Thanks for visiting my site and checking out my music!
I’m Chris Cates, a writer, performer, entertainer, producer, sportsman, business man and father of twin girls. For the purposes of this site, I’ll stick mostly to my music but sports and music seem to intertwine with my music career as you’ll soon notice.
During my career, now approaching thirty years, I have released more than 40 original albums and around 800 songs for my company, Mealtime Brown Publishing or on my blog and I have hundreds more that aren’t released. I’ve always been a hard working writer with no lack of inspiration, I even wrote a full length novel when I was thirteen which thankfully has never been released.
My main instruments are guitar, harmonica and vocals during live shows but I can fake it pretty well on drums, piano, mandolin, banjo, bass and a few others when I’m working in the studio. I currently perform as a solo artist and with my award winning four-piece band Chris Cates & the MasterPlan. We don’t tour heavily like we used to but we still manage to get out and put on a big rock show fairly often at music venues, corporate events and the occasional wedding. I also perform at golf events promoting my Funny Golf Songs albums while trying to weasel my way on to the Golf channel or into some free golf.
In the studio, I still work nightly, releasing new material constantly while maintaining my “Greenest Musician in the World” status building and developing upwards of 30 Mega Watts of solar a year.
My music varies from project to project which keeps me fresh and on my toes. For example, my last four albums were contemporary pop, classical, heavy metal and electronica. I am just a fan of all music and I try to let that show in my own creations. The one thread in all of my material is that I like to keep it positive. I want to influence the world in the best way possible. If that’s my legacy and nothing else, I’ll take it.
Below is a longer more specific and extremely long biography of my music career:
I’ve been writing and recording music since I was eight years old. My earliest musical making memory is of cutting and pasting Twilight 22’s “Electric Kingdom” with the “The Curly Shuffle” using a micro cassette recorder to make “The Electric Curly Shuffle”. I eventually started making my own sounds with keyboards and drums by around ten years old. Along with my life long creative colleague Jeramy Lamanno (aka Hiro Noodles), we always seemed to have an album in the works even from the beginning. I also gained valuable experience, learning how to keep time while trying to sing on the mic while my brother and his friends jammed on Iron Maiden songs in our basement. Although I sounded terrible the seed was sewn.
Fast forward a few years to junior high and in that same basement I had my own first band, Armageddon. We wrote heavy metal songs with Greg Beaver providing the riffs and me providing most of the lyrics. I played drums, Jason Spake sang, Jeramy Lamanno played the bass, John Dockery guitar and Greg on lead guitar. We actually had some pretty successful gigs at house parties, the county fair and then at the city’s fourth of July fireworks celebration. At the fireworks show, I saw The Past (later to be Copperhead) and decided it was time to play guitar and sing. A few weeks later I saw local musician Darrell Corley play and sing “Mr. Bojangles” at a Jr. High event and I definitely knew I had found my calling.
At this point, I was also a big Uriah Heep fan, having run across their records in my Dad’s collection, so before I bought a guitar, I got a wah wah pedal first (Mick Box, UH’s guitar player played a mean wah wah guitar). Then when I finally got my first guitar, a Harmony from the pawn shop, I had a wah pedal, an electric guitar and no amp. I was getting closer at least.
I wrote a few songs for Armageddon using power chords and then it happened. Jeramy made me a Neil Young tape. That was a life changer. I said goodbye to the drums and got an acoustic guitar, harmonica and harmonica holder. Amazingly as soon as I put the harmonica on the first time I could play Neil’s “Heart of Gold” immediately. I guess I was meant to play guitar and harmonica.
So I said goodbye to the drums (Jeramy moved to them), reshuffled the band (Greg Beaver to bass), changed the name and style of music from the heavy metal Armageddon to the country rock Silver Plated Sixshooters. We took the name from a favorite Camper Van Beethoven song at the time. This is also marked the beginning of my singing career, so I quickly started busting out one new song after another. Soon we were in Fred Rumfelt’s legendary Marion, NC studio cutting our first album titled “Volume 1” which included the crowd favorite “Psychedelic School Bus”. This album was recently re-released and is available on itunes etc.
The Sixshooters lasted about a year before Greg and John moved on to a new band they created and Jason Peeler moved over to bass marking the beginning of The Seeing Eye Band.
