NAME: Dom Flemons: The American Songster
INSTRUMENT: Guitar, 4-string banjo, 6-string banjo, harmonica, quills, bones, fife, marching bass drum
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … The first vinyl album I ever bought was a reissue of Sublime’s album 40oz to Freedom. I then proceeded to piece together a turntable sound system in an era where the only turntables around were for DJs or the older people who still had record players in their home. I had a Technics turntable running through a guitar amp and a bass amp. It was sort of stereo sound. Ha ha!
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … The first concert I ever went to on my own was Bob Dylan and Paul Simon at Desert Sky Pavillion in Phoenix, AZ. 1999. It was a great show!
But the concert that had the biggest influence on me as a musician was seeing Dave Van Ronk at the Fiddler’s Dream Coffeehouse in 2001. After that concert, I changed the format of my own show to fit DVR’s template. Do a song and then tell a cool story about the song. It can be anecdotal, historical or just a great personal story about the song or playing the song over a period of time. I like it because it gives the audience a little more information about their favorite performer in a very casual way.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … The first instrument was a practice pad drum. This is a little cardboard circle that a drummer uses to practice rudiments for snare. It was small and quiet, but I played this thing like crazy.
One of the first things that drew me to four-string long neck banjo or plectrum banjo was that it was like playing a snare drum that you could make chords on.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It was at a cabaret night that they had at my high school. I chose to play “Blowin’ in the Wind” because it was the only song I had learned to play at that time. I had also seen a clip of Bob Dylan playing “Tangled Up In Blue” on TV, and I was amazed by his goucho hat that had an elaborate flower decoration. I tried my best to recreate the effect with some flowers from my mother’s flower pot and an old cowboy hat I found somewhere. I was 16 years old.
I am by nature a clumsy person, but I have learned to work this in my favor. When I got on stage that night. I was nervous. I went to sing my first word and Whoom! Feedback!! Major feedback! I looked at the audience and said, “Oh wow. That’s a big noise…” and tripped over my own feet and honked a harmonica. The people laughed and gave me a little applause. That’s when I knew I could work at this…
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … I have been a solo performer most all of my career. It wasn’t until the Carolina Chocolate Drops that I really committed fully to forming and playing a group.
Before that though, I played in an old-timey group called the Wild Whiskey Boys. If I were to classify the group it would be pre-Old Crow or Hackinsaw Boys. We played lots of Sun Records stuff and even a great version of “John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto'” from the “Down From the Mountain” soundtrack. I played harmonica and sang a few songs, but I was really an auxiliary member when I had time from my college classes.
Dom Flemons – formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops – plays a solo concert at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on Friday in support of his brand new album, “Prospect Hill.” Tickets are $22 in advance; $24 at the door.