Straight Outta Ironton
Chris Manson February 19, 2009 Issue
Wally Christian and James Waldo both hail from Ironton, Ohio—home
to a once-prosperous iron industry and the birthplace of country
music great Bobby Bare—but the two didn’t team up
until 1998. “(Waldo) was a rock and blues artist,”
says Christian. “I was mostly country and Jimmy Buffett-type
Christian spent many
years on the road, working with big names like Jones, Haggard
and Price. When he got tired of touring, he returned to Ironton
and teamed up with Waldo, a bar owner and practicing attorney.
Together they recorded Just Passin’ Thru, which they are
selling at their debut gig at Destin’s Trader Vic’s.
A few years ago, Waldo
moved to Destin. “I came by boat all the way down the Mississippi,”
he says. “I was going to stay here two weeks, but it turned
into four years.” Christian soon followed.
“This is going
to be home for us,” says Christian. “It’s important
for us to meet the community.” As Christian and James, the
duo performs at Twisted Palm Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m., Trader
Vic’s on Saturday nights starting at 7, and—once the
tourist season kicks in—Destin’s Fisherman’s
serious musicians who play good fun-time music,” says Christian,
who sings and plays guitar. In the ‘70s, he recorded for
United Artists and MCA Records. Fellow Ironton resident Bare took
Christian under his wing when the latter returned from Vietnam
in 1969. Christian’s other mentors include Del Reeves and
Tommy Cash. “I spent 12 years with Del Reeves, who recently
died,” he adds. “By working with him, I was able to
pick up a lot of things.”
Keyboardist and vocalist
Waldo is a veteran of numerous blues bands. Collectively, the
two men have played music for eight decades. “We know music
to cover that time span,” says Christian. “We do ‘American’
music, a little bit of everything for everybody.” Their
songbook includes material popularized by Buffett, Jones, James
Taylor, Nat King Cole, B.B. King, Elvis Presley and Louis Armstrong.
After the release of
Just Passin’ Thru, Christian and James toured in Ohio, West
Virginia and Kentucky. But, Christian says, “We weren’t
spring chickens then. One nighters every night for two years…!”
The population in Ironton
always stays the same, Christian says. “When someone gets
pregnant, someone else leaves town. (The city) named a street
after Bobby Bare and an alley after us!
“Ironton is a
poor town. All the factories left in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The people are great, but they live in such stressful conditions.
But without them, we wouldn’t have gotten our start. Those
roots are still with us. We’re old country boys.”
Waldo calls Bare “a
good guy. He doesn’t come home very often, though.”
Christian and James perform about a dozen of Bare’s songs,
including “Detroit City” and “500 Miles Away
from Home.” In 1994, the duo hosted a major show for Ironton’s
local musicians, something they hope to do here as well.
looking for a venue to inspire young musicians,” says Christian.
“Give them an opportunity to be heard.” The duo is
also looking to record new material and is seeking a local recording
Despite a few technical
glitches, Christian and James’ Trader Vic’s debut
seems to go well. A small group of fans has already followed them
from Twisted Palm, while a young woman asks them to “play
a polka.” Christian and James are looking to provide a total
entertainment package, ripping through crowd-pleasers like “Hey
Bartender” and “Mustang Sally” along with surprises
like “There’s a Kind of Hush” and the death-rock
staple “Last Kiss.” There are jokes, too—bad
ones—but it’s all in the spirit of fun.
Watch a video of Christian
and James performing their original song “We Gotta Regatta”
We’re happy to see that Beachcomber Music Award winning
Best Alternative Band Newfangled Theory have at least one high-profile
gig coming up, at Inlet Beach’s Shades at the Loop Feb.
28 beginning at 7 p.m. If the crawfish boil doesn’t suck
you in, the great music certainly will. Frontman Derek Givans
informs me that the band is also in the recording studio—can’t
wait to hear more from these guys.