Interview with Citizens Band Radio
“Southern Rock isn’t really about being Southern, it really is more about being Country & Rock and Roll.”- Jayson Jannuzzi, Citizens Band Radio
Words by Autumn Walden
One of the bands from the recent “Steal Your Fest“—formerly “Jerry Fest” campout and festival, Citizens Band Radio, blew my mind at the Jammin for the Animals IV festival and I danced through their entire set—both with cowboy boots and in bare feet. While at Jammin, I met the band and spoke briefly with bassist Jayson Jannuzzi—we later connected via email for a Q & A about Citizens Band Radio.
TSI: So, you guys played at Steal Your Fest, formerly Jerryfest—how has Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead influenced your music?
JJ: I went to see the Dead when I was younger but would not consider myself a “deadhead” by any means. However, our entire band is influenced by the type of music that came out of the 60′s and 70′s, bands like the Dead are a perfect example of what we want to represen—a combination of several musical genres including Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk and Rock and Roll. Our guitarist, Mike Flynn, was probably more influenced by the Dead than any of us. In fact, he has been a part of several ongoing Dead jam sessions.
For me, Jerry Garcia’s dedication to “Roots” music is what interests me the most. I don’t think any other musician in Rock and Roll took so many Bluegrass and Folk songs and turned them into Rock and Roll, giving the songs a unique creative twist. It is pretty common for a new Dead fan to think that some of the old time songs Jerry covered are actually Dead originals. I think Jerry stayed true to roots music and I do my best to try and stay that same path. We have taken several roots songs and “CB Radio-fied” them, in the same way Garcia would have—making them our own.
TSI: Does CBR ever play Grateful Dead songs?
JJ: We do play some Dead songs—not usually as a regular part of our set—but from time to time. Earlier this year we joined the Dead Covers Project and we actually made a video of us covering US Blues. It is light hearted and our own take on the song, which I believe is fitting for the vibe of the Dead. You can find it on Youtube. We have also covered Fire on the Mountain, Deep Elem Blues, I Know You Rider and songs like Truck Driving Man, which Jerry would have probably played with several bands.
TSI: What are your favorite songs to play together?
JJ: As a band? We mostly like playing our originals but I think we get off on just about all of them or else we replace the song in the set. Sometimes songs get “tired” and it is time to lay them to rest. We recently started covering a Levon Helm song called “Sweet Peach Georgia Wine“, which is sort of a rare number. We really love to end sets with this one cause it sort of explodes into solos.
TSI: Where did you guys find that cool bus that’s on the album cover of The Ol Waylor? Who is Willie Waylon?
JJ: Wind Gap Pennsylvania. It is a 1957 GMC PD4104 with a Detroit deisel 671. It is our pride and joy. Runs great – we took it down to Texas last spring. It was owned by the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, a popular PA bluegrass band.
Willie (Nelson) Waylon (Jennings) – two of my heroes.
TSI: So how did a band from New Jersey capture the heart, soul, and grit of southern rock?
JJ: Our Manager asked us that when he first saw the band. He just kept saying “How are you guys getting this music”? —then I took him to our place. We live on a 75 acre family farm, originally purchased in 1924 by Linda (Mandolin) and Troy (Guitar)—they are cousins—great grandmother. There are about 7 family houses on the farm and Linda and I have a house and Troy has a house and the band stays there a lot of the time though Mike has a place in Green Brook, NJ where our recording studio is. We raise our own pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, and donkeys and have about a 1/2 acre garden. It is on a mile long dirt road and we have streams and ponds on the property. It is real farm/country living.
We were playing in Tennessee once and a guy in the crowd heard that we were from NJ and he walked up to the staged and pointed right at me and said “That guy is NOT from New Jersey”. He couldn’t believe it and I told him after the show that my place is probably more country than his and it is true. Most people don’t think that Jersey has that kind of Country but it is how we grew up. Southern Rock isn’t really about being Southern, it really is more about being Country & Rock and Roll. We grew up listening to the Stones Exiled and Skynyrd and Troy and I discovered Gram Parsons before most other folks did and we grew up on the Eagles and the Band. Linda was 13 when she started going to Bluegrass Festivals and her idols were Ralph Stanley and The Johnson Mountain Boys when she was a teenager. Dale’s (drummer) father was one of the area best known Pedal Steel players and I mean pure country music.
TSI: Anything you’d like to add?
JJ: Well, maybe just that I don’t consider us a Country band or a Southern rock band—I think for us it goes much deeper. I like to think that it is hard to put us in a pocket. We are obviously influenced by Country and Southern music but also by folk, roots and blues. Recently, we have been adding a slight Motown vibe to our songs. We started to develop a new sound about a year ago that I would call Roots Rock but these days I am interested in combining our California Country flavor with a bot of old R&B—Ike and Tina Turner flavor. We try and keep things interesting that way.