“I went a year without sausage gravy, and that really hurt my feelings.”
— J. Roddy Walston, on what he missed most after moving to Baltimore from Cleveland, Tenn.
IF YOU GO
■ What: J. Roddy Walston and The Business, featuring Fly Golden Eagle.
■ When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 19.
■ Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
■ Admission: $12 in advance, $15 day of show.
■ Phone: 423-521-2929.
■ Website: www.track29.co.
2002 “Here Comes Trouble” (EP)
2005 “LMNEP” (EP)
2007 “Hail Mega Boys”
2010 “J. Roddy Walston and The Business”
2013 “Essential Tremors”
To quote the late, great Phil Lynott: “The boys are back in town again.”
On Wednesday, March 19, rockers J. Roddy Walson and The Business, who left Cleveland, Tenn., more than a decade ago to test their luck in Baltimore, will take the stage at Track 29.
In the early 2000s, Walston followed his girlfriend to Maryland, where she enrolled in grad school to study opera and he set about building a fan base. Walston and three bandmates — all Cleveland natives — spent several hardscrabble years earning their reputation with a no-frills, gritty brand of rock that steadily raised their profile in the city’s blue-collar, no-nonsense music scene.
“You needed to come in and be good, and that was the way it was,” Walston recalls.
The Baltimore City Paper said Walston and Co.’s shows “make James Brown look lazy.” In a flattering tip of the hat to its namesake’s manic enthusiasm at the keys, The Business has been likened by some to “AC/DC fronted by Jerry Lee Lewis.”
In recent years, the band’s profile has blossomed thanks to coverage by The New York Times, NPR, Spin and Paste magazines and high-profile guest appearances on late-night programs such as “Late Show With David Letterman” and, most recently, a Feb. 4 performance on “Conan.” In 2011, the musicians made their debut at Bonnaroo and will return to the Manchester farm for this year’s festival.
Despite this success, Walston says the band’s story is not one of sudden, inexplicable acclaim. Every inch has been earned by scraping and clawing, he says. Each fan was hard-won.
“Everything was a slow and steady climb upwards — sometimes so slow and steady that it felt like we weren’t moving at all,” he says, laughing. “I know that, whatever success that we do have now, none of us feels secretly guilty about it or something. We’re grateful, you know?”
Walston now lives in Richmond, Va., and although he eventually adjusted to mid-Atlantic culture shock, he describes Baltimore as “rough and dark and weird.” Several of his bandmates still live there, but he says he’s much happier as a visitor than a resident.
Despite his decade away, however, Walston says he still feels at home in Cleveland and Chattanooga. His phone number still begins with “423,” and his family still lives here.
Every chance to return, however rare, is a welcome one, he says.
“I still feel completely connected to the area,” Walston says. “I worry there will be that moment when someone says, ‘You’re not from here,’ and it will be completely true, but it hasn’t happened yet. I love playing there.”
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...