3 Gun Whiskey’s first gig was in front of a whopping 10 people at the West End Pub in Bement. Fast forward less than three years, and the Monticello-based band has performed in nine midwestern states and opened for David Allan Coe.
The four-piece, blue collar country group will return to its roots this Saturday with a 6:45 p.m. performance at Monticellobration on the courthouse square.
“We play a heavy grit show,” said Jed Mackey, a Monticello native who moved back six years ago. Interspersing original songs with covers of Waylon Jennings, Whitey Morgan and Willie Nelson, he said 3 Gun Whiskey adds it’s own style to any song they do, which always includes at least a bit of an edge.
Mackey plays rhythm guitar and sings a majority of lead vocals. David Ackman of Bement is on lead guitar, Chris Brandon of Monticello is the drummer and Brandon Hayes of Monticello is the band’s bass player. All add vocals to the mix.
Family influences helped develop each band member’s roots. Hayes listened to his father’s LPs as a child, and was dedicated enough to use unique transportation when hauling his bass.
“Before I got my driver’s license I had a little combo amp and bass in a case. I’d hang them off the handles of my bicycle,” said Hayes. “I’d have the amp on one side, the bass on the other.”
Mackey had a similar upbringing, playing his military father’s guitar when the latter was on active duty.
“I grew up listening to my dad play. He’d go to sea and sometimes he wouldn’t take his guitar and sometimes he would, so I just kind of picked it up,” he noted.
It is a similar story for Ackman, who thought it was “really cool to watch my older brother Tom play guitar along with his albums. My first guitar was his first guitar. I’ve been at it since.”
Brandon admits he had always leaned towards “classic and 80s rock, but after a few practices with 3 Gun Whiskey, I quickly appreciated the set list they had put together. It’s a great group of guys with experience and passion, and I’m happy to be just one piece of it.”
A band of the people
With occupations that include a welder, an IDOT worker and a truck driver, Mackey thinks band members relate to the blue collar community.
“The crowds we’re playing to are all working folks,” said Mackey. “We’re from Small Town U.S.A. We’re in the middle of a flyover state to where we started playing where there were 10 people inside of it.”
The band does include a State Farm worker – Chris Brandon – but Mackey jokes that they have forgiven him for that, although they still give him a hard time about it.
3 Gun Whiskey played for an audience of more than 2,000 people when it opened for David Allan Coe in Oakwood on Aug. 24, but Mackey said the band still enjoys the more up-close and personal tavern and saloon jobs, which get them closer to people.
“There’s something you get from live performance and that’s where we thrive,” he said.
When band members were asked their favorite songs to play on stage, they ranged from “East Bound and Down” from Hayes to “Battered and Blue,” who Ackman likes not only because it’s an original composition, but because “it’s a cool song to play on the lap steel Brandon gave me.”
None of the bandmates can peg what led to its most recent success. Talent and practice go a long ways, but Mackey adds there is a bit of luck as well.
“I think sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time,” he said, saying the band hopes to get in the studio and record some of its originals this winter.
Most of their travel has been in the midwest, but they will trek to Hawaii for a concert next spring.
Closer to home, 3 Gun Whiskey is part of a Saturday night outdoor lineup in Monticello that will include Matthew Curry at 5 p.m., 3 Gun Whiskey at 6:45 p.m., Sunset Trip at 8:45 p.m. and Tyler Stevens at 10:30 p.m. The East End Tavern is also hosting 90-Yard Drive from 8 p.m. to midnight.