With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays nearly here, it’s a really appropriate time to talk about the history of Them Mixon Boys.
You see, founding father David Mixon says he can trace his love for music back to the holidays when his talented family would get together and jam out after stuffing themselves with turkey and dressing and pecan pie.
Through the years, David’s son Brantly and his cousin Kaleb Lindsay became interested in the music, too, so it’s no surprise that more than three decades later, they’ve joined forces to become Them Mixon Boys, a popular band in these parts.
We caught up with David a few days ago during a break from his busy days at his shop, Automatic Transmission Specialists in Rockmart, where he and Brantly work together. Let’s see what he had to say!
First of all, can you tell us about how the current band came to be?
The band was pretty well centered around me and my son, Brantly, at first. My uncle taught me guitar when I was a kid, and we always celebrated on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with a little family band when several of us would make music. Then as our children were growing up, they became interested as well. My son started playing drums when he was 8 years old, and Kaleb Lindsay, my first cousin’s son, was about the same age when he started playing drums, too. They’re both 33 now, so that lets you know they’ve been playing drums for a minute.
Through the years, I played in some other bands. When I finally got an opportunity to add my son into one of them, we really enjoyed what we were doing. But it’s tough to keep a band together so that band kind of fizzled out.
We finally came up with the current combination of musicians with Steve Singleton on bass, Travis Locklear on lead guitar, and cousin Kaleb sitting in on drums as my son began to learn harmonica and get out front and sing. Pretty much, Brantly and I had started from scratch as a two-piece rock band and did a little over 30 shows our first year. The next year we did almost 40 shows, and then we began to add Kaleb on drums so that Brantly could play bass. Brantly’s just a multitalented kid. I’m calling him a kid, but he’s 33 years old and it looks like he’s ready to go to war.
As we added those new members, we just kept working these clubs and adding songs that got good crowd response from club to club or venue to venue at all times. Then, we got lucky enough to get in with Rocco over there in Jasper.
First time we were there, I’d laid all my set list out next to my pedal board as I was setting stuff up on stage. Rocco came over and was eyeballing the set list. He looks at me and says, “Hey, how many times you guys gonna do Sweet Home Alabama?” And I started feeling bad.
I thought, man, they’re gonna want to hear a bunch of Lynyrd Skynrd and we don’t do a bunch of their songs so I thought, this is not gonna be good. I said, well, we don’t have that song on the set list, sir. And he said, good, I’m tired of hearing it! (Laughs) I started thinking this might be good for us here after all! At the end of the first set, Rocco came over and was just over and over telling us how much he enjoyed something fresh and different. We get that a lot in different clubs because we don’t have a specific genre that we try to follow. We try to spread ourselves out in a way that we can work in any club and I call our sound like a Roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll sound. For example, you’re gonna hear country, you’re gonna hear hardcore country, you’re gonna hear rock ‘n’ roll that’s done as if it is a country song and you’re gonna hear a country song that’s done as if it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song. And then you’re gonna hear a rock ‘n’ roll song that you already know in a way that you’ve never heard it before. We just try to mix things up and make it as interesting as we possibly can because we want to hold our own interest, too, as we perform these songs.
I think that’s probably been the key for us, just giving the other guys in the band a chance to expand and grow as a musician and as a performer. It’s just been a joy to watch, you know. How awesome is it that I get to play almost every weekend with my son and my second cousin and two other guys that I just consider my brothers. It’s just a wonderful thing. The life that I live is the life that I dreamed that I would have when I was a kid, seeing your musical heroes as a child and then aspiring to become like them. And then you get there and you achieve it and you go and play all these clubs.
You just accept the fact that this is who you are. I’m not gonna say that I don’t want to do it, it’s that I just don’t have a choice. You know, if I don’t want to make music, I really don’t have a choice. Something’s gonna lead me to the music, and I’m gonna be involved in it one way or the other.
If I want to make music, it’s very, very easy because I’ve been blessed with wonderful instruments and people around me in my circle that take care of me as an artist and as a musician. I have a friend, Dave Harper, who has a guitar shop called Full Scale Guitar. He keeps all of my guitars in top shape and working order, and that’s not an easy feat because I’m pretty hard on my stuff.
