: I would love to see Kylie Minogue in one of our dresses. She is so cute and fun.

drunkenmermaid.com: Where can our readers see your designs and buy your dresses?

Maria: Our dresses are available at harahdesigns.com or facebook.com/harahdesigns
We are purely an online business.

drunkenmermaid.com: And one worth visiting.