The Swamp Drivers bringin’ the TWANG

 

INTRThe Stanley Center for the Arts is welcoming Southern Rock legends – Marshall Tucker Band at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17. And, while everyone has heard of the Marshall Tucker Band – have you heard of The Swamp Drivers? They were selected out of the many talented groups in CNY to open up the show. This local band has a raw, gritty sound that is backed up with the most unique handmade instruments made out of some the most unusual items including a garden hoe, plunger, cigar box, a Mustang hubcap and frying pan. You never know what these guys are going to come with which leaves you wanting for more. After hearing one song they will have you stomping your feet to the beat. “Swamp” is one of those songs and it makes you feel like you are in the Bayou of Louisiana. Another guitar, rifting hit is “Live to Ride” that will have you feeling the blues with the harmonica blasting the in background. But wait – is it really a harmonica? You will have to check them out to see for yourself.

Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at The Stanley box office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, phone charge 315-724-4000 or through Ticketmaster.com. The Stanley is located at 259 Genesee St., Utica.

 

 

Team Fuze would like thank Terry Johnson, The Swamp Drivers for taking the time to chat with us about the ins and outs of the band.

Fuze: The Swamp Drivers is an interesting name. How did it come about?
Terry Johnson: The instruments named the band.   One of the first instruments I made was a 3 string plunger and when I started playing it it had the most unique sound I’d ever heard. I could picture a guy setting on the porch of an old shake back in a SWAMP playing.   Then when the band starts to play, we are a high energy DRIVING band. So there it is The SWAMP DRIVERS.  Here’s a bit more about the 3 string plunger. I finished putting the plunger together the same day of our first band practice. As I was waiting for the guys to get to practice I wrote the title track song for the CD called SWAMP.

Fuze: Who is the brainchild of the instruments and who makes them?
Johnson: A friend and band mate Ted Toscano made me a cigar box guitar so I thought I would make him something in return. Guy fashion I wanted to up it and make something different. I was in my garage looking around and seen this old broom in the corner and I got to thinking about how I could turn the broom into a guitar. I took an old muffler clamp, a piece of an arrow, a coke tin, 3 strings, some old guitar parts and put it together. I plugged it in to see if it would work and fell in love with the sound. At that point I’d never played slide on a guitar much less a broom. The sound is so cool but was very hard to play. Long story short I never gave the broom to Ted. I played it for about a month and I figured it was time to bring it out to a gig. I was playing up north with my old 3 pc band Johnson and Company. The first thing I brought into the gig was that old broom guitar and set it up against the wall and went back out to get my other gear. When I came back in there was a half dozen people taking pictures of that old broom. Everybody was asking questions like, are you really going to play that thing. People stayed around just to watch me play it and again everybody in the place was taking pictures and videotaping me with that old broom guitar. On the long ride home that night I got to thinking, that broom was a star without being played and that’s when the light went on to have all the instruments in the band homemade. I told the guys in my band J & C my idea and they didn’t think it would work, I believed in the idea so much I decided to throw everything into it; the guys ended up leaving the band. So I started putting a new band with the homemade instrument idea and now everything we play is homemade except for the harmonica and sax. The startup band members were Gerald Platt on bass & vocals, Phill Deihl on drums & vocals, Ted Toscano on harp, slide guitar, vocals / songwriter and myself. Shortly Tom Guidera joined as a new singing bass player.  Ted jumped right in on making instruments. I think the first one was the 1 string garden hoe, an oar guitar and a shovel guitar. Ted posted a video of the shovel guitar (which he named SHOVELTAR ) on Facebook and in a short time the video went viral. Because of the SHOVELTAR video we got to play on WKTV and started getting attention from places outside CNY. We were inducted into the NYS Blues Hall of Fame and played the NYS Blues Fest in Syracuse & cut a CD.  Ted had some things come up and would have to leave the band so I went in search of someone that could play harp, slide guitar and the hardest part being into making homemade instrument. John Gillespie gave me a call and I told him we make and play homemade instruments and I asked if he would be into that, he laughed and said I own a 3 string bedpan guitar. We got together and played a few song and I could tell we were on the same page so with that John joined the Swamp Drivers.
So what kind of things have the band members made? Phil Diehl, made a drum set out of garbage cans and pails. Tom Guidera took an old cello that came from NYC with a broken neck, took parts from old basses and put that together, along with a bedpan bass.  John Gillespie, has made a cigar box guitar a 3 string bed pan and some cool stuff in the works. And, here are a few of what I made: 3 string broom ( I named the broom WITCH STICK ), 3 string plunger (CRAP – O – CASTER), frying pan guitar, etc . I also put out a video about the frying pan guitar online and again that went viral.
For those that have never seen us it’s something you have to see to believe. It’s like a one, two punch. first you see these crazy instruments which are cool and always put a smile on people faces, then the band fires up with a sound and look all our own.

