Bear Mc Creadie Live on stage.
Bear Mc Creadie
Musical authenticity is ail about being true to oneself, and on that count, Bear and The Essentials score as the real deal. Led by the lanky singer and songwriter known simply as Bear – a name that reflects his Native American heritage – the Austin, TXbased singer and his combo occupy the sweet spot between country and rockabilly like it’s home sweet home.
Two Time Fool, the debut album by Bear and The Essentials, casts a direct line back to the music made by the coolest hillbilly cats of a half-century ago, back when country was indeed country and rock’n’roll was a kicking and wailing style that was just being born. On it, Bear proves himself a rollicking voice deep within the tradition as weil as a writer whose five originals stand· head and shoulders with sangs associated with such masters as Frankie Miller ("Living DolI"), Johnny Cash (Cowboy Jack Clement’s "It’s Just About Time") and Johnny Horton (Hank Snow’s "Golden Rocket" and "Honky Tonk Mind"). (To wit, look for Bear’s title song on the nextFabulous Thunderbirds album.) Backed by Doug Strahan on guitar and Ethan Shaw (formerly of The Derailers) on bass and steel guitar, Bear renews the hillbilly musical magic of the 19505 forthe new century. Produced by Billy Horton at Austin’s Fort Horton Studios, Two Time Fool goes beyond revivalism to ptove that timeless music comes back alive in the hands of a new master of the form.
Since arriving in Austin in 2001, Bear has stepped From the audience to the stage of local dubs to become the talent to watch in the city’s lauded roots music scene. That’s no doubt because be was teethed on the sort of music he writes and performs 31 years ago.
The leader of Bear and The Essentials was born Bear McCreadie in the mountain town of Truckee, California. He grew up in a close family with his older sister, mother and father – who is of Hoopa Valley Indian descent and was a fan of the finest old-school country and early ro.ck-‘n’roll. "That music definitely stuck From a young age. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton and Hank Williams got me rolling. My father introduced me to lots of stuff and then 1 just kept digging."
One of Bear’s earliest memories is seeing an Elvis Presley movie on TV. "1 remember thinking, man, there’s something about this guy. 1 don’t know, what it is, but 1 was just fascinated. And 50 my dad took me out and bought me 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. And 1 remember hearing ‘1 Need Your Love Tonight,’ and thinking, man, this is just the coolest thing ever.
"It was the same thing the first time 1 heard Johnny Horton singing ‘l’m A Honky Tonk Man.’ The line ‘Calling hey hey mama, can your daddy come home?’ just stuck in my head. 1 don’t know what it was, but everything he was playing me, 1 remember hearing it and thinking, this stuff is just amazing."
What the young Beardidn’t know was that the music he loved was From back in the pasto "1 just thought that this was what was going on," he recalls with a chuckle. "1 didn’t realize that this was ail From years before 1 was born.
"1 remember telling my Mom when 1 was little, ‘1 want to go see Johnny Horton.’ And she said, weil, he died. 1 said, ‘Weil, 1 want to go see Buddy Holly.’ She said, weil, he died too. ‘1 want to go see Elvis.’ Weil, he died. And this went on and on. And 1 just burst into tears and was devastated that every hero that 1 had was dead." Eventually his parents took Bear to see Marty Robbins (not long before he also died) at a casino in Reno, "and 1 was instantly hooked. To this day he is one of my very favorites, one of the greatest singers ever."
Bear.s musical tastes may seem like a throwback, but they also reflect the simple times of his youth in what was then the tiny town of Truckee. "1 remember when we got the first stopliglit, the fist 7-Eleven, the first Safeway. 1 loved it there, and if 1 hadn’t been forced to leave, 1 am reasonably certain 1 would have died there," he says. "1’m definitely into the whole small town, typical go next door and borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor kind of thing, and the fact that everybody knew everybody."
By the time Bear was in junior high, he had picked up his father’s guitar and began not just listening to music but also started ma king it. When his family moved to the San Francisco Bay area during Bear’s high school years, the small town boy found himself in a suburban place he didn’t relate to. "1 wou Id just sit in my room and listen to old records," he says. "Halfway through high school 1 decided that 1 wanted to start playing. It was always just something 1 did by myself, sitting around trying to pick out Hank Williams songs. "
After graduating from high school Bear worked as an auto mechanic. On a summer vacation, he traveled through Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville, and knew where he wanted to be. "1 just loved Austin instantly. 50 1 went back and kept working and continued noodling around with music. Finally, 1 decided, 1’ve been stuck in the Bay Area too long and 1’ve hated it since 1’ve been here, 50 1’mgoing to move to Austin. "
Once there, he was inspired by the talent he heard playing the dubs, and fell in with fellow musicians and songwriters like Roger Wallace, The Horton Brothers and Teri Joyce. "1 never sang in front of a single person until 1 moved here," he explains. "Once 1 started it and 1 got a little taste, it was like, that’s what 1 want to do."
Bear also began wri,ting songs in earnest, getting pointérs and encouragement from guitarist Chris Miller of Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men. He started playing Austin joints like The Continental Club, Gin..–ny’s Little Longhorn and The Poodle Dog Lounge, making a name for himself in the Austin~·scene.
Then one night his phone rang. On the line was his friend (and Handy Award winning blues artist) Nick Curran, who was in Los Angeles writing sangs with Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. "He called me at two o’dock in the morning and said, man, ‘remember that song of yours, ‘Two Time Fool?’ Send me a chart and the words." Wilson dug the tune and decided to record it.
With his first album and coyer now under his belt, Bear is off to an auspicious start.
Though he modestly says that his style "is just hillbilly music," he knows what makes the music he loves and creates the wheat that is separate from the chaff. "Ali that stuff was 50 genuine. 1 could tell when 1 was a kid that it had a little more substance to it than the usual pop fluff." And now with Two Time Fool, Bear and The Essentials are ready to rock the world once again with hillbilly substance and soul.
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