Interview by Scott Preston
In the mid-1990s, The Fiddleworms emerged as the most important rock band working out of the Muscle Shoals, Alabama area. Taking their name from night crawler catfish bait, adopting stage personae like Splash Fiddle (Mefford) and Wolf Fiddle (Kennedy), and traveling to gigs in an orange stretch limo, the worms developed a large local following.
Their live shows were electric. They hammered out their musical style on stage, playing 167 shows during 1995, the first year they were together. Conceived by Chris Quillen and Russell Mefford as a vehicle for showcasing songs that Mefford had written, the Fiddleworms forged their reputation with original music in an area that cherished cover bands.
Cincy Groove: It seems everyone in your family is a touring musician.
David MacKay: We are all doing it. There was a Saturday a couple months ago where all four of us (Zion – BoomBox, Kinsman – Grown Folks, Donna – Donna Jean and The Tricksters, and David – Fiddleworms) were playing different parts of the country.
Cincy Groove: How long have you been with the Fiddleworms?
David MacKay: I have been with them for about 3 years. The Fiddleworms were a really popular band in the Southeast area of the country. They were up and coming. They had just release their first album (in 1996) and the guitar player was killed in a car accident. The band went on for a while but ended up breaking up a few years later. About 4 years ago they discovered some tracks that they had recorded before they broke up. So they went back and finished the tracks and released the 2nd album. About that time the bass player quit, and I came on to help out and have been with them ever since.
Cincy Groove: When was the last time the Heart of Gold band played?
David MacKay: It was probably around the same time, 3-4 years ago. We did a tour of the west coast with Dark Star Orchestra. Brian Godchaux was having some trouble with his hearing, Zion and Russ really wanted to get on with BoomBox. Donna met The Tricksters and I jumped on with The Fiddleworms. So it worked out just beautifully.
Cincy Groove: Do you still have your own sound studio?
David MacKay: We do, it’s sort of dismantled at the moment. I think the last thing we did in the studio was the Rex Foundation Tye Dye Ball. That was also the first time that Donna and I had played with The Tricksters. So we ended up mixing that and putting it out on Heart of Gold Records. Whats happening is Zion and Kinsman are both living in the building that used to be the studio. Thats their world now. We moved our stuff into our living room and it became more of a production studio.
Cincy Groove: Are there any projects you are working on right now?
David MacKay: Well some of the guys in The Fiddleworms have this side project, its kind of a jazz jam band, we call it Skat Fish. We will do some stuff for the WC Handy festival they have here every year. We all love jazz and different kinds of music, so its a great opportunity to stretch out and do some different things.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of your musical influences?
David MacKay: I was raised in the San Francisco bay area in the 60’s, so that whole slew of bands were major influences. I guess at the time Jack Casady and Phil Lesh were major influences. I have always loved so many different players and I try to listen to as many different bands as I can. I was a huge Butterfield Blues Band fan, they were probably one of the first major influences.
Cincy Groove: So tell me about the Tasmanian Devils.
David MacKay: It was a SF Bay area band. What happened was we were a backup band for some guy who put a record out on Warners Bros. This guy got his big shot to open at The Roxy for Jimmy Cliff. It happened to be the first time Jimmy Cliff had played in the United States. So we had this great weekend playing. So after the weekend we went home and quit playing for the guy we were backing up and started this reggae band called the Tazmanian Devils. The band existed in to the 1980’s. I had left the band in the late 1970’s to join Michael Nesmith’s band. They put out a couple records on Warner Bros and one year were voted Bay Area band of the year. It was a great band, a lot of fun.
Cincy Groove: Are there any newer bands that you like?
David MacKay: I tell you what, I really like WILCO. I just love what they are doing with Nels Cline. They are the one that really has got me right now.
Cincy Groove: Do you remember the name of the first band you were ever in?
David MacKay: I do, the band was called The Others. It was kind of a surf band but not completely. You have to understand we were California guys in the 1960’s. We were heavy on surf music and Paul Revere and the Raiders. What was interesting about that band was the keyboard player was Pete Carroll, the head football coach at USC. It was very short lived, I mean it was the 8th grade.
The Fiddleworms are:
Russell Mefford – Guitar & Vocals
Rob Malone – Guitar & Vocals
Clint Bailey – Keyboards & Vocals
David MacKay – Bass
Daniel Ledford – Drums
Upcoming Fiddleworms tour dates:
for complete show details visit – www.myspace.com/fiddleworms
Apr 26 2008 Soul Kitchen Mobile, Alabama
May 1 2008 Canal St. Dayton, Ohio
May 3 2008 Oldfields on High Columbus, Ohio
May 8 2008 ScatFish ArtsQuest Champagne Shopping Tour Rosemary Beach, Florida
May 10 2008 ScatFish West Indies Artist Market Rosemary Beach, Florida
May 22 2008Boondocks Guntersville, Alabama
May 23 2008 Summer Concert Series Columbus, Georgia
May 23 2008 the Loft Columbus, Georgia
May 24 2008 Shoal Creek Canoe Run Iron City, Tennessee
Jun 6 2008 Chelseas Cafe Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Jun 13 2008 the Bottling Co. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Jun 14 2008 Boondocks Guntersville, Alabama
Jun 20 2008 Bud & Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Jun 21 2008 Bud & Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Jun 22 2008 Bud and Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Jun 27 2008 the Loft Columbus, Georgia
Aug 1 2008 Bud and Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Aug 2 2008 Bud and Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Aug 3 2008 Bud and Alleys Sea Side, Florida
Aug 9 2008 Boondocks Guntersville, Alabama