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No rehearsals, just party

That's the motto of Tommy "Thunderfoot" Bright and his music


August 05, 2009

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    Meet Tommy “Thunderfoot” Bright. And before we go any further, you should know you’ll have the chance to see him at the Statesboro Blues Festival on Aug. 15 at Buffalo’s.
    His mentors were Momma and Dupree Wall, owners of Momma’s Blues Palace in downtown Charleston, which was in Bright’s mind the best blues club in the area. But it’s also where he got the nickname Thunderfoot he uses for his stage name today.
    “I was playing on a stage downtown with my mentors. It was supposed to be real quiet but I played with a lot of bad drummers and this night in particular I had a few White Russians and I was feeling the movement,” said Bright, who was born in Charleston. “I was just stomping on stage keeping time. When the rest of the band got real quiet to break it down, I just kept stomping on the stage. I ended up with a new nickname before the night was out.”
    He didn’t originally want to play guitar, either.
    “I wanted to be a drummer when I was a kid. My mom just said no. My dad had a guitar around and told me not to touch it, which naturally meant I was going to touch it,” said Bright. “I picked it up and started messing with it, and this guy told me he could show me some cords.”
    That guy happened to have a hot girlfriend, which only helped fuel the flames of the budding blues star in his quest to become a ladies’ man.
    “I was in sixth grade and I was like ‘if he can get her and look like he does, then I can get her; all I have to do is play guitar like he plays guitar,’” said Bright. “I never got the girl, but I figured out the guitar okay. That’s the way it always goes.”
    Bright originally played heavy metal and the ever popular hair band music in the early 80s before starting to study the old blues roots. He discovered a truth that has ruined music for him, he admits.
    “You come to realize that everybody’s stealing and they’re not making things up anymore,” said Bright, who likened this with a student stuck in high school and even has friends that won’t come see him play if he plays any cover songs. “I don’t like to go out and hear bands that do covers because I’ve been through that.”
    Bright got a big shot when he met Reese Wynans in Jacksonville at an empty bar just as his band was finishing up for the night.
    “He said ‘I’ll give you $100 to go back up on stage and play your two favorite songs.’ We went back up and did ‘Riviera Paradise’ and he cried at the bar, got up and left the room,” said Bright, who was afraid he had made the blues gem angry only to discover it wasn’t his fault. “It was one of the last songs he played with Stevie Ray Vaughn before the helicopter crash.”
    When he came back, the bass player decided to play ZZ Top. It was a bad decision according to Bright because Wynans was angered. Moral of the story: don’t let the bass player pick the song.
    Wynans later said he wanted Bright to come back and record with him. But he didn’t do it.
    “It sounded too good to be true,” said Bright, who still kicks himself today. “I haven’t had the privilege of meeting all the famous people I wish I had. I got to open up for Buddy Guy in 2001. We were the opening act and got two standing ovations, and he totally snubbed us and wouldn’t acknowledge we were standing on the stage. I don’t know if he was angry or not but he sure wasn’t talking to us.”
    The next brush with fame the band had was when a girl named Sarah Cole started playing with them at the age of 13.
    “I told her she could jam with my band if she wanted to at any time so she wouldn’t have to worry about learning to play and taking lessons. So three and a half years later she quits my band and she’s on stage with all these famous people,” said Bright. “She’s in San Diego now and supposed to be getting set up to record on the ‘Easy Rider’ soundtrack. At 16 she has no idea how many people would kill to be in that spot right now.”
    When it comes to the story behind the actual band name, you can point the finger at the same drummer that helped give Bright his stage name, Thunderfoot.
    “I was living in Texas and I couldn’t get a gig. I wanted it to be my stage name and Tommy Thunderfoot and The Accelerators just sounded like it ought to be together,” said Bright. “It protects me because no matter who’s in the band they’re The Accelerators. And all of a sudden I didn’t have to worry about having the same guys all the time.”
    And the band is a sacred thing.
    “The chemistry’s got to be right even if the music’s not perfect,” said Bright, who admitted he hasn’t rehearsed in about five years. “Focus and stage presence and respect for each other and a common goal or at least a way to use what you know in a different way to make the music we all like even better. It’s got to be people who are absolute ninjas at their instrument.”
    Bright added that if he ever does pick up someone new, he just plays their part on a guitar and takes it from there.
    “I don’t care what you do in the middle, but at the beginning and the end we have to be together,” he said.
    The Accelerators are just as noteworthy in Bright’s eyes. There’s Jo Jo Wall, who Bright says is his musical brother.
    “I’ve been playing with him since the early 90s. We have to quit playing together for awhile so we can go and do our own separate thing,” said Bright. “But when we come back we’re even better than we were before.”
    And the new addition of Anthony Barrasso, the drummer from Memphis.
“This guy just nails everything he does,” said Bright of Barrasso. “It’s so amazing.”
    Add to the mix Bright and his Fender guitar and you’ve got a combination that could kill any sign of boredom.
    “I have no problem talking trash and smiling and laughing and cracking jokes. It’s half comedy routine and half music,” said Bright of the band’s act. “Even the slow song’s got to be the best thing they’ve ever heard in their entire lives. There’s no way I’m playing a lame song, and it’s got to be a party.”
    And as for what Bright thinks about the Statesboro Blues Festival at Buffalo’s on Aug. 15: “This is going to be so much fun.”

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