Richard Speight, Jr.

Richard is a successful West Coast actor who was born and raised in Nashville.  He took guitar lessons from me when he was in high school and is one of the nicest, coolest, and funniest guys you could ever meet.  Check out the link to this interview, because it has some of the best advice I have ever read about succeeding in acting (or for anything else, for that matter).  Here's a picture of Richard from "Band of Brothers".

Richard Speight, Jr. on IMDb

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Richard is currently being featured as the Pepsi MAX truck driver in the popular Pepsi commercials alongside celebrities like Snoop Dogg.

Matt Urmy

Matt Urmy is a rising Americana star.  He was a student of mine during his high school years, then spent several years "paying dues" in the music scene around Knoxville.  His first album has received strong critical acclaim from the Americana community.  In the fall of 2010, Matt hosted a sold-out show at 3rd & Lindsley which featured many of Nashville's finest indie artists.  I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Minton Sparks

Minton Sparks is a nationally-acclaimed performance poet and writer with an impressive resume of published books, recordings, and performances.  I got to know her several years ago when she studied guitar with me and I was honored to be asked to participate in the development of her now legendary live show.  She is considered to be one of the most talented wordsmiths in the South.

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Lauren Hagan

My good friend and former student Lauren Hagan recently put out a very unique album of original songs that she wrote and performed with a small band of her musical friends.  The album is called "PINE", and is written and performed in a very "old-time" country style, as Lauren naturally has a great classic country voice (although I will never let her forget that she showed up at her first guitar lesson years ago with a Gibson Flying V, hahaha!).  Lauren had a very cool "CD release" party this past summer (2014) at the Thistle Stop Cafe in West Nashville.  It was a very impressive debut gig for a person who has only played on a stage a few times.  Her band was very tight and "in the groove," and Lauren laid down some pretty sweet flatpicking solos on a fine Gibson acoustic that I may steal soon!  She also drew one of the hippest audiences I have seen in a local venue in years; some major players on the local scene were there for sure, as well as a very high level of general hipness!

If you like pure Americana music, this is some fine stuff from a Nashville girl, born and bred.  Lauren knows her Rock and Roll and her Country!  Her album "PINE" is available from Grimey's Record Shop in Nashville.  You can also contact Lauren directly through her email:

Here is a video clip of Lauren and her band performing in September 2014 at Kimbro's Cafe in Franklin, Tennessee for a live broadcast of the "Viva! NashVegas® Radio Show".  This is some major "old school" country right here! 

The White Animals

The White Animals were a Nashville-based, college-oriented band that was, during 1980-1987, arguably the most popular rock and roll band in the southern U.S. They toured all over the Southeast and other areas of the country, played at legendary clubs in New York city, had a video in regular rotation on the fledging MTV network, and could draw bigger crowds on southern campuses than even bands like REM. If you were in college anywhere in the South between '80 and '87, you probably heard the White Animals at least once, and possibly a number of times (if you can still remember it!!)

The White Animals began in late 1977, my first year of teaching professionally, when Kevin Gray, M.D. walked down the street from Vanderbilt Medical Center where he was doing his residency, and signed up for guitar lessons with me at Cotten Music Center. We soon discovered that we had a strong mutual passion for rock and roll and rhythm and blues, especially the Beatles and all the great 60's bands. We decided to start working on a band together, and we made our debut at a little basement club called Phranks'n'Steins on West End in August 1978. Our little gig became a big hit with the Vanderbilt kids, and early in 1979 we added Phil Doss on bass and Joe Loftis on drums, and "went electric". We soon needed a larger venue to accommodate the crowds, so we approached the owner of an old drive-in barbecue place on 21st called the Smokehouse. This place had a REAL stage and a dance floor, and became an instant hotspot, later changing owners and becoming "Cantrell's". I decided to leave the band at the end of 1979 (New Years Eve gig) due to the type of constant ego clashes and drama that accompany anything that starts out small and gets big fast, which was the case with the White Animals. But the fact is, we were a good band, and that's why we were popular. Kevin Gray kept the band together for 7 more years, and guided them through hundreds of shows all over the U.S. They put out several albums of mostly original material, and have had a number of successful reunion gigs in the last few years. They are still a well-loved, legendary southern party band. Rock on, boys.

Here are two video clips of my favorite White Animals song, "This Girl of Mine" by bassist Steve Boyd. One clip is a professionally-done video from the 80's which was probably meant for MTV. The other clip is just an amateur shot of them at their October 2009 reunion gig at the Crow's Nest bar in Nashville.

Tom Kimmel

Tom Kimmel is one of Nashville's greatest singing and songwriting artists.  He was one of my students at Cotten Music in the 1980s, right before his first major label album came out on Polygram Records.  The last time I heard him play, in 2009, he had developed an acoustic guitar style that put James Taylor to shame.

Here's a link to an MTV video of a song from his first album, which I consider to be one of the greatest rock anthems ever written - "That's Freedom".  Thats Kenny Greenberg on guitar (one of Nashville's most in-demand session players), and Nashville native Kelly Looney on bass.

Also, check out Tom's really cool website.

Dave Cloud

Dave Cloud took some guitar lessons from me at Cotten Music in the early 1980's.  Several years ago, I started reading in local papers about some of Dave's wild, stream-of-conciousness, anything-goes performances at Springwater (one of Nashville's legendary hole-in-the-wall clubs).

Turns out Dave and his band The Gospel of Power are some kind of underground, alternative rock heroes in the UK.  As I was surfing YouTube for clips of my students, I stumbled upon this crazy video of Dave Cloud and another group of musicians in a 2008 Budweiser commercial for UK TV (of all things..).  This video also features Rob Jackson Studio alumnus William Tyler playing bottleneck slide guitar.  You might also notice the subtle way each band member has a Bud can or bottle in his possession.  The BBC is getting kind of CraZy!!! (finally)

Here's a link to Dave Cloud's website.

Keith Lowen

Keith has played bass in every hip band in Nashville for the last 12 years or so, sometimes several at a time. He and his band Lifeboy, which also featured talented guitarist William Tyler, another Rob Jackson Studio alumnus, signed a major recording contract in the late 90's when they were still in high school. The legend has it that Seymour Stein of Sire Records (who discovered Madonna, the Pretenders, the Ramones, Talking heads, etc.) flew into Nashville and signed Lifeboy in study hall at University School. Now that's what I call rockin'!!!! Here are some other of Keith's bands to check out:

My So-Called-Band (with former student David Paulson)

Check out Keith in this excellent article from the Nashville Scene talking about his experience with De Novo Dahl and the recording industry - Nashville Scene

David Paulson

David was the leader of The Privates, and he and Keith Lowen played together in that band, as well as their current, popular 90's cover band, My So-Called Band.  David is one of the best rock guitarists I've ever taught.  He can really play!!  Here's David playing with The Privates at the world famous Exit/In and doing a Counting Crows song with My So-Called-Band at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville.

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Garry Tallent (E Street Band)

Garry Tallent worked on some rockabilly guitar songs with me for a while when he still lived in Nashville.  He is a great guy and a real music lover.  He collects guitars and vinyl records.  He has played with Bruce Springsteen since they were in high school.  Here's a link to his website.

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