We played as a trio for a while releasing a new album called “80 MPH at 4am” and eventually added Mike Lowdermilk on guitar and Kirk Leonhardt on congas. The Seeing Eye Band went strong playing underage illegally in bars for a few years through my first few years of college and also made one more album called “Spectrum of Music”.
I attended Appalachian State University as an English major and music theory minor while still playing at least one gig a week in coffee shops (the Beanstalk was a regular concert spot) or in rock clubs. Kent Schwengel, a fellow Morgantonian also attending ASU, began as my new bass player and the first incarnation of Parakeet Nelson was formed with Jeramy Lamanno on drums.
During my college years I released a few acoustic albums: “The Flannel Demo”, “Summer”, “Fall” and “Blueberry Stains on the Feathers of a Rollercoaster Day”. Most of these were recorded on a four track and still reside in my archive for possible future internet release.
After college I briefly moved back home and made our first Parakeet Nelson studio album “Servin’ it Up” at Outback Studios in Lincolnton, NC. This funky project included Jason Peeler, now on drums and legendary players Wes Powers on percussion and world famous Chad Lawson on keys. We played shows promoting the project throughout the year and during my brief post graduate classes at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Then I followed my longtime cohort Jeramy Lamanno to begin a new life in the great music city of Athens, Georgia. Jason Peeler made the move with me and we picked up a job doing pool work for a pool company and began practicing and playing gigs with Mike Durham on bass. Jason eventually moved back to Morganton and Jeramy took back over on drums long enough for me to record my first big budget studio album “Mealtime Brown presents… Parakeet Nelson”. This diverse album also featured some great Athens players that I would later play and tour with like Dwayne Wallace, bass player and Mike Elam on trumpet.
I was also briefly in an experimental psychedelic metal band called Futo Maki with Brian Head, Toby Bryant and Ryan Scott who also contributed a song to the album.
After running the pool business for about a year, I decided to start my own cd duplication company and soon became the most popular guy in town to musicians who couldn’t afford the $1500 it costed to get a 1000 cds made. This led me to create great relationships and to branch out into the recording / production studio business which I would do for the next ten years.
At first, I mostly recorded rap, working with the super talented folks in Athens, like Kenya Bloodsaw, Coda Baerfider, P-Noid, 4C among others and even helped Dangermouse with his first 5 mix tapes. I also made and sold beats to countless artists and did photography and design for 100’s of artists. All in all, I ended up working with more than 250 bands during my time in Athens.
Two different clients I met through my business led me into to bands that I would perform with for several years. Jefferson Taffet and I met at my studio and talked of forming a super group, this idea soon became Lions from Zion. We recruited several other known band leaders and a great supporting cast and began playing shows to large crowds. I would eventually step away but the band still exists today as Lionz, releasing albums every few years with Jefferson still at the helm.
The other influential person I met was Mike Elam. A beautiful soul and incredible trumpet player, Mike convinced me to join them on a German tour and we were off and running. The band, Phallic Phungus, was a Zappa-esque avant jazz funk band that would make up most of the music and lyrics on the spot during our live performances. We once took the stage at midnight in Dresden and didn’t end our set until 5am. This band had powerhouse players like Seth Hendershot on drums, AJ Adams on bass, Chris Eckenroth on percussion and would eventually reel in Gary Hartle on tenor sax, John Wayne Tuggle on lead guitar and John Kell on alto sax. We have a great live album recorded at the 40 Watt and Georgia Theatre. Two of my compositions from that album can be found on the 15th Anniversary edition of my “Mealtime Brown presents” album.
Back in the states we toured with this band for a few years until Mike moved to Austin, Texas which prompted me to focus back on my band Parakeet Nelson.
At this point, Parakeet Nelson had morphed into Dwayne Wallace on Bass, legendary John Wayne Tuggle on guitar, John Kell on alto and Gary Hartle on tenor. We toured heavily for three years and won best funk band of the year twice and album of the year for ‘Risky Biscuits’ at the Flagpole Music Awards. ‘Risky Biscuits’ still holds up as a funky funny gem featuring amazing musicianship by all of the players involved.
Eventually, the call of the mountains became too strong and I decided to move to Asheville, North Carolina. But not before releasing one final album in Athens titled “Getaway Plans” which featured a more Americana sound and the great Andrej Kurti on violin.
