“Chicken Fried Gospel Soul”
West Virginia's premier rhythm & blues group, the Ants – guitarist Michael Lipton, drummer Jupiter Little, bassist Ted Harrison and Keyboardist Mark Bates – have quietly amassed a resume that rivals any national groups. The group’s trademark country-soul sound – rich, soulful harmonies, stinging solos and a rock-solid rhythm section – captures that rare, loose-but-tight feel, and has won the band international as well as regional fans. The Ants have twice traveled to Moscow. The trips found the group performing at a variety of venues including the 3,500-seat Russia Concert Hall, the city’s most prestigious room, a Letterman-style TV show with a national audience of 100 million (!!), funky clubs and gaudy casinos. In the U.S., they’ve played all manner of venues – from church services and rallies for presidential candidates (Bill Clinton and John Kerry) to a biker festival and a nudist camp. This evening the ‘Ants’ will feature Larry Groce and Jackson Smith with special guest Chris Buhalis.
Larry co-founded Mountain Stage and from 1983 until 2021, served as the host and artistic director of Mountain Stage, a two-hour live music radio program produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed by NPR. He first entered the national spotlight in 1976 when his novelty song "Junk Food Junkie" became a Top Ten hit. After that, Groce's voice became well known by children and parents alike as a result of his Platinum recordings of children's folk songs for Walt Disney Records Children's Favorites four-volume series: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3 and Volume 4 (released from the late 70s-1990). Of the nine Disney albums he has recorded, five went platinum. In all, 36 of his songs have been included on Disney recordings. In 1976, he was Grammy-nominated for Disney's Children's Favorites Volume I.
Jackson is a Michigan based guitarist that has performed and recorded with The Patti Smith Group, Karen Elson, Steve Earle, Elton John, Wanda Jackson, The Orbitsuns, Lisa Marie Presley, Amy Gore & her Valentines, Zachariah Malachi, Patty Gurdy to name a few.
Born in Detroit, singer/songwriter Chris Buhalis opted for the rambling life he sang about in his warm Americana songs. Years of wayfaring, from Alaska to Texas with plenty of points in between, influenced his 1998 debut, Kenai Dreams, a roots-folk set with a wandering spirit sung in a dusty Midwestern croon. Buhalis' heroes loom large in his world, most notably political folk icon Woody Guthrie and Americana legend Townes Van Zandt, the latter of whom made a guest appearance on Kenai Dreams' title cut shortly before his death in 1997. Since then, Buhalis has performed an annual tribute concert to both Van Zandt and Hank Williams, Sr. -- another acknowledged hero -- at a local Ann Arbor bar every year on January 1, which is the anniversary of both singers' deaths. Over the coming decade, Buhalis remained a prominent figure in Michigan's folk scene performing frequent solo shows, appearing at festivals, and organizing various charity concerts. By 2013, he'd amassed a group of songs he felt were strong enough to record and entered the studio to begin making his long-awaited follow-up album, Big Car Town, featuring longtime collaborator Jeff Plankenhorn along with prominent Michigan musicians like Joshua Davis and Michael Shimmin.
In 2022, Johnny Williams’ home — above his well-known and highly regarded house concert venue, Johnny’s Speakeasy — suffered a devastating fire. Johnny paid for a premium homeowner’s replacement policy for nearly 30 years, but after 18+ months his insurance company continues to delay fair payment on his claim. A denial of fair payment will shutter this historic Ann Arbor musical institution and force Johnny Williams, a pillar of our community, to move away. As of now, the insurance company stopped paying for temporary housing, so Johnny has been forced to move up north near family. This benefit concert features a lineup of some of the finest artists from across Michigan performing in support and solidarity with the grassroots, community driven campaign to Save the Speakeasy and Bring Johnny Home! All proceeds will go to a community created legal fund to help Johnny attain a fair settlement so that he can return to Ann Arbor, rebuild his home, and reopen the beloved Speakeasy.
Please help support this historic venue and a man who has spent his life giving to others.
Help us Bring Johnny Home!
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