Allen “Big Al”VanBlarcum- Born in Oak Cliff, Texas. Big Al played his first public gig in 1983, doing set breaks for Bob McCarthey at Arlington’s Tanstaafl Pub.. Since then he has played in several bands, including The Same Difference, Purple Geckos, Upper Under-ground String Band, The Rounders, The Tenner Shoe River Boys, Full Tilt Boogie and guest player with the Bluebonnet Plague.
His Tenner Shoe River Boys stint was perhaps his most noted role. The musical comedy trio included Al on guitar, Greg Jackson on banjo and Ron Green on bass, As Jackson put it, they were "the tallest trio in Texas" (the shortest member of the band was 6'2"). TRB shared bills with Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel, Garth Brooks, Buck Owens and Brave Combo among many others at venues around the DFW area. The band’s high water mark came with a performance of "The Ballad of Clayton Williams" to Ann Richards during her gubernatorial campaign.TRB’s unique sartorial flair featured a black tuxedo from the waist up and swim suits and tennis shoes from the waist down. They would assure the crowd that "we'll get the other half of the suit out of the cleaners after we're paid."
Big Al and David Giddens (former member of The Bluebonnet Plague) began forming a new group that would blend bluegrass with cajun, blues, folk, country and rock with a rural favor and multi-instrumentation. That is the genesis for Smokin’ Roots.
David Giddens - Raised in Houston in the ‘60s, David grew up on the same radio fare as most of Space City’s kids, including Motown and Stax Records artists, South Texas rock and the Rolling Stones. (the Beatles were wildly popular, but Houston’s young seemed to gravitate more to the Stones’ sound.) A move to North Texas in1967 introduced him to Buck, Porter, Dolly, Patsy, Bob Wills and Webb Pierce and the whole country lounge lizard scene and eventually, folk, bluegrass and country blues.
At 16 he bought an old Kay dreadnaught for $5 from a psychotic ex-Marine DI whose life mission was to beat Jesus into everyone that wasn’t as big as him. David took his revenge on “Brother Larry” by trying to mimic Bob Dylan (which some say was a tragic mistake) as well as John Lee Hooker and later, Gram Parsons.
1975 found him in South Louisiana working as a DJ for country radio station KCIL 107FM. Initially a sensation, David gained a big following among Houma’s counter-culture. But after starting out in prime afternoon drive time, his casual disregard for the proscribed playlist got him bumped down to post-drive evenings. He wound up pulling the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. slot – right before Cousin EJ’s Cajun show.
After a year-long attempt to live in New Orleans David headed back down the bayou and occasionally played with informal pickup bands. He even tried regular lessons on pedal steel from a local legend down in Chauvin (his first name was Forestt, no not that one), and spent his sparse off- hours trying to emulate the styles of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Taj Mahal, David Bromberg and Leo Kottke late at night, pulling in the week signal from WWNO in New Orleans.
Back in Texas David slowly began working his way into the live music scene and served a short-lived stint with a band called The Red Derangers (by happenstance each of the band members drove red vehicles). Shortly thereafter he discovered the regular Thursday night bluegrass jam at Arlington’s Tanstaafl Pub, where he became a regular. The engine that powered those jam sessions consisted the brother/sister duo, Greg (world class Dobro player and guitarist) and bass player A Kathleen Jackson. David turned to Greg to radically redevelop his guitar style and the rudiments of bluegrass Dobro, as well as the low-down on performing and just about anything else worth knowing. David later worked with Kathleen in the Bluebonnet Plague and also met Big Al VanBlarcum, a frequent cohort of the Jacksons in previous years. After a Plague gig one freezing night in East Texas in 2011, Al laid out the initial idea for the Smokin Roots.
David Roberson – A native of Wichita Falls, David grew up on the sound of Texas Radio and has stayed involved in music throughout his life. He started on drums in junior high school and stayed with it through high school and college at the University of Texas at Arlington. As a trained drummer and percussionist he is also a three-year member of the Arlington Community Band playing tympani.
Some of David’s favorite players include Neil Peart from Rush, Billy Cobham, the late John Bonham, Danny Seraphine of Chicago, Ron Bushy of Iron Buttefly and or course Buddy Rich. He is partial to Texas alternative country, bluegrass, Cajun, jazz and rock & roll.
David's motto is “Have drums will travel.”
Steve Moore – Born in Dallas but raised all over the world in a US Air Force family, bass player Steve Moore is the other half of Smokin’ Roots rhythm section. He began playing the guitar while living in Germany in the early ‘60s, when the sounds of the British music scene were broadcast over Radio Luxembourg. Groups like The Shadows, The Kinks, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones were a staple and he .picked up the bass early on. Years of traveling and playing has made him a formidable presence in the Smokin’ Roots. With influences as diverse as California surf, Motown, Texas blues and LA country, His love of music has developed a well-defined, driving and vibrant style. A veteran of innumerable groups no one has heard of, Steve has found a home with the Smokin’ Roots. On the first night that Steve played with the Smokin Roots another musician also showed up to play bass. That was Sterling Z.
Sterling Z appeared that night after being given the wrong address for the previous jam session. He sat on the side listening to Steve play bass. After awhile David Giddens being a good host asked if he played guitar, of course he did and how! Sterling quickly settled in on lead guitar playing his black Strat. Here was a great compliment to David's butterscotch Telecaster played with a finger picking style with Sterling wheeling off searing riffs dancing on his pedal board. All we know is that he used to be with fairly well known band, which one he'll never say. Little is known of his past, he remains a mysterious figure but when you play like that...it's no questions asked.
Appearing in the Hip Pocket Theatre Backyard Saturday, July 7 Saturday, October 6