Friday, August 9, 2019

Nurse the Hate: How This Hillbilly Casino Thing Came Together

We are playing a show with Hillbilly Casino next Sunday August 18th at the Beachland at 7pm.  We have played gigs with those guys for a long time.  The first time we played with Hillbilly Casino was in Cincinnati at Top Cats.  Well, that’s not completely true.  That was the first time Leo and I played with Nic from Hillbilly Casino.  We were in The Cowslingers and Nic was in the Blue Moon Boys.  We played last, and the Blue Moon Boys played second.  We had some crappy little band play first that we threw a bone to because we knew their booking agent from Athens OH.  They were called the Drive By Truckers.  Yes, I shit you not.  That was the bill.  It was $5 to get in.  It was about a third full. 

I have a few memories from this show.  I remember the Greenhornes came out.  They were these young guys that played cool garage rock that had played with us a couple times.  I have a distinct image in my head of a few of those guys standing by the doorway in very skinny pants they either got from 1966 or the best thrift store on earth.  They were hanging out with that “we’re kind of the shit, but you don’t know it yet”, which in retrospect was totally accurate.  One of the guys smoked a cigarette Euro style as if he was taking a break from a Swedish Magazine modeling session.  I gave him the old head nod in my ill-fitting polyester cowboy shirt. 

The Drive By Truckers had written most of Southern Rock Opera by this time, and were in the midst of recording it.  I spoke with the bass player at length about it after their set as he was engineering as well as recording the bass parts on it.  I wasn’t that familiar with their music yet, but I definitely remember them playing “Uncle Frank” and “Nine Bullets” in their set and thinking “Fuck, those songs are really good.  That band is really good.”.  The bass player told me in a self depreciating Southern way that the record was “coming out pretty good”.  Um, yeah it did. 

I had not seen the Blue Moon Boys play before, but we had heard about them.  In cities where we overlapped at that point like Detroit, Columbus and Chicago people would come up to us at shows and say “Have you played with the Blue Moon Boys before?  They are great!  They’re a rockabilly band and…”.  Now normally when I heard “they are a rockabilly band” I would take that to mean “they all wear vintage clothes and are going to play “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” before at some point the guitar player would stand on the upright bass as they played an Eddie Cochran song to close the show”.  Yawn. 

The Blue Moon Boys started, and this was different.  It was rockabilly.  I guess it was…  But it was modern with really great original songs.  The guitar player was terrific and had his own distinctive style.  Meanwhile Nic was out front jumping around like a spazzy kid that had just mainlined a pixie stick.  On top of that, he could sing.  They were great performers and the crowd ate them up.  Our closing set was going to be a lot of work.  If we didn’t bring it, we would look like a bunch of assholes. 

I think we did OK that night.  I can’t remember anything about our performance except how much the guys in the Blue Moon Boys liked us, which was a nice surprise.  A lot of times bands can get needlessly competitive.  This wasn’t the case here, where we competed, but in a good way, pushing each other to be better.  We had an immediate Bromance between the bands and started to play together as much as we could.  The picture up top is when they brought us to Wolfy's in Ft Wayne.  The bill was a great fit.  I think we both sort of ignored those Drive By Trucker guys at that point.  Hey, who cares.  They weren’t going to amount to anything anyway!

The last thing I remember about that night was speaking with a creepy overweight middle-aged couple in the doorway to the club.  The guy was proudly telling us how their German Shepard liked to fuck the woman and how much they both got turned on by it.  One time the dog was unable or unwilling to pull out of her, so they had to all go outside to spray the dog with a hose in the back yard.  I remember Bobby and I slowly backing away from the conversation in a manner you would a junkyard dog, facing them while slowly backpedaling.  “Hey…  that’s really great…  that’s really something…  we have to go back in the club and…  get some stuff… and… but you two have a great weekend…”.  That’s southern Ohio for you…

So here we are all these years later.  Nic fell in with these great guys from Nashville and got Hillbilly Casino going.  Leo and I were lucky enough to trick Sugar and Hector into the fold.  We all kept writing songs, recording and touring.  We are either to be celebrated for keeping the flame alive or pitied for being in such a rut.  I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, or even could have if I wanted to have done so.  I do know I am looking forward to Sunday.  It’s going to be good.  It always is.         


At August 9, 2019 at 6:01:00 PM EDT , Blogger Frank said...

Just so there's no confusion, as I'm a stickler for these types of things, those DBT songs are on their Pizza Deliverance album, which was recorded 2 years prior to Southern Rock Opera.

At August 9, 2019 at 6:41:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Yes. That was the meat of their set at the time I believe but I was just hearing them for the first time. I bought the two CDs they had and realized they must have played some new songs too.

At August 11, 2019 at 1:49:00 AM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Ah, Top Cats. Do not believe I ever paid more than $5 for any show there and love them all. Also, very thankful for not living the Rock and Roll lifestyle and never hearing the Southern Ohio folk stories that you relay, despite living in Cinci for over 2 and 1/2 decades.

At August 11, 2019 at 2:15:00 AM EDT , Blogger old man taylor said...

As I sat down to watch you play that night,you reached down for long neck beer,drank most of it,and threw it RIGHT by Leos head to explode on the wall behind him.
Leo did not blink or miss a beat.

You became my 17th favorite band ever.

At August 11, 2019 at 10:53:00 AM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Right after England Dan and John Ford Coley at #16

At August 11, 2019 at 12:30:00 PM EDT , Blogger old man taylor said...

Cheap Trick is #6.


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