Take a close look at John "Jojo" Hermann's keyboard rig and you'll spot a photo of Art Neville. The photo, taken at a Meters gig from the Lone Star Cafe in New York City, is one that Hermann keeps attached to his Clavinet, along with a photo of Dr. John that adorns his B-3. "We can go off on some pretty wild tangents when we play," Hermann notes. "So when I see Art's picture, that reminds me of what it's all about -- getting back into the groove."
Hermann may be the biggest New Orleans music enthusiast in Widespread Panic, but the city's influence on the whole of the Athens, Ga., jam band is hard to miss. Panic has toured and recorded with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and its rotating list of cover tunes includes Dr. John's "Walk on Gilded Splinters" as well as the Meters' barnstormer, "It Ain't No Use." Adds Hermann: "I'm sure I've jammed on 'Cissy Strut' too many times to count. Along with another instrumental of theirs, '6V6 LA.' That's a great little tune that I've played a lot over the years. There's a lot of influences in Widespread Panic, but the Meters would be on everybody's list. I think they're the only band that all of us can agree on."
As a college dropout in the late '70s, Hermann lived in New York City and got to see the original Meters at the tail end of their run. "All the musicians in New York were turning me onto them. At the time, I was just starting to play. For me, it started with the Doors, then I moved on to Professor Longhair. But the Meters -- they had a sound and they had a groove. And if you listen to our jams, you can hear how many of Art's licks that I've been sneaking in." In fact, Hermann is such a fan that he briefly considered blowing off a gig in Raleigh, N.C., when he heard of the original Meters' scheduled Fest reunion. Widespread Panic members are now writing songs for their first studio album in two years, which will be recorded this coming winter. "There are nine or 10 songs written so far," Hermann says. "We're just getting started, so we're going to let the music take us where it goes. But it's sounding like it's gonna be pretty funky."
- Michael P. Smith
- The Meters (pictured circa-early 1970s) is the only band that everyone in Widespread Panic can agree on, says keyboard player Jojo Hermann.