"We're fond of telling people that we get paid to load equipment, but the playing part is free," says longtime Charleston musician and bandleader Rev. Dr. Johnny Mac, the fiery frontman for local power trio The BootyRanch. "We all work day gigs, and we bust our asses. So, when we get the chance to go and play on weekends, we look forward to getting on stage and playing."
Mac and his mates — drummer Stevie Kent and bassist Chris Watts — plan to do two full sets of all-original music (plus a few surprises) at the Rock Lounge this weekend.
Since forming in Charleston in 1998, The BootyRanch consistently have delivered a funky blend of traditional and urban blues, Southern-fried soul, and old-school rock 'n' roll. They're revered as one of the most solid and versatile bar bands in the scene.
"It's a beauty playing with guys like Stevie and Chris," says Mac. "It's really easy to do whatever you want, 'cause they know what they're doing. You never have to stop and go, 'I wonder if they'll follow this.' I'm so lucky."
Compared to the normal bar gigs the band plays, the Rock Lounge show will be more personalized and intimate. Mac looks forward to introducing some of his most sophisticated material to his loyal local audience.
"I am the worst critic you could possibly imagine when it comes to my stuff," he admits. "I dissect it, rip it apart, and then I put it back together again. If it doesn't stand up to what I think it should be, I scrap it. It's hard for me to get out there and sell something if I'm not 100 percent behind it."
Mac and the BootyRanch guys plan to showcase some of their best new compositions, as well as a few nuggets they've been working on for years. They'll probably throw renditions of a few obscure blues, rock, and pop songs into the set as well.
"When Chris and I used to play out as an acoustic duo, we'd do our own versions of songs by the Bee Gees or the Backstreet Boys," Mac says. "If you take anything, slow it down, and put a little grease on it, you could make it into a gospel or blues song.
"The sets are as together as they'll ever get," he adds. "Too much together's not good; you've got to have a little element of risk in there. Everything I do is informed by the blues, because I've been playing that so long, but there'll be all sorts of styles. Some of the stuff is a shuffly Stevie Ray Vaughan style. One song is pretty in a gospel sense. We have some old Cables stuff happening, like 'Let's Call It Quits,' which is straight-up blues, and 'Patty Cake,' an instrumental that goes from slow and intentional into some space-jazz kind of stuff. There'll even be a nice little country breakdown song I wrote when I was out in California."
The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, Carlos Santana, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Johnson were major musical influences on Johnny Mac. Those vintage rock guitar stylings came out as he performed in the '80s as the singer/guitarist with blues-rock trio The Jumper Cables — a mainstay in the beach bars and downtown music halls.
In the early '90s, Mac moved from Charleston for stints in L.A. and Austin before returning to town in 1996.
The BootyRanch now blends a penchant for improvisation with a variety of blues and rock stuff.
These days, Mac's still a confident pro on stage. "I don't remember the last time I got nervous playing live," he says. "It's always a chance to play good music with two of my best friends, who are two of the best musicians I know. I can do whatever I want with my own material, and we can do anything we want with other stuff, too. It's a win-win situation."