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Published: 2014/04/20
by Glenn H Roth

Randall Bramblett’s Bright Spots

Randall Bramblett’s career spans five decades. The Georgia native, who sings and plays the piano and saxophone, has performed with the likes of Chuck Leavell, Steve Winwood, Widespread Panic and Warren Haynes. He is currently on the road with his own group, drawing on material from his 2013 release Bright Spots. spoke with Bramblett to talk about his current efforts and past projects as well.

You always seemed to be lumped into the Southern rock category, but for someone who’s never heard you play, how would you describe your sound?

It’s blues and folk based with lots of R&B influences. A mix of Dylan and Howlin’ Wolf. It’s basically roots with modern edge

How did you get your start in music? And who played a major role in helping you become a musician?

My parents saw that I loved music and were very supportive.

In what ways were they supportive? What do you remember about your first gig?

My parents always encouraged me to do what I loved, especially music. Even when I was staying out late at some juke joint in Southern Georgia, they never criticized me for wanting to play. My dad made extensions for the piano pedals when I started lessons at 4. They kind of got a kick out of my successes in music and the adventure I was on. My first gigs were at the junior high school lunch room I think and at the rec center in Jesup. I also played the Elk’s Club with older guys who snuck me drinks. Those were the early gigs. I played piano and alto sax.

What made you gravitate toward the saxophone and keyboards/piano?

I started on piano at 4 and took lessons till I graduated high school. We didn’t have guitar teachers or even sax teachers in Jesup. Piano was the common thing to start with. I picked up sax in junior high and took some lessons at University of Miami Band Camp. I just loved the way the sax sounded. I started playing guitar when I discovered Dylan. I did some Dylan songs at the high school auditorium for talent shows, etc. Also, you could always play sax in a soul band, so I was busy.

You’re currently out on the road touring, who’s in your band?

I use several different size bands. The full monty with horns and background vocals and a six-piece for moderately-sized shows (Davis Causey, Nick Johnson on guitars, Gerry Hansen and Seth Hendershot on drums and Michael Steele on bass) And for smaller shows, I use a four-piece with Seth, Nick and Michael

How did your friendship develop with Widespread Panic?

I played on some of their early records and their manager is a good friend of mine, and so is John Keane who produces and records a lot of their stuff. And, we also live in Athens and ran into each other a lot

Both you and Widespread are from the Athens, for those who never experienced it first hand, can you describe the Athens scene?

It’s vibrant and all over the place – so many different bands and styles. It’s a pretty creative place.

What was it like playing at Panic’s 2014 Panic en la Playa Tres in the Dominican Republic?

The night I sat in with Panic was magic and it was just a beautiful night on the beach. Jimmy (Herring) and I had something going on “Low Spark.” I love playing with the Playa Allstars too. They’re great people and great players. (George Porter Jr., John Gros, Col. Bruce Hampton, Jeff Sipe, Grant Green Jr).

*Back in 2002 you helped out on saxophone during a difficult era after the death of Mikey [Houser].”

Yes, it was a difficult time for all of us. We had to be ready if Mikey got sicker but didn’t want to be pushy about playing when he still could do it.

In 2013, you played at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam. When did you first meet Warren and how did that relationship develop?

I guess I met Warren through Chuck Leavell. I can’t remember. Gov’t Mule just asked me to sit in a few times and we kept doing it.

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