Why do I love Southern Culture On The Skids? Well, first the name. Pretty descriptive. It jumped out at me in some music magazine I was reading many years ago, and I thought, yeah, that’s a band I’ve got to check out. That led me to the music, which was way better than I could possibly have hoped. Formed in 1983 in Chapel Hill, NC, this trio (briefly a quartet) of Rick Miller on guitar/vocals, Mary Huff on bass/vocals, and Dave Hartman on drums, can flat-out wail. What do they sound like? Their website description states they’re “A greasy mix of surf, rockabilly, R&B and country-fried garage with a side of psychedelia, all the while driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy.” Yup, that works for me. Plus, extra kudos for any time a band’s bio sends me to the dictionary (par-ox-ysm, noun, a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity). Which brought me to, let’s say, their identity, that being some fun-loving, trailer-trash hillbillies, playing, as Miller himself calls it, “Americana from the wrong side of the tracks.” I’m in.
Among their phenomenal early albums were ones titled Too Much Pork For Just One Fork, Ditch Diggin’, Dirt Track Date and Plastic Seat Sweat. Then came 2000’s Liquored Up And Lacquered Down, a Desert Island Disc for me, no doubt, and containing the sensational mariachi-tinged title track featured here, in a hazy clip from the old Conan O’Brien show on NBC. Terrific stage show, raucous tune, and hilarious lyrics. “When we walk into a bar / People think she’s a movie star / The women smirk but the men just stare / Yeah that’s my baby with the big top hair.”
And in the video, if you notice a 4th member doing the twist while manhandling an accordion at stage left, that’s Chris “Crispy” Bess, part of the band for only 2 albums, but a big presence while there. Of the many times I’ve seen SCOTS play live, two are most memorable. I once brought my then 7-year old son to a show, and as we were entering the venue Crispy himself greeted us with a big smile, reached over and scooped him up onto his shoulder like a sack of flour. Made for a great photo-op. A year prior to that, they were playing one of their many culinary inspired tunes at Irving Plaza in New York City, ‘8-Piece Box’, and as is their custom, invited all the female attendees up on stage, including my wife and her best friend – the famed Laurie & Lori team – first to dance with the band and then to toss greasy pieces of fried chicken into the crowd, one of which was soon on an arching path towards me. Like grasping for the prized bouquet at a wedding, I reached amidst a tangle of unruly arms for the flying breast headed my way, but alas, it deflected and fell to the ground. No matter: this was a Southern Culture On The Skids show. I kneeled down to the filthy, beer-soaked floor, located it, picked it up, and took a big, juicy bite. Delicious trash.