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Song of the South: Amberson-Baggett Band keeps tradition of Southern rock alive

May 26, 2013


May 26--The Amberson-Baggett band was gearing up for a show at Heroes American Grille when lead guitarist Michael Baggett handed vocalist Ted Amberson a sheet of paper. Scrawled on it were handwritten lyrics Amberson had never seen. The title was "Shoes for My Pillow."

"It's kinda high," Baggett warned Amberson.

They played it that night anyway.

"Shoes for My Pillow" is one of 11 songs on Amberson-Baggett Band's debut album "That's Gonna Leave A Mark," which was released in 2012. The song was inspired by a night when, after being blindsided by divorce, Baggett slept in his car with only his shoes for a pillow.

"That was all I had," Baggett explained, adding that he lost everything earlier that day after his car had been broken into while parked on Jacksonville Square.

Years earlier, in 2009, Baggett met Amberson while the two were employed at the chemical agent incinerator at the Anniston Army Depot. Together with Baggett's sons, Luke, who plays bass guitar, and Chris, who plays drums, they formed The Amberson-Baggett Band in 2011.

Just two years later, the band received international attention, spotlighted in the April 2013 issue of the French magazine Bands of Dixie.

"That was pretty cool," Baggett said. "These guys know Southern rock. They live and breathe it."

Devon Allman of The Allman Brothers Band was featured on the cover.

"[The magazine has] interviewed the ones who have shaped music over the years ... It's an honor to be included," Amberson said. "And the review itself was flattering. The sharpest critique was the production quality. It was absolutely accurate." He added the album was produced in Baggett's home studio.

Amberson and Baggett joke that the album is "the greatest hits of a band that never happened," with a sound similar to that of The Atlanta Rhythm Section and The Allman Brothers Band.

"The songs feel authentic because that's what I cut my teeth on," Baggett said. "Even though I've been off the radar all this long, I still feel like I'm rooted in the time period."

Amberson agrees Baggett brings an old-school feel to the group.

"To me they've always sounded like they should've been released in the '70s," Amberson said of the songs on the band's debut album. "People say the songs sound familiar. I think it's because they are authentic songs. It seems like that lost album from somebody."

Although their album is only a year old, both Amberson and Baggett have deep musical roots. Baggett can trace his musical ancestry back at least five generations. Amberson's father was a high school band director, and his parents were involved in their church's music ministry.

"When I was approximately 4 or 5 years old, I sang my first solo at church. From that point on, I've been singing my whole life," Amberson said. He had the opportunity to go to JSU on a music scholarship but turned it down "because I didn't want to learn about dead musicians."

Baggett was also interested in music at a young age.

"When I was a kid, I decided this was what I was gonna do, and that was it," he said.

Currently, the band is working on their second album, which they say has more of a blues feel. Some of the songs can be found on YouTube. All four members have contributed to the songwriting, usually independently of one another.

"The ideas keep coming," Baggett said.

For Baggett, songwriting has been an ongoing process.

"These songs have been playing in my head for 40 years," he said. "There are songs that nobody's heard but me."

"Shoes for My Pillow" was one of them.

The spotlight in Bands of Dixie gave Anderson and Baggett a taste of Europeans' love of Southern-rock culture. While the band says they would like to tour Europe in the future, for now they are happy playing locally. Baggett said there is fierce competition for gigs in the area -- 30 or 40 bands competing for a spot at five or six venues. He hopes Sunday alcohol sales will help increase the demand for local music.

"Alabama has a great music heritage, but not much of a musical future," Baggett said.

Amberson agreed, saying "we've got to cultivate it."

The Amberson-Baggett Band will play at the Crimson Tiger in Anniston on May 31 at 8 p.m., and June 8 at the Little Mountain Resort in Guntersville. And audiences can expect energy, they say.

"I think people can tell how much fun we're having when we're playing," Amberson said. "Once I get good and sweaty, it's on. I'll be throwing out the bad dance moves."


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