Q&A with Atlanta-based veteran guitarist Reddog, soulful Southern-style rock and blues that cuts right to the bone

"I miss the legacy, the staying power. Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin they are timeless! Their talents were so great. I'd like to look on the bright side for the future. Anyone can now be heard with their music being digitally distributed all over the world."

Reddog: Booze, Blues & Southern Grooves

Southern Blues guitarist/singer Reddog announces the release of his new CD, Booze, Blues and Southern Grooves, coming February 4, 2022, on the Survival South Records label. A long-time fixture of the Atlanta blues scene in the 1980s and 1990s, Reddog (aka Jeff Higgins) has been based for many years in Pensacola, where he’s been touring regularly throughout the region with his rock-solid band. The late, great Southern Rock producer Johnny Sandlin invited Reddog to record at his Duck Tape Studio in Decatur, Alabama, where three of the tracks were recorded, with Sandlin, himself, engineering. These recordings became the basis of Booze, Blues and Southern Grooves. “Johnny asked me if I’d like him to bring in any special musicians for my CD,” Reddog recalls about his early conversations with Sandlin. “My only request was Clayton Ivey on keyboards and Johnny looked at me like, ‘How the hell do you even know who Clayton Ivey is?’ I knew! The three songs we recorded at Sandlin’s studio were ‘Simple Song,’ ‘Searching for Some Soul’ and ‘Honest Man’.”             (Reddog / Photo by Ruth Spicer)

The players for those sessions were Reddog on guitar, Clayton Ivey on keyboards, legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood and acclaimed former Capricorn Records drummer Bill Stewart (Gregg Allman, Cowboy and Bonnie Bramlett). All the other tracks on the new disc were recorded at East Avalon Recorders in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The players were Reddog on guitar, Clayton Ivey on keyboards, David Hood on bass, Justin Holder on drums and Carla Russell, Mary Mason and Angela Hacker on background vocals. Atlanta, Georgia, was home for the band Reddog and Friends for many years. Reddog is a fiery, blues-based guitarist, heavily influenced by Freddie King, Duane Allman and Otis Rush. Other band members included the late Donnie McCormick on drums/vocals, from the Capricorn Record band Eric Quincy Tate, and Chris Long on bass/vocals, who later went on to work with the talented guitarist/songwriter Oliver Wood.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Reddog & Mark Pucci Media

Hello Reddog, let’s talk about your music and your career….

Thank you, Michael. I’d like to let you and your readers know a little about me and my music. I am an old school player that loves the South. Georgia and Alabama are such special places, rich in musical history. Freddie King, Duane Allman, Otis Rush inspire me. Robert Johnson and Elmore James gets played regularly in my home. Great gospel singers like Rev. James Cleveland move me! To me, the Blues is about telling stories with emotion, passion, intensity.

Here is a story for you! Johnny Shines talked about playing a gig with Robert  Johnson:

“One time in St. Louis we were playing one of the songs that Robert would like to play with someone once in a great while. ‘Come On In My Kitchen’. He was playing very slow and passionate, and when we had quit, I noticed no one was saying anything. Then I realized they were crying – both women and men.” That is what the Blues is all about! It can make you laugh, bring a tear to your eye or lift your spirits and touch your soul.

How has the Blues and Southern Rock influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It has made the world seem a little smaller. Friends met through music from Europe would often stay at my home in Georgia and use my house as home base as they explored the US and followed their favorite musical artists. When we visited Europe or Scandinavia our host and road managers could not have been nicer! They ensured our safety and offered translation and communication between the band and the audiences we met. Music, the Blues has enabled us to visit countries and meet fans that we would never have visited or met without being musicians.

