My name is Matthew Fletcher Goodwin.
I was 13. Roosevelt Jr. High School student assembly. One big follow spot in a totally dark theater. We were blinded by that white light. I couldn’t even see anyone in the front row. Three of us with our acoustic guitars, singing “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Who knew that folk music was a ‘gateway drug’?
I soon joined THE BITTER END as lead vocalist. Then came a Farfisa organ and eventually a Fender Telecaster. By the time we graduated from high school, we had been gigging for five years. We played parties, YMCA’s, high school dances, Battles of the Bands, fraternity and sorority parties, teen clubs and even a few bars. We played pop tunes and eventually were drawn to ‘blues / rock’ from both sides of the Atlantic. The Allman Brothers, Rory Gallagher, The Animals, The Stones, The Doors. I would love to see one of our old set lists.
Matthew left The University of Wisconsin after one semester in the fall of 1970. I jumped on a bus back home to Beloit, went straight to rehearsal, then went home and told my parents I’d left school. Why would I do something like that? Because I couldn’t get anything started in Madison. Anyone I met that was my age didn’t have the experience.
MSG was a racially diverse group that featured a three piece horn section and a ‘sometime vocalist’. Singing Sam Pinky only showed up for the black club dates. We had a powerhouse rhythm section featuring my cousin, Tommy Piazza on drums and the amazing Don Grady on bass. Don was our leader, arranger and visionary. I would work with Don again a couple of years later in ALL GOD’S CHILDREN…another horn group with a powerful sound
Married and a father at the age of 19, I worked days and performed nights with TRAMP IN ’72 &’73 . TRAMP was a dance band. We played clubs in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. The Nitty Gritty was our favorite Madison gig and we worked The Shamrock down in Dekalb, the Top Deck in Lake Geneva, Someplace Else in Milwaukee, The Plantation in Beloit, The Black Cat in Appleton….wherever Adamany sent us. I still do shows today with Dave Hernandez, the keyboard player, he plays with me in THE HUCKSTERS. Our drummer was Steve Marx. I play in SALVADOR IDAHO with his son, Kyle Marx. All very cross-generational. Thus began a decade of hauling Hammond Organs with Leslie speakers.
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN followed TRAMP. We were an ambitious seven piece band featuring original songs, creative covers and a three piece horn section. We had management for while and made a push toward the Chicago market. Another Hammond to haul.
Oasis was like a passing mirage. We were four pieces. Dave Hulburt, Steve Marx and the legendary Tony Hill. We all miss Deke.
1974 brought together DOWN & BACK. Jim Peterman from the Steve Miller Band moved to the area and along with Richard Armstrong and young Jim Kirkpatrick we played blues based R&B. We were joined on bass by Randy Fullerton, who had moved north from Texas with Luther Allison. Peterman had a Hammond with two Leslies. The feature Madison club of the day was The Boardwalk.
The EASY BROTHERS was a blend of a Rockford rhythm section with a Beloit front line. Chico Johnson and Bobby Bestor moved on and we wound up with John Cammilleri on Hammond and electric piano and yours truly on guitar. Red Balderama played bass and my old friend Rudy Ortiz layed down the groove on kit. These were dance years. Disco was popular. And while some folks love to put it down. I loved it. It was all about grooves. The last version of the EASY BROTHERS featured Tom Fishe on kit and Rick Burns on keys and had morphed to more original music along with popular jazz-funk covers. Funk with a jazz flavor was where my head was at though the end of the seventies and where a large part of my heart will always lie. The EASY BROTHERS had just won a regional competition at Charlotte’s Web and my original music was to have been broadcast live on the radio on that Saturday night’s show. Red’s dad was diagnosed with cancer down in Texas and Red checked out. We had to cancel. My heart was broken. Change was about to happen. Enter Big Mac.
My first show with NIGHT OWL was at ‘Headliners’ in Madison. It was a Thursday night in August of 1979. It was all about country rock / southern rock. We were regulars at The Church Key and often opened for touring national acts at Headliners. Big Mac…Michael John McKearn…was and is a relentless singer, lyricist / songwriter / front-man who led the talented musicians he played with into situations they had not been in before. We appeared at SummerFest in ’80 & ’81. We worked the college circuit as well as the clubs. Gerry Mayhew, Tim Walter, Kaj Andersen, Richard Armstrong, Ray Mitchell, Dan Edwards filled out the roster.
NIGHT OWL morphed into SLEEPER. SLEEPER hit the road and toured from Door County in Wisconsin down to Key West, Fla. and back. We worked Daytona Beach, Destin, New Orleans, Gainesville. We worked Milwaukee and Chicago. Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota and Sleeper eventually made connection with Atlanta. Again, Mac fronted a band of strong players; Richard Armstrong, Dave Hulburt, Steve Thurler, Mark Sherman, Phil Terrell, Freddy Dobbs, Duane Worden and Tommy Piazza. Gas was cheap enough to be able to put two vehicles down the road. The live music club world was in its’ hay-day. These were memorable times for all of us. I met Anne Russo in April of ’82.
