STILL ROCKING THAT TULSA SOUND -
FATHER-SON DUO TEAM UP TO RELEASE AN
ALBUM OF GROOVY TUNES
Published: March 2009
By John Wooley
Daddy Bo, the immensely satisfying new disc from father-son duo Don and Steve White, is chocked full of well-written, groove based tunes with catchy vocal hooks. Many of the songs in this 14 track collection have such irresistible choruses, in fact, that you may catch yourself singing along almost immediately.
This is definetely the case with the CD's title track, which begins the album. the only cut on the disc written by Don and Steve together, it's a textbook example of that deep, easy-rocking, mid-tempo combination of blues and country that many associate with the classic Tulsa Sound, especially the part that is associated with Don and his longtime friend and musical associate, J.J. Cale.
"Daddy Bo", the song, is a perfect introduction to the album, which also features a cajun number, a couple of folk tunes and even a track written by Steve that evokes a Civil War battlefield. But while "Daddy Bo" is a strong, and perfect, introduction to the disc, it's not the way the elder White wanted to begin the record.
"When Steve was real little," Says Don, in a voice as laid-back as his music, "I did a cassette tape of him singing and me playing guitar. He sang, 'I been working on the wailwoad all the wivewong day'- I mean, he was that little. But he hit every note and sang on time.
"I made copies and gave'em out to family members, and I kept one for myself. We were going to start the CD with that, but nobody can find a copy."
Even without the archival material, however, the musical bond between father and son shines throughout Daddy Bo. And Don is quick to point out that their connection is as much musical as it is familial.
"I did a CD several years back called Okie Fiesta, and Steve and I did all the guitars and vocals," says Don. " I knew he was a great guitar player, a great singer and a great bandleader, but I wanted to see what he could do in the studio."
With Daddy Bo, recorded at David Teegarden's Natura Digital Studios in Tulsa, Steve's input was, by mutual agreement, increased.
"This one was co-produced by Steve and me, along with Dave Teegarden," notes Don. "I got to where I really trusted Steve in the studio, and that takes a real load off you - to know that someone's going to come in with ideas that'll work. He's got the knack for it. He's got the ear, and he understands exactly what he's doing. He's going to make a great producer."
Don says he never incouraged his son to play clubs, "because I know where that can lead," he explains with a laugh. But Don did encourage him to write, especially after hearin Steve's first composition.
"He wrote his first song when he was nine years old," recalls Don. "It was about how the countryside was being torn up and turned into parking lots, and he ended it with, 'I'd give a hoop and a holler, or a million dollars, just to see my country ground.' And I thought- 'Damn, this kid can write."
Of course, Dad's no sloouch himself in that department. During his days in Nashville a couple of decades ago, Don penned songs that were recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, the Oak Ridge Boys and Suzy Bogguss. His solo discs are always full of first-rate originals, and his composition celebrating the Cain's Ballroom, "No Place like the Cain's" was the first song performed on the venerable Tulsa dancehall's stage following its $1.7 million renovation in 2003.
So it's not surprising that his son was destined to become a performer as well as a songwriter. It wasn't just heredity, but environment as well.
"He grew up around people like Cale and Larry Bell," notes Don, naming two well-known Tulsa Sound practitioners, "and he remembers hanging out with Delaney (Bramlett, of famed '70s recording act Delaney & Bonnie) when they were playing at the baseball stadium."
By the late '80s, Steve was playing around Tulsa with a band called the Cat Daddies?!?, and somewhere during that period he joined his dad on stage for the first time.
"It was the first time, anyway, that we'd played together an gotten some money for it," says Don. "I was living in Nashville at the time, but was also coming back home. I played that place Emily Smith had, the Shy Clown, and Steve came up and played with me that night.
"Later on, when I was playing at Tulsa City Limits with the Don White Band, (Steve) would come up and sit in. We worked a lot out there-opened for Dwight (Yoaham) a couple of times."
Later, when vocalist Gus Hardin- a longtime friend of Don's - had an opening for a guitarist in her band, Don suggested his son. Local girl Hardin had re-established herself in the Tulsa club scene following a few years as a moderately successful country-music artist on the RCA label, and her shows were once again full of the blues and soul music she loved.
"We both went down and played with her, and at one pont Gus turned to me and asked if I knew a certain song," remembers Don. "When I said I wasn't sure, she said, 'I'll bet Steve does.' That's when I knew he had the gig."
Later, Don and Hardin joined up to form the group Okie Soul, and Don and Steve White were once again playing together. The association with Hardin lasted until her death in a morning traffic accident in 1996. She had played a duet gig with Don the night before.
A couple of years ago, Steve relocated to Dallas, and while he continues to pick up gigs down there, he also returns regularly to play with the Tulsa-based group Chunky Monkey as well as with his dad. A feature of the White boys' show involves both of them playin the same guitar at the same time, a show-stopping bit of theatrics that Don Laughingly refers to as "vaudville."
Fans of the Whites will get a chance to see that act over the next few months. At this writing, several release parties are in the planning stages, and Don hopes he and Steve can play them with what he calls "the band on the CD" - bassist Shane Stewart, drummer Rick Gomez and Keyboardist Robert Day.
Other musicians contributing to the disc include guitarist Jim Byfield, keyboardists Walt Richmond and Steve Elmore, multi-instrumentalist Rick Morton, bassists Casey Van Beek and Jon Parris, and drummers David Teegarden Sr. and Jr., a stellar group collectively thanked on the disc's liner notes. In that same space, Don gives a special nod to his son "for his great work as a songwriter, singer, musician and friend!"
"Yeah, he's the real deal," says Don. "And together - well, even as old as I am, we can still rock like hell."
Indeed they can. Hear it for yourself on Daddy Bo, which is available online and in area stores.
John Wooley - Oklahoma Magazine (Mar, 2009)