Sunday, January 22, 2012

The King! Mike Bravener!

I still remember the first time I ever saw Mike Bravener. It was the week of the "Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival" about four years back. I took the afternoon off of work to wonder around town and try to find some good music. I went to one of the pubs downtown and was disapointed  by their poor customer service and lack of music (not that I am mentioning any names.... *cough* Garrison *cough*).

So after my disapointing afternoon I walked to King's Place and waited outside on york street for my future wife to get done work. As I was waiting outside enjoying the sunshine this band started setting up on one of the patio's outsiide of King's Place. All I could think of was another disapointment was getting ready to happen in front of me. Then this band started rocking to "I fought the law". This band was "The Rockin' Billies" led by non other than Mike Bravener. When my future wife came out to join me I told her I may as well get a lawn chair and cooler of beer and set up right here! I could listen to this all night!

Since then I met Mike through vinyl record collecting and I am proud to call him a friend. So without further ado, please welcome Mike Bravener!

Maritime Vinyl (MV) - How many records do you have in your collection now?

Mike Bravener (MB) – I don’t know. I bet you I got at least three to four hundred lp’s, at least! And then I got maybe a hundred and fifty  45’s and then I probably got thirty or forty 78’s.

MV – Oh really? What do you have in 78’s?

MB – I got some old Elvis stuff. I’ve got Johnny Cash. I got some Duke Ellington.

MV – Did you ever come across any LeadBelly?

MB – No I wish! I would love to get some of that old stuff. Like BB King, I would love to get some BB King vinyl, like old stuff. Chuck Berry as well. I love Chuck Berry. I have been addicted to Chuck this last month or two, I can’t get enough of Chuck Berry.

MV – So when did you get involved in music performing?

MB – I think since I was just a little kid you know. I remember putting shows on in my back yard. Pretending I was David Cassidy from the Partridge Family! And then I loved the Jackson 5. So I would sing all the Michael Jackson tunes. I would always perform. I taught myself how to play guitar when I was 17, because I saw this guy in Rockwood Park in Saint John singing and playing “Cover of the Rolling Stone”, and he had all these girls around him and I thought, man that’s how I could meet girls, I can play guitar and sing. So that’s what I did and I got into music. A little unknown trivia fact, when Elvis died in 1977 I was in high school and I was in the photography room singing Elvis songs trying to sound like Elvis because I loved Elvis’s music. I wasn’t a huge fan but I loved it. Of course when he died everyone was listening to Elvis again. Then I had a teacher the next day in class say that I was a terrible singer and I should never sing out in public. So I thought I’m not that good when it comes to playing music and all that stuff, so I never took it seriously. Then about ten years ago I left my job as a Clergy Man and got into music and entertaining full time.

MV – So when did you start doing Elvis impersonating?

MB – I started that, oh man it was like 15…..16 years ago, and I was doing singing telegrams, making balloon animals. I was a nerd guy, hillbilly guy. Then I went to this Elvis festival in Collingwood. I saw these guys dressed as Elvis doing the Elvis impersonation. I went and bought myself a goofy wig and came back to Fredericton and said that I’m going to start doing the Elvis singing telegrams.

MV – And you got pretty far with this?

MB – I did yeah. I went to the Canadian Collingwood festival which at the time was the world’s largest Elvis festival. I came second in the pro division and in 2009 I was selected by Elvis Presley Enterprises as one of their top 20 Elvis tribute artists in the world at that time.

MV – Was that at Graceland?

MB – Yeah that was in Memphis I performed at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts.

MV – Since then you got Elvis’s original drummer to play Fredericton.

MB – Yeah I got D.J. Fontana to play.

MV – Just Fredericton or did you get him for a couple of shows?

MB – Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi. We did those three.

MV – What was that like?

MB – That was awesome, I had such a great time! I talked to and emailed D.J. probably once a month or so and, you would like this, classic drummer magazine came out in I think in November and they referred to me as, and I’m just saying this because of my work with D.J., called me Canada’s greatest Elvis tribute master which I thought was great.

MV – That is awesome! That is coming from D.J.?

MB – Yeah! That’s not coming from some competition or festival, that’s coming from a man that worked with Elvis.

MV – That must mean more than any competition.

MB – It does, cause I’ve never come in first place in a major competition but to have someone like D.J. make those kind of comments, that’s awesome.

MV – Do you still do the Elvis impersonating?

MB – I do yeah, in fact I got an Elvis thing on Wednesday night actually for the army base at the Delta they are having a gathering there so they asked for me to come and do a corporate party for them as Elvis.

MV – Back to vinyl now, how many of your three to four hundred vinyls would you say is Elvis?

MB – I’ve got every Elvis vinyl that he put out in his lifetime. So now that I think about it I probably have more than 400 vinyls. Because I think Elvis had 30 – 40 LP’s in his lifetime? So I have everyone that he ever released.

MV – That’s before he died?

MB – Yeah and then all of the releases that came out since then (his death) that you have been able to get on vinyl, I have most of them. There are some that I sold because I realized that there was a market for collecting vinyl. So I actually paid for some of my university expenses by selling and collecting all this vinyl.
MV – Besides Elvis, what else would be your main focus in your collecting?

