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."
Why the disparate responses? "Women don't really understand the Three Stooges, do they?" Bub points out. "And they don't really understand truck-driving music, either. The only woman who really gets my music is my mama."
What does the future hold for Bub Taylor? The answer you get depends on whom you ask. Bob says that Haulin', Unhitched and Truckadero (each of which bears the subtitle "Setting a New Standard for the American Road") are available for purchase at Twist and Shout and various Mediaplay locations; he also hopes to market the cassettes through various gift catalogues aimed at truckers. In addition, he expects Bub and the Dirty Old Truckers to appear soon at the Bluebird Theater and Comedy Works.
For his part, Bub has more grandiose plans. "I want to create a semi truck that opens up on the side. And inside, there's already a stage set up," he says. "So I could play anywhere, anytime. I'd have the band follow me in that while I'm pulling loads, so I can get double the money. And I'm also writing a movie where I accidentally wind up with somebody's log book, and it has some incriminating evidence against this band of crooks who are manufacturing bootleg Rogaine.
"It will show what truck driving's all about--which is driving safe, having a good time and saving America."
Can't get enough of those local recordings? Then read on.
Where I'm Standing, a Resounding Records release by Julie Hoest, is a showcase for bluesy, top-notch singing and songwriting. Hoest's voice is brassy yet relaxed--a natural instrument that she employs with taste and restraint. She's brave enough to cover "A Sailboat in the Moonlight," a tune associated with Billie Holiday, but smart enough to give the number a jaunty reading that's completely her own. When she gets too explicit, as on "Nothing So Wretched," she's less effective than on casually breezy cuts like "I'll Call It the Blues" and "Holes in the Bottoms of Her Shoes." Derivative but diverting (available in area record stores). Not long ago, I chanced to meet Travis Stinson, vocalist for the Boulder band Durt, and he told me that if I didn't like Turnbuckle, the latest CD by his band, I should rip it mercilessly. Sorry to disappoint you, pal, but I actually enjoyed parts of the platter. If I had to pigeonhole the album, I'd be forced to use the H word--something that I'm loath to do for fear of redundancy. But as songwriters, these guys are more concise than most jammers, and they have a sure ear for melody. Moreover, Stinson has a pleasing, accessible voice, and the players as a whole are slick and professional--but in a good way. Durt is better at jubilant rockers like "Sally" than at ballads, and the compositions recall other groups (Steve Miller, Little Feat, the Spin Doctors) too often for my taste. But for those of you who don't really like music to be overly challenging, you could do a lot worse than Turnbuckle (available in area record stores).
Steve Richards is a Denver veteran, having led both Failsafe and the Steve Richards Band, which released an album on the Shrapnel imprint back in 1983. (More recently, he owned the London Pub.) Now headquartered in Bonsall, California, Richards proves on Foreplay, his most recent disc, that he hasn't forgotten how to make his guitar shriek like it did back in the day. The sixteen tracks here (including "Wakeup Call," "Beyond Control" and "Pop's Boogie") fall into the hot-licks category, with Richards strangling his ax like the love child of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. If you're like me (and I pray to God you're not), you'll find the results to be masturbatory in the extreme--but guitar-school types are apt to offer up hosannas. Take sides, why don't you? (S R Music Productions, P.O. Box 115, Bonsall, CA 92003-0115.) On the five-song demo they've named after themselves, the Idiots--identified only as Tony, Weston, Todd and Kevin--offer up an appropriately sloppy version of the loud-and-fast thing. For anyone who's heard of, for instance, the Descendants, this is flashback stuff: "Playing Dumb," "Consequences" and "No Better Off" are speedy/thrashy in exactly the same ways punk rock was when it was new. Overall, it's pretty fun stuff, but a few new twists would have been appreciated (329-6989 or 688-4865).
Feed Me a Dream, an album by transplanted Coloradan Thom Bishop (a veteran of the latter-day Greenwich Village scene), is a folk effort that smells of the early Seventies. His tender vocals alternately recall John Prine (good) and James Taylor (not good); his original songs (including "Autumn Ending," "I Built My Own Prison" and "Where It Goes When It's Gone") are pretty, sweet and routine; and his cover of Van Morrison's "Cyprus Avenue" smooths out the very idiosyncrasies that make the tune so brilliant in the first place. Pleasant, but not much more than that (Roberge Performance Media, 449-7424). Mirage, by Cat's Night Out, is lounge music of the sort you might have heard at Holiday Inns across the country at any time during the past thirty years. Multi-instrumentalist Karen Juenemann and guitarist Robert Juenemann don't play the style for laughs; the versions of "Too Close for Comfort," "Night & Day" and "Come Dance With Me," as well as Karen's originals, are done straight--too straight. I found the results kinda uninspiring, but maybe that's because I'm not in the middle of a business trip on the company dime (available at area record stores).