When did you first realize that you had musical talent or an interest in music?
Well, that’s a fine question, and this is the answer that I give everyone. My uncle had a band in the ‘50s and early ‘60s called the Aqua Tones, and they played a lot of surfer-type music. I found one of his old set lists and it had Rolling Stones and a lot of Motown. The Ventures were a big surfer band back in those days, and a lot of people who were learning to make music aspired to be like them. Me and my mom were visiting with my aunt and uncle one day, and one of his friends was coming over to play with him. I was roughly maybe 4, going on 5 years old, so this was 1967, ’68. He pulled this guitar out, and it had this long white curly cable going across the room. He plugged it into this box. I was standing in the room when he turned it on and started playing. I was watching him play on one side of the room, but the sound was coming out on the other! I’ve been hooked on guitars ever since and just always wanted to learn to play. When I got into my teen years, maybe 12, 13 years old, I started really bearing down on the fact that hey, this is something that I want to do, this is something that I need to do. I’m gonna get past the fear of hurting my fingers mashing these strings down, and I’m gonna do it. And it just took hours and hours of mashing those strings down as a teenager and going through the chord changes.
Once I began to play songs, it was just a great feeling of confidence and accomplishment. I knew that I had things that I wanted to say to people that I couldn’t tell them … but I could sing it to them. So that was a key thing in holding my interest. When I joined the Air Force and was out west away from my family, the guitar was one of my best friends. It was really important to me so that’s kind of how it all began to develop for me personally.
But I took several years off from music to start this business that I have. We run a small auto repair shop where we specialize in automatic transmissions, and this is our 33rd year to be in business here. It’s pretty easy to know how long I’ve been in business because my wife was six months pregnant with my son when I opened it up. So whenever he has a birthday, I know how long I’ve been in business here in the transmission shop.
We’ve been at it together musically for a solid five years between me and my son, and me and the bass player have been at it a little over 10 years. So the chemistry’s right with this band. We’ve got a live album in the works that we recorded at MadLife in Woodstock, which seems to be the town that has a huge interest in live music. You can go there any Thursday, Friday or Saturday and you’re gonna hear live music in the streets of Woodstock downtown every weekend, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for sure. There’s one place, MadLife, where they have a patio, and I think they do live music there five nights a week.
Once we got into MadLife and got out on the patio there, things really began to open up for us, especially when Rocco threw a huge vote of confidence and gave us some bookings. Now he’s got us booked solid all the way through 2022.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this band and to see where I came from and to see where we are now and to know that, irregardless of what anyone else thinks, I’m responsible for the feeling of success in whatever I do in my life.
So if I feel like I’m successful, that’s what matters. I had been successful as a BMX rider as a kid, and I know how far I went – I didn’t go very far – but I still feel successful. As an aircraft mechanic for the Air Force I felt successful and confident, and as an auto mechanic or transmission man now, I feel successful. And that’s the way I feel with this music, especially with the guys that I have around me because they’re just super talented and man, you know every one of us do something musically every day. We don’t do it because we want to end up being a mechanical band that’s on stage and has a specific show and nothing else. We really enjoy what we do and we have a good time, and I suggest sometime you and your readers come and see us and you’re gonna have a good time no matter what.
What’s the name of your transmission shop?
It’s Automatic Transmission Specialists in Rockmart. This is my hometown. I spent some time in the Air Force stationed in Texas and New Mexico, and when I got out, I lived in Rome for a while and then moved to Tucker inside 285 – huge mistake. Lord have mercy, they can have ATL. I have nothing down there. I did write a song about the Grady curve, though. It’s pretty tragic – a mid-October crash, where a guy watches his lady pass away on the side of the freeway after they have a crash, which is a horrible thing to talk about.
You mentioned that you and your son did a two-piece band – which two pieces?
