The Wheelgrinders

Posted by Miriam On September - 21 - 20171,656 views

Tell us about your band
We are a traditional three-piece rockabilly band; Greg on Guitar, Caroline on Upright Bass and Stuart on Drums, from Vancouver BC, playing a mix of original material and our own revved up versions of classic rockabilly songs. We got together in May 2016 after all three of us spent time with other rockabilly and roots bands from Vancouver. Greg and Stuart were playing in a rockabilly trio and we needed a new bass player so Stuart suggested Caroline who had played, recorded and toured for years with Big John Bates, as did Stuart. So The Wheelgrinders were formed and the rest is history.

How did your love for this music start?
Greg: The very first music I ever remember hearing was Fats Domino. When I was three years old I remember singing “Don’t Blame It On Me” down the phone to my Gran’Ma. My biggest influence though is Eddie Cochran, closely followed by Carl Perkins…it was listening to them as a kid that made me want to play rockabilly. Modern rockabilly artists I admire very much are Paul Pigat and Darrel Higham.

Do you write your own songs?
Yes we write our own songs. Greg wrote four of the songs on our debut album and he has a few more ready for our next album. Caroline also writes original songs for us and these will also be on the next album. We haven’t specifically written together as a band but we do all contribute to how the arrangements are put together for our live shows. The original songs are a mix of reality and fantasy. “Hangry Baby” and “Crank It Hard” were written after experiences we had on the road…but songs like “Space, Rabbits Go!” are pure rockabilly fantasy!

Tell us about your latest CD.
Our CD is called “Torque-Flite Baby” and we’re delighted that it’s getting a lot of airplay on rockabilly radio shows around the world. We recorded it at Bryan Adams’ The Warehouse studio here in Vancouver as well as at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. We wanted our debut album to be reflective of the sound we strive for in our live shows so we recorded pretty much everything live off the floor at both studios with very little overdubbing.

There are eight covers and four originals on the album and with our covers we wanted to play up-tempo classic, and in some cases somewhat obscure, rockabilly songs. Tracks like “Hep Cat”, “Uranium Rock” and “Hip Hip Baby” are well known by rockabilly enthusiasts but not so much by the general public. Other covers like our version of Rod Willis’ “The Cat” are more obscure and one song we absolutely had to cover on the album was Hank Mizell’s “Jungle Rock”. That was a song that Greg remembers very well from growing up in the UK in the 1970s when this rockabilly masterpiece came screaming out of the radio among a barrage of Disco and Abba songs in 1976. He still has the original UK 45 on Charly Records that he bought way back then.

The album title “Torque-Flite Baby” comes from one of our original songs which is written about our 1957 Dodge Coronet car which has Torque-Flite transmission. That song is a 100mph crowd pleaser at our live shows. Hard to dance to though…unless you have a ton of energy!

What are your do’s and don’ts on stage?
Greg: Being professional and having fun are both equally important. Rockabilly is a fun style of music so it’s hard not to be happy playing and listening to it. We never forget that our audiences have chosen to spend their evening with us and are spending their hard earned cash on door covers and drinks at the venue so we always try to perform the best we can. I always wear vintage clothes, suits and sport jackets on stage…even if it’s 100° in the club or under the sun at an outdoor show.

Do you like other styles than rock and roll?
Greg: I like many other styles of music but it’s 1950s Rockabilly, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Country that have really shaped my life and defined me.
Stuart: I’m a big fan of Punk…I grew up listening to it and have played in a few Punk bands. To me, Rockabilly is the Punk Rock of the 1950s.
Caroline: I’m into a whole bunch of eclectic music…everything from Middle Eastern and Eastern European folk music to Sacred Harp singing to Psychobilly.

Is there an artist you would like to work with in the future?
Greg: Lots of them! Of modern artists it would be great to work with Darrel Higham, Scotty Baker and Big Sandy. Paul Pigat is one of my good friends, and was also my guitar teacher, and it’s been fun working with him and I’m also very fortunate to be friends with the great Duane Eddy. He and I have played guitar together, but never on stage. It would be fantastic to work with any of my 1950s heroes who are still playing live shows….Duane, Wanda Jackson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Gracie….to play with Little Richard would be amazing.

Where would you like to play, festival/country/event
We’d love to play VLV and have been talking with Tom Ingram about possibilities. We’d also like to play Nashville Boogie. And we’d love to play the amazing festivals in the UK and Europe. We’re talking with Jerry Chatabox right now about playing the ATOMIC Vintage Festival next year, and it would be fabulous to play the Rockabilly Rave, and the High Rockabilly and Screamin’ Festivals in Spain.

Tell us a fun story about your band or gig.
We were playing in a bar in a little mountain town in BC and had an enthusiastic crowd enjoying the show. During our version of Link Wray’s “Rumble” Greg was a bit too enthusiastic with his Bigsby tremolo and after playing the last big chord of the song with Stuart and Caroline raising the roof Greg didn’t notice that the bridge on his vintage Gretsch had literally exploded into pieces and fallen all over the stage. When he went to play the opening riff for the next song he got nothing from his guitar. While Greg was switching to a back-up guitar a guy in the audience, who had never heard rockabilly before, jumped up on stage and yelled for Stuart and Caroline to give him a hip-hop beat which they launched into without missing a trick. The guy beat-boxed for the next few minutes and the crowd went nuts! We might have invented a new genre that night RockaHipHop…or Hopabilly!

Do you regret anything? Missed chance, big mistake, …
Greg: Only that I didn’t start playing guitar and putting rockabilly bands together a lot earlier in life and that I didn’t meet Stuart and Caroline earlier than I did. We could have been playing together and having this much fun for so much longer. That said, I’m having a ball now so it’s all good!

What are your future plans?
We’re heading over to the UK for a few shows in August 2018 and we’re hoping to book some shows in mainland Europe in the near future. We’re planning our second album so we’ll be back in the studio recording real soon. And we’d love to put out some of our original material on vinyl, either as a single or an EP….maybe we’ll release one of our albums on vinyl.

Finish this sentence: We will never ever….
….allow an audience member to persuade us to let him sit in on drums for a couple of numbers. We did that once. Never again!

Photos by Nicole Stinn.

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