THE WESTERN SIZZLERS STORY
"The Legends from Hedgens."
The Western Sizzlers actually came to be about 30 years ago. Back in the early eighties, at the famous Hedgens "rock 'n' roll" Tavern, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. It was a Satellites gig, prior to the creation of " The Georgias ". It had to be a Monday night, they were always a blast. Back then, The Satellites pretty much had a "residency" at Hedgens on Mondays, which in time became a "ritual" for all the weekend bartenders, waitresses and the local rock 'n' roll constabulary. It's what they call "Service Industry Night."
So '83, a feisty young Baird & Richards with a revolving rhythm section played four sets a night, and "our local heroes" were starting to get pretty damn good. The first set usually started between about 10 & 10:30 and by midnight it was always packed. The last set came round about 2 or 3 in the morning and on "most Tuesday mornings", it got rather "loose" . . . If ya kno wot ah meen ?
Most nights the last set turned into a jam, which meant anything could happen on that humble little stage. It could be " yours truly" giving it what for in my best Ray Davies, singing "Keep your 'ands t' yaself ", or a very colourful local character like Fly Stone singing "Wild Thing, I think you're a tuna fish"… while un-dressing himself. You might very well have Adam "Wosisname" from U2 stumbling blindly through a Chuck Berry song. Or then again, on more than one occasion you could have Steve Marriott, drunk as ninepence up there singing Tina Turner better than Tina Turner. Those were the days my friend. Magic!
Then there was a time, during which Brendan O'Brien, who was known as "Bud" and played bass back then, took the last set to a new level of fun. Bud would swap instruments with Dan. So that meant, Dan would groove on the bass which he loved to do, and Bud could show off his rather dazzling guitar skills. This was long before he went on to conquer the world as a record producer.
Anyway, it was brilliant! Ricky & Brendan together on guitars was pretty special. Nobody could do the "monkey beat" better and Dan really wasn't that bad on bass . . . eventually. They would rip through selected Rockpile songs "very properly". They could do "Creedence" justice and "Elvis" with Marshall speakers. They would do all kinds of stuff and then they would "commence to playing country". It was so good ! They would play David Allen Coe songs, some George Jones, Waylon Jennings, even Roger Miller and quite a few Johnny Cash numbers.
One particular night, Ricky got "particularly inspired" and started singing Michael Jackson songs in his Johnny Cash voice. It was absolutely hysterical ! Of course the band jumped in and before long they were doing all manner of strange songs. They'd go from "Our lips are sealed" by the Go-Gos, to Black Sabbaths' "Irondude" 'n' back to Talking Heads "Psycho Killer", all still completely in Johnny Cash mode. By the time they got to "Boy George Jones" I honestly thought I was gonna die from laughter on top of the mixing desk.
But anyway to get to the point. This little "bit" caught on for a while and over the next few months, Dan and Bud would continue to swap guitars but would tend to play more country stuff. So for that "bit", Dan with his very own brand of wit & charm started to introduce the band as "The Talkin' Hicks". Clever !
Of course it got old pretty quick, and so there came the one un-forgettable night when my hero, Rick "Getthehellouttamyway" Richards had had his fill. After Dan made his "slick, hick" introduction, Rick grabbed his own mike and growls with gusto, "Fuck that shit we're The Western Sizzlers !" Then tears ferociously into the old Johnny Rivers song "Muddy Water". When the band kicked in it sounded like The bloody Ramones were playing at Hedgens. Which only goes to prove, as a great guitar player once said . . . " With the right amount of alcohol & electricity, anything is possible" ! It's a moment I will always treasure and never forget as long as I live . . . 'n' hence The WESTERN SIZZLERS were born.
"How to accidentally make a record."
Thirty years later, I find myself with a pretty good collection of my very own "country songs". Well by that I mean, they're all pretty much just "three chords and the truth". Inspired by my love of Status Quo, The Satellites and the real country music that those guys turned me onto, I had to turn it into an album. Initially, it all started out as a demo for the song "One More Beer". I figured I could sell that to Budweiser or maybe some red neck cowboy in "Nashvegas". I actually wrote it in my sleep, after a "heavy date" with my girlfriend at the time, who later became my wife. But I literally woke up singing the chorus. Just like our old friend Terry Anderson did with "Battleship Chains", or more famously, like Keith Richards did with "Satisfaction".
Anyway, I was telling my friend Charlie the "One More Beer" story on the phone one day and actually recited the chorus to him. He's the bloke in Blackberry Smoke and he says "Man, You gotta record that !" I said "I know, but I can't sing country Charlie, I'm English". To which he replied "I can" . . . and so he did. I called my mate Jeff Bakos for studio time immediately. Jeff has a "humble little hit factory" on Ponce De Leon Avenue, where we have worked together many times over the years and I knew he would also play bass. I then invited my nieghbourhood pal Wayne Glass to come play drums and, away we went.
That first session was just to record "One More Beer" really, but I had a couple of other songs so I thought I would get them out of my system. I had this ballad called "Shine" that I thought was worthy, and a "runka runka" that will become my epitaph I'm sure, called "I'll die a Happy Man if it kills me". We recorded all three in a couple of hours. No frills but lots of fun ! I conducted, and Charlie did his thing. He plucked the melodies from my head, laid the "absolutely correct" guitar parts down and then sung everything first take. Charlie is really an amazing talent and a diamond of a bloke. He made it very easy for all of us.
I was very inspired, so after a couple of months and a handful of "domestic quarrels" with my dear wife, I found myself with a handful more songs. We went back into the studio for a night, and this time I decided to invite Ricky "The original Western Sizzler" to come down and play some. He and Charlie go back a ways and have a great mutual admiration for each other. It was a wonderful night. It went really well and a good time was had by all.
Our ol' pal Snit Fitzpatrick had flown in from Texas for the session, and along with his drum sticks, he brought in this long haired fella called Nicky Ford. Turns out he's a bit of a guitar slinger too and ended up playing some very cool slide stuff for us. This was now starting to turn into an album.
After we had finished recording my songs, "a higher power" told me I had to have "Break The Rules", one of my favourite old QUO songs. It was sort of a strange feeling but I couldn't argue and it was pretty funny the way we actually recorded it. Snit was completely knackered after playing drums for about five hours straight, and he was trying to get out of the studio with Nicky to go to Turner Field, to watch his beloved Atlanta Braves. They're a baseball team. Anyway, as Snit got up to leave the drum kit, I said "Wait ! You can't go yet ! We've gotta get Break The Rules !" He was a little bewildered, but I knew he was familiar with the song. So when he reluctantly sat back down, Jeff hit record, I started singing and Snit shuffled merrily. No guitar, no nothing . . . but by George we got it !
Two more "domestics" and the death of an old guitar player friend later, I found myself with three more songs. We did one more session to lay the tracks down. Then our old friend Charlie started to get really, really busy with his Blackberry Smokers". After about a year of chasing him down to finish a couple of over dubs, the album was complete.
Ladies and Gents . . . THE WESTERN SIZZLERS