I’m fortunate to be able to call Duane Carleton and Rick Redington good friends. We’ve shared many a stage and many good times together. I’ve written articles on each of them but this one is special. Why? Most of my interviews are one-on-one, but the three of us shared a conference call that was filled with laughs and great stories from them both. We talked about their great duo, The Heavily Brothers, who are on a bit of a reunion tour and it stops at the Pickle Barrel Crow’s Nest Wednesday, Feb. 22, 9 p.m. There will be a few more stops this winter so stay tuned to the entertainment listings in this paper to find out when and where. But, there is an opportunity now and I highly recommend it.
Carleton and Redington met back in the early 80s at Cecil Duscharme Music Store in Castleton. Carleton’s brother Max took him to the store, and Cecil said that he and Redington must meet. Carleton said he has a vague recollection of them playing “Free Bird” or “Sweet Home Alabama” together in the store back then. They met again six years later at the Valley Club. Carleton saw Redington play there with his band “The Others.”
Redington wrote a song about Cecil called “Old Friend.” He said, “Cecil told me about Max Carleton’s younger brother Duane. Max was in a pretty well established band, Glass Fingers, with blue-grassy type pickers. Max was well known for being a good guitar player.” They used to play regularly at the Inn at the Long Trail. Redington saw Carleton play at Whirlaways in Rutland a few years later. He knew about Carleton and his playing but they had not yet reacquainted. Carleton had no idea that Redington saw him play there. Before Whirlaways, it was the Wobbly 2, which was down in the Walmart plaza way before it was Walmart. Redington was a bar-back there when he was too young to drink, and Carleton played there when he was underage, as well.
They both did most of their business at Duscharme’s. Redington said it was the inside place to get some cool vintage stuff. Duscharme sold Redington two guitars that belong to Max. One of which—a six-string—Carleton has since gotten back. The other is with another musician friend, Steve Purcell. Carleton recalled to Redington, “That six-string went back and forth between us like six times. You needed rent money so you sold it to me and I needed money and I sold it to you.”
Redington said that they both followed each others’ bands and eventually formed a band themselves called Huge Members with Curt Stannard and John Azer. The night they formed is an interesting story of which both Redington and Carleton have vivid recollections.
Redington said, “It was a weird night called Harmonic Convergence. Duane’s parents had gone away and it was the only night we could all get together at the house, which Duane lives in now.”
Carleton added, “We shoved all the furniture out of the living room.”
Redington said, “We converted Duane’s house and we were all writing music for the first time for all of us. We had an awesome time and actually recorded stuff. I remember it being a very cosmic night. There’s a very strange story that goes along with it. The four of us were outside on the deck, having a smoke, and we look up and see this one really big barn spider about the size of the palm of your hand. Then we go back inside and we’re recording for hours, having these great cosmic kind of jams and we’re really connecting like four really young guys should do. Everyone was playing great and it sounded great. We go back outside around midnight and there was definitely a full moon involved because it was this Harmonic Convergence thing. John asked where that spider was and we all look up at the same time and not only is there one spider but there was a spider on every rafter on this roof.”
Carleton added, “There were hundreds of these gigantic spiders and we all sat there looking at them thinking ‘Oh my God.’ It’s never happened before that, and it has not happened since.” The guys were in their early 20s at the time.
Redington played at Uncle Sam’s in Rutland on Sundays and Wednesdays with the latter being more of an acoustic open mic which Carleton used to go to. Carleton said the first Heavily Brothers show was there, which Redington had forgotten about. But he did remember that they would play together for the first half of the night, and then drink the other half, and watch people play, people like Igor, Carleton mentioned. Sunday nights were full band electric nights.
