As the band carrying his moniker prepares to play Rockford Brewing Co. on Thursday, Local Spins asked the Grand Rapids guitarist to reveal the recordings that influenced him most.
Perhaps best known as a longtime writer and reporter for The Grand Rapids Press and mLive covering religion and education, Charley Honey is now a freelancer and the editor for Kent Intermediate School District’s School News Network.
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He’s also long led a not-so-secret second life as a musician. The guitarist, vocalist and founding member of The Honeytones – alongside Local Spins founder and publisher John Sinkevics – has performed for audiences across the region. “We started in 1986 and lay claim to being one of the longest-serving bands in West Michigan, or second to The Willys,” Honey says.
He says he was blessed to grow up in a musical family, “and what I consider the best era of pop music.” His brother was a devotee of mid- to late-60s folk music, such as the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez, while his sister favored show tunes. Their mom played piano, “things like ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘Bill Bailey.’
Early rock ‘n’ roll was a presence as well. “One album in the background a lot was Duane Eddy, ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel.’ It was all instrumental.” He says Eddy’s sexy tone featured loads of reverb and tremolo. “It was a gateway album,” Honey says.
In his conversation with writer Ross Boissoneau, he mentioned artists Petula Clark (the first pop singer he fell in love with), the Rolling Stones, the Four Tops, Tom Petty, We Five and the Beatles “White Album” among the many performers and albums that influenced him, before settling on three that stand above the others as inspirations.
The Honeytones, by the way, play Rockford Brewing Co. at 7:30 p.m. Thursday ($5 cover), with a wide-ranging set that Honey notes will include songs by Steve Earle (whose ‘Guitar Town’ was “also a life-changer”).
1. The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967) – It’s the obvious choice. In the spring of 1967 we were at the Baseball Hall of Fame. When we came back, (his older siblings) had been listening to “Sgt. Pepper” all weekend. It did blow my mind. The album breaks all the norms about what you could do with rock. You could bring anything and everything into rock – Indian music, the ’20s, classical, blues. The lyrics, and the whole concept of being another band – it’s the first album I think of presented as an album. It really did capture my imagination. “Getting Better” – it’s a great rock song. The rhythm Ringo and Paul laid down is just a monster. “A Day In The Life” is an astonishing piece of work. It gave me chills, and still does.
Listen: “A Day in the Life”
2. The Kinks, “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” (1968) – They came into my awareness as the Beatles broke up. It was released Nov. 22, 1968, the same day as “The White Album.” They couldn’t be more different. It’s a suite of folk/music hall music about everyday rural life. The songs are about nostalgia, things about British pastoral life he (writer and bandleader Ray Davies) thought were going away. There’s a lot of sense of time passing. It was a complete flop, it didn’t chart, didn’t sell. It was a really sophisticated work for a young man to be writing.
Listen: “The Village Green Preservation Society”
3. The Steve Miller Band, “Brave New World” (1969) – It (exemplifies) psychedelic blues, and my love of guitar and how I play. It really featured his guitar work: so clean, so tasteful, so smart. He says so much with so few notes. It was a model for how I wanted to play. I’m never going to be Jeff Beck, I’m never going to be John McLaughlin. I’ve seen him many times, and he still plays really, really great. “My Dark Hour” was a collaboration with Paul McCartney, (who) plays drums and bass (with Miller’s) raucous bluesy guitar. It brought home what a great player he is.
Listen: “Brave New World”
Currently Loving: Kathleen Edwards, “Total Freedom” (2020) – She’s a singer and songwriter from Canada, and kind of alt country/folk. I love her voice – it’s dry, plain and pretty. It conveys a wide range of emotions. It’s romantic, but (she) could kick your ass if she wanted to. She’s appreciating her life in her early 40s.
Listen: “Hard on Everyone”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Charley Honey’s Playlist on Spotify
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