Fuze: Do you have anything special planned for the Marshall Tucker show?
Johnson: The biggest thing is to show a little bit of everything we do. All 4 of us sing and we’ll be doing our own songs, showing off a few of our instruments. Another thing I do is play sax, well I play sax and guitar at the same time. With over a dozen different homemade instruments we will not have to play them all.

Fuze: Have you guys been s fans of Marshall Tucker’s music for a while or is this going to be a new adventure for you guys playing with them?
Johnson: I grew up listening and playing Marshall Tuckers songs, so yes I’m a big fan and know the guys are very excited about opening for them also, I’ve seen MTB a bunch of times. The other part that is big for us is playing the Stanley Theater. That is one of the coolest venues around. Here’s a true story, 3 nights before I even heard about Marshall Tucker coming to Utica me and the guys were talking and I ask if any of us had ever played the Stanley and only one of us said that when they were a kid they sang in chorus there but nobody else had been on the stage. I said I’d love to play the Stanley one day.  I few days later I’m throwing the band’s name in the hat along with other local bands to open for Marshall Tucker and we got pick.

Fuze: Are the Swamp Driver’s slated for any big shows coming up this Spring or Summer that have not been announced yet?
Johnson: Another thing we are waiting on is we submitted videos, then went to NYC and tried out for America’s Got Talent. We will not find out anything until May 1st. The worst part is they don’t contact you if you don’t make it. We’ve been ask to play some crazy places like an Island off California, but we weren’t ready for that. We need special instrument flight cases for our instruments.

Fuze: Do you guys have any plans of hitting a recording studio soon?
Johnson: In fact we are talking about going into the studio again.  I’d really like to make some music videos to tell the stories behind the songs.  We are also looking into doing a video demo of the band to show what we do.

Fuze: Can you tell us one hobby each band member has away from music?  Briefly describe it or your thoughts about it.
Johnson: One guy makes wine and yes one is called SWAMP WATER. Another makes syrup and has chickens for eggs.  Myself, I love to get away, camping or going to the beach with my family. I think for all of us, family is the, most important part of our lives.

Straight up, I’ve been talking to a guy that wants to manage the band but that means leaving and going on tour. Like I said our families are the most important part for us. You never know what will happen for the Swamp Drivers.

 

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”center” width=”” float=”none”]What’s the 4-1-1
Music: The Marshal Tucker Band and The Swamp Drivers
Time: 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17
Place: Stanley Center for the Arts, 259 Genesee St., Utica[/symple_box]

 

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”center” width=”” float=”none”]Band 4-1-1
Terry Johnson – Poland, NY. Singer/songwriter. Plays 1 string garden hoe, 3 string plunger, 3 string broom, 3 string shovel, 6 string pitch fork, 6 string boat oar, Mustang hubcap guitar, Frying pan guitar and sax
Phil Dielh – Oriskany Falls, NY. Singing, Drummer he made and play a drum kit made for a garbage cans and wash pails, a mop and broom.
Tom Guidera – Originally from Utica but now lives in Sylvan Beach. He is a singing, bass player. He plays a cello bass, bed pan bass, and a swamp wood bass.
John Gillespie – Harpersfield, NY. Singer/songwriter. He plays harmonica and a cigar box guitar, 3 string bed pan, a 6 string Jack Daniels tin. [/symple_box]

 

The Fuze Magazine

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