Pete Evans Interview with Reverend Peyton as featured in Blues in Britain
Posted on: Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010
Often described as crazy, wacky and wild The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a band that is certainly making people notice their unique performances of country blues and roots influenced music. Hailing from the hills of south Indiana, the Reverend J Peyton plays slide and finger picking guitar and provides the vocals, backed up on washboard by his wife “Washboard” Breezy Peyton and on drums and upturned plastic buckets his cousin, Aaron “Cuz” Persinger. I caught up with the Reverend, a commisioned Kentucky Colonel, by email and he answered a few questions prior to the band’s forthcoming UK tour to promote the new cd The Wages. (Dates below)
P.E. First of all Reverend, are you really a man of the cloth singing the devil’s music!!?
R.P. I am legally ordained, have performed a lot of marriages and such, but I wouldn’t come to me for religious advice.
P.E. You all originate from Indiana – I don’t think there is a history of blues music from that region so how did you get into that scene and who influenced you?
R.P.Oh but there is a rich blues history in Indiana, and not just blues, but music in general. Scrapper Blackwell, Leroy Carr, and Yank Rachell all made Indiana home, and Charley Patton recorded most of his music in Richmond, IN. Most of the great Chicago blues artists actually lived in northern Indiana because it was cheaper than Chicago proper and there was more work. Down in Southern Indiana where we live, there is a rich Bluegrass heritage. We live one mile from the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Museum and Park, where Bill Monroe made Bluegrass a world phenomenon. Not to mention Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, etc. etc. Indiana is a rural place, but really a very artistic place. I grew up in the country, and fingerstyle country blues always made the most sense to me. Music was big at our house, and I think you are a product of your raising and what is in your heart. I grew up listening to so much, but blues and roots music just resonates with me. Blues isn’t famous here like it is in the Mississippi Delta or something, but in a way I think that is good. It has allowed us to do something that is completely original, completely ours, but rooted in the greats of country blues. I mean no one does fiddle licks on the slide guitar, not to mention fingerstyle while playing the bass at the same time. I want to forge new ground. I want to pay tribute, but I don’t want to regurgitate old songs. I want to be a part of the next chapter.
P.E. I was fortunate to catch you guys at The King Biscuit Festival in Helena Arkansas and also at Roger Stolle’s mini festival at Clarksdale a couple of years ago and you mentioned that Jimbo Mathus had been involved in the production of one of your cds. You also had, I seem to remember a gospel cd in a tin! Can you tell me about the cds you’ve released – I believe most of the tracks are self penned so what influences your song writing.
R.P. I am a song writer, and our CD’s are all original songs recorded live to analog tape. It is old school and from the heart. Mostly we record with Paul Mahern (Zero Boys, Mellencamp), but we did do a session with our pal Jimbo for our first record and it was a lot of fun too. People in Clarksdale, MS were some of the first to really give us a shot and get behind what we are doing. Fellas like Jimbo and Roger Stolle. I’ll never forget how good of friends they have been to us. Regarding the gospel album… Gospel music has been a big influence on my style. In fact I played in church the first time I ever played in front of anyone. I had written this song called, Blow that Horn. It was essentially a gospel song that like a lot of great old gospel songs had an underlying protest theme. It didn’t fit on a record, so we did that to pay tribute to those songs and as a vehicle for that song. Maybe we’ll do more them records, like train songs!
P.E. I remember from your live gigs that there were always plenty of stories to accompany the songs including appearing on The Jerry Springer Show and also having to dash off stage when a tornado suddenly appeared (was it in Oklahoma?) Can you expand on some of these tales.
R.P. I have a lot of stories, and like the two you mentioned they sort of become like songs. People will ask me to tell them again like you might hear a song over and over. Someday I want to do a CD of just stories from the road. We have played all the lower 48 states, Canada, and a dozen or so countries in Europe. We do 250 shows a year. We’ve had so many great times and great adventures. Some of those become stories.
P.E. You are very busy touring the length and breadth of the USA. How many gigs are you averaging now and I know this will be your 1st UK tour so can we expect anything in particular.
R.P Well I guess I just answered some of that! This isn’t our first time in the UK, but it will be the best time so far! Last time we were robbed in London! It was pretty devastating. I never felt so far from home in all my years on the road. Then our UK tour was cancelled in the spring because of the Volcano. We need to come back and do it right. We plan on bringing it!
P.E. Am I right in thinking your label SideOneDummy Records is more of an Indie label and if so do you find yourself appearing in front of different types of audiences or are they predominantly blues/roots fans.
R.P We play rock clubs, blues fests, punk clubs, country fests, folk fests, everything. We played the entire Vans Warped Tour this summer, and our CD debuted at #2 on the Billboard Blues Chart in the US. Being so different has allowed us to “sneak in the back door” in so many different kinds of venues and festivals. It is a blessing and a curse, because sometimes people say, “What is this music?” Sometimes radio stations or record stores don’t know where to put us. But… when people see it live, they always get it.
P.E.You are a commissioned member of the Honorary Order of Kentucky Colonels. You’ll have to explain to everyone in the UK what that title means.
R.P. Being bestowed the title Colonel in the state of Kentucky is the highest award the governor of Kentucky can give to a civilian. I am very proud. What an honor!
Reverend Payton’s Big Damn Band appear at Goin’ Up The Country Roots and Blues Club in Worthenbury, North Wales on 22 Oct 2010.