Charley Crockett: Through The Lens
I can’t remember the first time I heard about Charley Crockett. I suspect it was in fall 2017, when I was reading the recap of Rolling Stone’s “AmericanaFest 2017: 20 Best Things We Saw”. I do remember searching out his music on Spotify and listening to “Jamestown Ferry” and a few other songs off of his second album, Little G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee. I distinctly recall the feeling of disappointment that in all the great acts I’d seen at Americanafest that year, somehow I had missed this retro guy who seemed to be a blast from the past and who had a voice unlike one that was currently in the music scene. At that moment I secretly hoped he’d make his way to Oklahoma in the near future. Although Charley hit up Tulsa twice that December, I missed out due to scheduling conflicts.
As luck would have it, I had the chance to shoot Charley’s album release show at Tower Theatre in April of 2018. Seven months pregnant, swollen ankles and all, I was determined to catch this show and to photograph it. It exceeded my expectations. Even after seeing Charley five times in the past year, I never tire of seeing him or his band, The Blue Drifters, live. It’s always a dynamic, high-energy show and the entire group is so talented that it’s sometimes mind-blowing that they all happen to be in the same band. In all the times I’ve seen Charley the most memorable came on a hot, summer night in June at Tulsa’s favorite dive bar, The Mercury Lounge.
Charley regularly plays at the Merc and it sells out almost every single time. This particular night, he and the Blue Drifters played at least a two and a half hour set. It was jam packed with all of his own songs and covers to boot. It was so epic (and so hot) that Charley took an intermission halfway through to do an outfit change. Then he was back at it, dancing, singing and boogying down until 1 in the morning.
Since 2015, Charley has released five albums. He released both Lonesome as a Shadow and Little G.L.’s Blue Bonanza in 2018. That’s not even taking into account all the touring Charley does. He’s a favorite opener for bands like The Turnpike Troubadours when he’s not headlining his own tours and selling out venues. If you haven’t seen (or heard) of Charley, then you’re truly missing out. The man is dynamic. He puts on one of the best live shows I’ve seen, and as a concert photographer and music journalist, I’ve seen a lot. Even after he announced that he’d be having open heart surgery in January, I saw him in December and he was just as energetic as ever. His story is truly one for TV movies and I keep hoping that one day he’ll write a book about his life, as he’s been quoted time and again as saying that “nobody would believe the stories he has.”
Charley is an example of what lots of hard work and natural talent will do for a man in the music business. He’s traveled the country busking, a street performer that honed his craft on the streets of New Orleans and in the subways of New York City. He’s got his stage presence down to an art, with a vintage vibe and an aw’ shucks attitude. He’s a genuinely nice guy too, which is always such a treat to find out when you meet an artist as talented as him. Charley regularly stays after his show to meet his fans. If he’s met you before, chances are he remembers your name and a few tidbits about you, which in itself is pretty amazing. I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t like Charley Crockett as a person, even if they’re not a fan of his music.
I’m not here to tell Charley’s entire story, as he’s done that time and again in interviews or in videos you can find on YouTube. Much like his ancestor, Davy Crockett, Charley will someday be known as a folk hero, just in a completely different way. Do yourself a favor and if you haven’t given Charley or his music a chance, now’s the perfect time. Buy one of records, then sit back and relax and let that voice take you to the land of Texas/Louisiana and soak up that gulf coast boogie. Better yet, go see Charley Crockett live in concert, I guarantee you’re going to be blown away.
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