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Siesta Sounds

John Holiday & the Kid Memphis Trio
Courtesy photos from the artist

By Charmaine Engelsman-Robins

John Holiday brings his music and new movie to south Florida

Johnny Holiday at arrivals for WALK THE LINE Premiere at AFI Fest 2005 Opening Night Gala, The ArcLight Hollywood Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles, CA, November 03, 2005. Photo by: John Hayes/Everett Collection

     When John Holiday was growing up in Memphis, his piano-playing father, Michael, encouraged the young guitar player to join his band. Unenthusiastic at first, John had his head more in the music of his peers than in the soul and R&B his father’s group was playing. But a strange thing happened somewhere between the hometown Memphis gigs and those that followed after they’d made their new home in California: as players from Buffalo Springfield, ShaNaNa and other then-current groups sat in too, John realized that his father’s music was growing on him. In time John found his true musical loves were the blues purist’s idols; T. Bone Walker, Albert King, Guitar Slim. Little did he know that in the not-too-distant future he’d find himself playing with B.B. Kind, Anson Funderburgh, Jeff Healey and other modern-day blues equivalents and bringing pure blues to audiences with his own bands. He even recorded with Little Boys Blue on Vizztone Records, the label owned by Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin.

        As his repertoire grew so did his interest in other arts areas. When Johnny Cash’s story, Walk the Line, was due to begin filming, John made his way down to check it out. He knew all the parts had been cast, but that didn’t discourage John; he decided to “just go for it” and … even though John didn’t smoke … he managed to maneuvere himself into position to unobtrusively bum a cigarette from the casting director. He told her he was a musician and they struck up a conversation (“… despite a lot of coughing….”). She asked John if he’d be able to be back in a couple hours with a fiddler and a bass player, and he assured her that he could … then took off with his buddy, Adam Sutton, to try to figure out who they knew who might know a couple such players that they could recruit and produce back there in two hours.  They pulled it off, but the last-minute players ended up not being used. John kind of figured that was that, but the next day FOX called him to ask if he’d like to play Carl Perkins in the movie.

     “I was driving at the time,” John remembers, “and I just stopped right there in the middle of traffic. I wasn’t even sure what I’d heard! Was this really happening?”

        Indeed it was, and he ended up playing the role and having a great time doing it.

That was just the beginning. After the film, John went on playing the blues and living his regular life, unaware that CMT was planning an eight-episode miniseries about SUN Music, Sam Phillips’ legendary recording studio in Memphis. John ended up appearing in that too … coincidentally playing another player named Perkins: Luther Perkins (no relation to Carl), who was guitarist in Johnny Cash’s backup band, The Tennessee Three.

These experiences were enough to convince John that acting should also be part of his creative work, but just as had evolved from his working with his father’s band, he now wanted to make a film of his own. Which brings us to southwest Florida where John’s now working on a project of his own with producer John Sykes. The working title of the film he’s directing and acting in here is Midnight Pass. He and his fiancée, visual artist Kiersten Coleman, star in it with local actors Lisa Brave, Paul Saulo and Tyler White. Between spending every day working on the film and weekends playing the blues with his Kid Memphis Trio, it’s a pretty hectic life. But not so much so that he can’t find time for the newest dimension of family life:  his son, Dylan, and grandson, River, live just to the south in Venice.

His musical friendships are also growing and evolving: John’s group, the Kid Memphis Trio (with fellow seasoned blues players Burt Engelsman and Steve Camilleri) continues playing blues. They’re scheduled for three gigs at Gilligan’s this month: Saturdays, August 3 and 10, and Sunday, August 25, all from 1 to 5 p.m. Check the groups Facebook page for more gig info, and of course watch for the film Midnight Pass in the not-too-distant future. Then just sit back and wait to see what this new Floridian comes up with next.