BOOTLEGGERS' Didier Céré interview. June 2013

RTJ : Hi and thank you to accept this interview for ROAD TO JACKSONVILLE, webzine about our music from the South.

I had the opportunity to see you on stage for the first time in a dancing in Charente close to Angoulème, it was I guess in 1999. Do you remember this concert ?
Didier Céré : Maybe a little bit, but we've played in so many places… good or less good but always great moments, good feelings, some jams and moments of grace too…

RTJ : First Didier, can you tell us how did you begin to play music, what were your favourite groups at this moment ?

Didier Céré : I've always played the music as I was a kid. I took my cousin's Elvis records and sung on. When I was a teenager, when the other young men sang Neil Young around the firecamps, I used to sing Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent, so I had no success with the girls. I had a college band and we did Ten Years After and George Thorogood covers. My first real band was REBELS with my younger brother in the 80's, deep and hard rockabilly. Then came ABILENE between boogie hard and Southern Rock, three guitars and our first solos and guitar fights. We were forbidden to play in many places because of our Dixie flag on stage and our bad reputation. Our audience was mainly bikers. We played very loud and drank a lot of Jack Daniels. Then arrived BOOTLEGGERS. I listened to a lot of Rock n' Roll but some friends of mine told me about LYNYRD SKYNYRD, OUTLAWS, POINT BLANK, MOLLY HATCHET, POCO, MANASSAS, NITTY GRITTY and many other bands. I began to listen to country things such as CHARLY DANIELS, CHRIS LEDOUX but also HANK WILLIAMS, JIMMIE RODGERS, JOHNNY CASH… It was a little bit a kind of sect. I listened to root blues only later…

RTJ : Can you remind us about your musical career and your first band ABILENE and their EP ?

Didier Céré : As I already told you, I played in REBELS, ABILENE then BOOTLEGGERS. Our first EP, it's been a long time! We played for a kind of show on a French radio and we won a price, so we could record our first EP. It was ABILENE first steps. I think that all our bikers friends have influenced the jury so we could win the price, even if many bands were better than us. It was our first studio experiment, we have recorded two songs in French "Malaise à Nogales" and "Blues de John", with a sound close to the stage sound with Pat on drums. It was a real good band but Pat and I were two bad boys and the band had split three years later.

RTJ : When did you create BOOLEGGERS ? Who played in this band ?

Didier Céré : I think that Bootleggers began about in 1986 with Fredo, who already played in Abilene, on guitar. We played in every city in the South of France. Then Fredo left and I called Pierre Aparicio aka General Lee, Philippe Charlot and Yves Lacourie to play with me. We were the support guest of Johnny Hallyday once and played many private shows in Laurada. I also met Jean Sarrus, Georges Fengon, Dédé Djento and the regretted Michel Castric of Sony. It was a kind of musical explosion between Cajun rock and some bluegrass without any drummer. We played on stage in many big festivals. We have recorded two cds, "J'feele blues" in 1993 and "Lightning over Arizona" in 1994.

RTJ : I have found live recordings from these moments. We just can tell that you were a real great band in the South of France. Do you remember a show in Mirande in 1984, with a pedal steel, a banjo and an unknown guitarist ?

Didier Céré : Mirande, a great souvenir with an audience of 15.000 people, our biggest show. We were scared to play in front of so many people, because we used to play in bars and clubs. Clande Langlois came to help us on steel guitar and dobro. We finished the set on a jam with Hughes Auffray. Our style was particular and it seems that the audience did enjoy us. The Bootleggers adventure really began after this show. Then we played in many great festivals, and one in Marseille in front of 50.000 people. Our guitarist, Pierre Aparicio, looked a little bit like Rusty Burns with his beard and his long hair, and a southern shirt.

RTJ : On the Mirande show recordings, I've heard a great Dixie version. Are you going to play it again one day ?

Didier Céré : Maybe I don't know. No problem for me, but all these clichés Flag, Dixie and other seems to make problems to some people.

RTJ : You played in Craponne sur Arzon in 1996 and Nîmes and Limoux in 1997. Do you remember these shows ?

Didier Céré : We have changed some musicians after the Mirande concert, so we were more in a country rock way, with a drummer and Fredo's return. In Craponne it was difficult because we played after George Hamilton V and Becky Hobbs, but we did our thing and it was kinda pretty good. Craponne in a famous Country festival.
I played in Nîmes with my sister Candye Kane. She's a great woman who is fighting against cancer now. She has an incredible strength, she's a Blues diva.
We played in Limoux too and met Calvin Russell, a great man who made me an enormous impression, just like Steve Earle and Steve Young. So great men, and so good composers! Calvin's death really moved me a lot.

RTJ : Then, for some years you worked for Texas Boogie Production. Can you tell us about this period ?

Didier Céré : I worked with Texas Boogie but I still went and play music, especially in the USA. I learned a lot during this time and I met and worked with some of my heroes, just like Ray Benson , Dale Watson, Point Blank… I remember the first time I arrived in Austin, at Ginny's Little Longhorn, a guy comes to me and asks "hey bro, keep my bass, have to pee". He was Billy Dee Donohue, who played with David Allan Coe and was this night with Dale Watson. I never saw him before but I sure have kill anyone who touches his bass guitar. It's now quite my bro, just like Dale, Big Dog, Dodd Meredith, Rusty Burns, John O… I have some "bros" in Texas, many Vietnam vets, musicians. We have a lot of common values. I do pay a lot of respect to them.

