Clifton Brown and the Rusty Bucket Band: as country as it gets

As a child growing up in Denham Springs, whenever Clifton Brown would pick up his guitar and sing it was often the music of Merle Haggard, George Jones or Conway Twitty. Throughout his teenage years, he loved the music being sung by George Strait, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd and Garth Brooks. All of these singers influenced the direction he took with his music: pure country.
“I’ve always been singing around the house, around the campfire, for family and friends,” Clifton said. “At the age of 20, I decided to go professional. Then one day, this group called me when their lead singer was out one night. I went and played with them – and stayed.”

Pictured from left to right: Clifton Brown, lead vocals/acoustic guitar; Greg Manchester, lead guitar/vocals; Brenda Harrell, vocals; Danny Harrell, steel guitar; Paul Golmon, drums; Chris Smith, bass.

Pictured from left to right: Clifton Brown, lead vocals/acoustic guitar; Greg Manchester, lead guitar/vocals; Brenda Harrell, vocals; Danny Harrell, steel guitar; Paul Golmon, drums; Chris Smith, bass.

Years later, in 1999, he opened The Rusty Bucket, a restaurant with live music, and the band adopted the Rusty Bucket name. They played music there four nights a week. Although Clifton sold the restaurant in 2003, the band kept the name and still uses it today.
Clifton stated, “Our band includes some of south Louisiana’s best musicians: Paul W. Golmon, drums, Walker; Chris Smith, bass, Tickfaw; Greg Manchester, lead guitar, Denham Springs; and Bren-da Harrell, vocals, and Danny Harrell, steel guitar, a husband and wife duo from Livingston.
Over the years, Clifton got interested in law enforcement through friends he had in the Denham Springs Police Department.
“I joined the police department in 2004 because I like helping people and giving back to the community,” he said. “Then in 2016, I joined the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department. But through all that time, I never stopped playing music.”

Clifton Brown, lead vocals/acoustic guitar

Clifton Brown, lead vocals/acoustic guitar

He also stayed true to his roots. Today you can find Clifton Brown and The Rusty Bucket Band nearly every weekend somewhere in south Louisiana still singing what he calls real country music.
Clifton recently returned from a tour of Lafayette, Crowley, Eunice, and other towns in western Louisiana promoting his new CD. He worked for months to get the right songs – most of which he wrote. He took them to Nashville in June 2016 and worked with friend and producer Bobby Terry to put his album together.
“You can make an album anywhere, but for quality, Nashville is the ticket,” Clifton said.
They rented a studio and hired seasoned studio musicians to back him up. “When I first walked in and saw all the guys, some who have played for George Strait and Alan Jackson, I got a little worried,” he revealed, “and I asked Terry, ‘how are we going to pay them?’ He replied, ‘When I started calling around and telling the musicians what type of record you were going to make, they all said to count them in.’”
When Clifton finished running through his songs, the professional musicians were very enthusiastic about the type of music they had just heard. Some of the guys asked him how did he write all these songs, and he replied, “Man, I lived those songs. Most of the stuff I sang about was true.” (Hear his music at www.cliftonbrownmusic.com/music).
“Next Sunday’s Paper,” was the first song we recorded, and as soon as I finished singing it, they all smiled and someone said, ‘We’re going to have a blast today; this is our natural thing we like to do.’”
Clifton came home with high expectations for his new CD, which he financed and was going to distribute himself. Then the shipment arrived– just in time for the August 2016 flood. The CDs and the trailer with all their music equipment inside it – as well as his studio and their house – was consumed by flood water.
“It was hard for my wife Theresa and me to explain it to our two girls, especially one daughter who lost all of her birthday presents. But like everyone else, we had to pick ourselves up and start over. We’ve gotten past it, and we just got back into our house.”
cliftonbrown3Clifton eventually got another supply of CDs, with some help from Terry and the company that produced them, and he went to work promoting it.
“The CD is doing well, and I’m proud of it,” he said. “Another cut, ‘The Halls of St. Jude,’ written by Scott Innes, strikes close to home for all of us as over 70 percent of their patients are from Louisiana, and there’s always somebody in our audience who has been affected.”
For anyone who hasn’t heard Clifton and the band play before, he describes them this way: “We are a six-piece traditional country band that performs country’s classic cover tunes, plus our own original tunes. We stand out from the rest with our warm traditional sounds, a rich three-part harmony and a pedal steel guitarist.” He smiled and added, “You can’t be a real country band without a pedal steel guitar.”
Clifton talked passionately about current country music trends and said, “The problem that a lot of us have with today’s ‘country’ music is it’s mostly a mix of pop and rock. There’s little if any real country music in there. That’s okay for the people who want that, but a lot of us still want old-style country music. That music is making a comeback, but it’s a push to get it played on the radio, to get it recorded. There’s only a couple local radio stations that play the real thing, and we are about the only true country music band left in the Baton Rouge area.

“I’m talking about songs that either make you cry or make you feel good, but either way, they touch your heart – and you can understand the words and sing along,” Clifton Brown, lead vocals/acoustic guitar

“I’m talking about songs that either make you cry or make you feel good, but either way, they touch your heart – and you can understand the words and sing along,” he continued. “As a singer, when you can stand behind a microphone and tell your story in song and open up your soul, people feel that and connect with you. But some people sing a song that has the words “truck” or “fishing pole” or “drinking” in it, and they call it country, but it has no heart.
“Randy Travis saved country music in the mid-1980s when he came on the scene and sang traditional country music that wasn’t over produced. Chris Stapleton and Jimmy Johnson are artists who are having success today with the old-style music. I hope that encourages other singers to go that route.”
Clifton is proud that over the years they have opened for many Nashville acts, many of whom are legends, including Merle Haggard, Tracy Byrd, Ronnie Milsap, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence, Joe Diffie and Clay Walker.
“Since we are able to chart and read music – something not all musician can do- we have earned the opportunity to not only open for some of country music’s biggest stars, but also play with the artist for their performance – how cool is that?” Clifton smiled.
Locally, they have shared the stage with Lorrie Morgan, Jamie O’Neal, Chad Brock, Andy Griggs and others at the 2016 Cajun Country Jam in Gonzales. They performed at the 2016 Red Stick Together Free Flood Relief Concert in Baton Rouge with Nashville icons Mickey Gilley, John Conlee and several others. In April, the band opened at the Denham Springs Spring Festival for Nashville star Doug Stone, and they have several big shows upcoming this year that have not yet been announced.
The band performs regularly at the Grand Country Junction in the Suma Crossing Theatre in Satsuma. Clifton called it “one of nicest venues around; not a barroom, no drinking, and it’s smoke-free – a family environment. It’s a treasure for Livingston Parish.”

Details:

Clifton Brown and The Rusty Bucket Band – 225.921.2956; www.cliftonbrownmusic.com. Facebook: Clifton Brown and The Rusty Bucket Band. Sample the music and purchase the new album for $10, or individual songs for $1.50, at www.cliftonbrownmusic.com/music.
They also can be enjoyed frequently at Papi’s and LaCarreta in Denham Springs, Dukes Seafood and Steakhouse in Watson, Coaches Grill in Central, Crazy Dave’s Daiquiri Bar & Grill in Livingston and other places. Check their Facebook page each week to see where they will be appearing that weekend. While there, “Like” his Facebook page and sign up for his Fan Friday giveaway each week – usually free passes or gift cards to the venue he is playing that week.
“We perform at restaurants, clubs, festivals, fairs and private parties; no event is too big or small. We are COUNTRY,” he declared, “and we’re trying to make country great again!”
Go see them and enjoy some real country music.

By Helen Turner