BLUES REVUE--Gotta Get a Cadillac (1999)
Launching this record with Lowell Fulson's wall-busting "Room With a View of the Blues," Microwave Dave & The Nukes put a cool spin on everything they touch - these dozen cover songs drip with new coats of sonic paint. Microwave Dave Gallaher is a multi-instrumentalist and singer with a twisted take on the blues. He injects an avant-garde element - not through risk-taking arrangements or lofty harmonic ideals, but by just being himself, a gruff-voiced guitar player with a knack for interesting rhythm changes.
Think ZZ Top meets Frank Zappa in Captain Beefheart's house trailer for a little Sunday jam session, and you start to get the picture. Add his appreciable talent on harmonica and cornet, and you get the feeling that Gallaher has quite a hip toolbox. His guitar is all towering chords and classic fills - no grace notes or noodling here. You'll find catchy overhauls of stalwart cuts like "Rock Me, Baby," "Further On Up the Road" and "Take Out Some Insurance," but Microwave Dave & The Nukes spread out the footprint with a swing-rock take on Brian Setzer's "Look At That Cadillac" and the straight American saloon rock of "Georgia Swing."
Ít Hurts Me Too" is among the best cuts here; it slices all the fat off the bone, leaving nothing but taut bass, guitar sludge and dead-on vocals. The roadhouse psychobilly take on Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" is a superb choice, too.
Sidemen Rick Godfrey (on bass) and Mike Alexander (on drums) make the perfect rhythm section, laying down the core groove and leaving the fireworks to Gallaher. But the overriding focus of Cadillac is Gallaher's excellent guitar playing. His slide, a fine mix of precision and grit, is the sound of a player who's paid dues aplenty. ED IVEY
BLUES REVUE--Goodnight, Dear (1997)
Blues Revue No. 31 October 1997
"The name Microwave Dave & The Nukes may conjure up images of a quasi-blues-influenced, way too loud rock 'n' roll band or a bunch of NASA engineers out for some weekend fun. But don't be deceived. This band, backed by veteran blues drummer Ardie Dean and bassist-song- writer Rick Godfrey, deserves high marks as a true blues band that is keeping alive the blues tradition while adding originality and personality to the music. The band, best known for it's regional and European hit, "Road Runner," was started by Microwave Dave Gallaher. Gallaher got his nickname in the mid-'80s while sitting in with "Chicago" Bob Nelson at the Kaffee Klatsch in Huntsville, Ala. Nelson was listening to some of Gallaher's material for possible recordings. At the end of the set, Nelson couldn't remember Gallaher's last name, so he introduced him as "Dave the Microwave!" Later it was turned into Microwave Dave, and when he formed his current band, Gallaher's then-wife came up with an appropriate name for the musicians, the Nukes.
This band got it's start about 1989, when Gallaher was asked to play for a public radio fund drive. So many people called in to ask where the band was playing locally that they went out and found some regular weekly gigs. Icehouse Records released the group's first CD, Goodnight, Dear in 1995. Produced by Johnny Sandlin and with guests such as Jerry "Boogie" McCain, David Hood and Roger Hawkins, the CD has been successful and was re-released featuring the song "Road Runner," better known as the "Beep, Beep" song. The tune, which has received a lot of airplay in Europe, was selected as the theme song for Paris' professional soccer team, being played several times a game to a crowd of 80,000 (it is known as the "Bip, Bip" song there). The song had the top spot on the Rhythm & Beach Top 40 music chart for 22 weeks this year and had the No. 1 spot on the Top 60 in Dixie chart earlier this year. The band is so popular in Charleston, S.C., that one night the bouncers wouldn't let them into the club where they were supposed to play because it was already full and the lines were so long.
Gallaher's story about early blues influences is not unlike that of many modern bluesmen who grew up in the '50s. Growing up in Houston, he started listening to the radio when he was young. After getting a crystal radio set for Christmas when he was 11, he went to bed every night with a pillow over his head and the radio crystal in his ear so his parents couldn't hear him listening to the all-night disc jockeys in Houston. The only station he was able to get was a black station that played R&B and the blues all night long until morning when it switched to gospel. He said he was "sleep trained" in the blues for several years, and his singing and guitar playing certainly reflect that influence.
