Jeremy Lyons

red, Buenos Aires 2011Jeremy Lyons was born and raised in Ithaca, NY. He studied ethnomusicology in college and got his start as a professional musician in the New Orleans streets. He met the members of Morphine in 2005, after fleeing the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Since 2009, Jeremy has been playing guitar, electric bouzouki and the 2-string slide bass with Dana and Jerome (and sometimes Billy), recreating and re-imagining the music of Mark Sandman, among other things.

Jeremy moved to New Orleans in late 1992, with little more than his National guitar and a desire to play and to learn. After two months working in a hotel restaurant he quit his job and became a full-time street musician, playing 5-7 days a week for nearly five years with the Big Mess Blues Band. There he honed his craft, learning from peers and elder musicians. He quit the street in 1997, and formed his trio Jeremy Lyons & the Deltabilly Boys with Greg Schatz on upright bass and Paul Santopadre on drums. This band mixed slide and fingerstyle guitar with high-octane rockabilly, surf music, Delta Blues and other roots styles. The Deltabilly Boys released five CDs, toured the US and parts of Europe, and played seven consecutive years at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

As Hurricane Katrina approached in late August of 2005, Jeremy evacuated with his then-wife and his daughter to stay with family, first in Baton Rouge, and then Boston. With some help, Jeremy was able to start from scratch and begin rebuilding his career. In September, word got around and a mutual friend connected Jeremy with Dana, Billy and Jerome of Morphine. Besides the offer of equipment and recording time, Jeremy found an appropriately named haven at Hi-N-Dry studio, Mark Sandman’s former loft apartment.

One day over the phone, Dana read an excerpt from his Morphine tour journals; it described a moment in 1994 when Dana, Billy and Mark watched a band play on Jackson Square in New Orleans during a little tour down-time. It was clear from the description that this was the Big Mess Blues band; Dana even had a Polaroid photo of Jeremy playing pasted to the next page. Some years later, after viewing the image for a second time, Jeremy discovered in his photo album a second Polaroid Dana had taken, which he had left for the band.

Jeremy began collaborating first with Deupree, who filled in on drums on several dates under Jeremy’s name. Jeremy became a fan of Twinemen, which featured Dana and Billy with vocalist Laurie Sargent. Dana sometimes sat in with Jeremy, but at the time they spent more hours painting houses together than making music. Billy also occasionally helped Jeremy out on the drums.

One night when Lyons couldn’t find a bassist for a gig with Jerome at the Tir Na Nog in Somerville, Massachusetts, he asked Dana to fill out the low end with his electric baritone sax (run through a harmonizer pedal, dropping his tone down an octave). The new lineup clicked, and the trio (at the time called simply “Lyons, Colley & Deupree”) started playing the odd show in 2007, performing tranced-out versions of slide-guitar Blues and Appalachian tunes with unique instrumentation.

In 2009 Dana got the call to bring a band back to Nel Nome Del Rock, the festival in Palestrina, Italy where Mark had died on stage ten years earlier. After some deliberation, Dana invited Jeremy, who promptly asked friend Robbie Phillips to build a 2-string bass. Lyons began learning much of the Morphine repertoire. The process was not easy; Jeremy had spent most of his career singing the songs of others, but trying to master a new instrument and achieve the Sandman vibe while singing below his natural range (in the original keys) was a real challenge. Their weekly gig in Atwood’s Tavern began in the spring of ’09, and allowed the band to rehearse on stage, and Jeremy became more comfortable with the material. Besides the blues, the group began going farther afield, stretching out with improvisation, and covering tunes by such disparate artists as Brian Eno, Jimi Hendrix, Latin Playboys, and Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré.

Besides working with Vapors of Morphine, Jeremy stays busy in music. He performs regularly for children at schools, toy stores, libraries and special events. He sometimes plays solo acoustic shows of folk music, blues and tunes from his 2014 release Make It Better. His latest project is a five-piece group called The Busted Jug Band, which performs hokum, blues and novelty music in an entertaining, acoustic format. Jeremy gets back to New Orleans two or three times a year (usually with VoM in tow) to play with his Deltabilly Boys.

For more about Jeremy Lyons, visit his website: http://deltabilly.com

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