The Willies are Nashville based roots artists conjuring the spirit of that time before bordello jazz & dirty fingernail blues were the background music for baristas and doggy bakeries. But as veterans of the American underground, the Willies aren’t interested in reenacting the rough and tumble legacy of 20’s swing & blues... they embody that energy. And these genres are only starting points... vintage bottles to contain several lifetimes of experience in the jazz, blues, rockabilly and punk underworld.
The Willies are a sound collage... a musical hybrid where multiple muses reanimate street jazz as the throbbing expression of a vibrant & disreputable counter culture. With the Willies punk meets ragtime. Or cat house jazz is driven by a drugged ska beat. Oi gang vocals layer the blues or a stride piano accompanies an elaborate revenge fantasy. Banjos chunk. A trumpet blares. The vocals pour out sultry, or comic, or crooning or just plain pissed off while the rhythm section thumps with the pounding repetition of a bloated corpse slapping against the hull of a Mississippi riverboat.
These influences reveal a mixed bag of legitimate bohemian back stories. Singer Jen Jones commandeered a road unworthy van and spent years shuffling musicians and authentic jazz from NYC to California. Dave Willie broke ground and broke bones in the embryonic hardcore punk scene. Carco Clave spent decades eating his Thanksgiving dinners out of paper bags while backing Asleep at the Wheel, Little Jimmy Dickens and Chuck Meade. Wunderkind Jeremiah Cline cut his teeth in the subterranean world of urban hillbilly music. And Ben Clark comes to the party as a trained jazzbo with a refined & brutal trumpet attack. New guys Muffy Merritt (guitar) and David Doughtie(washboard) add grinding rhythm and complete the circus that The Willies live show has become.
The Willies are counter cultural zealots. You can see it in their live shows. Their raucous stage banter. Their energetic reworking of traditional standards. But most of all this passion comes through in their original compositions. Their raison d’etre. This is the place where Willies get to catalog their influences... to construct new wholes from past memories... eagerly looking forward but always open to the influence of the ghosts and demons from a wildly entertaining past.
Dave Willie and Jen Jones are the songwriters and prime movers behind the Willies. Gratuitous bios follow...
Jen Jones (Louisiana classically trained pianist, and teenage runaway) dumped her studies at the Berklee School of Music for a move to San Francisco where she founded the Beastie girl rock-rap phenom Femme Fatales. A record release, underground acclaim and an empty bank followed. Anxious for travel & experience Jen moved to NYC, eking out a musical existence on songwriting royalties (Tara Kemp) and performing in subways & piano bars. In 1997 Jen formed the neo-swing band the Camaros... the band quickly gained an international following through their CD releases, constant touring and positive press. “Take it from me kiddies, this band kicks ass.” (NINEVOLT) "The Camaros flaunt a brand of sass that evokes Wanda Jackson." (ATOMIC MAGAZINE). Pursuing her wanderlust, Jen relocated to Nashville in 2001 and recreated the Camaros as a hard hitting rockabilly band. Her move was validated by a residency at Lower Broad’s legendary Bluegrass Inn... two more CD releases and a stack of positive press. "The Camaros not only do it right, they do it like Eddie Cochran and a Young Johnny Cash taking Patsy Cline on a drunken ramble through the honky tonks of Memphis." (PERFORMING SONGWRITER)
Dave Willie’s musical roller coaster ride began as a teenage misanthrope in the early 80’s American hardcore punk scene. The Southern ‘punk provocateur‘ (NASHVILLE SCENE, Aug 2006..) co-founded and sang for the seminal thrash band the Committee for Public Safety. For his efforts Dave received diminished hearing & an eventual photo & blurb in the book ‘American Hardcore : A Tribal History’. In 1985 Willie helped form Jet Black Factory... bouncing head first into the alt rock renaissance. Through the remainder of the 80’s the band toured, released CDs and remained in heavy rotation on college radio stations across the country. As the 1980’s died Dave cut his hair, slapped on a Goodwill suit and entered the burgeoning neo-swing scene with his aggro-lounge band Nine Parts Devil. The band’s live shows were legendary happenings where frantic jazz met alcohol-fueled rants in seedy blue collar drag bars. Though 2013 Willie sang for the street punk band The Reserves... and still performs occasionally with the mid-life crisis punk band the Eat My F*ks.
The new CD, Jazz Age Thump was recorded live, 11 songs in 4 hours. at Fry Pharmacy Recording, in Nashville. Fry is has been the go-to place for producers like Tommy Brenneck (Amy Winehouse), and members of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, thanks to it's rep. for great live, analog, recording to 2 inch tape, and vintage gear. On Jazz Age Thump The Willies debut an original take on DYI Steet Jazz!
Nashville Scene Review- "It’s almost become a cliche that former punk rockers end up becoming Americana artists. But for many Southern punkers — and particularly ones from the Nashville area “discovering” their country roots is anything but an affectation. And that’s certainly true for The Willies.On their debut album, Nashville first-generation punk scene vet Dave Willie (CPS, Jet Black Factory 9 Parts Devil) and his wife Jen Jones (The Camaros) deliver literate, engaging songs topping a musical stew of influences that include jazz vocals, country, rockabilly and more." - Randy Fox