The Rocks Off 100: Ramblin' Chase Hamblin, the Man Who Will Be Paid
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.
Photo by Jeff Hunter
Who? Who? The very idea that I even have to tell you who Chase Hamblin is makes me feel all weird inside. On the other hand, maybe you just woke up from a coma or something. So first off, congratulations and we wish you well on the road to full recovery, and second, you've got to hear this cat.
He's a talented troubadour in the classic fashion, a singer-songwriter with an uncanny knack for wedding folk melodies to cutting, introspective lyrics. His 2009 EP A Fine Time made many, many best-of lists for its pop power and deep digs at the modern world. Plus it's only $5, so open a new tab and come back when you're living in a better world for clicking that link.
Luckily, Hamblin is due to release a full-length affair early this year, so keep an eye out for more information when a date for VAUdeVILLE is announced.
Home Base: When writing, you can find Hamblin in the extremely haunted Elder Street Lofts channeling brilliance over the bones of old Confederate soldiers. Once it's time to whip his band, The Roustabouts, into shape, they move over to the Sterrett Street Studios, which they share with the Sideshow Tramps. You can also find him at laying down tracks at SugarHill.
Hamblin has probably played every available venue in the city, but he holds Fitzgerald's and The Continental Club most dear. The Continental he enjoys for the built-in audience and the atmosphere, while Fitz's has a greatly improved sound system that has made it more than one Houston musician's new favorite haunt.
Good War Story: "One of the best war stories I have comes from a gig I did with my '60s British Invasion cover band, Picture Book," Hamblin opens. "We played the anniversary of a fancy steakhouse in the Galleria, which I cannot name for legal reasons."
The World's Most Interesting Man was there, a lot of photographers and a ritzy, upscale crowd. We played three sets over four hours and management said we were doing great. The crowd loved us; we were playing requests and doing them well.
At the end of the night the owner, whom I had never even met, came up to me cursing and threatened not to pay us because he said we played way too loud. Keep in mind we were booked to play The Who, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, etc. He took me to a back room to try to intimidate me. I tried to explain that we have a contract, that he could have told us at any point over four hours to turn down, that his customers and managers loved us, etc.
After he continued to belittle and insult me, I finally broke. I got up, spat on his floor, told him to copulate with himself, and then marched back into the bar area where we played. I jumped up on my amp and yelled out, 'Hey, who here enjoyed us playing tonight!?' Everyone in the joint cheered. 'Oh yeah, well the owner of this place is trying to not pay us for a four-hour gig!'
People starting looking around going 'What? What?' The photographers started shooting me. The assistant manager came running over pleading for me to come down and be quiet. I said, 'Not until you pay us. I know all the press in town. I'll tell everyone if you try to screw us!'
Sure enough, they took our bassist outside and paid him. I gained a lot of respect from my bandmates that night. Haven't been asked back, though, and was advised to not speak.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? He's known as Ramblin' Hamblin for a reason. In addition to playing all over the place, Hamblin moved around a lot as a kid and didn't especially want to come to Houston in the first place anyway. Still, he says he's grown to love it here because of the low cost of living, inspirational music scene, and the fact that it serves as a great launching place for tours on the Third Coast.
Music Scene Pet Peeves: "My biggest pet peeve or complaint about the music scene is really a pet peeve about Houston and not the scene, per se," he says. "I wish more people in Houston who are not directly involved in the music scene would start to be more supportive of the local acts. I think we have way more talent than audience here, and for a huge city this is really upsetting. Perhaps as more acts get press and notoriety, we can convince the folks in our hometown that we have worthy music going on right here."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Stevie Wonder, Innervisions
- The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle
- Bee Gees, Bee Gee's First
- David Bowie, Aladdin Sane
- The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request
Best Show Ever: "The best show of Chase Hamblin & The Roustabouts was one of the 'Burned Out' shows at Fitzgerald's organized by my good friend Craig Kinsey and his lady Sarah Gregory," Hamblin says. "Not only was the show completely packed upstairs, but all the bands (Sideshow Tramps, Literary Greats, and us) played really well. We headlined and made a lot of new fans that night.
"The best part was, we played an extra-long set that night and Geoffrey Muller ended up doing double duty on bass with the Tramps and my band," he continues. "He never got to take a break between sets. After we finished our last song I turned to hug him and said, 'Great set!' 'I peed my pants,' he replied. 'What? Why?' I asked. Like a total pro he just shrugged, 'I drank too much beer and had to go.' What a champ."
First Song You Fell in Love With: "I was about three or four years old when 'I Love a Rainy Night' by Eddie Rabbitt came out," Hamblin says. "I remember singing it endlessly for my parents. I haven't even thought of it years, but I loved that song."
Chase Hambin & the Roustabouts play the "BowiElvis" tribute night with Craig Kinsey and the Southern Backtones Friday at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak.
THE ROCKS OFF 100 2013 ALUMNI
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.