Gallaher started out playing ukulele at the age of 9, but one day he stepped on it getting out of bed. With a broken heart, he discovered an old Stella guitar, which his father had bought several years earlier, in the attic. He played only 4 strings for a while, like the ukulele, until he aquired his first guitar book. In school bands he played trumpet, french horn and drums. Professionally, he played drums in a couple of trios that played standards, as well as a Dixieland band called the Supersonic Philharmonics that played for the drill team during the Houston Oiler's first season.
In 1961 he moved to Atlanta, where he got heavily involved in soul music. In 1965 he formed the Majestics, a seven-piece band with horns that quickly became known as the band of choice to open for and back such notables as Aretha Franklin, Carla Thomas, Billy Stewart, William Bell and others. The draft finally pulled that band apart, and while in Vietnam, Gallaher played in a Saigon-based R&B band called the Rotations. That experience helped him decide that if he got back home, he would spend his life being a full-time musician.
Upon his return to Virginia, Gallaher joined a band that played a number of rural juke joints, some riskier than others. One such joint, where they played every Saturday for a year and a half, gave the band a contract that they would play the whole evening -- or until the first gunshot. Even if the
shot came 15 minutes into the set, the band would get full pay and head home. The worst Gallaher got hurt, though, was on a night that he dove behind his amplifier to avoid a bullet and a speaker fell on his head.
Gallaher's musical studies have been varied as well. He has studied guitar with Johnny Shines, and learned arranging, composition and guitar at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. In Boston he played in the band Cameron, which eventually took a house gig in the Fort Lauderdale area. After 12 years and three albums -- and some major local success opening for stars such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, Della Reese, Louis Prima, Brenda Lee and others -- the band finally broke up, and Gallaher moved to Huntsville.
Being close to Nashville, Gallaher found work with a number of country acts including the Thrasher Brothers and Helen Cornelius, but he got bored with the country music scene and headed home to Huntsville to make a career of woodworking. He was hired by Rick Godfrey, a stained glass artist noted throughout the Tennessee valley, and the two of them began playing blues tunes at lunch time using a drum machine. Later, friend Mike Alexander joined them "live" on drums, and Microwave Dave & the Nukes was born.
When Alexander left the band in 1995 to join his family's business, friend Ardie Dean stepped in to fill his shoes. Dean, who has played at Carnegie Hall with Guitar Gabriel, is a veteran of 10 years with Homesick James and one of the few drummers Bo Diddley allows to play the Bo Diddley beat with
him. Dean also collects and brokers classic drum kits, and the guys never know what kind of kit he'll have when he shows up at a gig.
Centrally located near several cities with blues venues, the Huntsville-headquartered band plays nearly 200 dates a year, gaining a loyal following everywhere they go. The band frequently backs harmonica master Jerry "Boogie" McCain and Bo Diddley when he plays Alabama. These bluesmen
have toured Europe four times recently and played several cruises for Themequest International's Livin' the Blues cruises. The list of blues stars whom the band has played with include Koko Taylor, Bobby Bland and Lazy Lester, Kenny Neal, John Mayall and Little Milton.
Gallaher recalled one of the high points of his career: the day Bobby Bland called him a bluesman. Gallaher said he takes his guitar style from listening to piano players and trying to adapt what he hears on the guitar. He said players such as Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, and Otis Spann have
influenced his guitar style more than many of the guitar players have (the ever-modest Gallaher said he doesn't want to embarrass the great guitarists by saying he tries to sound like them). He and his band members have written a variety of songs, but when they play a gig, they don't call attention to
their original tunes because they don't want people to change their frame of mind of listening. They want their audience to enjoy the whole program. However, Gallaher is always quick to give credit to the master bluesmen whose songs the band covers.
What's the secret of success for these musicians? Microwave Dave & the Nukes want only to play the music they love, play with musicians they love playing with, and play for people they love playing for -- passing on the tradition as the blues masters before them did. Nearly a third of their gigs benefit others, whether they be at Blues in the Schools programs, blues society shows, jail concerts, or retirement centers. And Gallaher also finds time to broadcast "Talking the Blues With Microwave Dave," which was nominated for a Keeping the Blues Alive Award in 1995, twice a week on public radio.
Quite simply, this is a group that wants to make people happy with their music, and judging from the crowd response at a recent appearance, they are an incredible success." -- Ruth Higley