I arrived in B’ham in May, ’93. By the first of June I was rehearsing regularly with Tom Howle and his neighbor, Paul Wood. We met at a local blues jam. Soon we had a gig at a pool party in Avondale in July. Originally conceived as a blues band (with a healthy dose of Southern rock), we lined up several gigs, including one over at the Alabama Blues Festival in Tuscaloosa where I met many established musicians in the B’ham area. Several of ‘em appear in Millard’s book, “Magic City Nights" (Topper, Gravy, Microwave Dave). There's a pic in the photo gallery of the line up.
Tom Howle – guitar, general band leader
Paul Wood – keyboards, vocal
Tim Elliott – guitar, vocal, harp
Eddie Guest – drums
Joe Ledbetter – bass
John Feagin – drums
Dictionary – bass, vocals
Willie Marble – vocals, guitar, sax & vibe
Full House had spirit and played any gig it could get. But right away we had some problems that seemed to have a backstory I didn't get: Eddie and Joe left after we got started. Marvin Swantek helped out when he could on drums (truthfully, he was there in the beginning, starting a long friendship between us). A guy I only knew as “Dictionary” then took over on bass and some lead vocals. He had an incredible voice and deep memory for songs and lyrics (hence, the nickname, I suppose; you can hear him on "I Can't Hold Out" in the downloads below). Big John Feagin took over on drums. Willie Marble joined us whenever he was in town. He told a crowd at one gig that had just flown in from Toronto to make the gig. It was true. He had just flown back in from doin’ his day job.
And I learned about the B'ham club scene right away. We played the Jazz Café many times and saw some occasional weirdness there. It was a dark, smoky, funky joint; I have nothing but fond memories of it!). And the only time I ever played The Nick we opened on a Thursday at midnight for somebody passing thru. We played a joint called the Dixie Cue one week, and the next month it was an appliance store. Played the Burly Earl and I had to dodge some guy who ran thru the front door and out the back, and then had to dodge his pursuer a few moments later. Opened for the Nighthawks at the Rockin' Horse (the first of several times that I'd do that). Big John got sick in the first set of another gig at the Rockin’ Horse. I thought he had food poisoning. Found out later he had a heart attack and he played through it.
I got a rude awakening about the B’ham scene: People were not into original music, neither were the bandmates or bar scene. Joe Ledbetter gave me the word on the side that I might find that frustrating (he was right. He also told me my music was too “Texas” for the locals, a comment that proved prescient). Willie also took me aside and gave me some sidebar advice about the local bar-band scene.
The band carried an odd vibe that eventually contributed to an abrupt ending when the guy who owned the P.A. and the rehearsal space announced he was tired of playing for “drunks, drug addicts and hookers” and wanted to play “blues for Jesus.” I think the odd vibe was clear one night when Willie saved one gig at a club off of Valley: he got a conga line goin’ and all, and had people laffin' and dancin'. After the gig, damned if the band then voted to not give him a full cut. Not cool.