It was 8:30 pm. Fred Scribner sat in a cozy corner of a 6×6 square foot stage with his fingers emblazoned within the strings of his flamenco guitar, speakers appropriately mounted on the walls to his left and right, and about 10 people surrounded by a mellow candlelight setting and quiet conversation. The lighting was dim, the energy was calm, and the music was perfect.
“Who needs electricity? We don’t need electricity.” Scribner politely joked with Debi Ryan, General Manager of Vox Pop, about the power outage that had occurred. With his recurring Tuesday appearance, it’s no doubt their relationship is a very friendly one; he made fun of her for attempting to create a spotlight with a flashlight… to no avail.
“[It’s a] good thing I brought my battery-powered amp today,” he said to me about a half hour earlier while puffing on a cigarette before the show.
His attire was casual. Standing about 6’1 or taller, he wore a blue jacket that read “IBM” over a black button-up that overlapped a black tee, accompanied with a pair of clean, crispy blue jeans. “Lemme think,” he said before a quick inhale during our brief conversation, “probably the most significant thing me, [Little] Sammy [Davis], and the band [Midnight Slim] are known for is our long run on the Imus Show—over 20 years now.”
Don Imus, who is today most remembered for a nationally covered controversy back in 2007, was first better known for his popular show Imus in the Morning which has been running since 1971. Midnight Slim, (including Brad Scribner, John Thompson, and Randy Weimer) along with the legendary harminist Little Sammy Davis, became Imus’ regularly featured act, recognized as his “House Band” in 1991, and has been moving along strongly ever since. The band was seen on MSNBC on a daily basis and heard on the radio from coast to coast, partly in thanks to the exposure from the Imus show, mostly in great a due to their unquestionable chemistry. Their music of choice: the blues.
Scribner, born in New York City, did not begin as a blues musician. Following in the footsteps of his favorite band, The Beatles, he picked up the guitar at the age of 11 and began performing for high school crowds “within the next 6 months,” according to his online biography. By the age of 13 he had a steady gig at a country bar with a local singer named Ken Henry in Orange County, NY (where he and his family moved to about 2 years prior).
By the time he turned 18, he was playing professionally with bands, booking his own gigs, and creating master recordings. Once he reached his early 20s, he had already dabbed in music from country, rock n roll, blues, funk, and disco.
Since their critically acclaimed proof of success with the record “I Ain’t Lyin” on the prestigious Delmark Records in 1996, winning them Best Comeback Artist, Scribner more recently has been working on a new album. Opening shows for Gavin DeGraw, recording with Joey DeGraw, and continuously playing shows with Little Sammy Davis, as well as his continued appearance on Don Imus’ show keeps him busy.
Scribner’s sound, which infuses many different genres from which he has studied, is one of the reasons his music is so captivating when he plays. Whether it’s with the accompaniment of his band, or a solo cover of a Santana classic, every note seems flawless and ever lyric sounds harmonic. In a world that claims genres such as the blues to be a thing of the past, I question what could happen if we all placed down our iPods and sat in front a true musician, such as Scribner for some time.
The crowd in the coffeeshop of Vox Pop continuously poured in and out from the rain as the sound resonated from his battery-powered amp to the lackluster streets of Courtelyou Rd. His brilliance is undeniable and his personality is warming. It felt as if I was sitting amongst and speaking to a true musical legend… It’s a shame it takes some musicians a lifetime to get the spotlight they truly deserve. But since that lifetime is far from up, I’ll be waiting to see what lies ahead.