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Weber Brothers lead a semi-charmed rock 'n' roll life

WANT TO GO?

The Weber Brothers

WHERE: The Empty Glass

WHEN: 10 p.m. Thursday

TICKETS: $5

INFO: 304-345-3914 or www.emptyglass.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lot of bands get their start in rock 'n' roll the same way: somebody gets a guitar for Christmas.

That's the beginning of the story for The Weber Brothers, Sam and Ryan.

"I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 8 or 9," Sam said. "Ryan got a bass not long after that."

Ryan, the older brother, added, "I was going to be a singer, and we were going to do Guns N' Roses. I was going to be Axl Rose, but we needed somebody to play bass because we thought every band needed a bass guy in the band. So, I picked it up."

Two guys and a couple of guitars: that's a pretty common rock 'n' roll band story, but where the Weber Brothers went from there -- well, that's not so common.

The brothers, who perform Thursday at the Empty Glass, grew up in Maryland and started playing shows in high school. Like a couple of kids, they played parties and school dances then moved on to bars before Sam graduated high school.

 "Our first real gig was at the New Windsor Inn in Maryland," Ryan said. "It was a pretty skid row place, but it had its charms."

"They let us play," Sam added. "And that was what we wanted. We wanted to play as many gigs as we could. That's what you've got to do to get proficient: you play."

In high school, they fell hard in love with rock 'n' roll, and not just the stuff they heard on the radio, but the older rock stuff -- like the music of rockabilly legend, Ronnie Hawkins.

Aside from a respectable music career, Hawkins had made something of a name for himself as a guy who put together bands that sometimes became famous, including Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie, Skylark and The Band.

"He was one of our biggest heroes," Sam said.

The brothers contacted him, and oddly, Hawkins invited them to come up to play with him sometime.

"And then it was, 'Sam, hurry up, it's time to graduate,'" Ryan said.

In fact, the brothers said Sam finished high school a year early to get on with their music career.

In 2001, the two went to Canada, where Hawkins makes his home. Eventually, they joined his band, The Hawks.

They called it an important learning experience, but when they weren't performing with The Hawks, they went out on their own. In 2003, the pair embarked on a busking tour.

"We performed on the street for eight hours a day to get us from one side of the country to the other," Ryan said. "And we really only had two goals: We wanted to meet Chuck Berry, and we wanted to meet Robbie Robertson."

They set out on their quest with considerable rock 'n' roll knowledge.

"We knew this club where Chuck Berry played," Ryan said.

They thought they could show up to the club and meet the rock icon, but that's not what happened. Berry wasn't socializing. So the two wound up next to the dumpster in the parking lot playing at the rock legend as his equipment was loaded into the club.

"We played directly at him for about half an hour," Ryan said.

In Los Angeles, they went to the building that housed Dreamworks Records, Robertson's label, and tried to meet him, but they were turned away by security. Instead of giving up, they got a sheet of notebook paper and wrote the songwriter a letter explaining who they were, who they knew and why they should meet them.

"We realized handing it over that it was just a scribble on some notebook paper," Ryan said.

Still, they handed it to the receptionist and then called back a few days later. Somehow, the letter had reached Robertson, who told them to come back and let them play him a few songs.

"He was just a really nice guy," Sam said.

The Webers say they've lived kind of a charmed rock 'n' roll life. They've met, shared the stage with and played music will some of their biggest music heroes including Hawkins, Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band and yes, even Chuck Berry.

Along the way, the pair have maintained a relentless touring schedule and recorded eight albums, always with the expectation that the next one is the big one, the million-seller.

The Weber Brothers are rock 'n' roll true believers who're living a real life rock 'n' roll dream and hoping to learn something from the rock legends whose paths they cross from time to time.

"We figure if the torch of real rock music is going to get passed, it might as well get passed to us," Ryan said.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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