People rarely take live restaurant music seriously, but Alfred "Bayou Butch" Lucas, Jr. isn't your average dinner accompaniment.
The 57-year-old guitar player and keyboardist plays the blues five nights a week at Villa Antonio Ristorante's two locations (South Blvd. and Ballantyne), but his pedigree is a rich musical meal unto itself. Born in New Orleans, Lucas was playing in a local Baton Rouge band when he got a call to fill in one night for Al Green's touring bassist, who was ill. Green was impressed, and a month later Lucas began touring with The Reverend's road band during his early '70s heyday.
"That's how I ran into all the other people," says Lucas. "You know how musicians go, leave one and go to another, and that's how I got to meet Aretha and all the other people."
Thus began an eight-year odyssey through the "chitlin' circuit" and beyond in the bands of Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis and Little Royal & the Swingmasters, among others. As much fun as it was seeing the country and playing with these top acts, it wasn't all goodness and light.
"When you're playing with people like that, no matter what caliber musician you are, you can't play what you want; you gotta play what they want you to play," says Lucas. "Sometimes you want to cut it loose, but if you do, you better do it on the bus or in hotel room, because you ain't cutting it loose on stage -- especially with Aretha."
Lucas eventually grew weary of the road life, moving first to Myrtle Beach and then to Charlotte about five years ago, where he played keys briefly in Robin Rogers' band. Now, having just celebrated a birthday, he's releasing Come On Over, a collection of original R&B and blues mixed in with covers of Van Morrison and Bill Withers, among others. He says when people find out about his background, they invariably ask what he's doing playing in a Charlotte restaurant.
"Because I want to," he laughs. "I'm so glad I can just sit down in one place and not travel around the whole world, just walk in, play, get up and come home."
So Long, Labia: The garage/psych rock two-piece Labia Minor has pulled the plug after four years in the trenches. But befitting the two-man ruckus made by drummer Melvin Jewett and guitarist Chris Brannon, they're not going out quietly. Hosting a free farewell bash at the Milestone on Friday, Dec. 14 (with Pride Parade and Red Cloud at Sundown), the duo's gig is also a canned food drive for Loaves & Fishes of Charlotte and a winter clothing drive for the Salvation Army. The Labia Minor catalog, which includes their 2006 self-titled full-length, the tribute disc The Monkees Present: Labia Minor, and a final 7-song EP recorded over the last year -- will be available at bargain rates.
"I've got a baby on the way, and I knew that would definitely take time from the band, so I figured it'd be a good time to take a break," says Jewett. "Chris agreed, and said that musically he didn't feel he could really come up with any more Labia Minor-type songs. We agreed that we'd probably get back together somewhere down the road, but it would be a different format, probably with more band members. There's just nothing else we can do, two-piece wise. We both have ideas, but not for this format."
Studio News: Benji Hughes (ex-Muscadine) recently wrapped a dozen cuts at Old House Studios in Gastonia. The project features some of Hughes' Goldenrods band-mates, including Justin Faircloth on keys and Matt Faircloth on guitar, Randolph Lewis (guitar, vocals), Jon Phillips (keyboards, vocals), and David Kim on drums. Look for a spring/summer release ... At Catalyst studio, Erika Blatnik and ex-members of instrumental indie rockers Via have teamed up in their new project – The Lights, Fluorescent – for an EP ... That's also where post-punk indie-wavers Holster recently finished their new disc, Holster Vs. the 21st Century ... La Chocha Loca hammered out a three-song EP in as many days at Old House, which is also where roots rocker Scoot Pittman wrapped up a pair of EPs: one set of covers and another of original material ... Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers are also gettin' busy in the studio ...
Odds 'n' Ends: The Double Door Inn celebrates its 34th birthday with a three-day blowout: it kicks off on Friday, Dec. 21, with blues mistress Robin Rogers and band; Saturday features long-running power pop act the Spongetones and Sunday winds it up with the annual Federal Bureau of Rock 'n' Roll reunion ... Contagious Blues Band's Ride has been nominated for "Best Self-Produced CD" at The International Blues Festival in Memphis, to be held in February.