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White Cheddar Boys @ Ortlieb’s Lounge.

October 21, 2013

WhiteCheddarBoys02Text and images by Jumah Chaguan.

Ortlieb’s decided to experiment with a country night last week. This was a blessing for Huey West and the White Cheddar Boys. The band was asked to open for Tim Easton, an up-and-coming performer on a Northeast tour.  The White Cheddar Boys, more accustomed to busking in Rittenhouse Square, couldn’t believe their lucky break.

“It’s Southern Lumberjack,” said Huey about his carefully chosen outfit for the special night.

Huey walked up and down the bar in a red flannel shirt tucked inside black cargo pants. His belt buckle was engraved with the words “American by birth, Southern by choice.” On his head he wore a gray cap which covered his new mohawk.

“I do want it to grow back,” Huey said.

Those in attendance got a treat in nostalgia. Prior to the performance, rockabilly legend Johnny Horton played through the speakers while those who sat at the bar could watch the 1970s Stanley Cup hockey battle between the Flyers and Boston Bruins.

WhiteCheddarBoys03WhiteCheddarBoys01Huey walked outside to get a smoke. A lot was at stake. Recently, Huey and Russ McNasty, the other member of the White Cheddar Boys, performed at the Shore Tavern, a Northeast bar known for rockabilly music. If all went well with the Ortlieb’s performance, the band would get closer to becoming a fixture of the local Philly music scene. Even Dave Mendez, an unofficial member of the group, lent his bass skills for the special night.

“We’re more than a band,” said Mendez. “We are a family.”

Suddenly the sound man gave Huey the thumbs up.

“It’s that time,” said Huey with a nervous sigh and then jumped on stage.

The rest of the crew followed. Mendez lifted his bass, lovingly nicknamed Big Bertha, onto the stage. He started to slap her frenetically. McNasty put George, his guitar, on a strap and strummed the strings. They all took time to tune their instruments while Huey and McNasty entertained the crowd with critter jokes.

They performed their rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues.” When the song was over, the crowd hollered from their bar stools. Huey gave thanks and then played his original song “Jaquins Liquor.”

What those in attendance didn’t know was that the performance almost didn’t happen.  Mandy, Huey’s banjo, was in desperate need of repair. To fix the banjo would take weeks and much cash, two things Huey lacked.

Although Huey has a steady job, he went to Walnut Street to busk earlier in the week. Like divine intervention, a banjo fan saw Huey. This same fan gave a generous tip and a referral to a speedy banjo repair man. Within three days Mandy was fixed in miraculous time for the show.

“He was a God sent,” said Huey.

The rest of the Ortllieb’s performance was trouble-free and highlighted the talents of other members of the White Cheddar Boys collective. Colin Forwood, introduced to the crowd as “Colin the Destroyer,” sang along with Huey’s original song “Searching.”

Later, another friend known as Zoat, who sported a backwards baseball cap and a gold chain – which made him look more like a Flyers fan rather than an afficionado of rockabilly music, played the train whistle. The crowd cheered on as Zoat didn’t miss a whistle in the popular song “Freight Train.”

After the song Huey reminded the crowd to cooperate further in the rockabilly cause.

“We have homemade CD’s for $5 bucks,” Huey said.

The guys didn’t sell any CDs but they did get some recognition.

“That was amazing,” said a young man as he extended his hand to Huey.

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