In Asheville, I married my wife Adair and built a great studio in our exterior garage and continued my recording business. Local rap artists Team OX, were my first major project and is a great listen even today. I went on to produce many bands around the western NC area over the next few years including Neil Laurence and his ukulele based album Heartstar 7, another must listen. This album features some of my best production (and piano playing).
Also, once getting back to North Carolina, I met up with old musical buddies Jason Peeler on drums and Mike Lowdermilk on bass and continued to tour and play heavily now going by Chris Cates instead of Parakeet Nelson. Mike played with me for about a year before Chris Singleton stepped in on bass and we are still playing with this line up today with John Kell on sax.
Around this time, I also became obsessed with golf, literally playing every morning at 7am until I went from a 20 handicap to almost a scratch golfer in about five months. My obsession eventually inspired me to make a golf themed album and my new career was born. I quickly wrote and recorded “Triple Bogey with 17 Holes to Play” in about a week and to this day it’s still my best selling album.
From this new sports and musical direction, I also became a co-host of a golf radio program called Speaking of Golf with Tom Horan and got to play many high profile golf events throughout the region. I also managed to garner about $10,000 of free golf over the years because of my golf albums.
Then one day I had a random idea to start a curbside recycling program in Morganton and my brother took me up on it. This started my new journey into the “green industry” which I am still involved in in a different way today. Over the next three years, I would hand recycle almost a million pounds with my brother and Dad which ultimately made me close my studio to the public.
By closing my studio to the public, I was able to focus more on my own projects recording multiple albums and hundreds of songs over the next few years. I also kept working with just a few exclusive clients like DaOne, a great R&B singer and songwriter.
‘Dead Man’s Suit’ was my next album and first one billed as Chris Cates & the MasterPlan. It was mostly recorded in my Asheville studio with a few rythym parts recorded at Full Moon Studios in Athens, Georgia. It features a mix of funky Americana and upbeat psychedelic rock ie. “Bastard Son of Bossa Nova”. DMS also contains the definitive studio version of “Tumbleweed”, one of the oldest songs in my catalogue that is still a crowd favorite today.
Released on the same day as “Dead Man’s Suit”, I also threw my hat into the self help industry for the first time with my album “Passion and Purpose”. “Passion and Purpose” is written in a way that as the listener sings along, they reinforce positive thought processes that benefit them in business and day to day life.
My wife Adair Cates, is a self help author and motivational speaker and we still use “Passion and Purpose” today at here events and seminars.
My parents are shag dancers, which is a kind of dancing native to the Carolina’s based on old fifties blues music and in 2008 I wanted to pay tribute to them. That’s when The Masterplan, my band, and I recorded our album ‘Carolina Songs’ which takes you on a journey from the mountains to the beaches of the Carolinas. We did a lot of TV appearances for the album and even got featured on UNC TV which has some great footage of my parents dancing along to our tune “Boogie in the Mountains”.
Around this time, I became the semi-exclusive “go to” musician for Pinehurst Golf courses and several counties around North Carolina. I played as a solo acoustic musician, with my right hand man Chris Singleton and with the band, Chris Cates & the Master Plan. We would play a mixture of my originals and crowd favorite songs (and we still do) from a extensive catalogue of more than 400 songs.
Despite being a very busy working musician with a rewarding recycling gig, I still was a bit discouraged in my progress so I decided to step it up a notch in 2010. I figured, “why not be the hardest working songwriter in the world?” So, despite my daily two hour round trip commute, on January 1st, 2010, I started a blog where I would write and fully produce a new song every day for the entire year. Day one, was a bit rough. The song came easy, as they normally do, but by the time I had recorded the guitar, bass, keys, drums, vocals etc., it had taken almost three hours. I knew if I was to continue, I would have to work a lot faster, especially if I typically couldn’t even start the songwriting process until after 9pm (and I needed to get up at 5:30am). Needless to say, I sped up my process and soon was able to write and produce a new song each day in about 70 minutes.
