Newport, RI has brought a lot of new employees to Killington
recently and now they're bringing some old school country music in
the form of The Honky Tonk Knights. You have two opportunities to
see this great band and that is Thursday at Jax Food & Games
and Friday at The Foundry.
They are a hard working band made up of Steve Cerilli on guitar
& telecaster, Wil Cooley on upright bass and Jay White on
They play eight shows a week in the summer. Cerilli has three on
Sunday alone, two with HTK and another at night playing keyboard
with a reggae band.
The band was formed after a late night excursion at their local
Mexican restaurant; Perro Salado. Cerilli was hanging with owners
Andy and Dan one night when Hank Williams came on the CD player.
Andy and Dan started "slop dancing" or swing dancing as its better
known and Cerilli says, "I gotta put together a Honky Tonk band for
this joint, that's what we really need." Both owners shouted,
"Yes!" So, Cerilli had a new project and he knew that the key to
the band was finding a bass player. He and White have known each
other for 19 years. Cerilli found Cooley on Craigslist. He had just
moved to Rhode Island after playing in the rockabilly scene in
Brooklyn, NY. Cerilli sent him a few original songs he had been
working on. One night soon after, they all met for the first time
at Cerilli's house. Cerilli says, "OK kid, let's go" and they
walked across the street and played for the owners who loved
Since May of 2009 that's been their every Thursday night gig,
never missing one except for this gig.
Prominent in their first set is Bakersfield Sound which is a
genre of late 50's country music played by the likes of Merle
Haggard and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. They also play some
Western Swing like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Every show
they also play a dozen or so originals that range from classic
themes of breaking hearts and hearts broken.
Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing 'Vodka Soda' which is
their love song, their anthem. They also always play at least three
songs by Snooks Eaglin who is a favorite of Cerilli's who he tries
to push on people "because it's so good."
Cerilli's upbringing is as a blues piano player so he followed
Dr. John and Professor Long Hair. He grew up with the Rolling
Stones and Gram Parsons so you'll hear a little mix of that too.
Cooley does the classic Elvis from the Sun Sessions era and
rockabilly like "Drinking Wine, Spo Dee O Dee." He also has the
higher voice of the group which works nice with their Beatles
tunes. They're all lead vocalists so they have very tight
harmonies. Cerilli says, "It rounds out nice because we're hitting
the real roots country, no modern country." Their originals are a
blend of their favorites but party music style with dancing. All
that is in the music gumbo they play.
By request, when the party is really hopping, Cooley will climb
up the bass. It's a sight to be scene and hopefully will be seen by
us. Cerilli loves this band. He says, "It was the right time, the
right personnel. No drama, we all get along. It's cool, we just
work and we're a hard working band playing eight shows a week. We
love to just crank it out, that's the reason we do it. I do it to
break a sweat and power through the night. The grind is part of the
lure for me. If it was super easy to do, I'd be bored. The idea is
like farming, work ethic music. Growing music day by day. We're
into it," Cerilli says.