From there, The Heavily Brothers moved to Marcia B’s Roadhouse. That is where they played the most of their shows together over many years in the late 80s and early 90s. Marcia B’s was on the corner of Pine and West streets in Rutland, and was an old white house that sat up on the hill. Redington said it was a biker bar. The building is no longer there but today the property is a Chinese restaurant. They played for a couple years there on Thursday nights. Redington said, “Both of us were in alcohol boot camp at the time. We had to learn to hang with all these seasoned partiers. We would listen to our tapes and they sound amazing for the first set and a half, and then by the time we were hitting our encore, we were at half speed and mumbling into the microphone. Literally every other song we would ask Marcia for more shots. At the end of one of these tapes is us just rambling stupid stuff at each other.”
“Allegedly,” said Carleton, laughing.
The Huge Members started an acoustic show at the Outback in Killington, and after one season [owner] Skip Watts said he didn’t need all four of them, and asked if just Redington and Carleton would do it. That started The Heavily Brothers playing there Sunday nights. Redington said that Watts was pushing them into solo stuff before they wanted to do solo stuff. Carleton said Watts would repeatedly ask him to play solo and he turned it down for years, but finally gave in.
Redington said, “Duane was already an accomplished lead guitar player and I was trying to learn to not just be a rhythm player. Singing was more my strong point, before Duane was singing. It was a perfect combination, and then as time went by, I had to get better at soloing to keep up with him and he had to get better at singing, and vice versa.” Playing in the Huge Members allowed all of them to get better, since they were all great musicians.
The Heavily Brothers name came from a spoof of the Everly Brothers. They would come out and say, “I’m Gut and I’m But and we’re the Heavily Brothers.” They played songs from bands they loved like the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and the Grateful Dead. Basically, music they were seeing as young dudes. “We were pulling that stuff off and stuff that most people wouldn’t do at that time. The set lists today in Killington are not that much different,” said Redington. “We would sort of get off on doing that, playing really, really well, but also throwing in the ball-busting comedy stuff at the same time, and getting away with it. We would get away with it with some big freaking biker guys and angry drunken women.”
Carleton added, “Exactly.”
They both helped each other out on original recordings, singing on different tracks, adding harmonies. They would inspire each other to go do their thing. Carleton said, “That’s a point I had in mind after we did our first Foundry show last month. The press release was cool and all, but one of the points that should have been made was that we didn’t play together for a good chunk of time because during that time both of us developed solo careers. Any weaknesses that each of us had goes away after playing solo gigs for eight to 10 years. Both of us play more than most of the people out there. I didn’t want it to come off as some kind of nostalgia thing. In actuality,both of us are playing and singing better than we ever have.”
Redington added, “It’s cool because we can go back to that raw energy part of it, but both of us walk away thankful that is not as far as we went. Ultimately, you have something you can say is yours at the end of the day. It’s a nice break for both of us, because selling your original music and then selling that act and selling that band and selling those performances gets really stressful, too. For us to get together and put on the cruise control and playing shows without having to coach our other musicians into songs they have not yet heard is less worry. For me, it was kind of therapeutic. We both kind of have the same DNA after playing together for so long. We make the same mistakes and have the same good stuff and bad.”
Carleton agreed and said, “One of the things that is unique about The Heavily Brothers is we were both influenced by bands that improvise like The Dead. I felt that I have this psychic musical connection with Rick that I don’t experience with other people for some reason. We’re able to take tunes and go way out and all of a sudden this guy is throwing in this tune and I’m throwing in that tune and we’re able to come back.”
They both feel they’re in the 1 percent of musicians, meaning they do it full time. Most have a day job and do this on the weekends. These two do it full time, and they do it well. Rick said they’re two really big fish in a small pond, especially in this area. “We’ve taken some of the same lumps and had to open up communication with each other again. Really, just to keep the other guy from getting too much flack.” A season or so ago, they decided to combine their forces before they became extinct.
