The final day is upon us! Let the good sweet lovin’ of Wheedle’s Groove keep on keepin’ on!
There’s a lot of reasons why you might know who Johnny Horn is. His radio show on KEXP, “Preachin’ The Blues” is a Sunday morning excursion through all things rhythm and blues. He’s been, or currently is, a member of more bands than you shake a beefy stick at, including The Kooks, The Sharpshooters, Lushy, Raw Vibes, and of course, Wheedle’s Groove. On top of all that this man was literally one of the reasons we here at Light In The Attic brought this beautiful thing called Wheedle’s Groove to the people of the world.
Not only does Johnny play on the album but his father, a member of the world famous Muscle Shoal Horns, also cuts it up.
We sat down with Johnny to talk about his involvement with Light In The Attic, playin’ jams with his father and the wide world of Seattle funk/soul.
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC: Johnny, you seem to be involved in nearly all aspects of the creation of Wheedle’s Groove, what originally brought you in to the fold for this project? Where did the impetus stem from?
JOHNNY HORN: Matt Sullivan and I knew each other, and I admired LITA’s vision. Each release was important and hip. Sullivan and I had wanted to collaborate since we met>>
LITA: What was the experience like to go from helping to create a compilation, the first Wheedle’s Groove comp, to actually becoming a musical part of this new album?
JH: I actually pitched some cuts to Sullivan to be included on Wheedle’s 1, but they included a handful of other modern Seattle soul tracks that were eventually dropped from the newest re-release. Much like my role in the Sharpshooters years ago (resident live bassist), I wasn’t on the initial album but played in a rhythm section to back the artists for live gigs.
We promoted Deep Throat’s re-release with a live outfit called The Peepers (who have some porno-funk cuts sitting in LITA’s vaults), and some of the same guys were in the Wheedle’s Groove live band. The Kearney Barton album was the obvious next step to documenting the musicians, and cutting the tracks at his studio seemed obvious. When we walked in to record, most of the older guys already knew him from the seventies.
LITA: That said, how was it performing with artists and members of bands that you’ve been spinning on your radio show for years?
JH: Calvin Law has a great voice and a heavy sound on the Hammond, and it was really nice to link with him in person. He turned out to be a really fun and sharp cat.
John Lee Rodde (aka Bigfoot) has been my favorite local drummer for years. He went to Garfield High and knew most of the guys anyway, so he was a natural addition.
Robbie Hill also played some funky-ass drums, and has a great exuberant personality.
Ron Buford is smart and eccentric, and definitely the tightest dresser in the bunch. Hearing his stories and his Hammond playing was a treat. Practicing at his house a few times was hilarious, his mom is a super cool lady.
Ural Thomas is Ron’s old sparring partner, they recorded and gigged like mad for years, and Ural is still fresh and fit. Onstage he had the most moves.
The Hammond brothers of Broham are really something, seeing them together is truly a family thing. Their smooth style and nice vibes brought a lot to the show.
Bernadette is great onstage, and has a warm presence when you are around her. She loves to rap to the audience, and vamping behind her onstage as she told her story to the crowd was a ton of fun.
Pat Wright is a preacher, and a strong, beautiful woman. Being around her at gigs and in the studio has made me both a friend and fan, but I will admit I am a little scared of her! She is tough and great.
Chilling with Overton Berry was fun, we did the gigs plus a few live radio shows. Overton is a jazzy kind of guy, usually in a turtleneck, the connoisseur and intellectual with a heavy thought to lay on you.
LITA: Your father is a member of The Muscle Shoal Horns, I was curious to know what it’s like performing with a member of your family?
JH: Well, basically, my dad Jim taught me everything I know about music. He saw the spark in my brother James and I, and encouraged it by playing with us. He showed us how to write and produce, and he showed us how to operate a Teac 4 track like the one Lee Perry did most of his music on. He played us all the demos and rough mixes he brought home, and would point out examples of great mixes or performances. He brought home records all the time, and our stereos were always blaring.
After getting his start with Duane Eddy, my dad got heavily involved in the Hollywood studio scene in the sixties and seventies. He played on most of the Phil Spector sessions, the LA Motown records, countless TV and movie soundtracks, most of the Reprise-era Rat Pack stuff, and tons of other music. He lives in Nashville today, where Muscle Shoals, Jackson and Memphis are all within a few hours drive. Currently he’s on the road with country sun-bum Kenny Chesney.
LITA: Was there a step in this project that you can look back on and pinpoint as your favorite?
JH: The rehearsals were fun, sharing stories and food as we worked up the set, and we did a new years gig at Nuemos that was really lively. Gigging at the Showbox, Mural Amphitheater and Triple Door were fun but we did a gig at this tiny hall on California Avenue that was intimate and cool. Voicing Pat Wright and Full Experience was intense.
Going to Kearney’s was an experience to say the least, but I was already familiar with him from cutting acetates there a few years earlier. One time he talked on the phone in front of us for most of an hour because we were a little bit late.
Dylan Frombach was kind and patient with Kearney to get the tracks recorded correctly, and put in countless hours editing and mixing the thing. Some people know him as Dynomite D.
LITA: Finally, you’re a long time Seattle resident, what are some of your favorite spots in this fair city?
JH: The city is changing block by block into something I don’t recognize. Every where you look is a new hipster restaurant with a one-word name, the front door surrounded by people talking on their phones while smoking. Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered a delicacy and girls without a tramp stamp, belly ring and sleeve tattoo are considered corny.
I still have simple pleasures, like the Mexican food trucks on Rainier, going to Golden Gardens or just enjoying the view from the Viaduct on a sunny or dramatically rainy day.