under the covers with dick, jr.
When the album was released back in November 2019, RSJFanWorld had a series of tweets breaking down the history of each of the six cover versions on The Dance and How to Do It and providing links and recommendations for further listening. It was always my hope that eventually we’d have a place where we could take a deeper dive on the subject, with Dick Jr. himself along for the ride.
So now, here it is. History and trivia for each track, courtesy of RSJFanWorld, and Rich’s own story with each of the covers he chose.
To quote the man himself, welcome to ‘the lowdown on the hoedown that is Dick Jr’s first record!’
24 Hours a Day
Richard: That's just a song I've loved since I first heard it, and I first heard it by The Bottle Rockets about 20 years ago, when I was in a cover band with a bunch of sound dudes, called the Willie Naylor band. It was just 2 sound guys from TV - Kelly Rush and Jeff Hefner - and they needed a bass player at a party. I played bass for them once and they were like ‘Let's have a cover band’, so we played as a cover band for a couple of years until my first son was born and around for several months.
I realised I'm not going to drive down to San Clemente to play a bar every Saturday night, so I got out of it, but before that, we played all over. Venice beach and San Clemente a lot and various bars in Westwood and other places around LA, and they turned me on to The Bottle Rockets.
We played 3 songs by them. We were a cover band but we weren’t necessarily playing, y’know, the hits of the 80's; we were still playing cool songs that I like and that we liked, that maybe nobody’d heard of, which is exactly the model of my first cover band as a teenager - the Distortion Hawgs, lovingly spelled H A W G S. That’s a band that I started when I was 16, we did cover songs by bands even then that nobody had ever heard of, which was not really what high school cover bands were doing; they were playing pop tunes that kids could dance to. We had some of those in there, but we were also playing The Del Fuegos and The Long Ryders and the Hoodoo Gurus, which no one had heard of but us, but people liked,
Anyway, back to The Bottle Rockets. We played 24 Hours a Day, a song called The Bar’s on Fire* and a song called Radar Gun.* And they're just a super fun band. They have a ton of edge and stank on ‘em but they're fun. And I loved that combination. So, 24 Hours a Day has always been a song that I thought was fun as all heck, fit in my zone and would be a fun live song to do, so there’s the story behind that one.
*From 1999’s Brand New Year
*From 1994’s The Brookyln Side
RSJFanWorld: Formed in 1992 in Festus, Missouri, The Bottle Rockets were a leading force in the 1990s alt-country revival that included bands like Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks and Whiskeytown.
The previously mentioned Radar Gun was a hit on rock radio, with the band appearing on Conan in 1995 to promote it. Unfortunately, they were never able to capitalise on its success, falling though the cracks when a change of personnel at their label, Atlantic Records, saw their next album, 24 Hours a Day, delayed by two years.
Still going strong, their most recent album, 2018’s Bit Logic, leans more heavily into country, with standout track Bad Time to Be an Outlaw namechecking Waylon Jennings (more on him later). Pre-pandemic, they were set to tour this year.
Their website describes them as ‘true folk music, albeit with beards, biker wallets and a lot more muscle’.
Further listening - My personal favourites from The Bottle Rockets are Gravity Fails from 1994’s The Brooklyn Side and Indianapolis, from 24 Hours a Day.
If I remember rightly, The Long Ryders’ Looking for Lewis and Clark is a tune that Rich has covered with every band he’s played in *but* Dick Jr. & The Volunteers. You can find that song on 1985’s State of Our Union.
Fun fact: Both The Del Fuegos and The Long Ryders featured on Miller beer commercials in the 1980s.
Richard: We were inspired to fiddle with Raspberry Beret by the Hindu Love Gods which is, of course, three members of REM and Warren Zevon.
Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Warren Zevon released one album called the Hindu Love Gods, well, under the band name The Hindu Love Gods. It’s an album worth owning. It’s cover tunes and they cover Raspberry Beret. It sounds nothing like our Raspberry Beret, but what it did do is sort of let us know that ‘Hey, you know what? This song can be covered!’ so we covered it and we found our own version. (We were) stumbling around with it when Jason Manns says ‘Well what would Raspberry Beret sound like if Charlie Daniels had a hand in the sound?’ And Boom! We found it.
