The 12th Annual Theresa Pollak Prizes: Ensemble
The selectors said: The Taters are a critically acclaimed group that has garnered mentions in Billboard magazine and other national publications for their blend of pop and rock. Founding member Craig Evans possesses one of the best voices in town, and combined with harmonies from Brad Tucker, the Taters have entertained fans for 15 years. They are quite active in a wide array of charitable causes and can always be counted on to lend a hand.
Craig Evans (vocals, bass, keyboards); Brad Tucker (vocals, guitars, bass); Greg Marrs (vocal, guitar, mandolin); Buz King (drums); Jim Wark (electric guitar); and Mike Gribik (sound and support).
Brad Tucker, Chesterfield County resident and self-proclaimed “mutant in my family,” was a voracious finger-pick guitarist inspired to play by John Denver. He admired Bob Dylan and Dan Fogelberg and still uses his first Yamaha FG200, because it’s left-handed.
Craig Evans, born in San Antonio and raised in Lynchburg, spent years trying to model his playing after Commander Cody records and anything with a walking bass. His father listened to Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, while his mother was more of a Sonny and Cher and Tom Jones fan.
He learned from Charlie Pastorfield of Charlottesville’s Skip Castro band. They got used to Evans hanging around and would send him home with old 45 records. That was his musical education. Otherwise, he went to VCU to study art and animation and spent five years in Los Angeles. Back in Richmond, music won out.
During the late 1980s Evans and Tucker were in and out of the same bands: the Bopcats, the Dads, the Acousticats. They united in the Gary Gerloff Band and from it came The Burnt Taters.
Soundman George Garrett soon joined, playing a Florida oranges box with a brush. “We were very lo-fi,” Evans deadpans. Their first disc, Vox Box (1998), came out through Planetary Records. Strange But True followed in 2000. By 2003’s Recess, with personnel changes, they were just The Taters.
They’ve built a following, but distribution can be challenging, “We don’t fit in a neat bin,” Evans says. “We play the stuff we grew up listening to,” Tucker says. “And neither one of us consciously sits down and says, ‘Let’s write something that sounds like old Beatles or Fleetwood Mac.’ ”
The group plays about 80 gigs a year and makes itself available to charitable causes. The Taters have an upcoming Halloween show in Ashland and every year, a big Christmas show there, too.
Their fifth album is due out this month. You can see them Nov. 13 at 8:30 p.m. at Grandpa Eddie’s.
photo by Gordon Stettinius