At that time, it was drums and guitar. There were a couple of bands that were making some waves as a two-piece band. One was the White Stripes, who were very well known globally, and another one was the Black Keys. My son had actually saw them live in Rome once in his early 20s. Man, when we started getting into their music, we saw how we could do things like that, too. But there are certain things you have to change to cover some artists. We would do Whitesnake or Jimi Hendrix or AC/DC or Hank Williams Sr. as a two-piece band. The sound was big and it was full because I would use more than one amp and I had this old archtop guitar that had a pickup on it called Monkey on a Stick. Man, it just sounded big and fat, and it would carry a lot of the bottom-end bass tones. Sometimes I would use my Stratocaster. It was primarily so we could cover a song and build a set list and figure out what worked with which crowd and what we needed to keep in our repertoire and what we could kick out that really wasn’t working. Sometimes you have to give up songs that you love doing because they just don’t get good crowd response. No matter how much you may enjoy it, you still have to keep in mind that it’s the crowd’s party – it’s for them.
What are some of the songs that your crowds do love?
I would say probably the one that we get the biggest crowd response from is “All Along the Watchtower,” which is a Bob Dylan song that Jimi Hendrix redone. I stumbled onto a different tuning where I’d take the top string, which is normally tuned in E, and tune it one-half step up to F, and it changes the phrasing of the guitar. That phrasing is different enough so that you can’t really determine specifically what I’m playing until the vocal lines begin. Then it breaks off into solos with the harmonica versus the guitar, and those two are challenging one another.
We also have another couple of original songs that are popular. I’ll give you a quick history lesson in Taylorsville, Georgia. Between Rockmart and Taylorsville, there’s a little mountain top at the end of Cantrell Road. It goes up to a little over a thousand feet. Back in the early 1900s, a farmer in Rockmart started a peach orchard on top of that mountain, and we have historical documents that show he was the first peach farmer from the state of Georgia to put his peaches on an icebox train when they first came out in the early 19-teens and haul them all the way to the biggest farmer’s market in New York. When people up there would ask him where his peaches were from, he would just say these are Georgia peaches. That’s where the term Georgia peaches came from. So we’ve got the song that tells the story about that, and people just go berserk for it.
Also, in our hometown in 1926, two steam locomotives had a head-on collision that killed 20 people and injured over 100. Back in the ‘20s, there weren’t any ambulances or anything like that, so the people from our town went to the crash and chopped the injured people out with axes and took ‘em to their house to nurse them back to health. That song is called “The ’26 Train Crash,” and it gets a huge crowd response. We have a good harmonica solo, but the guitar solo that Travis plays is phenomenal. All the guitar musicians just look at it like they can’t believe what they’re hearing. And, you know, we get to hear it every weekend.
You sound like you’re sort of history minded, right?
All of that really stemmed from when I was doing a songwriters workshop for the Rockmart Civic Arts Commission. One of the ladies who was involved suggested we write a song about the train crash in 1926. After I wrote that song, it got me to thinking that’s a good area to touch on because you can write something inspiring that’s based on facts and human emotion. Man, I tell you, you can really stir people that way. They want to know the facts, and they feel like they’re connected to the past through your song. That was a big moment for me as a songwriter to make that connection and understand I can take the past and write songs about it. I try to focus on the local history, but what we found is that as we took these songs to other towns, we would have people come up and ask where they could get a copy, not even realizing it was an original song that we had wrote ourselves.
I do have a YouTube channel with a lot of my original songs, some I’ve put some time and effort into and some I just wanted to make sure they were done in such a way they would be there for eternity, because I guess the World Wide Web is gonna be here forever. We’re at a point now where I’m surrounded by great musicians and we’re just not going to put anything out that’s not great. We’ve put some of our original music that you can find on Google that’s recorded good but it doesn’t have as much volume as I would like for the mix to have. We put them out there to give different venues something to gauge if we would work in their club or not.
We don’t have any recorded music to sell, but we’re blessed enough to play in a lot of venues. One in particular, on the inside at MadLife. We couldn’t believe our first headlining show that we played at MadLife, we sold out! We were just stunned, and still it’s a feat we can’t really wrap our minds around that we pulled it off because we were thinking we might sell a hundred tickets if we were lucky. But man, the fans came through and made us feel like rock stars, and we’re riding on a cloud right now that we really can’t put into words. It’s just a feeling. That’s the same way music is. You can’t really describe it. When people ask why I do music on weekends, I tell them it’s just like making a good golf shot. You know, you don’t win anything for it. It’s just a good feeling when you chip up next to the pin or you putt one in the hole from the other side of the green. It’s just a great feeling.
