News & Rambling

News & Rambling

The Johnny Cash 84th Birthday Bash at The Hall at MP Brooklyn, February 26 & 27, 2016



The Johnny Cash 84th Birthday Bash will take place over two nights at The Hall at MP Brooklyn, Friday, February 26, 2016 and Saturday, February 27, 2016. On both nights, the 7-piece outfit known as Alex Battles & the Whisky Rebellion will play a full evening’s worth of Johnny Cash hits and rarities. In addition to Johnny’s chart topping singles, Friday night‘s setlist will include songs from the 1970 album “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash“, while Saturday night‘s performance will focus on songs from “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian” over the course of the evening.

Miss Linda Hill will join Alex Battles The Whisky Rebellion onstage for duets such as “Jackson” and “If I Were A Carpenter”. Hill is a veteran writer and performer who has worked with Robin Williams, Minnie Pearl, and George Carlin. She is creator of the characters “Lindy Loo” “Miss Angel Drake” and the leader of the band “The Lucky Fellers.

The Dock Oscar Gospel Quartet will provide backing vocals throughout the weekend. Dock Oscar is the creator of the seminal showcase, The Kings County Opry which coalesced the Brooklyn country music scene every month from 2003-2007. He is also an excellent singer/songwriter and leader of the band Sweet William.

Alex Battles began writing and performing his songs onstage in 1999. Battles formed his band, The Whisky Rebellion in 2001, started the CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree in 2004 and began producing the annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash in 2005. Battles also founded the Brooklyn Country Music Festival, which saw ten installments capped by 2015’s performance headlined by Brooklyn native Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Among the fantastic folks Alex Battles has opened for are Junior Brown, Dan Bern, Joe Doe, and Teddy Thompson. In 2011, Battles released Goodbye Almira, an acoustic album of his own compositions featuring Aoife O’Donovan on guest vocals. He is currently producing Jan Bell & The Maybelles upcoming LP, set for release in fall 2016.



Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas. As a boy, he sang in church. After completing a four year stint in the Air Force, Cash moved to Memphis in 1954 to find work and pursue a career in singing. Through his brother, he met his band, Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, with whom he would create his one-of-a-kind sound. Working with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Cash turned into one of the label’s brightest stars, able to write his own songs as well as sing the songs of others.

A move to Columbia records allowed Cash the freedom to make concept albums focused on specific topics that garnered his attention. On a trip to New York City in 1965, Johnny Cash heard a performance of singer/songwriter Peter LaFarge’s songs detailing the injustices suffered by Native Americans at the hands of European settlers. While LaFarge’s “As Long As The Grass Shall Grow” had previously been performed by Bob Dylan, Cash took things a step further. Adding three of his own compositions, Cash recorded five LaFarge compositions including the single “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” to create the landmark album “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.” Initially rejected by country radio, Cash hired independent promoters and personally lobbied disk jockeys to play the record. For his efforts, Cash was adopted by the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation and given the name “Story Teller”.

Johnny Cash - Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian

After the landmark live records “At Folsom Prison” and “At San Quentin”, Cash returned to the studio to record “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” a personal record which includes “To Beat The Devil” (Cash’s first cover of a Kris Kristofferson song), “Blistered” (duet with the Carter Family), “Sing a Traveling Song” (written by Helen Carter’s son, Kenny Jones), “See Ruby Fall” (co-written by Cash and Roy Orbison), and “Box 1, Route 144” a sobering reminder of the harsh reality of war.

Johnny Cash - Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

In a landmark career, Johnny Cash recorded ninety-six albums and was inducted into the Hall of Fames for Country Music, Rock & Roll, and Gospel Music. He passed away in 2003, aged 71 years old. In an obituary for Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan wrote: “In plain terms, Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him — the greatest of the greats then and now.”

The Whisky Rebellion boasts Sammo on guitar, Shaky Dave on harmonica, Tina Lama on bass, “Smilin'” Charlie Shaw on drums, and Kari on fiddle.

Joining the fray onstage will be writer/performer Miss Linda Hill who has performed with Minnie Pearl, Robin Williams, and George Carlin. She performs regularly in New York City with her band, The Lucky Fellers.

Backing the band on vocals will be the Dock Oscar Gospel Quartet. Dock Oscar is one of the founders of the Brooklyn Country Music Festival and the creator of the Kings County Opry, which ran monthly at Freddy’s Bar for ten years.


The Hall at MP is a truly unique hospitality driven music and event space by chef Michael Psilakis. Located in the heart of Williamsburg Brooklyn at 470 Driggs, The Hall is an acoustically treated and engineered space that is outfitted with a state of the art sound system by Martin Audio.

Tickets to the February 26, 2016 and February 27, 2016 performances of the Johnny Cash 84th Birthday Bash starring Alex Battles & The Whisky Rebellion at the Hall at MP Brooklyn are on sale now. Advance tickets to this event are strongly recommended.

