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Long-playing local legends return to Cajun’s

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published April 12, 2012 at 4:32 a.m.

earl-and-them

Earl and Them

— A couple of Arkansas’ musical legends will be on hand Saturday night at Cajun’s Wharf, a venue at which both have performed for more than four decades. The Greasy Greens, who have been occasional regulars in central Arkansas, will open a show for Earl and Them, a band led by Earl Cate, best known for his guitar skills as co-leader of The Cate Brothers Band.

Cate and his twin brother, Ernie, led the Cates since the mid-1970s, until a van accident injured Ernie and led to his decision to semi-retire. Earl, however, still has the itch to play, so he found several similarly inclined musicians with whom he now plays and records.

“We’ve been playing together for four or five years now,” says Earl Cate from his Northwest Arkansas home. “And we did a CD last year with Jimmy Thackery and some others.”

The core lineup of his band, besides himself on lead guitar, is Jason Davis on vocals and guitar, Terry Cagle on drums and Mike Murray on bass. Davis, Cate explains, formerly led a couple of veteran bands, Baby Jason and the Spankers and, after that, Jason & the Table Rockers. Cagle, a nephew to famed Arkansas drummer Levon Helm, was the Cate Brothers’ original drummer for a period of years, and Murray has played bass for fellow Arkansan Michael Burks and Iowa’s heralded guitarist and producer, Bo Ramsey, known for his work with Greg Brown.

“I didn’t want to just shut down after Ernie sort of retired,” Cate says. “So I’ve been playing with these guys, and we’ve been getting pretty good. Sometimes we have some other guys who play with us, especially the Cate Brothers’ saxophonist, David Renko, and guitarist Jimmy Thackery, who lives in Eureka Springs.”

Davis’ vocals have been likened to those of Ernie Cate, so the group mixes in some Cate Brothers’ songs, and Cagle’s vocals have long been compared to those of his Uncle Levon, so Earl and Them add some songs from Helm’s old group, The Band. As for the name, Earl and Them, it’s pretty logical, and bears comparison to how The Band got its name in the 1960s.

“We had just been getting together and people would ask around and say stuff like ‘Where are Earl and them playing this weekend?’ so we just decided to go with that,” Cate says.

The Earl and Them CD, Special Blend, features two songs by Davis, three by Thackery, two Band songs by Robbie Robertson and one each from The Neville Brothers and John Hiatt.

The Greasy Greens, formed by hippies in Eureka Springs before they relocated to Little Rock, have been around since 1974, with a lineup that has expanded and contracted through the years. Sheila Atwood Kuonen may be the group’s only remaining original member, although her husband, Joe Kuonen, has been around for perhaps as long. Ron Hughes took over leading the group after founder Patrick McKelvey lost the desire for performing live. Other veteran members include Evan Brown, Chris “Blind Boy White” Thomson, Nick Devlin, Judd Martindale and Rick Holiman.

“It’s a band of cool guys and gals,” says Brown, who adds, “It’s fun to grow old with them, and with our audience. We see a lot of our same old friends when we play, and sometimes their kids are with them, and they’re all out dancing.

“We’ll be a ‘soft’ warm-up for Earl and Them, who play some hard rock ’n’ roll.”

The Greens will have two more Little Rock gigs in April, playing from 5-9 p.m. Friday in the River Market Pavilion for the third annual Jumbo Gumbo cook-off, a benefit for The Allen School. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the gate. For more information, see jumbogumbocookoff.com.

On April 21, the Greens will play from 7-11 p.m. for the Give Earth a Dance event in Thomson Hall at Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock, 1818 Reservoir Road, in a benefit for the Arkansas Sustainability Network. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call (501) 225-1503 or see the site littlerock.locallygrown.net.

Earl and Them

Opening act: The Greasy Greens

9 p.m. Saturday, Cajun’s Wharf, 2400 Cantrell Road, Little Rock

Admission: $5

(501) 375-5351

Weekend, Pages 35 on 04/12/2012

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