Artist of the day: The Black Honkeys

Black.honkeys
They might have a silly name, but the musicians in Clearwater’s Black Honkeys lay down some serious grooves, playing everywhere from weddings to dive bars to theme parks throughout Tampa Bay.

Formed nearly a decade ago, the Black Honkeys stir up a saucy mix of soul, funk, blues and rock 'n’ roll. They started out as a five piece and grew into a nine-member ensemble, replete with experienced players, an impressive horn section and a fierce female vocalist.

If you can't make it up to North Pinellas for one of their legendary club shows, you can see them this Friday at Jannus Live, when they headline the remodeled venue's first Marmalade Music Series. The Semis, Old North East, Someday Souvenir and Shawty are also on the bill. Free for 21 and up, $10 for under 21. Click here for details.

After the jump, check out Julie Garisto's full profile of the Black Honkeys...

Getting the funk out: They might have a silly name, but the musicians in Clearwater’s Black Honkeys lay down some serious grooves, playing everywhere from weddings to dive bars to theme parks throughout Tampa Bay. Formed nearly a decade ago, the Black Honkeys stir up a saucy mix of soul, funk, blues and rock 'n’ roll. They started out as a five piece and grew into a nine-member ensemble, replete with experienced players, an impressive horn section and a fierce female vocalist by way of Veola Drain. Also featured are Phil Esposito, lead vocals; Wil “The Thrill” Harris, bass; Steven Tanner, drums; Greg Czinke, guitar; Tommy Thompson, keyboards, and the “Ebony and Ivory Horn Section” — Terry Clark, trumpet; Scott Meyers, trombone and Andy Beer, saxophone.

Influences: Ohio Players, Rolling Stones, Temptations, J. Geils Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Frontman Esposito moves around the stage in a style that could be considered a hybrid of Mick Jagger and Peter Wolf.

Recently: They opened for Blues Traveler last month at the State Theater.

Covers: “We like to play music that makes people feel good,” Esposito said, “music that’s familar, that people know the words to but nothing that’s too played out. At our show you won’t hear Brick House or Play That Funky Music (White Boy). We’ll play James Brown but not I Feel Good. There are several James Brown songs that are just as funky if not funkier.”

They also cover I’ll Be Around by the Spinners. “In the original version there are no solos, but we add them,” Harris said. “It’s more aggressive and funkier than the original.” Said Esposito: “It’s just dirtier.”

Originals: What Esposito calls “messageless music about shaking booty and having a good time,” tunes like Let Me Into Your Party. “You won’t hear any political songs from us,” Harris laughed.

Some personal stats: Esposito and Czinke are stay-at-home dads, Esposito with 2 1/2-year-old son, Marley; and Czinke with an 8-month-old son named Tycho. Esposito also sells vintage toys on eBay, a brand he calls “Retropolis.”

Harris has adult daughters, ages 19 and 26, is single, and works as a quality manager for an aircraft company.

Clark plays in the Mystic Sheiks of Morocco marching band at Busch Gardens.

Tanner designs sets for TV commercials, and Meyers does carpentry. Beer also plays with the Swinging Mooks and has played with the Drifters, the Shirelles and several other well-known acts from the ’50s and ’60s.

Drain, retired, moved to Tampa from Miami and designs fashions as a hobby. Thompson, the senior member of the band, is also retired. A Berklee grad, Thompson has played with Bo Diddley.

Hear them: Friday night at Jannus Live when they headline the first Marmalade Music Series event at the remodeled venue (see Page 33). Also playing are the Semis, Old North East, Someday Souvenir and Shawty. Admission is free for 21 and older; $10 for under 21. myspace.com/blackhonkeys.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:19pm]

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