Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Deuce


Mark Hunter

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 25, 2006

Heads Up! This article is 16 years old.

As watering holes go, the Latch String is among

the more unassuming you’re likely to find.

Squatting in the middle of the Northrop/Coldwater

Road diversion, the place looks like it blew in

on the tail of a tornado, basement and all. Or

maybe it just grew there, like a mushroom. There

is scarcely a change in elevation from the

parking lot to the center of the dance floor. The

signs announcing its existence are hand-lettered.

So are the matchbooks available at the bar. One

of the urinals has the added benefits of duct

tape and a padlock.

Despite its humble appearance, the Latch String

is legendary for the raucous live music it

features with regularity. And it doesn’t get any

more raucous than on Tuesday nights when Kenny

Taylor and Patrick Borton, as Deuce, fill the air

with rockabilly, that pristine rock n’ roll

progenitor. Deuce recently celebrated their first

year at the Latch String on a night that saw the

crowd swell steadily till way past midnight. Just

an electric guitar and upright bass, two vocal

mics and a whole lot of sound. And $2 imports.

It’s a hell of a great way to spend a Tuesday

night.

to run into. Taylor tends to draw people from all

over when he plays. At 45, after playing in some

of the great bands Fort Wayne has produced – The

Feel, Red Belly Boys, Blue Moon Boys, not to

mention his ongoing round of solo gigs and a busy

schedule with the exceptional Chris Shaffer Band

– Taylor seems to know everyone. People seek him

out. “Old friends come into town and find out

where I’m playing,” he says, more with

fascination than braggadocio. “I see people from

Texas, Denver, all over.”

A few years ago Taylor and the Blue Moon Boys,

which at that time saw Borton handling upright

bass duties, hosted Sunday night rockabilly at

the doomed Ernie’s in Riviera Plaza. (Ernie’s

burned down in July 2004.) The Blue Moon Boys

usually opened the night and were followed by

kick-ass bands from all over the country that

Taylor and the boys met while on the road

themselves. Between sets he’d pull up a chair,

crack a PBR and launch into a story about how one

of the guys he had lined up knew his father, a

fiddle player from Virginia with family ties to

the Carter family. Yeah, that Carter family. “I

got relatives buried next to A.P. Carter,” Taylor

says.

Taylor got his first guitar at age nine and soon

after took lessons – four lessons, to be exact.

His teacher told his parents he’d never learn to

play. Which may explain why Taylor tends to look

surprised by some of the things his fingers do

while he’s playing. It’s as though his hands

belong to someone else and his brain is

desperately trying to figure out what the hell is

going on. It’s a condition he’s well aware of.

“I’ll learn a riff or chord progression from a

particular song, but it won’t show up when we

play that song,” he says. “I’ll play it in other

songs. Then all of a sudden I’ll play it during

the right song, the song I learned it for

originally. Sometimes it’s years later. I can’t

figure it out.”

Neither can Borton. Despite touring briefly with

the Blue Moon Boys, including about a year at the

Ernie’s gigs, and another year at the Latch

String in Deuce, the inner workings of Taylor’s

brain remain a mystery. “His brain is different

than anybody I’ve known,” Borton says. “He’s

ahead of himself. He’s in the future.”

Borton first met Taylor through original Blue

Moon Boys bassist Keith Brewer. Taylor and Brewer

were in the Feel together, and when Brewer

answered a newspaper ad seeking players for a

rockabilly band, an ad placed by the incomparable

Nic Roulette, late of Nashville-based Hillbilly

Casino, he brought Taylor along. But Brewer got

sick and passed away in 1998, just as the Blue

Moon Boys began taking off on a run that would

take them across the country and through Europe.

Before Brewer passed away, he willed Borton his

bass. “He said, ‘I want you to have this when I

go,'” Borton says. Borton is putting it to good

use.

At 28, Borton has been playing for just eight

years. But Taylor says he’s world class on the

instrument. That’s a tough point to argue

against. When Taylor and Borton get rolling at

the Latch String, their individual output more

than doubles. It sounds like there’s about five

guys on stage. Borton assaults his bass with a

slapping technique so percussive a drum kit would

be superfluous. Taylor works overtime to subdue

his 1964 Guild, which he says has neck problems,

occasionally breaking into an exaggerated

hillbilly hop, a look of amazement on his face,

while Borton hammers away at the bass wedged

sideways between his legs, rolls his eyes and

slides into the persona of aslightly deranged

aw-shucks country boy. The effect is spot on.

“I definitely mock the hillbilly origins,”

Borton says, “but the show wouldn’t be as fun

without a bit of humor. I have an affection for

the honky-tonk and rockabilly music. It’s like an

old friend you can get away with making fun of

and he won’t kick your ass for saying it.”

Borton’s got his own band as well, the Ton-Up

Boys, with Jon Hartman on drums and Joshua Wade

on guitar. They’re playing more frequently and

recently opened for Hillbilly Casino. The project

lets Borton try his hand at being a band

leader.

With Deuce, such formalities are moot. It’s pure

anarchy from the get-go. “This is happy time for

Kenny,” Borton says of Deuce’s Tuesday night

gigs. “This is his release.” And what a release

it is. Instead of playing meticulous slide behind

Chris Shaffer’s sometimes heart-wrenching lyrics

and always soulful vocals, Taylor in Deuce gets

to unwind with songs like George Jones’ “White

Lightning,” and his own songs, some co-written

with Nic Roulette, of which “Meet Mr. Fist,” is

sure to become a classic.

“It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard,” Taylor

says, without a hint of irony. Deuce bounce

through a playlist that includes Johnny Cash,

Eddie Rabbit, Golden Earring, Red Hot Chili

Peppers, Blue Oyster Cult, The Beatles, Steve

Earle, Doc Watson, Carl Perkins and on and on. It

would be easy to name the covers of Chili Peppers

and BOC songs, but it’s much more fun to figure

out what they are as they unfold in Deuce’s

quirky rockabilly arrangements.

The Latch String and Deuce are simpatico,

especially this time of year when both Latch

String doors are open to the world and

interesting, sometimes bizarre characters blow in

with the wind, which in turn carries the

audacious sounds of this experimental rockabilly

band to a world in need of a

break.

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