To read the Full Article about the Slow Train Concert featuring both bands: Slow Train To Miramar
Heart of gold
Next up is Rust & Gold, a Neil Young tribute band with Nic Turner in the lead role. He wears a tattered hat over thinning, tousled hair and the requisite flannel shirt, open at the front to reveal a faded white tee well on its way to yellow. Facially, too, he looks the part.
Turner grew up in Venice Beach in SoCal. He was 15 and in a Christian band when country singer Dorsey Burnette (Tall Oak Tree) asked Turner to back him up on electric guitar. It would prove to be a limited engagement, but Turner got a taste for secular performance.
About that time, a girl named Cathleen, who would marry Turner years later, introduced him to the music of Neil Young.
“She loved him, and I had a naturally high voice so it was real easy for me to do Neil Young,” said Turner, who would figure in a few bands but stopped playing for some 30 years after the first of his four children was born.
A health scare returned him to music, which Turner found to be restorative.
“I was working in computer programming, and I suffered a minor stroke from sitting down for long periods of time,” Turner said. “My son Andy thought it was important for me to be active at something, and he took me to get a Gibson acoustic guitar like the one I started with.”
The chords had not left Turner’s fingers.
He played at an open mic night at Chuck Stiles’ Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack when it was located at Baytowne Wharf. Stiles was impressed, so much so that he booked Turner to play Neil Young songs and other music.
Subsequently, Scott Rockwood, considered by Turner to be the best guitarist on the Emerald Coast, formed Rust & Gold. The two men played together for a few years but not steadily. Always busy and in demand, Rockwood divides his time among several bands.
Eventually, Turner took over Rust & Gold and made the band a full-time business. At this writing, he and bass player Mel Senter, keyboardist David Beaver and drummer Cameron Mitchell, have bookings from South Florida to Austin, Texas, and from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin.
“Neil Young’s songwriting to me is the best in the world,” Turner said. “I think that is a lot of the reason that I perform it so well because I really like the lyrics, I like the tone, I like the charisma that he brings.”
And, he admires Young’s advocacy in support of the environment, disabled persons, farmers and others.
Like Young and like McBrayer, Turner plays many of his concerts as fundraisers for charities — local, regional and national. The benefiting nonprofits include the Empowerment Parent Resource Center, based in Pensacola. Turner is close to Rand Hernandez, a Niceville resident and an EPRC resource specialist who works to provide support to parents and caregivers of disabled children.
Turner knows about coping with difficulties. There was the stroke, and he also suffers with multiple sclerosis.
“It’s a thorn in my flesh,” Turner said, “but I just have to look past it.”
“Nic is a genuinely kind person,” Wehner said. “Heart of gold.”
In putting together playlists, Turner chooses songs that mean the most to him personally, songs including Natural Beauty.
“‘A greedy man never knows what he’s done,’ it’s a favorite Neil Young line of mine,” Turner said.
He recalled a time when exotic vegetation was introduced to the Grand Canyon and overwhelmed the native plants.
“Man was not made to be the gardener and the zookeeper of the planet,” Turner said.
It was fitting that Desolation Road warmed up Rust & Gold; it was Turner who talked McBrayer into arriving at a Dylan act. Not infrequently, they share a stage at small venues and perform unplugged.
“Some people want a more relaxed acoustic experience,” Turner said.
When the two bands played together in December at Lucille’s, the joint concert was dubbed Slow Train.
At the end of the evening, the train picked up speed. Desolation Road and Rust & Gold combined to perform Young’s rollicking anthem, Rockin’ in the Free World. When they did, no one was ready for the train to check in to the station.
“Playing never gets old,” Turner said. “And you can never get it perfect. That’s the way it should be. That will keep you Young.”