One of Us #3

You may recognize those lines from the wedding feast in Freaks, the 1932 Tod Browning masterpiece that happens to be one of my three favorite films of all times. (The other two? White Christmas and Grapes of Wrath. Glad you asked.) We appropriate those timeless words as a way of welcoming you to the John Wooley website.
As I write this, it’s a time of celebration, with Christmas just ended and New Year’s Eve looming. While I hope your holiday parties don’t end like the one in Freaks, with a drunken zoftig trapeze artist (played beautifully by Olga Baclanova in the movie) screaming about how you’re all “dirty … freaks,” I do wish you a wonderful 2003, with new year’s celebrations that are full of joy and maybe even a little weirdness.

Speaking of joy and weirdness, here’s the latest Wooley news, updated 30 December 2002:

— First of all, while this is hardly news, I read somewhere that talking about yourself in the third person is a sign of insanity, and I do know that it seems sort of distant, so I’m going first-person from here on out. This may present a bit of a schizo effect as the new first-person stuff collides with the old third-person stuff below, but I have no doubt that anyone visiting this website is smart enough (not to mention talented and good-looking, if not drop-dead gorgeous) to figure things out.

— Much of the news this time is musical. Because of inexplicable — if temporary — lapses of judgement on the part of two otherwise first-rate national acts, Steve Ripley and the Red Dirt Rangers, I’ve ended up playing my reliable old Vox Jaguar (aka “cheesy organ”) on two new discs.

    The first one to come out was the Red Dirt Rangers’ Starin’ Down the Sun, a terrific example of the emerging musical form known as Red Dirt. Recorded with Steve Ripley at Tulsa’s Church Studio, the former home of Leon Russell and Shelter Records, it’s got that great close-to-the-earth Okie sound that comes from a scene whose antecedents are both Woody Guthrie and Bob Wills. I play on the first track, “We Don’t Have to Say Goodbye,” crafted by Rangers member John Cooper as a tribute to the recently deceased Doug Sahm (a musical hero of mine as well). As the story goes, they were wanting an organ part that sounded something like the work of the great Augie Meyers, Sahm’s longtime cohort, and started calling around town to see if they could find an old Vox or Farfisa organ like Augie used to play. Finally, one of them remembered that I’d played one in my band, the Moody Dudes (our motto: “the band that never gets in a hurry”), and called me. When I told them I’d be happy for them to borrow it, they said I might as well come in and play. Of course, it was all very groovy, in true Sahm tradition, and I’m honored to be on the disc. For more about the record and the band, check out www.reddirtrangers.com

Since the Moody Dudes were in one of their long hibernation periods, I left the organ at Church Studios, where Steve could stare at it suspiciously for awhile. Now, most music fans know about Ripley’s group the Tractors, a multimillion-selling outfit famed for the country hit “Baby Likes to Rock It.” What they may not know is that Steve just cut a solo CD for his new label, Boy Rocking Records (www.boyrocking.com), distributed by Audium, and while it’s not officially out yet, Ripley is already getting major-league buzz. It’s getting this despite my appearance on the first cut — and, I understand, the disc’s first single — “Gone Away,” a paen to love lost and a past life remembered. Steve was good enough to list me as one of the track’s writers as well — along with him and Nashville songwriting superstar Tim DuBois — which necessitated my getting affiliated with BMI and starting my own publishing company. I used the name I first thought of when I was playing music in college: Laugh-Thot-I’d-Die Music.

Steve’s disc is a brilliant rootsy collection that defies categorization, featuring guest appearances from Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore, the Jordanaires, and the Whites, among others. I give both Ripley and Starin’ Down the Sun my highest recommendation — they’re both good enough to have not only survived my contributions, but prospered.

Awash in the Blood (HAWK Publishing Group) continues to sell as a trade paperback, available via virtually every Internet bookstore and in Barnes & Nobles across the country. For those unfamiliar with it, it s the tale of a televangelist who gets bitten by a vampire after an All Souls’ Eve preaching engagement in Transylvania and finds out that it’s easy to mistake the darkness for the light. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done, and I welcome your feedback on it.

— Next on the stands for me is a nonfiction movie book, The Big Book of Biker Flicks, co-authored with my friend and frequent collaborator Michael H. Price and published, as is most of my stuff, by the wonderful folks at the HAWK Publishing Group. We’ve gotten a number of interviews with biker-movie greats, including Peter Fonda, William Smith, Jack Nicholson and Sonny Barger, and we’ve supplied HAWK’s designer, Carul Brune, with tons of great movie ads and photos. In fact, he’s so taken with the material that he’s taken some extra time to give the book a dynamite layout, so it’s now due on the stands in spring of 2003. I talked to Carl about it at the HAWK Christmas party, and came away thinking he’s going to really make it something special.

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