Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

May 16, 2014

Wilenes bring 'old-school country' to TC

Meeting one of The Beatles, let alone working with one, can be “a very interesting experience” to say the least.

Holland-area guitarist and singer Roger Brown, who wrote the songs for drummer Ringo Starr’s 1977 children’s album, “Scouse the Mouse,” says his Beatles experience was just part of an illustrious run that began in the 1970s. He not only played with Gerry Rafferty’s platinum-selling rock band Stealers Wheel, but toured Europe extensively as a solo act and with country star Freddy Fender.

“Ringo had a suite at The Ritz in London which was actually bigger than any house I’ve ever owned,” Brown recalled. “I had to go over there with my guitar and knock on the door and play him the songs so that we could find out what keys to do them in. It’s very interesting to knock on a door and the door opens, and there’s a Beatle standing there.”

The doors to fruitful musical collaborations have opened frequently for Brown – a North Carolina native who relocated to the Lake Michigan shoreline in the mid-1990s after spending years in Europe. Brown spent most of his time in recent years writing and performing country and Americana music with the Traverse City-based duo Drive South and the foursome The Wilenes.

“It’s his heart. He’s a very sensitive person,” said Traverse City singer-guitarist May Sue Wilkinson, who performs in both bands with Brown. “He matches that with his dedication to his craft. He rehearses every day and he has for so many years that he is an amazing guitar player. Really clean and melodic.”

The Wilenes, which began as Sister Wilene in 2009 (mandolinist Don Julin is a former member), play “straight-up, old-school country music,” including songs by Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. The group plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Workshop Brewing Co. in Traverse City.

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