The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band Heads Between the Ditches
JPG: You mentioned Charley Patton, Fred McDowell and others…you started off listening to your dad’s blue rock records, say the Rolling Stones, but not everyone looks at the songwriting credits on those albums and goes back to those and other musicians. What was it that caused you to do that and made you so awestruck and inspired by them?
RP: I heard the blues from the Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter. Then, go back to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. From there you can go back to Son House, Bukka White and from there you go back to Charley Patton. When I heard that stuff, the old country blues, it blew my mind. It was hard for me to fathom as a kid. I felt like the songs, too, they weren’t as beholden to a formula. A lot of times blues has a formula, 12 bars and turn around and shuffles…That’s it. That’s what blues songs are. With Charley Patton there is no formula. It’s whatever he felt like was cool at the time. I’ve heard people argue “Charley Patton wasn’t really playing blues.” Well, if you were to ask Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters what he was playing they would say he was playing blues. He made songs that were fun to listen to or said something or both. They were fresh, original and that’s what Charley was doing, man. He was trying to entertain people. He was trying to stand out. There hadn’t been any label. He was one of the first people to actually record music. So, there wasn’t labels to try and pigeonhole people. There wasn’t radio stations trying to come up with a format. He was just doing what he thought was cool and trying to show people a good time.
I just love that. I think you can totally hear it in his songs. If you listen to Furry Lewis, it’s the same thing. He’d throw his guitar in the air and catch it in the same song. Catch it and coming out playing. There’s a few videos of Furry that are still left. There’s nothing, no videos, left of Charley. When you see those cats do it, and hear the music, it sounds just like, maybe, cry yourself to sleep stuff but the earliest blues stuff, it was happy.
JPG: Back to Charley Patton, is that why you made the Peyton On Patton album in order to shine a light on his work for people who don’t go as deep into the music as you did?
RP: Yeah. I wanted people to hear Charley because his recordings were pretty rough, and I think, sometimes, people can’t get past those recordings. They can’t get past that to hear what is going on in his actual guitar pickin’. So, I wanted to do that. That’s why I did it the way I did it, where I could have taken that and made it a Big Damn Band record but I tried to take myself out of that a little bit and stay real true to his arrangements. Do it exactly the way he did it so people could hear it that way.
Also, too, it was kind of a challenge to myself to see if I could get a whole bunch of myself out of it. It was a fun thing to do. I hope to do more fun things like that. I’ve got a couple ideas. We did this gospel record a few years ago that was a lot of fun, and I feel that the Charley Patton record was along those lines, kind of in-between the records to do some fun for the fans and for ourselves.
JPG: Since 2006, you’ve pretty much put out an album a year…
RP: Yeah, I guess we have. Someone pointed it out to me recently. I hope we are able to keep up bringing new stuff out for people. I’ve got a lot of music inside of me and I feel like my best stuff is ahead of me.
JPG: The album title, Between the Ditches. I know the song is about touring but is the title a reference to some of the best touring advice as far as driving from gig to gig to gig?
RP: Yeah, it’s a little bit of that. I put that in a song ‘cause that’s something I say a lot. I always say, “Cops and thieves are everywhere” (which is a line in the album’s title track). When you’re on the road, man, it’s hard. You rely on the kindness of strangers and you’ve got to watch out because the way society is set up, the way law enforcement works, it only works when people notice something that’s out of the ordinary, they’ll call. But when you live life on the road everybody and everywhere is out of the ordinary. What’s out of the ordinary at a truck stop or a rest area, everything is. So, you’re kinda on your own out there.
JPG: I know you go by Reverend Peyton or Josh, but is it true that you’re really an ordained minister?
RP: Legally, and I’m also a Kentucky Colonel. I was so proud when that happened. It was really neat. The highest honor the Governor of Kentucky can bestow upon a civilian.
JPG: Now, how did you get that because you’re from Indiana?
RP: Southern Indiana.
JPG: Yeah, but that’s still not Kentucky.
RP: Well, it’s a service award, and it’s a pretty cool thing.
JPG: Okay. It just seemed like the kind of award that only would be given to someone who lived in the state.
RP: No. In Indiana it’s called the Sagamore of the Wabash. It’s a similar deal. A lot of states have ‘em. Nebraska, I think they call their people Admirals. It’s sort of making fun of Kentucky Colonels ‘cause Nebraska is completely landlocked. Kind of funny.
JPG: As far as being an ordained minister, I don’t know if I’m opening a can of worms but have you been asked by fans to marry them?
RP: (laughs) Every now and then. It’s one of those things where…way back in the day I used to actually do it but it’s not something I mess with anymore. I’m too busy making music.