We all have our stories about how we met some famous person. My friend Buffalo has a story about eating Thanksgiving dinner with Jimmy Dale Gilmore, my other close friend Brent just recently had Toby Keith sit in with him on an acoustic set, and then there was the time my wife Dana and I had a chat with Sturgill Simpson’s trumpet player, Scott Frock, in a Bricktown alley after he played a sold out show in front of 4,000 screaming fans. In Oklahoma you can throw a cow chip and hit some one who has similar stories about John Fullbright, Parker Milsap, Wayne Coyne, and Leon Russell. This is a little story about how I got to have a couple drinks with Jason Isbell at the Wormy Dog.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm writing this in hopes that you will attend my show at the Wormy Dog on Thursday, March 16th...more on that later)
I have seen many shows at the Wormy Dog including Bruce Robinson, The Damn Quails, and Jason Isbell. When I thought about the Isbell show, a memory came into my head that, for some reason, I had forgotten all about until yesterday.
In 2008, my friend Byron and I were big Drive By Truckers fans. Jason Isbell, songwriter, singer, and guitar player for the Truckers, announced that he would be leaving the band and launching a solo career with a band called the 400 Unit. One of the stops on their debut tour was the Wormy Dog in Oklahoma City. Bryon and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see Isbell with his new band.
The Truckers had been around since the mid-nineties and had gained a lot of popularity. Isbell’s songs were certainly staples in the Trucker’s catalog, but when he left the band he didn't take all of the fans with him. Many milder Trucker fans may not have even known who he was. In those first couple years as a solo artist, he was popular as a former Trucker, but no where near as popular as he has become since.
November 8th, 2008, Bryon and I showed up at the Wormy Dog early. There was only a handful of people that sat around while Bryon and I talked about the band gear already set up on stage. (We still like to geek out about that kind of thing) As we hung out a couple more people filed in the front door. One of them happened to be Jason Isbell himself.
He came in by himself, no one seemed to pay any attention to him. Bryon looked over and said to him casually “what's up, man?” Isbell nodded his head to us and walked over as if he had intended on meeting us there.
Let me just say this about Isbell. The guy doesn't age. He looks the same today as he did in 2008 when I met him; and as he did when he started with the Truckers at 22 years old. He stood there with us at the back of the Wormy Dog and talked for a minute. We talked about his gear, some of the places he had been to lately, and what he thought about Oklahoma City.
After a great conversation, Isbell disappeared while Bryon and I went upstairs and sat at a table overlooking the dance floor. There was still some time left before show time and the Wormy Dog had yet to fill out. While Bryon and I had a drink another guy walked up. He had long hair and glasses and while he seemed a little awkward to talk to, he was nevertheless cooler than a pocket on a tshirt. It was Jimbo Hart, bass player for the 400 Unit.
So, here we were again, talking with another really cool performer who we had great respect for. I found out that, in addition to playing with the 400 Unit, Hart had also played with the Drive-By-Truckers. While we sat upstairs and talked a few minutes with Hart, there was Isbell, once again, drink in hand and ready to hang out some more.
While I started writing this, I have tried to confirm some of the hazier details with Bryon. While I'm not too sure, I bet we must have sat and talked with those guys for at least an hour. The only thing Bryon could confirm for sure was that Jimbo Hart was the bass player, not the drummer (as I thought before) and that night we had also been given free cigarettes from a young promoter from Camel.
Since that evening in 2008, I quit smoking cigarettes and Isbell quit drinking. Even though I'm sure Isbell won't be there, my band Oklahoma Uprising will get to follow in his footsteps on the same stage that he burnt up all those years ago, when I was just a face in the crowd.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit put on a killer show that night. I remember standing on the dance floor, hypnotized by his lyrics. Since I got to hang out with him that night, Isbell has gone on to be a tremendous success on the Americana scene. He has played a key role in a revolution that has redefined ‘Country’ music. He has gone on to win many Americana Music Awards, 2 Grammys and a number 1 spot on Billboard charts. He has played sold out shows at the infamous Ryman Auditorium, Austin City Limits, and toured the world.
Needless to say, I'm still a HUGE Jason Isbell fan. He has been a major influence on my approach to songwriting. I'm proud to say that I will be playing the same stage that he did nine years ago. And if you are ever lucky enough to see him live, tell him Joel T. and Oklahoma Uprising sent you… and he will inevitably look at you in confusion and wonder what on earth you're talking about.
If you want to know more about my musical endeavors, or if you haven't heard us yet, come check us out on March 16th, 10pm at The Wormy Dog Saloon in Bricktown! We will be doing original music with a five-piece band, the great Scott Carson on lead guitar and the notorious Scott Hunt on virtually every other instrument. I can also give my personal guarantee that EITHER Jason Isbell or me will be there.
As always, we appreciate the support we get from all our family, friends, and fans. There has been an overwhelming response to our music and shows and we are humbled by all the positive feedback we've received. We have much more in store for you in 2017. Be on the lookout for our new album coming out this spring!
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Joel T. Mosman