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Chuck Mead bets on new music

By Andy Turner, June 2009

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After stints on Arista, Sony and Dualtone with BR549, Mead is going it alone for "Journeyman's Wager." Mead said the band temporarily went their separate ways after their last tour three years ago. Shaw moved to Phoenix ("to mediate in the desert") and Don Herron has been touring with Bob Dylan. "My wife and I decided that since day one I haven't made any money off of any records because it's all tied up in using the label as a bank," he says. "They put all this money and push behind it, and you have to sell a lot of records to catch up to it. While we sold our share of records, I don't think it's ever recouped. Maybe the first one has by now."

Mead hired Thirty Tigers, the marketing and management company run by David Macias, who also serves as BR549's manager, to help promote the album. "That's the staff and you kind of go into business and raise yourself about the level of indentured servant," he says. "The tradeoff is you have to do a hell of a lot work, I'm finding out, and I'm kind of adverse to work. My motto is I've worked long and hard not to have to work long and hard."

Despite his claims of not liking gainful employment, Mead has recently taken on a job in the theater world as well. He serves as musical director for Million Dollar Quartet, a musical that tells the story of the famed Sun Records jam session with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. It's based on a book co-written by music historian Colin Escott, a Mead friend who asked him to participate in the play.

The Kansas native says he got the job despite the fact he can't read any musical notes other than the Nashville Number System. "They were wanting to know where the score was," he says," and I'm like, 'The score? I think the Royals are winning.'"

Mead said being a part of the musical has been a blast and he would jump at a chance to do it again.

As for BR549, Mead said the band will rise again - in some manner. "Who knows? We can maybe talk Gary (Bennett) and Jay (McDowell) into joining us," he says. "It'd be kind of be cool to have everybody who was ever in BR do one big show. I think that'd be fun. You'd have to have a big stage to get all those people in there."

And if anyone is worried that "No Requests" is an official change of policy for Mead, who as a member of BR549 built the band's reputation partly by taking nearly any and all requests, they needn't. "You can't reform a whore," he says. "You throw some money at me, I'll play your request."

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