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Tift and Zeke on the West Coast, 11/11/2006 - 11/24/2006

   As the band finished its last weekend and show together for 2006, Tift and I were soon off to California to visit with our friends Sara and Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek.  We went to see them in their hometown, Carlsbad, CA.  While in Carlsbad, our days were filled with surfing beautiful beach breaks, eating delicious Mexican food, and watching the sun set over the enormous Pacific Ocean.  That is always a site to behold.  In the evenings, Sean would build a campfire outside his house, break out the guitars, then the scotch and songs would get passed around for hours. Mostly, Tift, Sean and Sara played.  I poured the whiskey and stoked the fire.  The three of them were loosely planning for their upcoming Watkins Family Hour Show with Tift at Largo on Nov 16th  in Hollywood.  Eventually, we had to leave the serenity of Carlsbad and travel to LA to get ready for the show and see a lot of people that Tift and I needed to see.  These trips can not be all fun and games ya know.

   Our first day in LA, Tift and I spot Ron Wood (Rolling Stones Guitarist) at a Coffee Shop.  I rarely get star struck, but this time I did for sure.  He was so relaxed and chill that I could not bring myself to pester him for a hello or a picture.  So, you will have to take me on my word, Ron Wood was having lunch next to us the entire time we had a our coffee.  More on Ron Wood later…

   That night, we go down to Largo for drinks and catch an impromptu set with Fiona Apple singing standards alongside the pianist Dave Palmer.  Dave is a superb musician and sitting in as well is our friend and Bramble Rose producer Ethan Johns whom we have not seen in quite some time.  It was great to bump into Ethan and get caught up on each others lives and be able to tell him first-hand how wonderful we think his work with Ray LaMontagne has been.  We just love those records. So, after a few reminisces and several Guinness, it's time to go home.

   The next night is the show at Largo and it goes really well.  Tift opens the show with a great solo set consisting of almost all new material.   Quite a bit of Tift's set was played on piano.  Largo has this wonderful old upright piano that sounds unlike any other.  There is just something really special about it.  The Largo upright would be played impeccably by Benmont Tench later on in the evening as the night turned into a fantastic Hootenany with Ethan Johns on drums, Benmont on piano, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Tift and Sean on Guitars, Sara on Fiddle (all 3 singing their hearts out) and Mike Witcher  on dobro.  After a night filled with wonderful new material from all, this ALL-STAR band closed the night with a hit Juice Newton made famous in 1981: ANGEL IN THE MORNING.  It was a wild rendition.  What a Show!

   For the rest of the trip out West, Tift and I divided our time between business and sight-seeing fun.  We visited the Getty Museum, which is so magnificent in its architecture that in many ways it almost overshadows the Art.  We made our way to Malibu, Zuma Beach, and Pointe Dume and spent a lot of time in our new favorite spot:  TOPANGA CANYON!  If we make the new record in California, this is where we will be spending our down time for sure.  I can't wait.

   As I said earlier, there would be more on Ron Wood later…there is.  Our final day in LA starts at 11am with 4 back to back business meetings.  Fortunately, this day ends with THE ROLLING STONES at DODGER STADIUM and no other than Bonnie Raitt opening the show.  The show was super. A spectacle really.  That's what I call a day of good business and good fun. The next morning was a little rough trying to catch an early morning flight home and on Thanksgiving Day at that.

   Now we are back home in NC getting ready for the holidays, nursing Tift's dog LUCY who just had ACL surgery, and sifting through plans for the new year and the new record.  There will be many details to report in the coming weeks and months.  Please know that TIFTMERRITT.NET will be in the loop of all that is to come.  Happy New Year to ALL of YOU!

Best Wishes,
Zeke  a.k.a  Johnny Lee




posted @ Monday, December 04, 2006 4:02 PM by

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Thanks for the update Zeke, I'm sorry to hear about Lucy, but I'm sure she'll get better. It looks like you had a big time in CA. Thanks for checking in with the TMSTFC.

posted @ Monday, December 04, 2006 4:46 PM by Zach Crocker

"Scuse me while my age hangs out:


I'd have drowned out ALL y'all--good thing I was back in NC. Seventh grade, the radio by my bed in the guest room where I stayed while my bedroom was remodeled . . . yes, yes.

Most perfect blog, ZH. Rest assured I will chat you up about the Stones show first chance I get.


posted @ Monday, December 04, 2006 4:58 PM by Phillip Reid

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Cheers Zeke for the blog - great to hear all the recent news, and the promise of more news to come - fingers crossed for a new deal, and I'm dying to hear the new album (no hurry!)

Love the report of the Largo show - sounds superb. Here's a happy coincidence... on the SAME night that Tift et al were singing their hearts out to Angel of the Morning, I was privileged enough to be hearing the exact same song being sung by the writer, the legendary Chip Taylor! He's been on tour here in the UK with Carrie Rodriguez and I caught them in Wolverhampton (not quite L.A., but hey!) at a cool club called the Little Civic. He and Carrie played an awesome gig, well worth catching them if you get a chance. (shameless plug... dodgy pics of said gig at my page)

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you and Tift, (and get well soon Lucy the dog!)

Andy (ghman)

posted @ Monday, December 04, 2006 6:10 PM by Andy Dudley

Zeke was showing HIS age. Merilee Rush, '68; Google it, learn a neat factoid re: Evie Sands. Labels go 'round and 'round.

posted @ Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4:40 AM by Forrest Smith

Forrest, you have educated me. Y'all, if you read the songwriting credits for Merrilee Rush's album at, you might learn some cool stuff. I did. Thanks Mr. Hockey.

posted @ Tuesday, December 05, 2006 5:30 PM by Phillip Reid

Tift and Zeke right by my Mom's house in Carlsbad and a show in LA and I wasn't there, that's a bummer. Sounds like it was a great trip. I hope you guys get to Arizona again on the new tour. Thanks for the report!


posted @ Friday, December 29, 2006 4:21 PM by Matthew Wester

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