and The Fabulous stumpgrinders
Austin is famous as the World’s Capital of Live Music. You can hardly go anywhere in that city or one of its suburbs without seeing or hearing music. That being said, it isn’t easy to carve out your own niche, but Slim Bawb has done it. Eight years ago he moved from Sacramento California with his own brand of Cajun sound and formed Slim Bawb and the Fabulous Stumpgrinders. Slim Bawb is a talented singer/songwriter and plays banjo, reso-guitar, mandolin, mandola, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, and foot pedal bass. Actually, to better define his style of music you could say Cajun-country with some folk and funk twisted in.
Slim Bawb (aka Bob Pearce) has been a professional musician for 40-years and, although that isn’t a record by any means, this has been his only job and for 35 of those years he has only played his own music which isn’t something to brush off. In fact he recently released his nineteenth album. In Sacramento he led the band Beer Dogs for 20 years. During the last weekend of each summer they hold a reunion concert at an outdoor venue near the Sacramento River.
STEAM Being from California, how did you come up with such a Louisiana flavored sound? I wasn’t able to see your show the other night as I was with my daughter, however I could hear you and I really enjoyed your sound. Even through the wall you sounded good.
Thank you. Well, you know I spent some time there and listened to it while growing up. My dad used to listen to all kinds of different music, including Al Hurt and that kind of stuff, so it must have had some influence on me and it just kind of soaked into my songwriting. This band is kind of new with Howard Yeargan (accordion, harmonica, keyboards, and backup vocals) and Jay Warren (drums). Howard came in about a year ago and Jay started with us last December. They are both very talented and picked up my style very fast.
Tell me about the album just released “Slim Bawb and the fabulous Stumpgrinders, Gristle and Guts”.
We cut it a few months back and it’s just us three playing. It’s basically how we sound live. I wrote the title track, Gristle and Guts, after my grandson was hit by a drunk driver. That song and some other events really got the album going. I dug out some tunes from my California days and added my Cajun style. Howard has two songs on the album that he wrote. For the most part I write everything by myself, however I did co-write Journey Man with a friend; we’d written the first two versus in 1978 and I finished it this year.
I think you have a very distinct writing and it’s not something you’d expect out of anywhere but Louisiana.
I’m a faux-Cajun. An honorary Coonass. (laughing) This is the first album I’ve had a three-piece on. The last two were just me and a drummer, because I play bass with my feet.
I wanted to ask you about that. How did you come up with this idea of playing bass with your feet? Was it out of necessity or ingenuity?
A little of both. I have always stomped while playing and I play the pedal steel, so I thought I could try bass. I got some Roland foot pedals, which are kind of like organ pedals, and I picked it up quickly. What I really like is that I can leave holes where there is no bass and songs can go up and down dynamically, whereas you can’t always get a bass player to leave holes; a lot of them like to play through. I used these pedals for years until they started breaking. I found a company in Austin, Livid Instruments, who custom built a bass pedal using video game buttons, so I have the prototype and a backup. I can play this easier than the organ pedals.
Well that leads right into your show… Sometime during the night you bring out an alligator skull to play bass for you. It’s a great bit, how did you come up with this idea?
Well, when I was using the organ pedals I used to carry around a brick wrapped up in a rum bottle case, it looked like a miniature fiddle case, and I would bring it out and set it on a pedal, so I could go wander around the club playing. Since I had these buttons made I needed something much lighter and I had this ‘gator skull; he fits with what I do. You know a lot of performers take themselves very seriously and I try not to do that. I want to make sure folks are having fun, so I bring the gator out.
And where can we see your show? Rumor has it that you could be coming to the coastal bend?
We play the last Sunday of each month at Gruene Hall and the first Sunday at Oma’s in Gruene. Howard is from New Braunfels so we’ve been playing there more, but you can catch me all around Austin. To keep my schedule full I also pedal steel with Jordan Minor and Tony Taylor as well as picking and singing in the "Chubby Knuckle Choir". I’m talking with a couple clubs in your area, but the best way to find out where I’ll be is on my website.