Wachteligence: Preacher Jack - A Man On A Mission

By A.J. Wachtel
November 2010

Secularly speaking, catching a Preacher Jack performance has all the passion and excitement of undergoing a religious experience: sorta like being present at an intense boogie-woogie baptism. At all of his shows, each member of his congregation and every leg in the crowd becomes a victim of involuntary perpetual motion driven by his piano's powerful beat. And by the end of the night, all are convinced this man is a one-of-a-kind musical prophet and should be witnessed as required viewing for everyone, musicians and non-performers alike. If you enjoy thunder and lightning catch him quickly. Read on and hear the gospel according to Preacher Jack.

BBS: If you ran into Jerry Lee Lewis today what would you say to him and what do you think he would say to you?

Preacher Jack: I would say to him “Jerry Lee I stole every lick I ever learned from you” and he would probably say “you made a good choice, Jasper JACK!”

BBS: You met Jerry Lee early in your career. Tell me how that came about and what happened when you two got together?

Preacher Jack: Englewood, NJ. 1959. Some good buddies and myself drove to a small club Jerry was playing in. He was playing small clubs due to the backlash caused by his marriage to his 2nd cousin and we were able to secure a meet-and-greet before the show and became fast friends with him. We hung out with him after the show and have been friends ever since. Actually, the photo in the back of my second Rounder (Records) release “3000 Barrooms Later” was taken that night in 1959. You can notice the swimsuit in Jerry's back pocket because we all went swimming later that night in the hotel's pool.

BBS: How are audiences different now than in previous years and does Rockabilly and Boogie-Woogie have a place up North in New England or is it just popular down South?

Preacher Jack: Audiences are all the same no matter which generation - they are old they are young; some care, some care TOO much, some don’t care. They come for a good time. They come to drown their sorrows. They come to dance. They come to laugh. Some come to fight. Most of the fan base I had back in the day is long gone. But there is always a fresh group of music lovers eager to learn about new music, have a few laughs and drink beer!

BBS: What did your family say when they realized you had the music in you? Were they disappointed you weren’t gonna become a doctor or a lawyer?

Preacher Jack: My family was always 100% behind my music. I inherited it from my parents, it’s in my blood; they knew it, they encouraged it.

BBS: In your travels do you ever run into young Boogie-Woogie piano players or are you one of the last of the greats?

Preacher Jack: Over the last few years, I have run into many piano players. Some are carrying the Boogie-Woogie torch and some are playing in rockabilly bands and are playing variations of Boogie. It IS a dying art form but as long as we have old dinosaurs like me, as well as the internet and resources available for the kids to learn, then we'll always have Boogie. I LOVE David Maxwell's Boogie form as far as veteran players go, and a young up-and-comer is a player out of the Worcester area called Jason James.

BBS: How big is your song catalog? You must have a ton of tunes in your repertoire.

Preacher Jack: Me and my manager (Peter Levine) were trying to figure that out last night (laughs). It's hard to count. Probably a 1000 or so.

BBS: You are known as an intense performer. What makes for a good and successful night for you?

Preacher Jack: A good night's sleep the night before, a monster drink for breakfast, a super-sized hamburger for lunch, and a lively, vibrant bunch of music lovers.

BBS: What advice do you have for young musicians trying to get their music heard in this tough economy?

Preacher Jack: I tell them what most working musicians already know: you MUST work. You MUST play out. You MUST tour and be committed to your music and the live aspect of it. Cultivate a fan base, stay in touch with your fan base, and play, play, PLAY!

BBS: Tell me a funny story that still sticks in your mind about the local music industry after all these years.

Preacher Jack: I worked at the Gas Light Tavern in The Hilton at The Colonial Inn Wakefield in 1982. I was engrossed in a conversation at the bar with a fan during the break and my record label boss, Ken Irwin from Rounder (Records), who I was recording with at the time, comes in to the Gas Light with George Thorogood (also on Rounder at the time) and David Johanson from The New York Dolls who was recording solo at the time. George was wearing his snakeskin jacket and didn’t want to bother me. After about 10 minutes George decides to get my attention-or at least try to- and he calls out to me but I still don’t hear him. I'm riveted to my conversation at the bar. George then does his trademark duckwalk behind me, making two passes to the delight of the patrons and I still don’t bat an eye as everyone is laughing around me. When I walked back to the piano, Thorogood walked over and shook my hand and he came up and sang some blues and jammed all night.

<- back to Features