Who were some of your musical heroes growing up?
Well, Bill Willis married my mother’s twin sister. Me seeing him play guitar like I said when I was just a little kid and then through the years him teaching me to play, I mean, he would have to be at the top of the rung of my musical heroes. Even though he was just a local guy and his band primarily faded away in the early ‘60s, that was just an influence on me.
Yeah. Unfortunately, a little over five years ago, he passed away, but I still have the guitar that he took out that day when I was a kid – it was a ’62 Jazzmaster that he had bought when he was working in a music store here. I take it with me a lot of times.
You can’t replace something sentimental like that.
No, it’s very special. Just real inspirational, even though it’s not really my type of guitar. It has a different rate of bend on the strings than I’m accustomed to because primarily the first 10 years of me playing guitar was all on acoustics and it takes a lot more pressure to pull and bend those strings. Then I developed electric style on the Stratocaster, but through the years as I played his guitar, it was always inspirational but it just wasn’t me. I don’t know how to explain that. I try to use his guitar as much as possible and I have written a couple of songs on his guitar. It’s a great guitar – don’t get me wrong. But as an influence and as a human being that was really, really worthy of admiration from everyone, he’s at the top of the list.
I would say as far as professional musicians, David Gilmore from Pink Floyd – my favorite guitar solos are all done by him. When it comes to writing, I’d have to say Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and the way they were able to bridge the blues with contemporary ‘70s and ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll. It was just total genius.
And I always loved Jimi Hendrix and the avant garde feel that he brought to everything. I always say that “Sand Castles in the Sand” was the first rap song ever. You go and listen to it, just the way Jimi delivers his vocal lines. It could go on and on – I like Hall and Oates, AC/DC, REO Speedwagon. I can’t be pinned down on one particular style and sound.
You’ve got to tell us how you came up with that name, Them Mixon Boys.
(Laughs) That’s pretty good. We were doing this two-piece thing, and there was one group – these two rappers – involved in that same workshop in Rockmart I told you about. We were trying to come up with different names for the band, and one of them suggested, why don’t you just call it Them Mixon Boys? I said, why would we do that? He said, you know, when people ask who’s playing down at Knucklehead’s tonight, we just say, Them Mixon Boys. There happened to be another band out there back then called Them Dirty Roses. I didn’t really want to copy them, but by the same token, I’m pretty sure that nobody else on the Web is gonna come up with something like ThemMixonBoys.com. I felt like we had found something unique and different, even though it’s been difficult for a lot of people to understand. But because it was different enough, we’ve stuck with it. I can’t say that it’s 100 percent paid off because there’s nothing else to compare it to, but so far it’s been working out.
I like it.
What do the other guys in the band do when they’re not playing?
Kaleb Lindsay works for the City of Cedartown doing different kinds of maintenance. Travis Locklear is a metal fabricator, and Steve Singleton works on small engines. Of course, my son Brantly works with me at the shop doing all the R&R (remove and replace), but he can also build transmissions.
What does the future hold for Them Mixon Boys?
We’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing now. We would like to expand into some bigger, more original-oriented venues, so that our sound, our original sound, people can become more familiar with it. And just keep on rockin’ like we are. We get excited in the middle of the week – we have rehearsal on Wednesdays, so that’s a break from all this work. (Laughs) We’re gonna keep rehearsing, writing, performing and recording. That is the next step for us.
When we finish this live recording that we’re working on, we hope and pray that we’re in a position to get it out for a lot of folks. But we’re gonna be satisfied no matter what because we’re responsible for our own success and what level of success that we see that we’ve accomplished. As far as I’m concerned, I know that I live the dream every day. This is the life that I dreamed that I would have when I was a child, so it just can’t get any better.
When do you think the live recording will be out?
We’re hoping by the end of this year, for sure, sometime in the month of December. The plans are to release both a live CD of strictly our own original material and a DVD at the same time that’s high-definition with mastered recordings with it.
We’re confident that once those are out in the public and some of those hooks get into people’s minds and they can’t stop singing ‘em, that they’re gonna want more. So that’s what we’re working towards right there.