DON GATES - LEAD VOCAL
RT MITCHELL - LEAD GUITAR
BEN CHAFIN - LEAD GUITAR
Mick Donner - BASS
CHRISTIAN SMITH - DRUMS
Ben Chafin- Lead Guitar
Ben was born in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up in Gainesvlle, Florida. He started playing guitar when he was 13 years old, getting the bug after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He started his first bands in Gainesville during the "Tom Petty era". Some of his early influences were Roy Clark, Jerry Reed, Doc Watson and Glen Campbell. Ben has played in a variety of bands over the years starting with Bluegrass, Country Rock/Southern Rock, Classic Rock and Punk. Other influences were The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In the early 90's he was a founding member of the Central Florida country band American Steel. American Steel became well known for their professional showmanship, original music and fan engagement. American Steel was named Florida Country Music Association's "Entertainers of the Year" and was an opener to several major acts.
Ben's main instrument is guitar but he also plays lap steel and some mandolin. Being a guitar builder he mostly plays instruments he has built. He owns Chafin Custom Guitars and is a co-owner in Electra Guitars, Crackercaster Guitars, and Guitar Repair of Tampa Bay, one of the largest repair shops in the area.
Ben's gear includes: Crackercaster S guitar, Crackercaster Stumpknocker guitar, Electra Invicta guitar, Chafin Custom slide guitar, Chafin Custom electric mandolin, 1949 Oahu Lap Steel, Martin DM acoustic guitar, Reissued Marshall 2061 amp, 1967 Vox Berkeley II amp, Marshall 4x10 cabinet, Marshall 1936 2x12 cabinet, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Dunlop Crybaby Wah pedal and a Dunlop volume pedal.
R.T.MITCHELL- Lead Guitar
For R.T. Mitchell, guitars have been a life long passion. At an early age he began teaching himself how to play guitar as well as taking them apart to see how they work. Like many youth, he started to play guitar for the church and youth group. He cites early guitar influences as Roy Clark, Jerry Reed and Ted Nugent. By age 15, he studied guitar with the great New York jazz session guitarist Andy Romer. His musical interest goes as deep as his passion and love for the guitar. If there is a genre of music with great guitar players, then he is all ears. He lists a wide influence of guitar players such as Jimi Hendrix, Al Di Meola, Ry Cooder, Paco De LucÍa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Yngwie Malmsteen, Mike Campbell and Eddie Van Halen.
Having grown up in Tampa, Florida in the 80's, he was influenced by the growing Rock and Metal scene so prevelant at that time. He toured with rockers “XRT” along the east coast, and started local metal bands such as “High Command” and “Brutality”. As a footnote to be prophetic later in life, he was replaced as guitarist in Brutality by Don Gates. He became a member of the southern doom metal band “Tickle” which, some 20 years later, is still performing and recording. At this time also he began repairing, customizing and building his own guitars, idolizing guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, who created his own guitars and sounds. He started gaining recognition for repairing and customizing his friends' guitars. He began working at “Legends Guitars” in the repair shop with famous local guitar luthier Ben Chafin. This propelled him to land a job with Dean Guitars, where he currently builds custom USA guitars and pickups for Michael Schenker, Dave Mustaine, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio, Leslie West, Michael Amott, Karl Sanders and the rest of the Dean roster of players.
R.T. Mitchell has been in close contact with burgeoning “metal turned country” artist Don Gates. He was recruited by Don to handle lead guitar, song development and guitar tweaking. “I have found a great home in playing country music and friendship in Don's band that combines all the skills I have developed over the years,” R.T. is cited to have said.
The current equipment list to achieve his tones are as follows: amplification throughout his career has always been Marshall. He is using a Marshall DSL40 combo with Celestion Creamback 75 speaker. His pedalboard is a Boss TU-3 tuner, MRX volume pedal, MXR Dyna Comp, MRX Uni-Vibe, Ibanez TS9, MRX Phase 90, Boss Chorus, Boss DD-6, and MRX Smart Gate. R.T. Mitchell is endorsing Electra Guitars and Crackercaster Guitars, and plays an Electra Omega guitar and a Crackercaster Tele guitar. He uses Mogami and Monster cables. He plays D'Addario strings 52-11 gauges. Dunlop nylon picks .88mm.
CHRISTIAN SMITH- Drums
Christian grew up with a musical background on both sides of his family. His father was a professional drummer and his mother a pianist. Having an interest with his first instrument drums at age 11 his father gave him his own drum sticks to start out with "air drumming" until he was able to borrow a neighbor's drum set. Only months later Christian was given his actual first drum set by his father. He then started using his talents playing at churches and practicing at home learning different genres of music whether it was old or new school.
Along with having been in a reggae band as his first gigging band Christian has also played in metal, classic rock, and country bands. He has also been regularly known as the "youngster" of the groups. After high school Christian pursued his goal to become a stringed instrument builder and repairer. After graduating from Galloup School of Lutherie and Minnesota State College Southeast he then began his apprenticeship under renowned guitar builders Mick Donner and Ben Chafin at Guitar Repair of Tampa Bay in 2016. On his spare time Christian plays at two church services on Sundays to keep his chops up.
MICK DONNER- Bass
In a way, you could say that Mick has come full circle. At the ripe old age of 13 he found himself on the road with The Nishna Valley Boys playing old-school Country in river town bars up and down the Missouri River. Always the journeyman he spent the next 4 decades becoming proficient at and playing Rock, Funk, R&B and Jazz gigs. Some of his more notable gigs were with Marvin Rainwater, The Platters, The Coasters, Freddie Cannon and the great Jazz Clarinetist, Eddie Daniels.
Coming off the road in the early 80’s he apprenticed with master luthier, Lyle Haldy and shortly thereafter joined the Music Products Industry working for Washburn, Gibson, Peavey, Parker and Dean. He currently co-owns one of the busiest fretted instrument repair shops in Tampa, Florida and is doing some custom building.
Mick plays prototype Parker Basses through Epifani amplification. His fretless bass is an original Lightwave and his electric upright is the first Pace Bass 5 string.