MB – I love Alice Cooper. I love Queen, I’m a huge Queen fan. Queen is my favourite band. I’ve got everything Queen ever put out on vinyl. But one of my most collectable albums that I own is Buddy Holly’s first album “That’ll be the day” but on the decca label. As a collector you would know that different labels mean different things. This label is the first pressing label so it’s the black and white decca label and I think it’s worth like eight hundred bucks or something in the Osborne record guide. This is a 1990’s somewhat record guide so I haven’t checked the current one.

MV – I have one at home and I will check for you. (I checked when I got home and in the “Goldmine Record Album Price Guide 6th edition” it is listed at $1500!).

MB – Yeah, “that’ll be the day” on the decca label, it’s the black and silver printing label and it’s in mint shape too.

MV – Do you still actively collect vinyl?

MB – Yeah! Oh yeah! Like I was bidding on ebay, there is a Charlie Rich album I have got to have!  Sam Phillips was the guy that did Sun records, he sold Sun and he opened Phillips recording service just a street over on Madison Avenue and he recorded Charlie Rich. Charlie Rich’s first album was an album called “Lonely Weekends” which you can get on the Sun label but it’s a re-release of the Phillips label. So I’m looking for it on ebay.  I was winning the thing up until there was 10 minutes left on the bid and I thought “I’m going to win this thing”. Anyway, someone outbid me and got it for like fifty bucks. I had bid a high of thirty five because that is my budget. You know, being a musician type and a guitar teacher and a part time CER at “Chapters” doesn’t leave me a lot of money to spend on vinyl but yeah I still collect. I am always looking for stuff. I found a George Jones album recently. I paid fifty cents for it and it’s George Jones sings White Lightning first printing and its awesome shape, like very good plus.

MV – So where do you buy the majority of your vinyl now?

MB – I use to buy them from this guy who had a thing called “Casa-Dia Vinyl Records” (wink) but right now I probably would buy most of mine from Value Village believe it or not. I’ll go to Value Village and get some there until Casa-Dia opens up again.

MV – How do you store your records?

MB – I have a ledge in my basement. I used to keep them in crates but I wanted to really look at them, because I love not only the vinyl and the sound but I love the artwork. I love pulling out something that is more than four or five inches wide and tall.

MV – It’s not even that anymore. It is a screen on your ipod.

MB – Exactly! So I’m starting to buy some new vinyl too. I’ll look around, go to some record shows and I bought some vinyl at HMV, the odd time they will bring one in. And I bought some stuff at Backstreet as well, some new stuff, that’s about it but value village is probably my number one place right now for finding vinyl. I got B52’s with “love shack” on cd there last week. I only had the cassette of that and I love the song “love shack”. And I got a Hank Williams 78 because I love Hank Williams senior.I have been trying to find some Hank 78’s out on the “sterling” label, trying to find one of those just to have one. Carl Perkins who was also at Sun records……

MV – Died to young that guy. He was “the” rockabilly guy to me. Carl and Elvis.

MB – He was a country singer too you know. Have you ever heard Carl Perkins do his country stuff before he was rockabilly?

MV – I didn’t no.

MB – It was awesome. Bill Haley was a country singer before he did “rock around the clock” and all that stuff too. He was known as yodelling Bill Haley. He was pretty awesome too.

MV – A lot of people collect records and don’t even listen to them all the time. Is vinyl the main way you listen to music?

MB – If I am putting music on I will put on the LP for sure. In fact I bought Amy Whinehouse’s new release, I think it’s called “Lost Treasure” and put that on and yeah I just find that vinyl has real warmth to it. You know when you think about it, sound moves in waves and analogue is really a way to get sound waves. And so if you take a turntable and if all the power is out I can still put that needle down and move it with my fingers and I can still hear something.

MV – If you can get it 33.3 RPM you are all set.

MB – Yeah and you can’t do that with a cd and if your ipod dies you are shit out of luck really.  So vinyl to me is still the way to go and its funny, you were showing me that clip of Johnny Winter and Letterman was holding up vinyl.

MV – It’s weird eh. You would never have seen that a couple of years ago.

MB – No and I think people want that again because there is something real about it. Like Adele, I would love to get her album on vinyl as opposed to cd.

MV – Yeah I really want to get her vinyl too. She is good. I like her a lot.

MB – Yeah she is really good. Another thing I love about vinyl is you just never know what you are going to find and where you are going to find it. I went to a used bookstore one time and they had a bunch of Hank Williams EP’s from the fifties. They were UK prints. I bought those and he only wanted two bucks for them because he didn’t really care. So I got those, and there was a Hank Snow one with it and I love listening to that. I love listening to that more than the cd.

MV – You told me before that you want to make the majority of your living in music. Do you feel that you are accomplishing that?

MB – Yeah I got 23 students that I teach guitar. I love doing that. I’m also doing a morning a week right now with George Street School teaching kid’s guitar there.   And then I work off and on mentoring high school students in the performing arts and that is one morning a week as well.

MV – and you were an ordained Pastor?

MB – Yeah Baptist.

MV – You’re not practicing that as much anymore?

MB – I get this all the time. “So you’re not in Ministry anymore?” I tell them that everything I do is because I want to make people happy. So I’m trying to serve people. I may not be the best at it but you know I do the best that I can and just make people happy. That’s all I care about.

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