"I am an old school player that loves the South. Georgia and Alabama are such special places, rich in musical history. Freddie King, Duane Allman, Otis Rush inspire me. Robert Johnson and Elmore James gets played regularly in my home. Great gospel singers like Rev. James Cleveland move me! To me, the Blues is about telling stories with emotion, passion, intensity." (Photo: Reddog, Beale St. Memphis, TN)

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I describe my music as “Soulful, Southern Blues Music”. My music philosophy is to honor the greats; Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Freddie King but to be an original artist at the same time. It is really important to me to let listeners know this is a Ray Charles or Little Milton song. It’s important to play it with some soul and to add some of my own personality into the performance. My creative drive comes late at night. It is a desire to improve your art, your talents. It makes you want to sing with ZZ Hill or play guitar with BB King. Without being creative, my soul would whither away!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Meeting my two band mates I worked with for 7 years in Atlanta was the most important and educational musical experience I have had. On drums/vocals I worked with the late Donnie McCormick from the Capricorn Record label act Eric Quincy Tate. He was an incredible performer and amazing singer! Donnie could sing a song like “Born Under a Bad Sign” and you'd swear he wrote the tune and lived every word in the song. Chris Long on bass/vocals sang some powerful blues! He later went to work with the talented guitarist/songwriter Oliver Wood. We were a trio in Atlanta and if you didn’t bring your A-game to the stage every night your band mates would play circles around you.

Memories from gigs? We performed on an Atlanta Buckhead stage for the 1996 Summer Olympics the night after the Centennial Park bombing. It was shoulder to shoulder, a sea of people in the audience, it was hot and everyone was just hoping there would be no more bombs going off! It was a very intense but special night!

Another memorable gig was with Rick Danko from "The Band". We performed on the same night, same stage and he was so kind and made sure we all performed together.

"I'd like to go back to 1976 to the Crystal Sound Studio in Hollywood, California and listen to Stevie Wonder record "Songs from the Key of Life". It would be incredible to hear Stevie Wonder work his magic but also watch the process and great musicians as tracks were laid down. To hear that record on the studio monitors would have to give you chills!" (Photo: Reddog with the late drummer Donnie McCormick of Eric Quincy Tate and Chris Long at Blues Harbor, Underground, Atlanta c.1990s)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the legacy, the staying power. Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin they are timeless! Their talents were so great.

I'd like to look on the bright side for the future. Anyone can now be heard with their music being digitally distributed all over the world. No more need for a CD or record distributor or retail store. Musicians can now make music in their own home studio without needing to go to an expensive recording studio. An artist can release their music without a record label. So many of the obstacles and roadblocks that could hinder a developing artist have been removed. It is an amazing change that has taken place to give aspiring musicians so much more opportunity. It is a game changer!

What would you say characterizes Atlanta's music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

Atlanta had a strong economy! Lot's of young people trying to get ahead. There were many small clubs and neighborhood bars that had live bands. Then there was Underground Atlanta also. It is a large city so fortunately we were able to stay employed without leaving the city unless we wanted to add a gig. Atlanta always seemed open to new country artists, blues bands and alternative music. It wasn't easy but you could make a living in that city as a musician.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be kind! Root for the success of your fellow musicians. Being a musician is not an easy lifestyle, you have to really love what you are doing, be persistent and determined. Being on stage in front of a live audience is a great education. You learn what works and what doesn't.

"I describe my music as “Soulful, Southern Blues Music”. My music philosophy is to honor the greats; Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Freddie King but to be an original artist at the same time. It is really important to me to let listeners know this is a Ray Charles or Little Milton song. It’s important to play it with some soul and to add some of my own personality into the performance. My creative drive comes late at night. It is a desire to improve your art, your talents. It makes you want to sing with ZZ Hill or play guitar with BB King. Without being creative, my soul would whither away!" (Photo: Reddog, c.1988)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

Muscle Shoals, Alabama as a town is known for the incredible music recorded there. Music is what Muscle Shoals is all about. So the impact of the music is felt just driving through town. Think of a segregated South in the 1960's and how blacks and whites were color blind and working together to create such incredible music in Muscle Shoals! Look at Macon, Georgia being a conservative Southern town and having the Allman Brothers make it their home. Can you imagine how things changed as Capricorn Records grew and brought in more long-haired musical acts?

How do I want to affect people? Nothing makes me happier than knowing my music, especially live, has put a smile on someone's face. It brings me great pleasure to know someone having a bad day saw my band and left the club with their spirits lifted. That's the power of the blues and how I like to affect people.

Let's take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I'd like to go back to 1976 to the Crystal Sound Studio in Hollywood, California and listen to Stevie Wonder record "Songs from the Key of Life". It would be incredible to hear Stevie Wonder work his magic but also watch the process and great musicians as tracks were laid down. To hear that record on the studio monitors would have to give you chills!

Reddog & Friends - Home

(Reddog / Photo by Ruth Spicer)

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