Legendary guitarist Deke Dickerson (and his band the Ecco-Fonics) will be making a rare appearance at The Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Tuesday November 21. The guitarist will be performing as a part of Hi-Tide Recordings Holiday Hootenanny along with Jet Weston & His Atomic Ranch Hands.
We caught up with Dickerson to talk about his career, his creative challenges, having one his songs played during a Disney ride, and more.
You started performing when you were 13 years old. Can you talk about the music that inspired you at such a young age to get out there and start performing?
Yeah, I was the weird kid who grew up in the 70’s but didn’t like 70’s popular music at all. Even at a super young age, 5 or 6 years old, I remember really hating popular music of that time. When I heard Bill Haley, Elvis, Chuck Berry, as part of that strange 50’s rock revival period that happened in the 1970’s, all of a sudden something moved inside me. And when I saw Chuck Berry duckwalking on TV with a guitar, that was it. I had to get a guitar, I was obsessed. From there I just fell down the rabbit hole, but always with an emphasis on the great artists of the 50’s and 60’s. Not as a copy act or a revival act, but just in that style.
You’ve performed in a number of bands, performed and recorded with an array of artists. What do you think was the most creatively challenge song or record you’ve worked on, and why?
That’s a good question … usually on my own records. I know exactly what I want before I start recording, so that’s never an issue. However, I’ve done a lot of work for movies and TV shows, including the soundtrack for a documentary called The Wild And Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia. That was a big challenge. I’d finish a song, and all of a sudden the directors would want it totally redone, or cut in half, or made twice as long, or with a complete rearrangement, and of course it all needed to be done on deadline. That was probably the most difficult task I’ve ever been faced with, musically. I enjoy doing stuff like that, though.
What has been your favorite collaboration you’ve done in your career?
When I first started recording, I really wanted to bring on as many of the legends as I could from the 50’s. It’d be hard to choose a favorite, but there are so many that I worked with that are gone now, so I’m so glad that I did it when I could: Claude Trenier of The Treniers, Hadda Brooks, Jerry Scoggins (the guy who sang the original Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song), so many others. I’m just glad I was around and could hire those people and did it when I could!
Two part question…In the press release for the upcoming Asbury Park show, you’re quoted as saying “This is the great music of the American 20th-century experience: rock and roll, rockabilly, Western swing, rhythm and blues, surf music, garage, and punk. It’s every bit as vital and important as jazz or classical; it just hasn’t gotten its due yet.”
Part 1: What is it about these styles of music that makes you feel so strong about it?
Well, call me an old soul, but I feel the blood moving through this music. It’s alive, even though it had its peak 50-60 years ago! And so when people think this is just some rehashing of nostalgia, I think to myself, do you say that about jazz? About rhythm and blues? About classical compositions?
Part 2: Why do you think these styles of music have not gotten their just due yet? And do you think that it’s day of recognition is coming soon?
Well, I think with any of these styles of music, you have to have enough decades go by before you can have an objective look. And with the music of the 50’s and 60’s, for years, you had so much cartoony mockery of that era, you know, “greasers” and “sock hops” and things like that. The music itself is so majestic, but it has to grow out of that kind of pigeonholing. Eventually, I think it’ll be taken as seriously as we do all the other great genres of music. When that will happen, I have no idea.
You have your own signature guitar through the Hallmark Guitar company. Can you talk about how your guitar is unique to other guitars out there?
This is honestly what I can call a “brand new vintage guitar.” It has the attention to detail on things like the neck shape, the pickup design, the vibrato, etc that are similar to features found on vintage guitars but not on any other new guitars. You pick it up, and it actually feels like an old guitar. That’s difficult to pull off! As you might expect from the music I play, the tones it produces are on the “clean and twangy” side, perfect for rockabilly, country, surf. We had the first model a few years ago and sold out, and on this tour I will actually be playing a new prototype for the Model 2, which will be available for sale next year.
You’re both a guitar player, and a singer — which do you prefer, and why?
Honestly, I consider myself a really good singer, but only an average guitar player. I have always joked that the only reason I took up playing guitar was so that I didn’t have to pay a guitar player.
How does it feel to have one of your songs included in a popular ride in Disneyland?
Good and bad! For years now I’ve gotten a couple texts a week from friends and family, “Hey, I’m at the CARS Ride at Disneyland California Adventure, and they’re playing a couple of your songs over the PA system.” Cool, right? Then I tried figuring out why I wasn’t getting paid for it! I did a bunch of research and found there’s a special exemption where amusement parks don’t have to pay for the music they play over their PA systems. So, great, my songs have been heard by a ton of people there, and I’m happy about that, but I’ve never got a dime in my pocket out of the deal.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2017, and what are you most excited for in 2018?
I’m almost done with 2017, doing this little swing through the Northeast and Canada, then some shows in the Bay Area in San Francisco around New Years Eve, and that’s about it for December. I’m working on a new album and hope to have that out by mid-2018. So far I’ve got festivals in Spain, England, and Australia for 2018 lined up, and festivals like Viva Las Vegas and Nashville Boogie in the States lined up. I guess I’ll just keep on keeping’ on and doing what I do best.