these times of trying to be, "politically correct,"
"sensitive ," or, one of my favorites, "be fully
aware of diversity," what do you do to relax? Go golfing?
Play cards? Spend time with your children and grandchildren? Or,
listen to music? You see, being a musician and performer for many,
many years, I really enjoy music, but more so, see a live performance.
If you've never seen them live, please, if you ever get a chance,
go see my good friends, "BR549." Here's our story.
in the summer of 1995, some fellow Menominee friends of mine and
myself attended a NIGA (National Indian Gaming Association) conference
in Nashville, TN. Our second night there while we were being shown
the sights and places on lower Broadway in downtown Nashville, our
"host," Mr. Donnie Summers of Nashville told us, "They
say there's a real good honky-tonk'band playing across the
street at "Robert's," you might want to go check them
out. So, off we went. When we walked into "Robert's Western
World," we knew we were home!'Man, the band was great!!
They played all the old style honky-tonk music we all grew up with
back home on the rez! Hank Williams, Don Gibson, Faron Young
just to name a few, they played whatever you requested. Matter of
fact, that was their whole gig. They were playing for tips, so you
went up, dropped in some, "green," and they'd play your
song. Believe me, me and my buddies put a lot of "green"
in their tip jar over the next few nights.
did we know how close we'd become from that first night. Like I
said, the place is jammed, people are dancing up a storm, making
request after request and good times are being had by all. Then,
their lead singer, Chuck Mead says, "Well, ladies and gentlemen,
we've got a lot of requests to catch up on, so please bear with
us." He then starts running down a list of songs they're going
to play, when he announces, "Kaw Li-Gaw" by Hank Williams.
I look at my buddies and they all say, "Ok Plass, YOU go tell
em!" My buddies gave me a handful of money and I went
up to the stage, waved it at Chuck and told him, "This is all
yours if you DON'T play Kaw Li-Gaw." He says, "Why
is that?" I told him, "Well, you see, a few of my friends
over there get upset when that song gets played, because all of
the white people jump up on the dance floor, start dancing in a
circle, doing the Hollywood'Indian yell and it's not very
pretty. Matter of fact, some of us get offended." He told me,
"Tell you what, we've got to do it, but we'll never do it again."
I said, fair enough, but watch what the crowd does. Sure shootin,
as soon as the song started, here come the white folks. But, just
as he said, when the song was finished, he said over the mic, "Well,
ladies and gentlemen, out of respect to my Native American friends,
we'll NEVER do that song again!" And you know what, they have
stayed true to their word. Matter of fact, on their first trip to
Europe, they were doing a show in London, England, and someone requested,
"Kaw Li-Gaw." Chuck told the crowd, "I'm sorry ladies
and gentlemen, but out of respect to my good friend, Richie Plass
and all our other Native American friends, we no longer do that
song." This all sounds like the end of a good story of someone
showing respect and honor, but this story is just beginning.
the Fall of '95, Chuck called me and told me they had just gotten
signed with Arista Records. Wow, that was so cool! Plus, I thanked
him for calling me at work on the rez and sharing this news with
me, but he said, "But wait, there's more. Our first release
will be a CD recorded "Live At Robert's," but our first
studio recording is why I'm calling you. We're going to do an old
Moon Muuigan tune called, Cherokee Boogie,'but in the original
song, he uses the word, squaw.'Now, I know that this is not
a good word to you and your people, so I re-wrote some of the lyrics
and I'm going to send you a copy, and if you think it's still offensive
in any way, let me know and we won't release it." I told him,,
I ani't the one to be asking! Hell, I'm just
a chubby ole drummer from the rez." He said, "No, my friend,
you and your people are more to me than that. Give it a listen and
let me know, ok?" So, a week or so later I got a copy of their
first studio recording and I listened to "Cherokee Boogie."
I called him right away and said, "Sounds good to me, my friend,
sounds good to me." That song turned out to be their first
big recognizable song and to this day is one of their best songs
they still play on stage.
don't take me wrong. I am in no way truing to say that my saying
what I did helped them with their first major hit. Here's what I'm
REALLY trying to say. I am one of the people who doesn't like Tim
McGraw's song, "Indian Outlaw." Matter of fact, I have
made several phone calls, sent numerous e-mails and letters to try
and get a discussion with Tim and his people, but because I may
be one of the people on the "short list" of people against
"Indian Outlaw," I have been given my just do
But then here's our friends, "BR549" making sure they
don't offend our culture by using the word, "squaw," and
making an effort to have sensitivity. But then they took it even
a step further.
that time I was the drummer for, "The Wolf River Band,"
back home on our rez. All of a sudden, we're asked to be the opening
act for BR549 on several shows because of our friendship. Probably
one of my most honored times on stage occurred when at one of these
performances, as we were out doing our set, all the members of BR549
came to the stage and took OUR pictures!! They stayed for our whole
show, took us back on their tour bus, which was always the case,
and our friendship continued. Then, during the 4th of July weekend
of 1998, as they were performing at our casino in Keshena, Wisconsin,
they actually filmed a music video of their song, "Wild One"
from their CD, "Big Backyard Beat Show." I had the honor
of assisting with the production of this video and I got to be in
it. Then, two years ago, when they released their, "Live Across
the USA," they thanked Wolf River'on the CD jacket. Once
again our friends made an effort to acknowledge us. Think Tim McGraw
knows or CARES about us? I think not!
it's 2004. BR549 has made a couple changes in their line-up, but
the music, performance and attitude are still intact. This past
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday they played at the Oneida casino. Their
shows were great!! But, just as we've always done, we hooked up
with the guys in the band. On Monday afternoon they came out to
our place for a meal. We had Hopi beans, fry bread, wild rice and
chili. A good time was had by all. Matter of fact, you can read
an article on our get together at: www.greenbaypressgazette.com,
then look for the headline, "Band on the run settles down for
Oneida feast." To me, this is what it's all about
ink about good people sharing life. Like I was saying, in these
times of turmoil, war, racism and other barriers to our lives, it's
good to know there ARE good stories out there. Like I was saying,
if they ever get close to you, go see "BR549" and tell
them, "Richie said you guys are cool
" But then again,
if you don't like honky-tonk, rockabilly, cry-in-your-beer music
that a lot of us grew up on, you may not like them. But if you like
GREAT live entertainment, a good time, GREAT music and a GREAT show,
by all means, go see my friends.
let me know what you think.