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The three-piece bundle of energy exuding 50s rock ‘n’ roll known as the NOLA Treblemakers was born from a post-gig conversation between co-founders Ted Dunaway and Jak Locke.
Dunaway and Locke were raised by 50s rock-loving fathers, and both had filed away those influences. Embedded deeply in the New Orleans music scene, they noticed the abundance of cover bands and the lack of pre-psychedelic era tunes, so they tried treading new ground.
“It was like, ‘Well, nobody else seems to be doing this, so why don’t we just do this? That would be so much fun,’” Locke recalls. “It’s been amazing, every show.”
Nearly two years after its conception, the NOLA Treblemakers have become regulars at The Boxer and The Barrel, usually performing twice a month at the downtown Houma bar.
Derek Gordon, a Houma native, (drums) joins Dunaway (piano and vocals) and Locke (guitar and vocals) on stage. The trio takes pride in harmonies, authenticity, energy and amusement, which is evidenced by their stage monikers: Jackie Callico (Locke), Teddy Bear Elvis (Dunaway) and Gordon Valentine (Gordon).
“A lot of people – even to this day, people that haven’t seen it – they hear 1950s and they get this negative image almost. ‘Oh, it’s just going to be a doo-wop group of people just standing there and singing these boring songs,’ or they get this image of old people dancing to ‘Matilda,’ or something like that,” Locke says. “That definitely has its place, but it’s always fun for me to see how shocked they are at just how high-energy the show really is with these old, old songs.”
Locke says the Treblemakers keep the shows organic. Dunaway and Locke maintain constant contact to spontaneously formulate the order of the 50-60 songs the band will perform at each show.
“It’s almost vaudevillian in the way (Dunaway) and I interact with each other between songs,” he says. “People really like the Roy Orbison stuff that we do – ‘Only the Lonely’ – that usually gets a rise.”
Because all three members are involved with other, original-music projects, the Treblemakers aren’t likely to venture into new music with a 50s tilt.
“For the NOLA Treblemakers, we like to keep it as authentic as possible,” Locke says. “We’re very comfortable with sticking with very straight-ahead, sort of a piece of the 1950s pulled out of history and thrown onto the stage for tonight.”
Now that they’ve built their own nests, Locke and Dunaway continue listening to pre-60s stimulation on satellite radio to amend their song list. Being a three-piece – piano, guitar and drums – makes it impossible to produce carbon copies of the songs they cover (The lack of horns is the obvious example.), but Locke says this doesn’t prevent them from replicating the hit songs’ cores.
“If a song needs all of this extraneous instrumentation and all of these extra things being done around it, then at its root, it’s not much of a song by itself,” Locke says. “It doesn’t stand alone. I don’t agree with that on 100 percent of situations, but it definitely does hold true in the majority of them.”
Locke, like Dunaway and Gordon, is involved with other music-minded projects. He’s collaborated on more than 20 album releases, and somehow, he has found time to delve into other art forms.
Black Lodge 2600, an online video game Locke created, went viral online, and now the 16-years-a professional musician is dabbling in western independent filmmaking.
“Movies were my first love, but music has always been there,” the 32-year-old Marrero native says. “I love creating things, and there’s no easier way to create things with other people than to do it through music.”
Forgot to mention – he has self-published a novel and is working on two more: a sequel and “much larger,” book “not related to that universe.” There are more video games to come, too.
“It’s sort of like being a chaos wizard,” he says. “Somehow, it all gets done eventually.”
Locke’s Twitter feed is a gem in its own regard, featuring quips such as “Google+ is the RC Cola of social networks,” “Middle-aged dart leaguers listening to mad-at-my-dad radio metal. This bar is weird,” and “Shirtless teen chasing and throwing a basketball at a diapered kid as both scream. This neighborhood reminds me of watching Gummo.”
Regarding his inherited influences, Locke says the music was persistent in his coming-of-age, no matter what household task he was performing.
“It’s an integral part to how I grew up,” Locke says. “It wasn’t something where he sat me down and was like, ‘Boy, you’re going to listen to this, and you’re going to like it.’
“It was just every day he would be playing records while I would be doing different things, like playing on the computer or watching television or having dinner. We’d always have this music playing through the house. It was a vast array of stuff, like Ace Cannon and Ray Charles and Buddy Holly, even into the 60s, like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, but by and large, it was 1950s rock ‘n’ roll.”
Jak Locke (Jackie Callico) and Ted Dunaway (Teddy Bear Elvis) are two-thirds of the NOLA Treblemakers, a high-energy 50s cover band. With Derek Gordon (Gordon Valentine), the trio has played several shows in Houma over the past few months.