By Courtney Harrell
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By A.H. Goldstein
Any resemblance between truck driver/country-and-Western vocalist Bub Taylor and Denver singer-songwriter Bob Tyler is purely logical--on the surface, at least. Dig a little deeper, though, and you're apt to become more than a little confused. See, Bub is "channeled through" Bob, who describes the result as "a possession of the soul rather than a manifestation of conscious thought and energy. Bub's views do not reflect the views of Bob, and vice versa."
A shtick, you say? Probably so. After all, Taylor has not one, not two, but three new (and very entertaining) cassettes to promote--Haulin' Hogs to Texas, Unhitched and the "onstage" opus Live at the Truckadero. But you've got to give Tyler credit for playing it out so well. When yours truly dialed him up and asked to talk about Bub, he replied, "Can he call you back? I'm not in my Bub head right now." An hour or two later, Bub himself phoned. Then, after I'd bid Bub farewell, Bob rang to apologize for his alter ego. "He forgot to say thank you," he explained.
Still keeping track?
As Bub (not Bob) tells it, "I was born in the sleeper cabin of a '53 Kenworth that was parked in the lot outside the Grand Ole Opry." The vehicle belonged to Bub's mama, whom he describes as "one of the very few outstanding women truck drivers. Back in the Forties and Fifties she was pretty much the only woman out there hauling rigs down the road." And his father? "I never knew my dad," Bub confesses. "I don't like to talk about that very much."
Bub skipped from place to place during his youth; the closest thing to home for him was Tupelo, Mississippi, where his aunt and uncle lived. Then, when he turned eighteen, his mother decided that he was ready to strike out on his own and dumped him at a truck stop. He subsequently joined the Marines and was sent to Vietnam. While overseas, he wound up sharing a drunk tank with Twangin' Dick Twitty, a guitarist with whom he later formed his first band, the Dirty Old Truckers. By the early Seventies, Taylor and the Truckers had moved to Memphis and landed a recording deal with a small label, Biscuits and Gravy Records, and cut a trio of platters: The Freewheelin' Bub Taylor, Stairway to Stuckey's and I Haul, Y'all Haul, We All Haul for U-Haul. "I'm in negotiations to try and get the rights back to those," Bub reveals. "I'm hoping to put together some compilations. You know--Bub: The Early Years."
To Bub's chagrin, his relationship with Biscuits and Gravy came to a bad end. Times turned hard. "Commander Cody and Asleep at the Wheel really took the truck-driving market at that time," he notes. "I was getting gigs at truck stops and all, but I didn't get any big-ticket jobs or anything." So Bub started driving rigs of his own, and in time he began to enjoy it. "One day in the late Eighties, I was driving through the middle of Nevada in my semi, and I realized, 'I am a truck driver,'" he rhapsodizes. "And ever since then, I've been much happier--and my music has become more heartfelt. Now more than ever, it relates to the real Bub Taylor."
About a year ago Bub first possessed Tyler, who's perhaps best known for his frequent collaborations with local chanteuse Celeste Krenz. According to Bob (not Bub), this visitation came shortly after he'd learned about Space Truckers, a Dennis Hopper movie then in production. "They wanted quirky country songs," he recalls. "So I went through all the Bob Tyler songs looking for something, and then I sat down with my dog, Kenn. The dog said, 'Maybe you could sell truck-driving music at truck stops.' And suddenly, out came Bub."
Initially, Bub says, Bob didn't much like having the use of his body taken away from him. "Any kind of host is going to be a little reluctant to be possessed," he says. "They have an image in society to protect." But after a while, Bob found that there were some advantages to it. Bob can only drink so much, but when I take over, it doubles his capacity. Actually, it triples it, since I've got double the capacity all by myself."
The first Bub tune that emerged from Bob was the Taylor autobiography "Mother Trucker," which appears in both a studio version, on Haulin' Hogs, and a live opus so long that it begins on side A of Truckadero and concludes on side B. The songs that followed epitomize the Bub worldview: They include "I Don't Need No Stinkin' Self-Esteem," "Your Baby Don't Look Like Me," "Motel Sixty Nine" and, of course, "The Night I Knocked Ol' Dixie Up."
It didn't take long for the material to pile up; "I'd say we had fourteen songs in about three hours," Bob claims. Shortly thereafter, Tyler recorded Bub's oeuvre, sometimes in a voice that sounds suspiciously like his own, other times using a pitch that recalls Elvis Presley's. ("On some songs, I just have to sing like Elvis," Bub reports. "It's all the years I spent in Tupelo and Memphis. It just happens.") The reactions he received from the friends for whom he played these ditties differed by gender: "The men thought it was a stroke of genius. But the women--they'd usually just laugh politely."