RSJFW: The original is, of course, from Prince & The Revolution’s 1985 album Around the World in a Day.
Rich previously performed the song in August 2015 at Salute to Supernatural Minneapolis, in tribute to Prince who hailed from the city. That version, backed by Louden Swain, was closer in sound to the Hindu Love Gods’ take.
Charlie Daniels, who died earlier this year, was a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, though he’s most famous as a fast-talking, faster-fiddling country frontman thanks to his huge crossover hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia (From 1979’s Million Mile Reflections). Daniels worked as a Nashville session musician before he launched his own recording career, playing on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning albums in 1969-1970. He would go on to release an album of Dylan covers in 2014.
Further listening - Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon (2002). REM’s entire catalogue (to narrow it down, their IRS era albums hold a special place in my heart).
Richard: Honestly, I sorta had a list of songs that were ‘Wouldn't it be cool if?’ and Jackson was on that list as ‘Well, maybe that would be cool’.
Playing it with the band, with Zachary Ross and Cooper Appelt and Rob Humphries in the studio and we were improvving versions of it and we landed on that version then I knew ‘Oh actually, we will do this song on the record’ because in sort of ‘feeling out’ the song and what it could be and what felt like a Dick Jr. rendition of it, we landed on such a dope groove that I'm like ‘Okay, yeah. This song’s a keeper’.
Obviously, the Johnny and June Cash is an immortal classic so we were stepping on sacred ground, but nonetheless I think we found something fun, especially with Emma’s, as you know, piercingly beautiful voice tearin’ it up.
RSJFW: Possibly the strangest fact about Jackson is that the two most popular versions of this Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Lieber song were both released in 1967. Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 just five months after Johnny and June reached number 2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.
When writing Jackson, Wheeler maintained he didn’t have a particular Jackson in mind, choosing the city’s name purely for its sound. Subsequent artists recording the tune have been more specific. Charlie Daniels (yes, him again) added the line “I ain’t talking ‘bout Jackson, Mississippi. I’m talking ‘bout Jackson, Tennessee” to his recording. Johnny Cash introduced the song on a TV special by saying that he was taking June “down to see Carl Perkins in Jackson”. Perkins lived in Jackson, Tennessee.
Rich performed the song with Emily Swallow at his final Creation Entertainment karaoke. That took place in yet another Jackson - Jacksonville Florida- in December 2018.
Fun fact: Jill, who runs the RSJFanworld Facebook page, had a wish-list of precisely one song for the Dick Jr. album - that song was Jackson.
Further listening - Emma Fitzpatrick’s EP, Lose It All, released earlier this year. For a modern take on the country duet, Loretta Lynn and Jack White’s Portland, Oregon (From Lynn’s 2004 album, Van Lear Rose) is worth a spin.
Me & Paul
Richard: One of my father’s all-time favourite songs. The Outlaws album (RSJFW: Wanted! The Outlaws, an RCA compilation from 1976) with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter.
I mean, my dad played that on heavy rotation all throughout the 70s and me and Paul was numero uno on that track list, so I've always loved that song and I thought it would be a fun song to adapt to feel like a bit of a convention journey song, without getting rid of the original intent to the tune and without changing the lyrics too much.
I felt like I could make minor adjustments to y’know, honour Willie’s song, dovetailing it into the experience I've had on the road doing conventions for the last decade, with a nod to the guys who got the Saturday Night Special started, Jason Manns and Louden Swain.
RSJFW: Rich’s lyrical switch honouring his friends is very much in the outlaw country tradition. The version of Willie Nelson’s Me & PauI I grew up with was actually by Waylon Jennings, who changed the lyrics to Me & Tompall, in tribute to the previously mentioned Glaser.
The original Paul of the song was Paul English, a drummer who began playing with Willie Nelson in Fort Worth, Texas in the 1950s, joining Willie’s band as a regular in 1966.
In addition to his duties on the drum-stool, the former pimp was Nelson’s unofficial bodyguard and debt-collector, intimidating slow-paying club owners with his self-styled ‘Devil’ persona and the .22-caliber pistol he kept in his boot.
Nelson would cement his friends’ roguish image in a second song, Devil in a Sleepin’ Bag, on 1973’s Shotgun Willie album. They continued to play together until Paul’s death from pneumonia in February of this year.
Further Listening - The Outlaw’s album also features Jennings and Nelson’s Good Hearted Woman, which Rich performed as a duet with Rob last year.
Living at Night
Richard: I mean, that's just a mudstomper. It’s a badass tune.
Walk the West was a great band. Paul Kirby was a great songwriter, wrote fun, now I know I’ve just said mudstomping, but that’s what it was. Just badass.
That country vibe/rock vibe merger, you know, this hybrid music that was new at the time. Jason and the Scorchers were doing it... this is while REM was doing the more poetic jangling music in Athens... In Nashville, Walk the West was knocking shit down. And just thought that was a great song by them. I weighed a few other options by them, Sheriff of Love being one of them, off their self-titled album, and there you go.
Just a great band. It’s my youth, and when I was forming my musical opinion they were right there helping guide it, so Walk the West deserved a spot on the record.
RSJFW: If you have a physical copy of The Dance and How to Do It, you may have noticed the following in Rich’s ‘Would like to thank’ credits: ‘Paul Kirby (for fronting much of the soundtrack of my Nashville youth, may he rest in peace)’. Kirby died in 2011, at just 48 years old.
Kirby formed Walk The West in 1984. The band released just one self-titled album, securing a devoted live following and support slots for acts like The Ramones and The Smithereens. While both beloved by fans and critically acclaimed, commercial success somehow alluded them.
I first came across them in an article which described Walk the West’s sole release as ‘the one great lost cowpunk album’ (Cowpunk being a genre that mixed punk/new wave and country).
Kirby’s twangier side project, The Cactus Brothers, proved more successful, releasing two albums and securing a cameo in the George Strait movie Pure Country before they lost their record deal.
Further listening - The Cactus Brothers self-titled album features a stomping cover of Sixteen Tons, a song made famous by my Dad’s favourite singer, Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Rich has performed Sixteen Tons at various Saturday Night Specials and as an encore at the Dick Jr & The Volunteers Roxy show.
Anything by the above-named Jason and The Scorchers is worth a shot. Their best known song is probably their cover of Bob Dylan’s Absolutely Sweet Marie, which you can find on the Essential Jason and The Scorchers Volume 1: Are you Ready for the Country. My personal favourite track is Golden Ball and Chain, from 1986’s Still Standing.
In the interests of making this a little less testosteroney, I’m going to recommend another cowpunk classic - I Found Love, by Lone Justice. When I talked to Rich about this band earlier this year, he told me he’d always thought it would be a great song for Briana.
In the Pines
Richard: Again, just one of those on the list and we thought, y’know, ‘Let’s not say no until we run it up the flagpole’. Zach Ross went in the Studio and I sat in the mixing area and we did a pass of it and it was a home freaking run and were like A: Done and B: That’s going on the record. And that was the first song we did where we were like ‘Well that version right there. We’re done.’ And it was me, my first pass and Zach’s first pass, and it was a keeper. So that was a no-brainer.
And again, I think we were originally attracted to the song. I brought it to the table just because I thought it kinda fit my alt-country voice and feel as a musician.
RSJFW: While credited to Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter on The Dance and How to Do It (and on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album), the original composer of this song is lost to time. Also known as ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ ‘My Girl’ or ‘Black Girl’, the song grew out of two early folk songs and dates from at least the 1870s, if not earlier. Dock Walsh is credited with the first recorded version, from September 1926, 18 years before Lead Belly first put down his version as ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’
The song first appeared in print in 1917 in the form of a melody and just 4 lines of lyrics.
“Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me
Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shines
And shivered when the cold wind blows”
In addition to the previously mentioned artists, the song has been recorded by Bill Monroe (the “high lonesome” fiddle and yodelling take I grew up with), Jackson C. Frank, Dolly Parton, Mark Lanegan (who introduced the song to Kurt Cobain) and The Grateful Dead.
There you have it. Hopefully this rundown will inspire you to blast out The Dance and How to Do It, and maybe even check out some of the other artists mentioned via our Spotify playlist.
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