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The Tenth Brooklyn Country Music Festival, August 20-23, 2014 at Bell House


The Tenth Brooklyn Country Music Festival will stomp on into The Bell House on August 20-23, 2015. As with all previous installments, the show will feature a selection of the acts based in and originating from New York City, dedicated to the question of what sort of country music emanates from the sidewalks of the five boroughs.

A full lineup will be released on June 2, 2015. In the meantime, please consider following The Brooklyn Country Music Festival (fb, twitter) and The Bell House (fb, twitter) for updates. Thank you kindly for your attention.


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My campaign to write The Princess Bride Musical

I had a lot of fun with this project. So much fun, in fact, that I found myself glaring at a couch covered in yellow scraps of paper when it was over.

It had been a big day. I’d finally released The Princess Bride song I’d been working on for weeks. It was my ship in a bottle, sailing the seas of social media, hoping to be picked up by someone who could give me the opportunity to make more. I missed it already.

For moments like this, I have an ideas jar, a large, glass container where I deposit the inklings that make me happy. When I finish a project, I sort through my ideas, find a smile, and start anew.

This time though, nothing was thrilling me. None of my ideas excited me as much as the one I had just finished working on. The next day, I was still feeling anxious when I spotted a lone, golden scrap I’d neglected to collect the night before. I picked it up, unfolded it, and smiled when I read the words: “PRINCESS BRIDE” scrawled in purple ink.


The idea for me to work on this project came from a friend who had read an article detailing Mr. Reiner’s difficulties finding a songwriter for the musical version of his film. My friend believed I could do the job. I expressed my enthusiasm, but confessed to her that I hadn’t seen “The Princess Bride” as a child. As an adult, I find it difficult to watch André The Giant in anything without seeing him as a 12 year-old kid headed to school in the back of Samuel Beckett’s pickup truck. It just breaks my heart to think that we lost him at 46. As such, I’d never been able to finish the film.

“Maybe that’s what your first song should be about!” She told me. Suddenly, I jumped at the challenge of responding to the smoke signals of Hollywood royalty. I went home, purchased the film, and started work.

Over the next few weeks, I learned that The Princess Bride isn’t only about the lines that people recite. It’s a story a father made up for his children while putting them to bed at night. It’s a story about an unbelievably evil man who conspires to start a war by forcibly marrying and murdering the most beautiful woman in the land. It’s a story about how love, family, and friendship can conquer such evil. It’s a story everyone should hear, sing, and remember.

As I worked, I became a fan of the film too. Now, I wanted to leave the theatre smiling. I developed an outline to tell the story musically. Call it fate or coincidence, but the first song to appear on my outline was indeed a duet between André the Giant’s character, Fezzik and Vizzini, memorably portrayed by Wallace Shawn. I loved every moment of writing this song. I would love to have the opportunity to write the next one on my outline, the next one, the next one, the next one, the next one, and so on until the story is told.

most sincerely,

Alex Battles, Brooklyn, NY

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Songwriting credits for NPRMusic’s Jittery Jams list

coffeesongNPR’s Jittery Jams list of songs for coffee lovers reminded me of how much I love the lyrics to the Coffee Song.  Below are some facts about the songwriters on NPR’s list. (All links are ad-free to the best of my ability.)

Mississippi John Hurt wrote “Coffee Blues.”

Bob Hilliard & Dick Miles wrote “The Coffee Song“. Other notable Hilliard lyrics include “I’m Late” for Walt Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, “Our Day Will  Come” most famously recorded by Ruby & The Romantics, and “In The Wee Small Hours” also recorded by Frank Sinatra. Miles collaborated with Hilliard on several other novelty songs including “Genie The Magic Record.”

Chris Difford & Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze wrote “Black Coffee In Bed.”

Heavy D’s “Black Coffee” contains a sample of James Brown’s “The Payback.” which was written by James Brown, John Starks, and Fred Wesley.

Paul Francis Webster & Sonny Burke wrote “Black Coffee.” Webster wrote the lyrics to three Academy Award winning songs and the Spider Man Theme. Burke later collaborated with Peggy Lee for the score to “Lady & The Tramp.”

Brendon Small wrote the “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle.”

Alonzo Mathis, Terius Nash, Darnell Richard, Yung Joc, and Hosea Williams wrote “Coffee Shop.” Mathis co-wrote on the BMI-award winning song “Papers.” Nash (aka The Dream) is a massively successful pop songwriter who co-wrote Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” to name just two reasons you’d like to visit his house. Richard and Williams also c0-wrote the BMI-award winning song “Do It To It.”

DeSylva, Brown, & Henderson wrote “You’re The Cream In My Coffee“. Ray Henderson wrote the music to “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “I’m Sitting On Top Of The World,” and “Button Up Your Overcoat,” the latter also with DeSylva & Brown.

Blur wrote “Coffee and TV.

BONUS: Milton Drake and Ben Oakland wrote “Java Jive“. Milton Drake also wrote “Mairzy Doats“. Ben Oakland was an incredibly prolific composer of film scores who also collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein II to write “I’ll Take Romance.”

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Copyright 2014 Alex Battles.