As I worked the recycling route each day, I would listen to the world around me and come up with great new material to write about. I always listen to audio books and that would help a lot with material as well. Luckily I love almost all genres of music and that was reflected immediately in my song writing as I moved freely from rock, to country, to heavy metal etc. The one trend I noticed throughout was my fall back seems to be humor as I couldn’t resist building songs around a good joke. As the year went on, the 365 song blog endeavor actually got easier for me and I even finished my writing and recording a month early, posting the songs a day at a time for the final month of December. Today, I am still using the songs I wrote that year on lots of the new albums I release. I use the bulk of the original recordings, sometimes rearranging them and adding more instrumentation and vocals to each.
That same year, my wife and I decided to pack up and move from Asheville to the big city of Atlanta to try and make better careers for ourselves. We immediately fell in love with Atlanta and are still here making our mark.
Honestly, when I got to Atlanta my musical output slowed down a bit because of my new work as a marketing director for a spray foam company. Atlanta is expensive and you have to work hard to get by. I still managed to produce a few greatest hits albums from my 365 songs for 2010 blog and play a fair amount of shows. Eventually, I moved on to become a project manager for Inman Solar, building solar farms around the country which I still do today.
My next full length album brought me back to the golf world as I released “Funny Golf Songs Vol. 1”. As opposed to my first golf album, this one was more acoustic with denser lyrics as can be heard on songs like “Hippie at the Country Club”. This album along with, “Triple Bogey with 17 Holes to Play”, are still my best sellers to date. I still travel and play at golf events around the Carolina’s and Georgia and am waiting for that call from the Golf Channel.
We rented for a few years before buying a new house and when we finally did, I was able to custom build my latest production studio. It’s much smaller than my grand custom studio in Asheville but it sounds great. I created it using construction foam, burlap and reclaimed barn wood from North Carolina. So far, I have been as productive in it as I’ve ever been.
On Christmas Day 2015, my twin girls, Joy and Coral, were born. On day two the hospital took pictures of them and an image of Joy was so good I felt compelled to create an album around the picture. Thus my first classical music album was born titled “Music for Newborns”. With the latest technology and Pro Tools, I was able to create entire symphonies of virtual instruments that sound incredibly real. These pieces of music are very slow and sleepy and are designed for babies to rest to. They also have lots of counterpoint to promote lots of brain function.
After Music for Newborns, I hit the road with my job to build 3 different one megawatt jobs throughout the state of Georgia. Even though I was on the road constantly for the rest of the year, I managed to record in the evenings in my car, my job trailer or my hotel room and eventually completed my album “Life’s a Love Song”. LALS is one of my favorites because the songs are so upbeat, so diverse and such a great celebration of life and love.
I continued with my solar pursuits, helping to solidify my status as the greenest musician in the world at this point having built almost 15 megawatts that literally are powering small towns around Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusetts and
North Carolina while taking care of my newborns and recording.
My next project was another curve ball, a funny heavy metal album called “Gringo Rock!”. This album is very rocking with me playing all the instruments and features a rock from my backyard wearing a wig and a guitar on the cover. One day I hope to put a heavy metal band together to perform these songs live as well as all of the new heavy metal songs I’ve already written for the second Gringo Rock! album.
Life rolls along, my kids start getting mobile, I take a new roll at Inman Solar doing more front end development of solar farms which keeps me closer to home, my kids and the studio. This new phase makes it easier for me to work on new and old music, so I re-mastered and re-released my first studio album with my high school band The Seeing Eye Band and re-titled it “Psychedelic School Bus” from the most popular song. I also, released updated anniversary editions of two of my other studio albums with added songs and alternative live takes (Getaway Plans and Mealtime Brown presents..).
Throw in a few one off singles and I had a pretty productive year in 2015.
2016 has been busy but I’ve continued my hard work in the studio and have had some great live gigs along the way. In May I released an all electronic music album titled Mealtime Brown “Fresh Beet Suite”, which features minimalist hip hop, techno and variable beats created mostly on my Korg Triton over the years. I currently have four separate albums in the works including my latest “Chris Cates” album titled “My Old Soul” which I hope to complete by the end of September.
All in all, despite not having major widespread success, I’ve had a long and productive career with hopefully many years and many more songs and albums to come. I still love it, am still motivated and can still write endlessly with no lack of inspiration. And I still love to play guitar, harmonica and sing to any audience that is willing to listen to an old country boy living in the city like myself.
Thanks for listening and keeping the dream alive!