Redington and Carleton have connected many times over the years for someone’s memorial. They’ve had many offers to play every week, but they don’t want that—they want each show to be more of an event. They’re trying to play in a different room each time. Carleton said the proof is in the pudding, with making it an event. Their show at the Foundry was packed and it brought out all kinds of old fans, some that they have not seen for 20 years. “They came out specifically for this and they listened and responded to everything we were doing musically. There was still a packed house at one [o’clock] in the morning. It was really good to see it was not just some nostalgia thing. There are still people that are appreciative of musical skills. Rick and I definitely try to make a show that’s interesting, that’s fun, but also musical. It’s not just a guy sitting down playing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ or ‘Margaritaville’.”
Redington said it’s tough playing these days. “Nowadays, you have to compete with TV screens or 45 cell phones. For us to have a busy night and hold people’s attention was inspiring for us.”
The Heavily Brothers official early days tour was Marcia B’s for about five years, then down in the alley at McClouds for about the same time, and then the Outback. It was there that they were supported by an all star bar staff with Sara Driscoll Johnson, Sean McKinnon, Dan Tolley and Artie Costello. Redington said, “If you look at our careers, being the heyday, we were like Elvis in Vegas. We knew that we ran it as far as we wanted it to at that point in time. Duane and I never wanted to be pigeon-holed like a Dead cover band. It was easy to slip into that mode and harder to do the original thing, so we took a little hiatus to explore things and then came back to enjoy it again.”
Redington really enjoyed Carleton’s band Tin Pan Alley. They both supported each others endeavors over the years. They said that Rutland had a legitimate music scene back in the Marcia B’s days. There were five other places that had live music, something that, unfortunately, Rutland does not have today. They both said they were fortunate to see some really good music back then.
I have been fortunate to see three of their reunion shows and what a treat they have been. I’ve seen them both solo and with their other bands so much, it was great seeing them together. They play off each other so well and musically, they are one of the best duos out there.
I asked them both what they like best about playing with the other. Carleton said, “I like everything about it. Like Rick said, we have the same kind of musical DNA. We like the same kind of music and it was such a wide range of music. I’ve learned a lot from playing with Rick. He had the balls to go out and do the solo thing first. I also remember him doing a kazoo solo one time [laughing]. We really did grow up together. I learned a vast amount about playing gigs and singing. Just the fact that we do have this musical, very special psychic connection, it just makes it a blast. Even when we were playing together, we only really rehearsed three times in a nearly 20-year stretch. What’s fun about it is you have to be fast on your feet and be able to pick up stuff. Rick can feel very comfortable playing a tune that I’ve never heard before, and vice versa, and he’s fast enough to catch what I’m doing and follow it. It just makes it exciting and really fun and musical. We spent countless hours playing music together, hanging out together, many adventures together. I’m just glad that’s now back in my life. I think there’s a genuine love and affection. Like any marriage, there’s water over the dam, or under it. At the end of the day, none of that matters.”
Carleton was playing a gig up in Colchester, and a friend of Redington’s, Mike Brown, came up to him and asked for a song that nobody would ever ask for, or assume he knew. It was “Imaginary Western” by Mountain. Redington got a text from Brown saying that people were asking for requests, but not showing him any love, and did Redington have a request. He asked for that because he and Carleton share the love for that obscure song. Carleton played the song, but the whole time was wondering why this young kid would ask for that song, so he asked him after, and Brown said it was from Rick. The next day Carleton messaged Redington, and that broke the ice between them.
Redington agreed with all that Carleton said and added, “When we’re playing you don’t have to rack your brain worrying about what the next tune is. He’ll surprise me with like, a musical treat, and then I’ll work something up for him the next time around. The sense of humor thing is huge. Duane and I used to purposely, for about 15 minutes, just roast the heck out of each other. While we were setting up, people would wonder what is wrong with us. ‘Don Rickles’ each other all night. I really enjoyed what I learned from Duane. I truly enjoyed jamming with Duane because I genuinely like him. I guess it would be like skiing with someone for 40 years. For me, this little old man that was in his 70s, introduced us when we were teenagers, and we hung out ever since. It’s like something your grandfather would’ve wanted. There’s a lot of good stuff that coins to it. When you look forward to playing a gig, you know it’s a positive thing.”
The Heavily Brothers