Gillespie & Nichols: Singer-Songwriter Showcase

Location: R.A. Fountain

From our promo for this concert, which was originally scheduled to include Mike Hamer:

The singer-songwriter showcase concerts set for Friday night bring together three of North Carolina’s best composers of original songs.

Headlining the evening is Tommy Gillespie, who performs as Tommy G and for this show will be accompanied by Grant “Wizard” Spry on mandolin, banjo and guitar. Gillespie, from Reidsville, originally came to Greenville in the early 1970s to study at ECU. He wound up at the core of the burgeoning popular music movement that in the late 1970s and 1980s flourished in Greenville, centered around the Treehouse for local music and the Attic for regional and national attractions.

Gillespie fronted several incarnations of bands–Tommy G and Company, the Tommy G Experience, the Gillespie-Hamer Band–that mostly performed his material, usually with arrangements by Spry. “They were always my favorite band in town,” said Lightnin’ Wells, who moved to Greenville in 1976 and soon began performing solo shows at the Treehouse.

“There was this great music scene when I got to town,” said Wells. “The Treehouse was the place to meet. You had live music seven nights a week in a place where you could have decent food and catch up with all of your friends.”

Other regulars in the Tommy G bands included Amy Hazzard on saxophone and flute, Louis Cherry on guitar, and Vinnie Brooks on drums. “Mike [Hamer] started writing songs,” said Wells, “and that’s when it became the Gillespie-Hamer Band.”

Gillespie, however, made a clean break from playing music and left the area, and Hamer, in 1982, formed the Lemon Sisters and Rutabaga Brothers, which remains one of the most popular, though rarely performing, dance bands in the region.

Gillespie, who now lives in Carrboro, began performing again last year, with both an acoustic show and an electric band. His return to music performance and songwriting has been greeted enthusiastically at performances in the Triangle. This is his first performance in Fountain. Hamer said of his former performing partner: “Tommy G is the best singer-songwriter in the state.”

Hamer, who performs second on the evening bill, will be accompanied by Sue Luddeke and Joe Dudasik. He originally came to Greenville as a VISTA volunteer in the mid-1970s and has maintained an active performing and recording career since, as both a solo artist and in various bands. In recent years, Hamer has produced three CDs of his original songs: Black Crow, Love Dust, and Rhinos Doing the Wild Thing. He also is an English professor at ECU, where he has taught song-writing seminars.

Chet Nichols, who begins the show, has been called “an eastern Carolina Springsteen,” whose narrative songs reflect the hardscrabble lives of the tobacco and cotton country instead of the rust belt world of Springsteen’s songs.

Nichols, a former ECU art student who lives in Wilson, has released two CDs, Somewhere Out There and The Local Vocal Sessions.

“Chet’s a fine songwriter and an intense performer,” said Albright. “He’s the only songwriter I know of in the region who’s actively writing anti-war material, about what’s going on in the world right now. Many of his songs are like grim but compelling little short stories.”

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UPDATE from the October 10, 2016 FAD:

Mike Hamer, kept out of last Friday night’s singer-songwriter lineup because of an infection, is doing “okay,” he reported this evening.

“I had a full day at work today,” he said, “and I’m doing much better.”

Hamer will return to Fountain General Store for his third annual Christmas show on December 17.

Tags: acoustic Carolina, alt country, alt-Americana, Concert, country, folk, original