Microwave Dave and the Nukes are a Huntsville, Al, blues trio that made their first appearance in Minnesota at Mugzee's. Judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the blues fans there, it will not be their last. Microwave Dave Gallaher is a powerful guitarist who can play fast and muscular or deep, down and dirty Delta blues. Dave is a multi-talented instrumentalist, noting "Blues is not just about guitar slingers." He started his first set with two instrumentals. Then he launched into an enthusiastic cover of "Whatever Happened to Bo Diddley's Money?" Dave sings in a husky, gruff voice that seems to suit his band's material, mixing in originals along with an unusually diverse mix of covers.
On "I Want My Rib Back," a tongue in cheek song about a man wronged by a woman who figures man got a raw deal at the dawn of mankind. Dave and the band did an energetic version of "Big Black Cadillac." Then Dave did a slow, soulful version of Bobby Graham's "Soon As the Weather Breaks," which they recorded on their latest CD, Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down (Duck Tape Music Series, 2000). He then launched into a short medley of Delta blues that included "Fishing after Me" and "Back Down the Road I'm Going." Dave played some mean slide on a purple Flying V on the Howard Tate song "Sugar Bee," which is also on his last CD.
Dave and the band did a slow, soulful take on Al Green's "In the Still of the Evening." He mentioned he's been playing guitar for 45 years, although he originally started out as a kid playing a trumpet. Dave played "100% Blood Alcohol," a double-shuffle where he again showed his great slide playing ability. Switching to acoustic, Dave did "King of the Blues," where he allows "I'm no Johnny Lang" and "I ain't even trying to be the king of the blues." The band then did "The Highway Is Like a Woman," which gave Dave a chance to display his tongue in cheek vocals, guitar playing, and horn playing on a pocket trumpet. Dave asked the women not to hate him for the song. It was hard to gauge their reaction since the men in the crowd were cheering loudly in agreement to the song's clever lyrics.
The band closed their first set with a cover of Bo Diddley's "Road Runner" and then a double-shuffle by James Harmon "You're All Right Now." Microwave Dave and the Nukes had a hit in Europe with "Road Runner," which appeared on their second CD, Goodnight, Dear. A French soccer team adopted it as their theme song in 1996 and the "Beep-Beep song" led to four trips to Europe that year for the band. Dave counts both Bo and James as long time friends. The band has backed Bo Diddley in appearances in Alabama and opened for James Harmon. Dave told a story of playing a Bobby Blue Bland song at an outdoor festival and Bobby heard it from his tour bus. He came out to see who played it and tracked down Microwave Dave. Dave said "Bobby told me "Man, you're a blues man!" Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down is dedicated to Bobby Bland.
Microwave Dave is a fan of the blues and has a local blues radio show in Huntsville in addition to his band. He started out in the mid-60's playing with an Atlanta-based horns band, The Majestics, which backed R&B artists like Aretha Franklin and Billy Stewart. The band dissolved and Dave spent nearly 16 years playing in a regional rock band, Cameron. The band had modest success, yet with family obligations Dave took a job in a premium cabinet shop in Huntsville doing woodworking. He and his coworkers played their instruments during breaks at work. He began thinking of forming a new band and was concerned about finding a bass player who played in a style that fit his guitar playing. Co-worked Rick Godfrey said if Dave would teach him he thought he could play bass. Rick has been playing bass and occasionally harmonica with Dave ever since they started in 1989. Skip Skipworth, an excellent drummer who has been with Dave three years, rounds out the trio.
Dave started his second set playing a solo on a Diddley Bo, a home-made looking string instrument consisting of a cigar box with two long wood dowels out of one end, three guitar-like strings, and one bass-like string. The only way to play it is by slide. It has a raw, primitive sound that captured the crowd's attention. Back on electric Fender, Dave played some more hard, up-tempo blues on "You Did It Baby" and double shuffle on "Let's Say Goodnight And Go Home." Dave then launched into "Hat," a song from his last CD that Little Milton heard, added some horns to, and recorded as "She Knows How to Wear a Hat." Dave commented, "Ain't that the world working in reverse. Little Milton covering Microwave Dave!"
Dave paid respectful tribute to Johnny Shine while doing "I Feel So Lonesome." Dave said he once tracked down Johnny in the 70's when Dave was playing southern rock and paid him $10 for a guitar lesson. He said he realized then that he didn't know anything about playing blues guitar. He sure has come a long way since then! Dave played a wild, rollicking version of Hound Dog Taylor's "Highway 49" on his Flying V. Dave played and sang an early Ray Charles number, "Hey Mary Ann," stopping to explain Mary Ann was a very attractive back-up singer in Ray's band in the 50's.
The band closed out the night with "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Last Call for Alcohol," a popular bar-closing song they recorded. If you want some great, powerful guitar playing delivered with style and humor, be sure to check out Microwave Dave and the Nukes the next time they get this far North. And Dave brings blues history alive with his great selection of covers.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Richard Benson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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