Grease Factor

A Musical Pot of Funky, Finger-Lickiní Jams

The greater Allman Brothers family has always spawned spin-offs and side projects. Some have grown as big as Govít Mule, while others have been a one-tour experiment, like Matt Abts and Johnny Neelís X2 (experimental duo), which passed through Charleston last year.

Neel, who has played keys for the Allmans in the past, is particularly restless. Heís participated in a variety of these spin-offs/side projects, including Blue Floyd, the aforementioned X2, Gregg Allman Band, Dickie Betts Band, and his own band Johnny Neel and The Last Word. Now heís at it again with The Grease Factor Ė a new musical collaboration with Shane Theriot of the Neville Brothers, Derek Jones who tours with Nickel Creek, Jeff Sipe of Leftover Salmon and Aquarium Rescue Unit, and Count MíButu of Col. Bruce Hampton and Aquarium Rescue Unit.

So how did this musical concoction come together?

"Well, it started out with one thing and then it went in another direction," says Neel in his gravelly blues voice. "But I think musically itís going to be very impressive."

The name of the band came from the title of a solo album that Theriot recently recorded. During that recording session someone wanted to make a track a little funkier and suggested they turn up the "grease factor." The album title was born and soon a whole band was too.

Theriot and Neel played together on each otherís various solo efforts in the past and decided to put something together and invite some other musical friends. But when describing the bandís sound, even Neel can only speculate what will happen when they hit the stage. Thatís because they havenít really rehearsed and donít really plan on rehearsing until they debut this Wednesday night at the Handlebar in Greenville.

"What this will be, will be the roots of the band. This will be our first outing but this will entail developing our sound and weíll go from there," explains Neel. Then on Thursday, Jan. 28, they play Cumberlandís for their second-ever performance.

"We really will make up a song right there on the spot," he admits. "Itís really spontaneous. We might learn only two or three songs." Of course when you have the combined individual musicianship like that of Grease Factor, spontaneity and improvisation are par of the excitement of the music, which Neel envisions ranging from funk to spacey jams to African rhythms. "Weíll begin with three chords and see what flows, thatís really what jam is," he explains. "The percussion element will be very nice so we wont have to play all the time and just let they rhythm carry the people to a place."

As of right now, Grease Factor only have four dates scheduled. After South Carolina, theyíll play two shows in Georgia. But according to Neel, they plan to make live recordings at each show and have them available the following nights. So even though every night is a new experiment, itís also the making of a live album; which will last a long time, even if Grease Factor donít.

Whether or not Grease Factor will book more dates or eventually have the legs to grow into a Mule-like entity remains to be seen. But Neel, who also plans to play more with his own band in future months, says heíd like to see Grease Factor evolve into a fairly regular thing, where other members who arenít touring with their respective full-time bands, can get together and jam. But spin-off bands are often like spin-off television shows, and for every Frasier there are a dozen Joanie Loves Chachi. So make sure to catch this experimental group of able musicians this go-round, because you never know if theyíll have enough grease to keep it running smooth.

Listen to Grease Factor and other bands at and check out Grease Factor on Earrigation Radio at