Bad Bax's Bad Bax Trollin' is a Jim Mason-produced cassette version of Ghost Train, a CD that should be released in the not-too-distant future on the independent Texas Rose Records imprint. On it, lead guitarist/vocalist Scott Baxendale (a custom-guitar builder whose instruments are in the hands of such folks as Willie Nelson and James Burton) spreads his bluesy guitar across originals like "Skank Dog" and "Pink Sugar" and covers of Willie Dixon's "Hip Shakin' Woman," John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" and Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary." These influences are familiar, and Bad Bax's reverent approach ensures that nothing startling happens here. Overall, Trollin' is a solidly played, competently rendered journey through well-mapped territory (JSB Music, 1658 W. Kentucky Avenue, Denver 80223). Add together the band moniker Indica Gypsys, the CD name Slippin' Down a Fairytale and disc-cover art that features Fillmore East lettering and a peace sign, and you come up with hippie music, right? Yes and no. Lyrics such as "Incense smoke is in the air/Suits and ties ain't got a prayer" (from "When Will It End") are the order of the day, but the music isn't quite as wanky as you'd expect. Producer Dave Beegle gives a certain heft to the proceedings by using his guitar to supplement bandmember Bob Green's on several tracks. But even his fine fretwork can't quite disguise the flighty nature of songs such as the title cut, a "Stairway to Heaven" wannabe in which vocalist Seth Strickland wails, "Did I not warn you not to look inside my heart?" You did--and thanks (Hapi Skratch Records, 2100 West Drake Road, Suite 280, Fort Collins 80526).
On January 31 at the posh Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, comic Elaine Boosler hosted the 1996 Pollstar Concert Industry Awards show, sponsored by Pollstar magazine, a respected music-biz trade publication--and among the winners she congratulated were two from Colorado. Red Rocks amphitheater was dubbed "Best Small Outdoor Concert Venue" for the seventh time in the last eight years--an indication that the declining business at so-called sheds (documented in "The Shed Spread," October 3, 1996) hasn't dimmed the enthusiasm of movers and shakers for this beautiful place. Also acknowledged was Doug Kauffman, head of nobody in particular presents, who was named "Independent Promoter of the Year" over nominees from around the country. As Kauffman notes, "The awards were almost ten years to the day from the first show I ever did--so it was a good way to celebrate ten years in the business." He adds, "What made it even better was that they gave me my own theme music: Chuck Berry's 'No Particular Place to Go.' I got a huge kick out of it."
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Colorado Springs-based Mark Junglen may be a rock-and-roller, but he's not into three-minute pop songs. "Stalingrad--A Rock Concerto," his first foray into the classical realm, was world-premiered by the Volgograd Philharmonic Orchestra in the spring of 1995 ("Rockin' to Russia," April 19, 1995). Now, on Saturday, February 8, at the Smokebrush Center for Arts & Theater in the Springs, Junglen and his longtime band, Former Fetus, will debut a new rock opera titled, appropriately enough, "Former Fetus." Junglen provides an overview of the plot: "It's about a fetus that becomes aware in the womb. And during one of its dreams, a voice tells it that it's about to be aborted. So it decides to escape and goes out into the world, and he eventually becomes the leader of mankind. Then the rapture comes, but because he was never officially born, the fetus can't ascend. So he has to sit in witness over a world without good." This esoteric tale is hardly upbeat--"It has a tragic beginning and a tragic ending," Junglen concedes. But, he goes on, "it's loud and it doesn't stop." The AUTONO opens the performance with an unplugged set; call 719-634-5909 for more information.
More rapture. On Thursday, February 6, Everything does it all at the Fox Theatre; and Huun-Huur-Tu, the throat singers of Tuva, dig deep at the Boulder Theater. On Friday, February 7, Gladhand slaps backs at Area 39, with Martha's Wake; the Zukes of Zydeco host a Mardi Gras festival that also features Hazel Miller and the Velveeta Sisters, a recent Westword profile subject ("Twisted Sisters," October 3, 1996), at the Boulder Theater; Evie's Edge, Turnsol and Wrath of Sharon get even at Cricket on the Hill; Shawn Strub steams up Stella's Coffee Haus, 1476 South Pearl; and the Spencer Bohren Trio provides three times the fun at the Swallow Hill Music Hall. On Saturday, February 8, 16 Horsepower unveils its new lineup and material from its upcoming album (see Feedback, January 9) during two shows at the Bluebird Theater; the Jinns and the Throttlemen accelerate at the 15th Street Tavern; Stanley Milton's Mean Streak flares up at the Skyline Cafe; and Tom Russell climbs to Swallow Hill. On Tuesday, February 11, Silence celebrates the release of a new CD, Sign of a Time, at Sing Sing, 1735 19th Street, and Hamster Theatre, a project fronted by former Denver Gentlemen member Dave Willey, bows at the Boulder Public Library (call 441-4492 to learn more). And on Wednesday, February 12, Mike Serviolo makes his guitar talk at Seven South. And it's got a lot to say.
Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com