Over the weekend, a clip of a Broadway guitarist made the rounds online. In the clip, the guitarist, Michael "Chili Dawg" Castleberry, takes a longneck Coors and uses it as a slide before sticking it between his teeth, rearing his head back, and chugging the whole thing while shredding on his '52 Telecaster.
Later that night, after that epoch-defining performance, Chili Dawg was caught snoozing in his car out front of Tootsie's while loading up his equipment; the MNPD, doing their usual surveillance of the Broadway drunks, subsequently charged the mythical performer for driving under the influence (does napping in your car really warrant this?). As unfortunate as the charges are, from the molten ashes of Broadway—where the gutters run with domestic beer and the streets are filled with the shrieks of wooing women—a new phoenix has risen.
We often lambast Broadway for its excess, but occasionally, it produces a moment of rare, crude excellence. Chili Dawg's performance is one such example. His antics—and ensuing run-in with the law—sit nicely alongside the storied outlaw behavior of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard.
Inspired by the bravado, attracted by the "vibe", I wandered down to Kid Rock's Big Ass Honky Tonk on Sunday night to witness Chili Dawg play with a band on the second floor of the complex—just above the Cadillac Pussy VIP Room, where Tucker Carlson was famously spotted hanging with the bar's proprietor last year.
When I exited the elevator to the second floor, I was immediately greeted by the imposing figure of Chili Dawg who, turning to his own private audience that had gathered around his corner of the stage, ran his own little sideshow as he accompanied the band.
Murmurs in the crowd spoke of his '52 Telecaster, which you could visibly see ring with electricity in a way modern guitars simply do not. Chili Dawg let the thing rest on his belly and deftly maneuvered it, occasionally taking a beer and using it as a slide. His body seemed to absorb and reflect some portion of the sound, adding an elemental depth to the music. It was immediately obvious that here was a personality who could draw a crowd.
At The Ben & Morey Show back in December, Mayor Cooper mentioned that he thought the future of Broadway would mirror, in ways, the Vegas model of residency shows. Big country stars like Luke Bryan, Kid Rock, and John Rich might take up the mic on a semi-regular basis as the draw for crowds becomes more about particular performers and less about the general party scene. It’s an admittedly rose-colored vision of Broadway, but seeing personalities like Chili Dawg emerge time and again helps one see how this could play out.
Instead of people barrelling into a bar to drink, with a live band's "muzak" there to add some excitement, a certain subset of Broadway patrons will begin to show a more discerning eye, looking out for and going to see acts like Chili Dawg or The Pamphleteer's personal favorite, Kelley's Heroes. Most of us dread venturing into the “Tourist District”, but occasionally it yields fruit. And as an enthusiastic resident of this city, I’d suggest we all put in the time now and again. You know, so we can keep tabs on the place.
You can catch Chili Dawg on Fridays at 9:30 p.m. at Tin Roof Broadway on the second floor (More Info)