RTJ : The good news arrived in 2012, when you decided to recreate the Bootleggers.
Can you tell us how this return could have been possible ?

Didier Céré : it's because of Fredo… No, I really thought about it. All these musical meetings made me grow and I always thought to the Bootleggers. When I met Fred again he told me about a reformation, so I said OK and I thank him again now.

RTJ : Can you introduce you new musicians ?

Didier Céré : Paulo on bass guitar, comes from the Chicano Blues. He's a musical monster, really roots in an old-fashion way. Nico on drums is a young prodigy from the Agostini musical school. He's already famous and will sure improve his play. So we have a solid rhythm section! And I play more and more electric, so the new band has found his own identity.

RTJ : How and where did you record this cd ?

Didier Céré : It has been recorded in different places : at the Chantier studio in the South of France, in the Pyrénées mountains, at the American Roots studio at Fredo's home, at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio's at Spicewood Tx and at the Control Room studio in Forth Worth Tx. We've made the mix at Celestine Records Studio in Pau. To be honest this record has been hard to do, because Fredo and I have two different ways to do it : I prefer to record live and Fredo enjoys the new sound technology. So I thought it was too long, and I did some overdubs at Celestine's in Pau. So it took two weeks, but at the end we got "Heart of Dixie".

RTJ : How did you choose the (excellent) covers ? Who has chosen them ?

Didier Céré : It's me again, sorry. Some people did regret the choice of "I'm afraid" and "Out of habit". Some people from Belgium talked about my awful French accent, but my Texan friends told me it doesn't bother them. We have had a good criticism on Outlaw Magazine in Texas.
But I know I sure have to work about my vocals.

RTJ : How did you had the idea to ask Rusty Burns to play on the Hank Williams "Move It On Over" cover ?

Didier Céré : I just asked Rusty and he made us the honour to accept. His solos are really great, and he told us he could do them again if we don't like them. We kept his first takes. He's a great man, a real Guitar Hero, so kind and friendly.
Our friend Nico Wayne Toussaint a great French bluesman helps us on some parts of the record.

RTJ : If you have to talk about Fredo's style, what could you say ?

Didier Céré : I don't know, a kind of alien with ten fingers. Sometimes he's too much technical, I'd prefer him a little bit more Rock n' Roll, but it's a real luck to work with him.

RTJ : How did you get the idea to play Flynnville Train's "Red Nekkid" ? Because it's a real deep Southern Rock.

Didier Céré : I heard this song on Big Cactus Radio Country and I really enjoyed it. Everything's good with Flynnville Train. This band will sure be famous soon! They are great, just like Blackberry Smoke for instance. Brain and Brent are two friends now and I hope we can play with them in an opening act one day, just as I hope to play with Point Blank next year.

RTJ : I've seen you on stage and your "Sweet Home Alabama" cover is always famous.
Do you sometimes play other Lynyrd Skynyrd songs ?

Didier Céré : Maybe one day we can play "Simple Man" I've always enjoyed this song. I never could see them on stage. I'd really like to see them live. Maybe I can go on the Southern cruise one day too. I have to do that!

RTJ : Didier, can you tell us something about Point Blank after their first visit in Europe since 2007. It was a dream for all the Southern fans.

Didier Céré : It was such an honour to be able to work with them. Philip Petty's death really made me totally sad. He was so much for that band. I just remember when they came to play close to Paris, at Billy Bob's, John O was really sick and the doctor refused to let him play. Billy Bob's was crowded and it seemed we had to cancel the show. But Rusty stayed a long time and prayed with him. And Point Blank played an enormous show this evening. They have a faith that can make move the mountains! I don't know other musicians that can play this way after such a medical problem. They have the strength, the faith and a great respect for the fans.

RTJ : What about the Bootleggers future ? A new cd in 2013 ?

Didier Céré : Only time will tell. We should go on tour in the USA in November and we'd play at the first American festival in Qatar . 2013 is a great festival year. We have to play on new songs in September too. We already have recorded "Spirit in the Sky" for the next album. There will also be a wonderful Southern ballad "I'm a Homeless Vet" written with Joey Welsh, a Vietnam vet. I'm gonna talk with Rusty, I'd like he can play with us on that song.
Wait and see.

RTJ : If you have to finish your life on a desert island, what could be the five records you take with you ?

Didier Céré : It's not a great end of life! It's hard to keep only 5 albums on the thousands I have. I had my Rock n' Roll period Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly… Southern : Lynyrd, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet… I really enjoy ZZ Top's "Tres Hombres" with the huge « La Grange ». I listen to blues music, boogie music, old bands swing of the 50’s. Sorry, amigo, and if there's no electricity on your island, I'd better bring my guitar and some bottles of Pomerol. However if I can choose, I prefer to end my life with my wife, my kids, my grand children and my whole family, but I'd like to have some Rock n' Roll years before!
Thank you. Keep on rockin’ loud and proud!

Questions by Philippe Archambeau & Yves Philippot-Degand
Translate by David André.

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