Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Worth at least 1,000 words ...

I mentioned a while back in my Fame, fortune and friends piece that one of the "famous" people I know is Bill Davis, founder and frontman of Dash Rip Rock. Dash, if you don't know, is Baton Rouge's most famous musical export since John Fred and The Playboys.

So every once in a while, I pop in to the Dash site to see what's up. Bill now has a Yahoo! Group that includes a bunch of photos through the years, and apart from the pics of Bill playing the Grand Ole Opry (seriously, he made the Opry) and last year's recording session with none other than Glenn Tilbrook (he's the frontman for Squeeze, in case you're not cool enough to know that), there was one very old picture that grabbed my attention:

It is, of course, a very early press photo of the band. Those of you (TCL, Scott) who had the pleasure of coming of age in Baton Rouge during the early/mid 1980s will notice that the man in the middle is none other than original DRR drummer F. Clarke Martty. Clarke was booted about 10 gigs in to the band's career in favor of the manic, over-energized and Church's Fried Chicken-stealing Fred LeBlanc (now heading Cowboy Mouth).

A simple press photo, but man does it touch on a lot of the history of Cap'n Ken.

First off, there's Dash Rip Rock themselves.

Allow me, if you will, to transport you back to Baton Rouge, Louisiana - circa 1984. During the early 1980s, the Baton Rouge music scene was potent and fun. A lot of people trace the origins of the B.R. scene to a single night - Monday, January 9, 1978 - when the Sex Pistols played The Kingfish.

The kids who saw the Pistols - and those who heard about the show - started buying punk records and forming bands of their own. By 1982, the scene included The Times, Harry Dog and The Fleas, The Shitdogs, Bobbo, Scooter and The Mopeds and The Human Rayz.

I started 1982 as a 14-year-old spoiled "rich" kid with no exposure to local music. I had discovered The Clash, Elvis Costello, The B-52s and Devo, but had no idea what was going on down the road near LSU. But a funny thing happened that year - we got poor. Quick. I'd tell you that story, but you wouldn't believe it.

But all of a sudden my family was poor, so we moved from our big house with a pool to a crappy little townhouse in a crappy part of town (still close to LSU, though). One day I walk out the front door and see the kid who lived across the walkway standing in his doorway playing electric guitar. The kid I met that day is Lee Barbier - currently in The Myrtles and now the elder statesman of the Baton Rouge rock scene.

Lee introduced me to a kid who lived across the street named Bobby Cook. Bobby's sister's boyfriend happened to be the frontman for The Times. So the first live club show I saw was The (U.S.) Times at The Chimes sometime in 1983.

Long story short(er), hanging out with Lee got me in to good, local music. Shows at the LSU Greek Theater and Oak Grove coupled with those times when we could sneak in to The Chimes exposed me to many of the aforementioned bands and all sorts of great, local music.

And it was in 1983 that Lee and I discovered rockabilly. Rank and File, The LeRoi Brothers, Jason and the Scorchers and The Beat Farmers (the only album I've every bought before ever hearing the band - they just looked so cool) became the foundation of our musical existence. Lee loved to swap out Hank Jr. tapes for The LeRoi Brothers at keg parties. Sometimes the rednecks noticed; sometimes they did not.

So when we heard that the guy from The Human Rayz was forming a rockabilly band with a guy from Scooter and The Mopeds, we were pumped. Lee and I (and a couple of other guys - maybe Scott?) left a party one Saturday night to go see Dash Rip Rock play their second gig ever. The audience consisted of us and Bill's Human Rayz bandmates. I think that's why he became friends with us.

Not long after, they played an outdoor gig at LSU's Oak Grove. I taped that show through a boombox I sat on top of our ice chest. I captured a very early version of "Marsupial" along with a dozen bad country covers and countless interjections of "Hey, want a beer?" followed by the sound of the boombox being moved, ice shuffling, etc. That tape is among my now-lost treasures.

The emergence of Dash Rip Rock was a turning point in my life. Not so much because of DRR themselves (although we'd see just about every gig they played in Baton Rouge), but because they made me obsessed with live music. At 16 and 17 years old, many of my weekends included shows at The Chimes, The Bayou or other venues around town.

Without DRR, I probably wouldn't have seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Jason and the Scorchers at the LSU Cotillion Ballroom. Or Mojo Nixon, The Georgia Satellites, The Flat Duo Jets or The Tailgators at The Chimes. Or The Beat Farmers at The Bayou. Or that amazing Mardi Gras show at Jimmy's in New Orleans (DRR, Hoodoo Gurus, The dBs, The Fleshtones). Or The Replacements or They Might Be Giants at Tipitina's. Or, for that matter, Rocket From the Crypt at Echo Lounge two years ago.

I don't listen to "mainstream" music. I hate commercial radio. The last arena concert I went to was The Police's on their Synchronicity tour. I like new, interesting music and I like seeing shows at clubs.

And the picture above represents that for me. It was the beginning of DRR, and it was the beginning of a great period of my life.

But also take a look at the backdrop of that photo. You'll notice the boys are in front of the "Old Colonel's Club," which was this great - but mostly unknown - bar tucked away under the Perkins Road overpass in Baton Rouge's garden district.

The Old Colonel's Club was where TCL and I went to watch the election night coverage of the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial primary. That was the race that pitted then-Governor Buddy Roemer against Edwin Edwards and David Duke. Roemer finished 3rd, meaning the next governor of Louisiana would be either Edwards or Duke.

It was that night at the Old Colonel's Club that TCL and I decided we had to get out of Louisiana. I left about six months later. It took TCL a little longer, but we are now both happy and successful in Atlanta.

The Old Colonel's Club closed down sometime after I left the state. A few years later it would be opened as a restaurant owned by my sister and her husband. It also closed.

So, you see, the photo above represents not only the beginning of my life as a hipster music junkie, but also the end of my days as a prisoner of Louisiana.


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