I left SLEEPER and went out with a group from Rockford called AGENT with Jimmy Johnson, Benny Gulatta, Jerry Parlapiano, and Ron Frose. That morphed into THE WORKS when Jerry and Ron moved on and Duane Worden joined us on keys and vocals. We were working what I would describe as the “production rock clubs” around the upper Midwest. Bigger PA’s and light shows, etc. The closest I ever came to being a “rocker”. We worked hard. Jimmy Johnson went on to own The Noise Chamber which was a very active local studio in Rockford, Ill. I recorded a record there later on and Jimmy is still a mainstay of the Rockford music scene.
Big Mac had formed TUG MUMBO while I was in THE WORKS. As their line-up changed, I joined TUG MUMBO playing ½ time on bass and ½ time on guitar. Don Conoscenti re-joined the band on bass and I took on the guitar. Our blend of original and unpredictable pop material set us apart. We continued the gigs in Key West and became enmeshed in the Atlanta club scene. Our world was about to change. The new drunk driving laws were introduced first in the north. The number of bookings per month we were able to get dropped off dramatically. Don, I and Billy Braatz…our drummer…all moved to Atlanta when TUG MUMBO called it quits.
I joined DR. 99 which morphed into THE BRODERICKS. Our lead singer, Terry Evans, is the best soulful vocalist I ever worked with. Together with Randy Faegan and Lanice Morrison , I found myself in the best vocal band I’d ever been in. Lanice eventually moved to Franklin, Tennessee…right next door to Michael McDonald…and became his touring bass player. We played a strong percentage of our own material. The drunk driving laws came to Atlanta. Gigs dried up, and I was forced to find a “day job”.
I had been on the road full time for about six years. It was never easy, but it was what I loved to do. In retrospect, we were fortunate to have been gigging from the late sixties till the mid-eighties. It turned out that those were the salad days. We played for a lot of folks. The music scene was alive everywhere…and it was fun. Memories like no other time. It will never be like that again. Music flourishes because it is magic that we share. Nobody can kill it. But between the drunk driving laws and the price of gas, live music is an industry that has been gutted. The young musicians coming up have the internet and amazing, affordable recording gear. But, relatively few nights per month they will ever play out. Not like we did.
The latter part of the eighties, I didn’t play out much. I did a handful of shows with Kathy Carllile. Kathy is a sweet little soul with a great big voice and a big heart. Playing with Kathy was a priviledge. Getting to hear her father, Thumbs Carllile on Sunday nights at The Freight Room was a special time in my life.
February of 1993 saw our return to Wisconsin. Biily Braatz had moved back to Janesville via Dallas and we joined Somo Mojo. Big Mac lead this coalition. We started doing two shows a night instead of 4 - 45 minute sets. Again, a strong combination of original music blended with interesting and creative covers. It was also my privilege to join The Gospel Bells. Five and sometimes six amazing singers with my old friend Jim Peterman leading the band. We played both black and white churches. We did festivals and opened for some nationally known gospel acts Jimmy Davis, Greg Bridges and Wash Hobson were the players.
I took over No Problem Builders from Jim Peterman late in 1995. I buried myself in learning to run a remodeling company. I went underground for a few years. Late in the nineties I did a few shows with BJ and the Mud Puppies featuring BJ and Reggie Baskin. Their bass player, Art Love, turned me on to Harlan Jefferson. I believe that was in the year 2000. I did On the Waterfront with Harlan that year and many times after.
Café Belwah opened in the early 2000s and I played many/Wednesday nights with Harlan and my old friend Rick Burns. In the year 2000 I started recording at The Noise Chamber. It was an album of my material with most of the lead vocals done by my son Todd. The recording was his idea. We took our time. Billy Braatz on kit teamed up with Steve Thurler on bass, and the three of us laid down all the rhythm beds.
After that, I would go back and layer in Keys and guitars. We eventually tracked vocals, mixed, mastered and printed a thousand copies. It is entitled NAP DADDY, and the name of the album is Average Day. Recording was done by the end of 2006. We did a CD release show at Eaton Chapel, Beloit College on March 2nd, 2008. Johnny Cammilleri played keys, Dave Potter played guitar, Big Mac on percussion, and our three piece horn section featured Harlan Jefferson, Rob Goodwin and Ben Goodwin. Steve and Billy worked the rhythm section and Todd sang lead. Special guests also included Dick Armstrong and Glenn Davis and my dear friend Jeanne Holbrook on backing vocals. The last song we were joined by my son, Thomas. It was a night to remember.
In 2004 Glenn Davis was hired to do a Blues night at The Gun Club in Beloit. I crashed his gig and have been playing with Glenn almost every Thursday night for the last ten years. When the Gun Club burned, we moved to Domenicos where we currently perform an all original blues show. I have been fortunate to do festival work with Glenn over the years along with his son, Ben and West Side Andy.
The last two years I have been playing keys in salvador Idaho with my old friend Big Mac. All original “big beat pop”. We are just gearing up to get out and play more often.
I do shows from time to time as THE HUCKSTERS. I describe it as “rockin’ funkin” blues” with plenty of Pops Fletcher originals worked in.
POPS FLETCHER’S Solo Journeys are another path I follow. The emphasis there is playing original music all by my only. Although, sometimes, bizarre friends show up and join me…then? Who knows?