I enjoyed watching Jack play, both with the Thrillbillys – an eclectic roots rock foursome – and in the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, the group he co-founded in 2001. With a name reminiscent of a 6ft4 sprite – Jack of the Dell – he’s the king of tasteful groove, with clever flourishes and hardly a beat out of place. He’s also a good singer.
What would motivate Jack to literally move to the other side of the world? A singer-songwriter from Melbourne named Suzannah Espiewho Jack met in Texas 22 years ago.
“It’s a beautiful, romantic thing,” Jack said to me. “Everyone loves to hear that old-fashioned love story where someone takes a risk, makes a commitment, and puts in.”
Jack was born in San Francisco and spent his early years in Berkeley. When he was 10, his father, a professor, got a job in Tulane and the family moved to New Orleans.
“It was quite a culture shock,” Jack said. “I had to go to the hairdresser very quickly.”
His father, Davidwas a James Joyce Scholar and amateur drummer. He showed Jack a drum set and immersed him in jazz and blues. Being around the music of New Orleans was like “filling a reservoir,” Jack said. “It sounds cheesy, but it’s true: I would ride my bike around the Tulane campus and stumble Professor Longhair do a free show in the quad.”
After his parents divorced and he moved in with his mother, Janis, back to San Francisco, Jack got into punk rock. When they moved to Maryland, he played with the Baltimore punk band Null Set.
Eventually, Jack started playing with bands that required him to dip into that rooty reservoir. In 1994 he joined Too Much Fun and provided the bottom end with the bassist Johnny Castle as they retreated Bill ChurchesCommander Cody’s nimble guitarist.
“It was amazing,” Jack said of his time on Too Much Fun. “You would never experience anything like this today. In the early ’90s, Kirchen was at Whitey’s every Tuesday, Tornado Alley every Wednesday, Sunset Grille every Thursday. And every Friday we were at BWI and flying somewhere. We would then fly back on Monday. We did that for years.”
It was at one of those road shows that he met Suzannah, whose country singing group Git toured the States and opened a few shows for churches.
“There was such a sparkling thing between us. But honestly, nothing would happen,” Jack said.
Jack had just married and Suzannah was in a relationship with the man who would soon become her husband.
Still, Jack said, “Apparently none of us have forgotten.”
When the pandemic hit and gigs dried up — along with the carpentry that was his day job — Jack began posting videos of himself performing at home. Suzannah saw her, liked her, commented on her, messaged Jack. An online courtship began between the two friends, who are now single.
“One thing led to another and it became a reality,” said Jack.
In January, Suzannah flew here to see Jack for the first time in 20 years. In April, Jack spent a month in Melbourne. In June, he announced the news of the big move on Facebook.
Oddly enough, Covid came at a good time for Jack O’Dell.
“As amazing as that sounds, it gave me a chance to just be home and see myself, sit there with a guitar and write a song, tell the world how you’re feeling, for real be,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be a songwriter for a long time. I’ve never really given myself the time or license to be creative. Covid did it.”
What was particularly hard, however, was the ongoing estrangement from his 21-year-old daughter. If she saw this column, he asked me to include a message: “Dolly O’DellI love you.”
Jack’s final shows with the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours are July 13th and 14th at VFW Post 350 in Takoma Park. His departure from the Thrillbillys will take place on July 23rd at JV’s in Falls Church.
And two days after landing in Australia, Jack has an appearance.
“I’ll be a zombie from jet lag,” he said, “but it’s a straight country so I should be fine.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/07/04/mainstay-local-music-scene-is-trading-dc-australia/ Drummer Jack O’Dell has rekindled an old flame. He moves to Melbourne to be with her.