“If it wasn’t for bad luck,” bluesman Albert King famously sang back in ’67, “I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
Bay area guitarist Tony Tyler’s pretty sure he wasn’t “Born Under a Bad Sign” (that’s the name of the classic King tune), but lately it seems like something’s been hanging over his head.
Tyler is the charismatic and gifted lead guitarist and singer for the “southern gypsy funk” band Come Back Alice. On Sept. 11, he and the band – which includes his wife, violinist Dani Jaye - were in Marshall, Missouri after playing a show.
“Our garage at my house in St. Petersburg is a little bit prone to flooding,” Tyler explains. “So we’d moved a bunch of our equipment over to the studio, so it would be safe from the hurricane.
“It was weird hearing about Tampa/St. Pete on the news. We were praying, and thinking about our family and friends down here. And hoping that everybody would come through OK.
“I woke up with a couple of text messages from a buddy of mine. There was a picture of our studio and the roof had caved in.”
Destroyed or severely damaged were Come Back Alice’s P.A. system, mixing board, full lighting rig, two Hammond B3 organs, two massive Leslie speaker cabinets, three drum kits and all of the band’s merchandise.
“We had brought one guitar amp and Dani’s fiddle amp to Missouri with us,” says Tyler. “Everything else was backlined at the gig.”
Like most struggling musicians, Tyler and Jaye don’t carry insurance.
The kicker here is that Tyler’s Gregg Allman-inspired B3 playing is a high point of every Come Back Alice show. But the extremely weighty organs have remained in the studio-slash-rehearsal space since the band’s trailer was rear-ended in early 2016. They’ve have no way to carry them around; subsequently, they were at Hurricane Irma’s mercy.
Wait, it gets worse.
“We come back, and we’re dealing with the whole studio thing,” Tyler says. “I had a meeting with a guy about getting some of the p.a. gear replaced. It was about 9:30 in the morning, I come out, and the passenger window to my Excursion is busted out in my driveway.
“And all of my guitars are gone.”
Including his $9,000, tobacco sunburst, 1959 Les Paul reissue (2006), a custom-built Kraster guitar (cherry sunburst) valued at around $7,000, and the 2009 Les Paul Standard, also tobacco burst, that Dani Jaye – a fine guitarist herself – used onstage.
“They got an off-brand blue sparkled acoustic, too, and all of our microphones.”
Tyler a native of Macon, toured and recorded with one-time Allman Brother “Dangerous” Dan Toler, and with Gregg Allman’s son Michael.
He was making an album in Bradenton in 2009 when he met Dani Jaye, who was playing in a band called One Night Rodeo. It was love – both musically and professionally – at first sight. And he’s been in the area ever since.
Today he’s down – but nowhere near out.
Contributions to a GoFundMe page Tyler and Jaye established after Big Irma’s house call has already met (and doubled) its stated goal.
Then there’s the matter of replacing the guitars.
“My daddy got me that guitar when I graduated from high school,” Tyler says. “I’ve been all over the country with that thing. Played with countless artists, on countless stages, with that guitar. It’s a blow, but the response we’ve gotten from people has completely overshadowed the sorrow.”
In the meantime, sessions for the second Come Back Alice album are ongoing.
With borrowed equipment, the band will take the stage Saturday at the Skipper’s Smokehouse Anniversary Party. “We’ve just been shown so much love,” Tyler says. “However angry I am that all my guitars got stolen, or that the hurricane took the studio, it reminds me of the goodness of people. As bad as it is, that’s the little bit of good that’s come out of it.”
You can bet they’ll tear it up, as they always do, at the Skipper’s gig. “Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t die, it keeps going,” observes Tyler. “There’s been worse that’s happened to people, and they keep going.”
Skipper’s Smokehouse Anniversary Party
w/Come Back Alice/Home Team All-Stars/T-Bone Hamilton/Lint Rollers/Mike Davis Project/more
910 Skipper Road, Tampa. 12 p.m. No Cover.