by Jake Sorich for the Great Falls Tribune
In a way, Chuck Mead is the Quentin Tarantino of rockabilly.
Mead, like the film director best known for “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained,” has made a career taking classic ideas and putting his own unique spin on them.
Mead writes and performs original songs that pay tribute to the artists (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry) he proclaims as the “Mount Rushmore of rockabilly.”
Mead, a Lawrence, Kan., native, said he and his band, the Grassy Knoll Boys, strive to modernize that vintage sound.
“(Our songs) are not exact replicas of those old songs, and so, in a sense, we try to make it modern without like, justifying the integrity of the actual style of music.”
Root Boy Productions welcomes Mead and his band tonight at 8 at the Hideout Lounge.
In terms of songwriting, Mead said he prefers to write all of his songs himself to ensure the emotions behind them are genuine.
“When a song has three or four writers on it, now all of a sudden you’re in an orgy, you know what I mean?” he said. “It takes some emotion out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against orgies, I just don’t have them. I’m not an orgy guy.”
Before going solo, Mead was the lead singer of the country group BR549.
Founded in 1993, the band was nominated three times for the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Some of their hit songs included “Cherokee Boogie,” and “Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts.)”
Since BR549 split up in 2005, the members have performed together once already and are scheduled to play together again this year at the Havelock Country Jamboree in Canada.
Mead said he still enjoys playing with his former band at special events.
“We did a reunion show last year in Nashville at the Old Crow Medicine show, and it was a great show,” he said. “It was the first time the five original guys have even been in the same room together in 11 years, and it was pretty great. Afterward we all returned to our neutral corners. So now somebody offered us this gig up in Canada. We couldn’t pass up a country festival, so the original five guys are coming later this August, and then we’ll go back to our neutral corners again.”
Finally, Mead said while he enjoys performing with his old band, he likes where his career is at with the Grassy Knoll Boys. “We’re like a sleek, paired down, little Honky Tonk quartet,” he said.
Tickets to see Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys in Great Falls are $22. They are available at the door or online at rootboyproductions.com.