As I first reported here, Michigan-based honky tonk band Whitey Morgan & The 78’s have signed with Chicago-based independent label Bloodshot Records. Both times I saw them at South by Southwest, their live show did not disappoint. Whitey might be the closest thing to Waylon you can see these days. There’s a lot of bands that try to ape the Waylon sound with the thumping bass drum and the simple two note bass line, but Whitey and the 78’s have found a way to re-create that soul, that swagger that Waylon’s Outlaw band had, and Whitey ain’t afraid of taking his own leads.
The reason I think the Whitey/Bloodshot signing is significant, more significant that just for the band and Bloodshot, is because it means the system is still working. Over the last decade, the music industry has been going through tremendous, merciless contraction. The fact that Bloodshot is looking for new talent, and then is able to find it means there’s still hope and upward potential for REAL country music.
And that’s the other thing that excites me, because a lot of Bloodshot’s bands are country-esque, but most blend country with something else. Whitey Morgan and he 78’s are pure country, REAL country, though at one point on stage Whitey said, “We call ourselves a honky tonk band. We don’t want to call ourselves country and have people think we play that shit that’s on the radio.”
Whitey dropped a few other interesting nuggets from stage, including that their upcoming album will be recorded at the studios of Levon Helm. He also confirmed that “Where Do You Want It,” a song by Dale Watson about Billy Joe Shaver will be on their upcoming album after Dale listened to it and gave them the thumbs up (see video I shot below for the full scoop).
The Whitey signing came about after the band toured opening for other Bloodshot artists Wayne “The Train” Hancock and the The Deadstring Brothers. I talked to bass player Jeremy Mackinder for a while about the burgeoning Michigan country music scene, and he hinted that fellow Gander country artist Rachel Brooke might be included in future touring plans.
You should check Whitey Morgan and the 78’s out if you haven’t already. That way your Whitey T-shirts will be nice and worn in when they get big and you’re bragging that you knew them before they were hot.