|Stevie Tombstone featured on 85-26|
"Stevie Tombstone could perhaps chalk up his musical success to bad behavior. At least, that's how he got started playing music as a 12-year-old.
“I got suspended from school one year, and that summer, I couldn't go out to play,” Tombstone said. “I was under house arrest. There was nothing to do, but there was a guitar in the closet and I was allowed to play it.”
Tombstone is hardly a household name, but he's had a music career that has lasted more than two decades.
He led an Atlanta-based swamp-rockabilly band called The Tombstones in the 1980s and '90s before eventually becoming a solo artist with a handful of critically acclaimed albums.
Tombstone's latest effort is “Greenwood,” an Americana-fueled offering of folk and blues that serves as the follow-up to his 2011 album, “Slow Drunken Waltz.”
“The last two records are probably more autobiographical than any of the other ones I've done,” Tombstone said. “Especially the 'Greenwood' album, it's really stripped down.”
The title track recounts Tombstone's early 1990s misadventure in trying to deliver a marker for seminal bluesman Robert Johnson, who is believed to be buried in Greenwood, Miss.
“Long story short, we got accused of doing a lot of stuff we didn't do,” Tombstone said. “You go down there to try to do something good, and you get caught up in this whole thing of politics and hypocrisy.”
While growing up outside Atlanta in an area that was then rural, Tombstone was raised on vintage country, blues and early rock 'n' roll.
“My parents were huge music fans, and my dad had a great record collection,” Tombstone said. “It was Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Jimmy Reed — all the essentials, as I like to put it. And I got to go see a lot of really cool acts when I was young.”
Tombstone once even met country music legend Roy Acuff while his family visited Nashville, Tenn., for the Country Music Association Awards.
"He was at the museum for some reason or another, and he sat down and talked to us and was, like, one of the coolest human beings I've ever met” Tombstone said. “I had just learned to play 'The Great Speckled Bird,' so I was pretty beside myself. It was kind of like meeting Abraham Lincoln.”
These days, he describes himself as a “performing songwriter.”
“It's different when I'm working with a band; it's a little more upbeat and a little more theatrical,” Tombstone said. “But (as a solo artist), I try to work in tight quarters where I can connect with everybody in the room.
“I think the old days of there being an invisible barrier between the entertainer and the audience, that's kind of gone to some degree. I just like sitting down and being one of the people in the room, except for the fact that I've got something to tell you.”
Tombstone cites songwriting influences that range from the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce of punk outfit The Gun Club to Jason Ringenberg of twang-rockers Jason & the Scorchers.
“When it comes to songwriting, it's like I always tell a buddy, 'Real life is a lot scarier than anything I could possibly make up,' ” Tombstone said with a laugh. “That's really what it comes down to for me — just be honest with people.”