Today on the blog, Rick Kosick talks to one of our personal favorites: Roger Alan Wade, a man who needs no real introduction if you're a lifer in the lore of jackass. If you don't know Rog, well hell, then you're in for a real treat of a kick in the seat. Read on!
Kosick: How are you doing, Roger? What’s going on with you?
Roger: Doing great, my brother. Just kicking back here in the hills of Tennessee. I think the rains have finally settled. The remnants of the hurricane came up through Florida and Georgia. Now it looks like we’ve avoided the worst of it, so it’s just a sweet, sweet day.
Nice. How’s the honky-tonk world been treating you?
Man, I don’t know if that ever changes. I haven’t been getting out as much. My dad passed, so my mom kind of needs me here. I’m in Chattanooga and live right across the way from her, and we’ve just been staying around here, basically, just doing honky-tonks. We got some cruise stuff coming up and that kind of thing, but just really keeping it close to home and trying to write some new songs.
What do you mean by “cruise” stuff? You mean like going on a cruise and performing?
Yeah, man! This’ll be like our third or fourth one. I did one with Kid Rock—that was the first one—and in the years since we’ve been doing it with our dear friends at Sirius XM Outlaw Country. Me and Knox got that show on their radio, so they do an Outlaw Country cruise every year. This’ll be our third or fourth one with them. We don’t leave until January, so we’re just now getting the band together and getting ready for that. It takes me a while to get ready for some of this stuff, but it’s awesome, man. I mean, we got Old Shooter Jennings, Mojo, The Cranky Yankee… the whole cast of characters, man. It’s gonna be a blast.
So you’ll have a band backing you up on the cruise?
Yeah, yeah! Some of my dear old friends from light years ago and my grandson’s Roland Dixon is gonna play guitar and harmonica. Man, you gotta hear him, Ricky, he is something special. He went with us last year and absolutely won their hearts. He works hard at it every day, you know, down in the basement just digging it out in the dirt every day. And he loves all the things that matter: all the soul, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. He’s just really something special. So we’re gonna take bass and drums and steel guitar and then my grandson playing rhythm and harmonica and singing harmony.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a blast, man. It’s the way I wanted to sound for a long time and it’s just fun, you know, and I’ve been reluctant. You remember the old days, man, we’d start recording and playing and it was just me and the guitar. I’ve kind of shied away from the band thing for a while because I was at place in my life where I’d just had enough problems that I created on my own, much less all the band problems. So I soloed it for a while just to make it sustainable. But now everybody’s kinda growed up and handling their own business and it’s sweet to have everybody come out. We got some real cats that just want to play and it’s all about the music—it ain’t about all the peripheral stuff. We used to get there about the time they opened and start day drinking, as Knox calls it, talking about them old honky-tonks. Then we wouldn’t leave ‘til they absolutely ran us off, you know, about 12 hours later after the place was ready to shut down, sweeping up the last peanuts and all that. But these days, man, I don’t show up until the first chord and as soon as the last one’s struck, I’m out the door and headed home. That hanging out… that’s where you get in trouble, I think. Just that time when you’re hanging out after you’ve had a few and everything you think of is a bright idea and you wind up in all kinds of shenanigans, broken hearts, and everything else.
How’s the radio show going with your cousin?
Oh man, it’s just the joy of my life. You know Knox as well as anybody. I mean y’all started out as kids together, but just getting to sit there and have a front row seat on what that nut’s gonna come up with next… you never know. We get to do it once a week and it airs like four or five times a week on the Sirius satelite thing. But we’ll just find the biggest nut we can find, you know, somebody that we truly admire and do a tribute to him. We’ll each pick out our favorite songs and then other than that it’s just filled with misinformation and bad jokes. Just two cats that truly love one another, getting to hang out for an hour and catch up with one another, enjoying each other’s company. That’s all it is and I hope that everyone enjoys getting to hear it, ‘cause we are living proof that anybody can have a radio show. We know absolutely nothing about it and we don’t pretend to. Our dear engineer Scottie from Sirius XM, he sort of tolerates us and keeps us between ditches, but other than that it’s just let her rip, ‘tater chip, and we just have a big time. We can get away with murder, man, and we get to pick out all the kind of songs we want to… there ain’t no kind of rules, because we don’t really work well in that kind of environment. It’s like if you wanna learn something, go to a library, but if you wanna have fun, man, tune in to us because we know nothing and don’t pretend to. It’s totally a joy. There’s nothing forced about it.
How long have you guys been doing the Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee now?
Shoot, I’d say we’re coming up on maybe 500 shows, so it’s been eight or ten years, I guess? I kind of date everything by my romantic interludes… it’s like I know I busted up with this chick about two years ago and I was with her about eight years. We started right at the time we got together, so yeah, we’re probably looking at ten years. That ain’t exactly as accurate as carbon dating, but for me that’s my calendar of my life: the crummy relationships with women you get in and out of.
