Painting Heaven Blue: Pete Ledbetter August 20, 1956 – August 17, 2015

pete ledbetter

On any given night in Charleston, South Carolina there are a dozen or more guys playing acoustic guitars in various bars and restaurants, delivering the classics and taking requests from the regulars and the tourists. I first met Pete Ledbetter when he was deep into that scene, a working musician who literally sang for his supper almost every night, and consider him one of my oldest musician friends. So it was with heavy heart and many memories that news came first of his recent illness, and now his passing today just days before his 59th birthday, which would have happened on the 20th.

As a young fresh-out-of-college nightlife participant and music fan, it was guys like Pete and his peers Carroll Brown, Robert Hutto, Michael Murray, Jeff Houts, and others who were the bedrock of many long nights out on the town in the Holy City. We’d start at the Best Friend Lounge, move to wherever Pete or Jeff or Robert was playing that week, take in a band at the Music Farm, Cumberlands or Myskyn’s, then congregate at the Back Market Cafe as everywhere else was closing. Musicians would filter in after their regular gigs and invariably wind up jamming on that tiny corner stage well into the morning, with us night owls the beneficiaries of their need to just keep playing.

One of those nights in particular stands out, and as always Pete was there. It was a Sunday so even the Back Market was set to close at 2 a.m., but by closing time the stage had filled with Robert Hutto, Carroll Brown, Michael Murray, and Pete–playing his ever-present harmonica. A generous patron offered to ‘rent the bar’ and make it a private party, so they closed the doors and those lucky enough to be locked inside saw a two-plus hour jam session that ran through every Dylan and Van Morrison song you could name; to this day I don’t think I’ll ever hear another “Tangled Up in Blue” that I’ll remember more vividly. That night was the impetus for Hutto to record his classic “Shadows” album, which Pete appears on–playing harmonica, of course.

One of my other most vivid memories of Pete was a panel discussion we had during a Charleston Music Showcase in the early 1990’s when I was writing for Charleston’s Free Time. Pete was visibly skeptical of the proceedings, as he was already a bit on the curmudgeonly side at the time, but he sat and listened, offering only one question. Looking back now, I’m not convinced he wasn’t pulling my leg a little bit with it.

“You know what kind of music I play,” he said. “What demographic should I be marketing it to?”

I can’t remember my exact answer but it had something to do with him needing to just play his music and the audience would find him. Naive, in retrospect, but in reality there wasn’t really a market for what Pete did, at least not in a national/radio/record deal sense. He was one of those guys who would make you forget your troubles for an hour or two just by playing a familiar tune for you, or shooting the breeze between sets of what for him was yet another three-hour gig. Think Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, but with a guitar and a harmonica.

Pete was always a little different than the average Jimmy Buffett human jukebox that’s always been popular in Charleston, however, as his repertoire ran to obscure blues, folk, and British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll. He’d usually play an original or two, sometimes the classic, raunchy “Cadillac Ass” if it was late and the crowd was drinking enough. And because he did work in Charleston, he’d play a Buffett tune or two, but only the really old stuff.

Long after I’d moved away from Charleston Pete hosted a songwriter’s open mike in West Ashley, I dropped in once or twice when I was in town but didn’t see him much over the past decade or so. When I did, it was as if we’d just gone a week or two between run-ins. I’ve known a lot of musicians over the years but few with as big a heart, or a heart for just getting up and playing, night after night. Those trips to Charleston will continue, but the Holy City will have a music-shaped hole in it for a while.

ColorBlind Debuts Short Film Introduction


Justin Smith and Fat Rat Da Czar really don’t need an introduction on their home turf of South Carolina, but their brand new collaboration may benefit from a just-posted short film that includes two songs from the upcoming self-titled album for what they’re calling ColorBlind. Smith’s laid-back acoustic grooves juxtaposed with Fat Rat’s gritty hip-hop classicism makes for some exciting sounds on the first single “Follow The Spin,” which is heard here along with another track from the album, “Live Like the Devil.” As the ten-minute clip unfolds, Smith and Fat Rat portray two people who have lost friends and end up in the same bar trying to deal with the pain; they come together over music.

Judging from what is heard and seen in the video, Smith and Fat Rat have found common ground in an era marked by division, both in music and in life–as recent events in South Carolina have proven, tragically. To see two such different artists coming together and making music with a positive, important message is a sign of better things to come. Watch for the full album to drop on September 1st, 2015.

Nine Odd Things About Can’t Kids’ new Video for “Walmart Parking Lot”

Can't Kids, Photo credit: Joe Chang

Can’t Kids, Photo credit: Joe Chang

Can’t Kids recently released a video for “Walmart Parking Lot”, a song that appears on a split 7-inch with Durham, North Carolina’s’s Schooner coming soon from Sit-N-Spin Records. It’s as surreal and head-scratching as the band’s music can be, with a dream sequence that features Tyler Morris of the band ET Anderson as the abducted main character. Multiple viewings at this point have yielded the following observations, some of which require a quick finger on the pause button to witness. Watch the video and see if you can spot the following:

1. When Morris looks at his phone, it shows that the “Work Work Work Work Work” alarm is set for 3:26 p.m.

2. Morris must have had a fun night before the shoot, he has three different ‘club’ type paper wristbands on his left arm.

3. There is a Scene SC sticker in the back window of the Jeep that Morris’ abductors use.

4. What’s with the guy wearing a backpack who darts in front of the Jeep?

5. As Morris gets out of the back of the Jeep, among other papers and detritus you can spot a Butch Walker poster.

6. The Wal-Mart scenes appear to be shot at the Garners Ferry Road location in the band’s hometown of Columbia, SC.

7. The first inside shot in Wal-Mart features a clearly visible “Cool” graphic on the waistband of green shorts with Morris walking by…intentional? I’d say yes.

8. The U2 Joshua Tree album he picks up is shelved on a “Christian” genre card in rack. The band was initially thought of as a Christian band but hasn’t been associated with that genre in a long time–maybe Wal-Mart still categorizes them that way?

9. There is a creepy/scary looking portrait of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley inside the house.

Paul Bergmann’s New Video for “Old Dream”

Sometimes a song jumps out at you, other times it simply seeps into your subconscious like rainwater being absorbed into the ground. Paul Bergmann’s new single, released on 7″ vinyl this week, is one of the latter type.

Bergmann, like Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, or Eric Andersen, isn’t the greatest singer or most vocally adept, but he gets the emotional heft of a lyric across in true Dylan-esque fashion here. Production-wise it’s quaintly retro, hearkening back to Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne” sound only with more tambourine; this could have been released in 1969 and it would have fit right in to the burgeoning art-folk scene.

For more on Bergmann, visit his sites: