Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Southern Culture on the Skids - Guitar-Lickin' Good

Biography            by Steve Huey

True to their name, North Carolina's Southern Culture on the Skids offers an affectionate parody of local white-trash trailer-park culture, matching their skewed outlook with a wild, careening brand of rock & roll. SCOTS' music is a quintessentially Southern-fried amalgam of rockabilly, boogie, country, blues, swamp pop, and chitlin circuit R&B, plus a liberal dose of California surf guitar, a hint of punk attitude, and the occasional mariachi horns. Following an early incarnation as a relatively straightforward roots rock outfit, they morphed into a raucous, sleazy, tongue-in-cheek party band obsessed with sex and food; in fact, fried chicken became a crucial part of their live performances, whether it was used in eating contests or tossed into the audience. Southern Culture may play chiefly to an underground rock audience, but their gonzo tributes to the South aren't as smug as some of their peers working similar territory, since the band has genuine roots in the area.

Southern Culture on the Skids was founded by guitarist/singer Rick Miller in the college town of Chapel Hill, NC, in 1985. Growing up, Miller had split time between Henderson, NC, where his father ran a mobile-home factory, and Southern California, where his mother lived, and where he first discovered surf and rockabilly. After earning a degree in art from the University of North Carolina, Miller started the first incarnation of Southern Culture on the Skids with original lead vocalist Stan Lewis, bassist Leslie Land, and drummer Chip Shelby. Lewis brought a distinct Cramps influence to the band, although their style was still much more subdued than it would later become. This quartet lineup released an EP called Voodoo Beach Party on the local indie label Lloyd Street, followed later in 1985 by an eponymous full-length debut.

As the band drifted more and more into country territory, co-founder Lewis split; two more members were added on accordion and pedal steel, but the band's new direction alienated much of its local following, and the first version of Southern Culture split not long after. In 1987, Miller regrouped with a new, smaller lineup featuring bassist and sometime vocalist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman, both of whom had grown up together in Roanoke, VA. (Lewis, Land, and Shelby would later reunite as Stan Lewis & the Rockin' Revellers, and performed on a mostly local basis.) The new Southern Culture spent a few years honing their sound and releasing the very occasional single. Finally, in 1991, they returned to the LP format with Too Much Pork for Just One Fork, which was issued on the ill-fated Moist label. Too Much Pork established the group's lyrical obsessions, and featured the first recording of their fried-chicken anthem "Eight Piece Box," a concert favorite.

Southern Culture's next album, the rawer-sounding 1992's For Lovers Only, began to win them a wider following thanks to better distribution from the band's new label, Safe House. Among other fan favorites, it featured Huff's first major vocal showcase, a cover of the Jo Anna Neel country obscurity "Daddy Was a Preacher but Mama Was a Go-Go Girl." The half-live, half-studio EP Peckin' Party followed on Feedbag in 1993, as did the 10" Girlfight EP on Sympathy for the Record Industry. The more laid-back, country-flavored full-length Ditch Diggin' appeared on Safe House in 1994, featuring covers of the Louvin Brothers and Link Wray. In 1995, Geffen subsidiary DGC signed Southern Culture on the Skids to a major-label contract, which was consummated the following year with Dirt Track Date. Although Dirt Track Date included re-recordings of several of the band's most popular past songs, it received generally enthusiastic reviews and sold over a quarter of a million copies.

After another indie EP, this time the Mexican wrestling tribute Santo Swings!/Viva del Santo on Estrus, Southern Culture issued their second major-label album, Plastic Seat Sweat, in 1997, which marked the debut of new keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Chris "Cousin Crispy" Bess. However, they got lost in the shuffle of the big-time label mergers and wound up without a record deal for a while. After regrouping with 1998's self-released, horror-themed Zombiefied EP, the band returned to action on TVT with 2000's full-length Liquored Up and Lacquered Down, which marked a return to the country-tinged sound of Ditch Diggin'. A brief recording hiatus followed, but the band returned in early 2004 with Mojo Box, recorded in Miller's home studio and released by Yep Roc. The label released the fiery live album Doublewide and Live in 2006, followed by a collection of covers called Countrypolitan Favorites in 2007.

Record Label: Yep Roc Records
by Andrew Frey
April 2004

From white trash and trailer homes to the toe sucking geek rockers touring the world and eating delicacies. Where did it all begin? Who came up with such a concept? “Me,” states Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS) founder, guitarist and singer Rick Miller in a recent phone interview. “When we started the band in the early to mid 80s in the Chapel Hill, NC area, every band was an REM cover band, and that pretty much sucked. We wanted to be more of a rockabilly, “Cramps” type band. So we were just looking for something. Some kind of name that would get us some attention, ya know? We were listening to the UNC radio (station) there and they were playing an REM song. I like REM fine, but at the end of it, the DJ says, “Ya that was REM, the sound of the new South.” I looked at my roommate and we said, “Gawd, if that’s the sound of the “new South,” I preferred it when it was on the skids.” That’s how we got the name.”

SCOTS’ new release is called “Mojo Box.” It was produced by Miller and recorded in his Kudzu Ranch recording studio. SCOTS lineup consists of Miller along with bass player and singer Mary Huff and percussionist Dave Hartman. What’s new on “Mojo Box?” Miller says “I think there are a few more surf sounds. Less of the white trash shtick. I think on this album we worked harder on our harmony vocals and that kinda countrified delivery. I think it’s kind of a transitional record for us. Our other records are a lot of concept type stuff. Like “Dirt Track Date,” and “Plastic Seat Sweat.”I know that sounds kinda funny for something that probably a lot of people consider kinda low-brow.

So what’s on the horizon for SCOTS? Rick illuminates us. “Right before this record we released a box set of singles, 45’s, which were all cover tunes of songs that influenced us. I think we’re gonna continue that and put out a full length of other cover tunes we like. Before we get done touring “Mojo Box” we want to do another full length live record. Other than that we’re just touring a lot. We’re gonna go to Europe this summer for a little while, maybe Spain. Another tour of the Northeast and Canada in June. So we’re staying really, really busy.”

SCOTS has toured the world several times. What are their favorite places to play? “As far as countries,” explained Miller, “I really like Spain and Australia. They are probably my favorite overseas. It seems that the people like to party. They are a little more relaxed and they have a sense of humor. Germany and northern Europe can be ok, but it tends to be a little cold and depressing. The Australians and Spaniards they seem to enjoy a good drink. That doesn’t mean they are a bunch of drunks, just means they’re fun. They enjoy rock n roll. At least the clubs we play. A lot of it has to do with where we play, and the promoters we have. We have very excellent promoters in both of those countries.But in the States there are a lot of fun places. We always have great shows in western Carolina and eastern Tennessee up in the mountains. Ironically I really like playing Santa Cruz, CA. The surf thing comes off really fun because of the beach.”

The official SCOTS website is www.scots.com. One of the more unique sections on that site is the recipe section. There are several winners like “Baked Skunk” and “Possum and Chestnuts.” I asked Rick what his favorites were. “My favorite recipe that should be on there is the Chicken with a crust of crushed Cheez its and potato chips. That I actually have tasted and it’s delicious! You guys need to submit some recipes! I know you folks out there in Wisconsin won’t let me down. We had your famous beer cheese soup with the popcorn croutons. We got that somewhere up by Eau Claire. The sign by the place said something about chicken, so we got a basket of that, and while we were waiting someone said, ‘While you are waiting for that chicken, you should try some of our world famous beer cheese soup.’ I thought well, if there are two things Wisconsin is known for, it is beer and cheese. How can we go wrong? In the end it was, A little thick. I don’t think they left it in the microwave long enough.”



Clydes Lament 7" (Moist, 1990, MR-102)
Clyde's Lament
C. W. James 00 Spy
Santo Sings 7" (Zontar, 1992, ZR 003)
Viva Del Santo
Camel Walk
Mexy Melt
Come & Get It 7" (Giant Claw, 1992, GCS-007)
Cicada Rock
Come & Get It
White Trash 7" (Demolition Derby, 1994, DD 009)
White Trash
I'm Branded
White Trash 7" (One Louder, 1996, LOUD 14)
White Trash
BSA 441
Two Pigs In A Blanket
Santo Swings 2x7"/CDEP (Estrus, 1996, ES 796/797)
Viva Del Santo!
Camel Walk
Double Shot
Scratch My Back


Gossip and Rumors 7" (Baylor Records, 1993, BAY 10)
Southern Culture On The Skids: Rumors Of Surf
A-Bones: Gossip, Gossip, Gossip
split 7" (Todd & Cheryl Records, 1994, 45 9/24/94)
Southern Culture On The Skids: The Wedding Bell Twist
The Coctails: Wheels (The String-A-Longs)
split 7" (Gearhead Records, 1998, RPM 006)
Southern Culture On The Skids: Tidewater Jack
Untamed Youth: My General Lee


First Album LP (Lloyd St Records, 1985, SP002/SO 17736/7)
Bop Bop Bop
Primitive Guy
I Dig Tunnels
Psycho Surfing
Cocktail Song
Rockabilly Mud
Atom Age Trucker
Demon Death
Nothing Song

For Lovers Only CD (Safehouse Records, 1992, SH 2108)
For Lovers Only
Biscuit Eater
Barnyard Ballbuster
Nashville Toupee
Fatman's Twist
Sheik's Walk
Wish I Was In Love
Daddy Was A Preacher But Mama Was A Go-Go Girl (Jo Anna Neel)
King Of The Mountain
The Man That Wrestles The Bear
Link's Lung
Clyde's Lament
For Lovers Only (reprise)

Southern Culture On The Skids 10"/CDEP (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 1993, SFTRI 266)
Whole Lotta Things
El Mysterioso
Twistin' (On A Red Hot Spike)
Hey Chuck Berry

Peckin' Party 10" (Feedbag, 1993, FED-3)
  mixed yellow and clear vinyl
Run Chicken Run (Link Wray)
Eight Piece Box
Kudzu Limbo
Cicada Rock
Daddy Was A Preacher But Mama Was A Go-Go Girl (Jo Anna Neel)

Ditch Diggin' LP (Safehouse Records, 1994, SH 2114)
Too Much Pork For Just One Fork
Put Your Teeth Up On The Window Sill
Tunafish Every Day
My House Has Wheels
The Great Atomic Power
The Little Things
Jack The Ripper Parts 1&2
Chicken Shit Farmer
The Fly That Rode From Buffalo
Lordy, Lordy
Ditch Diggin'
New Cooter Boogie
Rumors Of Surf

Dirt Track Date LP (Telstar Records, 1995, TR 020)
Voodoo Cadillac
Soul City
Greenback Fly
Camel Walk
White Trash
Make Mayan A Hawaiian
Fried Chicken And Gasoline
Nitty Gritty
8 Piece Box
Galley Slave
Whole Lotta Things
Dirt Track Date

Plastic Seat Sweat LP (Telstar Records, 1997, TR 030)
Dance For Me
Banana Puddin'
40 Miles To Vegas
Deja Varoom
Country Funk
Strangest Ways
Theme From "The Cheaters"
House Of Bamboo
Carve That Possum

Liquored Up And Lacquered Down LP/CD (Telstar Records, 2000, TR 040)
Liquored Up And Lacquered Down
Hittin' On Nothing
Pass The Hatchet
Corn Liquor
Drunk And Lonesome (Again)
Cheap Motels
Just How Lonely
I Learned To Dance In Mississippi
King Of The Mountain
The Corn Rocket
Damaged Goods
Over It
Haw River Stomp

Mojo Box CD (Yep Roc Records, year ?, YEP 2063)
Smiley Yeah Yeah Yeah
Mojo Box
I Want A Love
69 El Camino
The Wet Spot
Soulful Garage
Biff Bang Pow
Where Is The Moon
Fire Of Love
Swamp Fox
The Sweet Spot
It's All Over


Call Of The Wild 7" (Call Of The Wild, 1993, COW 001)
  flexi accompanying a magazine
El Mysteriouso?
Beyond The Beach 19 CD (Upstart Records, 1994, UPCD 012)
  other bands ? their tracks ?
track ?
Jabberjaw No. 4 7" (Mammoth Records, 1994, MR 0080)
The Estrus Cocktail Companion CD (Estrus, 1995, ESDX 5)
Moonshine Martinis
The Estrus Cocktail Companion 3x7"-box (Estrus, 1995, ESBX5/ES 763)
Moonshine Martinis
Sleazefest! 2xLP/CD (No Place Like Home, 1995, SL 001)
  other bands ? their tracks ?
track(s) ?

Runnin' On Fumes: The Gearhead Magazine Singles CD (Gearhead Records, 2000, RPM 011)
Tidewater Jack
Halloween Hootenanny LP/CD (Telstar Records, 1997, TR 034)
Guitar Ace - A Tribute To Link Wray CD (MuSick Recordings, 2003, MuSick 0020)
  other bands ? their tracks ?
track ? (Link Wray)
Think Link! 10" (Drink 'n' Drive Records, 1994, DND 003)
The Swag (Link Wray)
"Shut The Gate, Suzy, And Don't Let Me In" LP (Nitro!, 1996, NITRO 002)
White Trash
I'm Branded
"Shut The Gate, Suzy, And Don't Let Me In" CD (Nitro!, 1996, NITRO 002)
White Trash
I'm Branded
Jabberjaw No. 5 Good To The Last Drop 4x7"-box/2x10"/CD (Mammoth Records, 1994, MR 00981)
Their Sympathetic Majesties Request: Volume 2 2xLP/2xCD (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 2003, SFTRI 300)
Hey Chuck Berry
Flaming Burnout, Estrus Benefit Compilation CD (Man's Ruin Records, 1997, MR-089)
Jungle Beat '97
Rock And Roll Tag Team Spectacular 7" (Carbon 14, 1997, #6)
  free with Carbon 14 issue #6
  this 7" is also known as "CWF Presents ..."
Camel Walk (live in Detroit)

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