Charlie's Beat

Jason Wells and the Jason Wells Band is performing tonight at Mad Paddle Brewery.

“That was my son Gibson and me,” answered Jason Wells, when I said I seemed to remember a father and son duo who used to come to Madison and play at the American Legion fairly often.

“I’m originally from a little town up north of Indianapolis called Frankfort, so all these small Indiana towns hold a special place in my heart. Gibson is a multi-instrumentalist and a lot of fun to do shows with.

“I really owe my music career to the Great Recession back around 2008. I got laid off and I had time to focus on taking my guitar playing to the next level. When the economy came back I tried working the 9 to 5 again, but I just couldn’t take it. I’ve been touring around the Midwest and recording albums basically ever since.

“I’ve played at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, The Arcada Theater over in Illinois, the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis and St. Louis and Indy. I’m very excited about this Thursday’s gig at Mad Paddle Brewery. It gives us a kind of midweek place to land and share our style of music on our way between the bigger cities.

“What style of music? Our show is a sort of bluesy classic rock that was popular in the ’60s and ’70s. We’re going for a Rare Earth or Deep Purple kind of vibe. Garry Smith, our keyboardist, plays a Hammond B3 organ with that spinning Leslie speaker cabinet that was so central to that sound back then.

“My son Gibson plays bass in the band, and our drummer is George Sheppard. George is actually a Grammy winner who played with Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, who used to play with the Nighthawks, so the connections go pretty deep with George. In fact, George was actually a student of Buddy Rich, the famous jazz drummer.

“The actual drum kit George will be playing at Mad Paddle is made up from Buddy Rich’s kit and some stuff from Louie Bellson, another legendary jazz drummer.

“Speaking of legendary equipment, Jimmy Thackery passed down to me his pair of Category 5 guitar amps. These are handmade tube amps, the best sounding I’ve ever played. Jimmy developed his unique tone by running his guitar into a chorus pedal and then splitting the sound to the two amps. It’s the most dynamic guitar sound you’ll ever hear, just huge and almost three dimensional.

“My connection to George Sheppard is opening a lot of doors for me, putting me in contact with some of the blues and rock legends I’ve looked up to my entire life. I have some big plans for the other side of this COVID thing, putting together a kind of touring workshop experience where we involve some of these amazing guys and pass down that classic rock heritage. Hopefully summer of 2021, keep and eye out.

“I hope to meet a lot of Madison people at Mad Paddle Thursday night. I understand the show is limited to 50 people, so it’s going to be very intimate and fun. Come out and give us a listen, we will put on a helluva show for you.”


Hats off to the Riverboat Inn for their consistent support of live music! They have shows this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and all three will be led by the multi-talented Joe Perkinson. Joe is joined by guitar wizard Deano Crafton on Thursday and Saturday, but on Friday you can enjoy the sizzling vocals of Amy Noel and horn prowess of (new Madison resident!) Michael Fortunato. Looking ahead to Thanksgiving Eve next Wednesday, Mad Paddle will be hosting Two Buck Chuck and all their classic rock favorites, in the newly renovated big Truss Room. Plenty of room to spread out and enjoy live music with family and friends!

Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.

This Week in Music

Thursday, November 19

Mad Paddle Brewery — Jason Wells Band

Elks Lodge — Amy Noel (open to public)

Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson & Deano Crafton

Friday, November 20

Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson, Amy Noel & Michael Fortunato

Saturday, November 21

Mad Paddle Brewery — The Men’s Room

Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson & Deano Crafton

Wednesday, November 25

Elks Lodge — Matt Stokes (open to public)

Mad Paddle Brewery — Two Buck Chuck