DAY 26: Meantree

aOn Thursday, November 26th, 1987, 6 or so of us piled into a minivan and drove from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Baton Rouge, LA to see U2 on the Joshua Tree tour.  It was a night that would change the direction of my life for the next 15 years.  It was Thanksgiving and u2 was playing at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

I was introduced to U2 some years prior on the way to or from a swim meet.  I was likely 13 years old or so.  I was always a lover of music, but U2 was the band I latched on to.  By the time I was 16, my friend Jay Love, who played guitar, had introduced me to a ton of cool music (REM, David and David, and a Big Country live video he made me watch no less than 1000 x’s), but U2 was #1.  He encouraged me to sing and we began writing some songs.

What changed for me on that November evening was that upon my return from seeing that show, I bought a guitar.  The show was as damn near a religious experience as I had ever had, and I began saving my nickels for a guitar.  Sometime in late 1987 early 1988 I bought a Fender Squire Telecaster and began relentlessly tormenting my parents.

Music literally became my obsession.  So much so that when other kids were taking college visits, I was contemplating on what city to move to to become a rock star.  Superb career planning from the mind of a 17 year old.  I finally succumbed to my parents and agreed to attend LSU.  My reasons for choosing this school were simple.  I had a roommate with whom I graduated and a friend who was already there.  I would go to BTR to become a rock star and not Memphis.

Upon my arrival to Baton Rouge, I began looking for people to play with.  I soon met the guys in Better Than Ezra through a friend and began going to shows a lot.  Dash Rip Rock, Ezra, Machineries of Joy, in addition to all the other regional and national acts that were coming to the Art Bar, Murphy’s and the Varsity.  I told myself, I would play these stages, I’d share it with these bands.

I have always been a guy to push things that I wanted to see happen.  I did this even when I was young.  I met and became very good friends with a guy named Blye Hunsinger.  He was from a super small town on the Louisiana Arkansas border, had a slow drawl and had played drums in the high school band.  He also had a convertible Mustang, which was convenient.  He and I began hanging out a lot, and I kept pushing him to bring his drums back to LSU so we could start a band.  After much prodding, over the Christmas break in 1990, Blye brought them back and we set up in the 3rd floor of the Lambda Chi house where I was living.  We commenced to making a shit ton of noise and pissed off the whole house, but the beginnings of a band were formed.

The fall of 1990 I had a class with Tom Drummond, the bass player of Better than Ezra.  I only knew him a little, but had met  Joel Rundell, their guitar player, many times and become acquaintances with him.  Joel ended his own life in August of 1990, and Tom had re-entered school as Ezra was trying to figure out what was next.  Tom and I ended up having a psych class and a photography class together and began hanging out quite a bit.  In the spring of 1991 as they were playing some shoes again, I began trying to rope Tom into playing with Blye, Jay and I.  We had started a cover band called the Hastings, and were playing some shows here and there.  He reluctantly agreed, but with the full intent of playing with BTE being his long term goal for music.  If you are scoring at home, he is still playing with them 25 years later.

During this period, Tom was also playing an acoustic show from time to time with a singer songwriter named Chris Garrison.  He was a Sigma Chi at LSU, but like me seemed to fit in with a bunch of different guys from different fraternities as well as musicians and other guys who were musicians and the like.  I reached out to him and the Chris and I got together to see about playing some shows together.

On our very first meeting, Chris and I worked through Leprechaun (the riff written by Tom) as well as what would become Can Anyone.  I pushed Chris to get together with Blye and 2/3 of what would become Meantree was born.

We took our name from a story my friend David Crane told me about his law school days.  They would go out to a field in Tallulah, LA and drink and carry on.  In the middle of the field was a gnarled old oak (?) tree that they referred to as the MEANTREE due to the mean hangovers they all nursed after visiting it.

Despite our best efforts to recruit Tom as our bass player, we were unsuccessful.  Ezra began playing again as a 3 piece and w/ me as their roadie.  I tried to finagle (unsuccessfully) my way in as their 2nd guitar player, but it never came to pass.

Instead, I kept pushing with Chris and Blye and we looked in earnest for a bass player.  Sometime in 1991 we got Brad Mooney from a band called Gravity Jones.

Our styles were very different.  Chris was a great songwriter/singer who had a knack for melody and simple straight forward songs.  I was thrust into “lead” guitar, but there wasn’t many solos.  Just textures.  I sang backup on some songs and many covers to fill out the space.  Brad’s style was very different than Chris and I’s, but worked really well with us.  We  began writing and looking for shows in earnest.

Our first real show was June 26th, 1992.  I remember this because it was my birthday and we were opening for North Carolina’s The Connell’s.  This was like a dream come true as we were huge fans of the band, and it was our first time to play Murphy’s, which was at the time, where a ton of bands were playing.  Drivin N Cryin, The Sidewinders and Ezra were staples and getting in here was our goal.  We had made the big time.  Well BTR big time. HA!

We took over 127 State St. and began practicing and writing in earnest. By the end of 92 (I believe) we began recording with Robert Vaughn at Bayou Breeze studios.  It was a garage studio in a Baton Rouge neighborhood.  It was small, but we felt we were on our way to super stardom.  We recorded the first 9 songs and released a cassette, Whit Pitcher in early 93.  This was the name of some mystical Auburn, AL soundman, that we were told, during a show,  “that if we had acted like we did in front of Whit Pitcher, we’d never play in Auburn again.”  Fearing lawsuits,  when we would go back in and record B-Rock and release the whole album again on c.d. that year, we dropped the name of the album and it would just be an eponymous album.

Over the next year and change we opened for quite a few bands, played from Ole Miss to Auburn and back and were gaining a lot of decent press.  We were also somewhat of an anomaly in that by 1994 all of us had graduated college. I was the last to graduate in May of 94.  My plan was that we would then hit the road in earnest.  This wasn’t meant to be.  In April of 1994, Chris sat us down and had said he was quitting the band and getting married.  I was shell shocked to say the least.  Just 3 weeks from graduating and it was over before it really began.

There are a ton of other stories and such, but this is a start.  You really just want to hear the songs again and close your eyes to be back at Murphy’s with a dollar call in your right hand, and singing along to For the One, so below, you will find all the songs.  Thanks for reading.

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