What I really like about your music is you could just turn them out, like, you know, if someone just says, “Hey man, I’m looking for a little jingle…,” and you’re just like, “Oh, I got it!” Like the time I called when Ryan Dunn passed away and you go, “Oh, I got a song for you, Rick,” and you wrote the most beautiful song.
Gosh, I don’t know if there’s any song that means more to me than that song… It’s called “The Light Outlives The Star,” and for it to be used at Ryan’s service and to know what it meant to Knox and all my Jackass brothers, and how much Ryan meant to me… man. He was a dear pal. He had a week off one time and we just hung out in honky-tonks goofing off and having a blast. I think he would be very, very pleased to know that we inspired a foundation for children around here, for less fortunate families that can’t afford to bury their child or afford a casket, and [the Hunter Worley Foundation] has gone on to be just amazingly successful. Every nickel goes right where it’s supposed to, and I think Ryan would get a charge out of that.
That’s beautiful, Rog. That’s amazing. Let’s switch gears here a bit. With the country music scene and how it’s been changing, is there anyone you really like at the moment?
I don’t know, Ricky. That’s a good question. I just don’t really have a good answer. I still listen to Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Guy Clark, Johnny Cash, and Waylon, man. I still love them old Waylon records.
Do you think today’s country music has lost its appeal?
I haven’t bought any of the records, and I’m not saying that being judgmental, I’m just saying that as a matter of fact that I don’t bother. You know, if I’m gonna get something, I’ll get an Otis Redding anthology or some old undiscovered tracks Bob Dylan did. And Willie Nelson… man, if Willie has a new record that gets my attention, then I’ll listen to it. And I’m not putting the other cats down, it’s just that I like lumber with the bark still on it. Not these things that are so contrived. You know, here we are and we’re having a conversation, and if we start bullshitting each other, if we start telling each other what we think we want to hear rather than what we truly feel, then it ain’t a conversation no more. It’s just a bunch of bullshit. That’s the way music is. If you’re telling people what you think they want to hear, that ain’t music. And that ain’t poetry. That’s just something that’s catered to an audience. I like them homemade recipes where if you like it, sit down and get all you want. And if you don’t, go to McDonald’s or somewhere. But I don’t like anything where it feels like they’re telling you what they think you want to hear. I just find it uninteresting.
Yeah, I think I’m about to. I got the songs and I’m just kind of waiting on Knox to get a window. He’s so slammed right now, he’s got this amazing new thing coming out, and I think it’s going to be the best and most brilliant thing he’s ever done. So we’re just waiting on a window where we’ve got a few days where he can relax and we can have some fun. Because that’s the coolest part about us making records, man. It’s just getting to hang out. Our dear friend and hero Chris Pontius, we’ll be doing a session and right in the middle of it, no kind of warning, nothing, here comes Chris with a dozen guitars. They’re thrown everywhere and he’s in the middle of changing strings and telling you every minute detail about each guitar. And the whole session just stops. We’ll just look at each other like there’s no reason trying to continue, we might as well enjoy the magnificence of Pontius, and it adds so much good energy to it. But that’s the way we record, so we don’t want to get in when we’re pushed for time or under any kind of restrictions. So it takes us a couple of days to do it, but we want to have it work more like a picnic like that, where if Pontius shows up, you got time to kick back and enjoy, man. When we did “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough”, the original version, I had the honor on that session of getting to play Pontius’ guitar—the one made one just for him. It’s got his name down at the twelfth fret, just the most magnificent instrument. He trusted me to play that, and he let me play it on some shows down in Irvine or Silverado Canyon to play the Hootenanny. So, to answer your question, yeah, I think I got the songs written, we’re just kind of waiting on Knox to get a little window of time. It might be six weeks, it might be six months. Hell, it might be six years. I figure the longer we wait, the more songs we’ll have to choose from; and on the other side of that, the sooner we get to do it, the more I’ll love it, man, because I’m just getting in with these boys.
Do you have anything you want to close this off with?
I have a big apology to make to my old pals Loomis and Chris, and my old pals in the Smut Peddlers. We were gonna do a thing one time where the Smut Peddlers did “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough,” which I had written, and I was gonna do my version of “Mona From Pomona.” Well, I somehow got historically hammered and we were at Knox’s house and Pontius and Loomis came over with the purpose to get that song down… might have been Dan Creech or somebody there to record it, I can’t remember. And so I couldn’t really figure out why everybody was there, so I sat down with a guitar and started playing a bunch of new songs I had been working on. I just kept playing and I couldn’t really get a reaction out of anybody, so I thought, “Well, heck, it’s getting late and I’m about to pass out, I’m just going to go to bed.” I went in there and laid in the bed and of course they turned everything wide open just to torment me, because I had forgotten to do that song! I never realized it until years later when I thought, “You know what, we got together to do that Smut Peddlers song!” I was just totally oblivious to that. So I just want to apologize to my pals. But that’s family and I’d never do it maliciously. It was just pure ignorance.
(All photos courtesy of Roger Alan Wade—thanks, Shandy!)