One of the founding members of the celebrated alt-country quintet BR5-49, Chuck Mead brings together vintage country, rockabilly, and no-frills rock & roll, creating a sound that generates a swing all its own. While Mead has also made a name for himself as a producer and musical director, his work as a solo artist suggests a tougher, wilder version of the nervy traditionalist sound of BR5-49, especially on 2009's Journeyman's Wager and 2014's Free State Serenade. Born in Nevada, Missouri and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Chuck Mead cut his teeth musically playing in a roots rock band called Homestead Grays before he left home and relocated to Nashville. After meeting fellow musician Gary Bennett, he discovered they shared a passion for traditional country sounds of the '40s and '50s. In 1993, the two decided to form a band that evolved into BR5-49, the name drawn from a recurring sketch on the country music variety show Hee Haw. BR5-49 became regulars at a Nashville club called Robert's Western World, and their marathon sets (where they played for tips and regularly took requests for obscure honky tonk numbers) earned them a serious regional reputation and a deal with Arista Nashville Records. Despite enthusiastic press and respectable sales, country radio didn't warm to BR5-49, and after jumping from Arista to Sony to the independent Dualtone label, the band broke up in 2006. Prior to the breakup, Mead began dabbling in production, and coordinated a pair of tribute albums to iconic country artists, Johnny Cash (2002's Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash) and Waylon Jennings (2003's Lonesome, On'ry and Mean: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings). After the band ended their run, Mead became a staff writer at one of Nashville's leading song publishers and toured with the group the Hillbilly All-Stars, featuring members of the Mavericks. Mead was also musical director and arranger for the Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet (based on the true story of the day Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash had a spontaneous studio jam session), from its workshop productions in Daytona (in 2006) and Seattle (2007) to its runs in Chicago, New York, and London (in 2010 and 2011). In 2009, Mead released his first solo album with his backing group the Grassy Knoll Boys, Journeyman's Wager. Back at the Quonset Hut, a collection of vintage country classics he recorded at Nashville's namesake studio with original BR5-49 producer Mike Janas, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bobby Bare, and Jamie Johnson, arrived in 2012. In 2014, Mead released his third solo effort, Free State Serenade, which featured a stronger rock & roll edge as well as guest appearances from former BR5-49 multi-instrumentalist Don Herron and Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome (the latter on Theremin). After his success with Million Dollar Quartet, Mead was hired as the musical director for the cable TV series Sun Records, set against the backdrop of the groundbreaking rockabilly and blues label, which debuted in 2017. Mead let his rockabilly influences take center stage on the rollicking 2019 release Close to Home. ~ Heather Phares & Mark Deming
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