News Column

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn., Wayne Bledsoe column

May 11, 2013

YellowBrix

May 11--Talking with Webb Wilder always begins with catching up on his music career and ends with a spirited music nerd discussion.

Memories of first seeing Mott the Hoople, the best and worst remasterings of classic albums and what album is an overlooked great (Webb's tip: Badfinger's "Wish You Were Here").

His given name is John Webb McMurry (Wikipedia spells it incorrectly) and despite being "one of the last full grown men," he remains as much a music fan as a music artist.

For those of us who are fans of his music, "Webb Wilder" is a touchstone for good times. Since the 1980s, Webb has barnstormed the country with a blistering brand of rock that, as he would say, "didn't forget the 'roll.'" His Knoxville shows have been frequent and raucous.

He even has a credo: "Work Hard. Rock Hard. Eat Hard. Sleep Hard. Grow Big. Wear Glasses if you Need 'Em."

Webb's most recent album is 2009's "More Like Me."

"I think it was more like me," he says. "I wrote five of the songs on it."

In 2011, he was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.

"It was the same night as Elmore James," says Webb. "I was thrilled."

And later that year, Webb and his band did a string of shows in the Fiji islands as a cultural exchange for the State Department. It turns out that the U.S. ambassador to Fiji is a longtime fan.

He says the people were wonderful.

"They were very unjaded and laid back," says Webb. "And they love ballads, which is, I guess, part of why they love country music there."

Realizing that, he and the band would sometimes jettison their setlist and cover classic country numbers.

Others, though, liked the more rocking Webb.

The most memorable performance on the islands was one for some middle school students.

"It was the closest thing to Beatlemania that we'll ever experience," he says of the students' reaction.

Webb has a string of shows coming up in the area, including a solo performance at the Scruffy City Ramble on Thursday, May 16, and a show the next night at the Bunkhouse in Bull's Gap.He says fans seem to like both the group and solo shows.

Webb plans to release a 45-rpm vinyl single soon and that will hopefully be followed up by a new album.

On his website, www.webbwilder.com, fans can find "Boot Dad," which sounds suspiciously like the long out-of-print and legendary album "Doo Dad," and a DVD featuring "Horror Hayride" and "The Saucer's Reign," which feature Webb as the star.

As a fan, he says he'll never have time to catch up on all the new acts, because he's still discovering so much great vintage music.

"We have a lot of catching up to do before we ever get to Mumford and Sons!"

___

(c)2013 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com

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