Jim Blanchard's "Kooky Country" changed my life, and it might change yours. It's not quite the Harry Smith Anthology for 60s and 70s country, but it's close enough, and will totally school you. Besides being an awesome party album capable of getting a bunch of adroit New York types jumping around like those mental patients in the Cramps video, the album put Roger Miller's "My Uncle Used to Love Me but She Died" in context with his crazed hillbilly contemporaries. Mind-blowing. That guy's probably the best pop lyricist of our last century.
Along with Miller, on Kooky Country you get Psychedelic country about "The Enchanted Forest" by Mohawk and the Rednecks, really funny anti-hippie songs by bitter old coots, space country by Speedy West, a hugely hilarious anti-Garth Brooks rant by Hank (Bocephus) Williams Jr., and a really great anti-Bocephus tune called "A Pinhead Will Survive" by Rev. Billy C. Wirtz (a parody of Williams' "A Country Boy Can Survive," which itself is an awesome anti-NYC song to torture your metropolitan friends with.) Another nice thing is there's nothing viciously evil about Kooky Country, (unlike a lot of Blanchard's compilations) so there's no psychic shock afterwards.
But on other Blanchard compilations, particularly Creepy Country Volumes 1 and 2 and The Devil Was Laughing at Me, you get your worst Deliverance-style suspicions about country music fulfilled on six or seven tracks--there really are a lot of racist, misogynist, misanthropic creeps in the backwoods of the USA (surprise), and their music is fairly horrifying. One of the catchiest, "Blow 'Em All Away," has the anonymous singer declare that he likes to kill gays, Arabs, and commies "to help keep America clean, gimmie a shotgun and an M-16!" But if you're going to make an honest compilation of the biggest weirdos in country music, you've gotta put the weirdo scumbags in too. If you don't have the stomach for it, just get Kooky Country, the hilarious Freedom Wins Again, and "Eat My Angel Dust"--required listening for anyone on planet Earth, and completely hate-free.
Besides putting together the best compilation of obscure and homemade country music I've ever heard, Blanchard is also a really funny, amazing visual artist--he does skewed photo-realistic portraits of artists like Lemmy, Redd Foxx, and Rodney Dangerfield; helps out Peter Bagge with Hate! (and illustrates Jim Goad's Trucker Fags in Denial comic series. He also does pretty great poster art for bands, and occasionally trades mix CDs with some of the other folks known for their work with Fantagraphics: Daniel Clowes, J.R. Williams, Wayno, and Dennis Worden.
I asked Jim about some of his insane compilations. Here's what he had to say about each of them:
Artists include: REV. BILLY C. WIRTZ, LEROY PULLINS, ROD HART, BILL CARLISLE, ED SANDERS.
There is a rich mine of wildly humorous country music out there. I've always loved yodeling and "eefin'" songs! [Eefin is a form of hillbilly beat-boxing that goes back a long, long way. You can read about it here.] "What Kind of Dickhead Is This" is a take-off of "What Kind of Deal Is This" by Bill Carlisle, and both are on the album. I have no idea who recorded the Dickhead song, but I'm pretty sure it was recorded off a karaoke machine, and the guy is just making up crazy stuff to fit in the song structure. Also, on this compilation is the track of Hank Williams Jr. totally wasted, singing "Family Tradition." I love that track! It was lifted from the amazing Nick Bougas CD compilation, Celebrities At Their Worst. I highly recommend that one, if you can track it down.
Roger Miller - "My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died"
Hank Williams Jr. - "Family Tradition"
Johnny Buckett - "Hippy in a Blunder"
CREEPY COUNTRY 1 & 2
Artists include: FERLIN HUSKY, EDDIE NOACK, FRANK DYKUS, JOHNNY REB, JUNIOR SAMPLES, RAMSEY KEARNEY, PETE DRAKE AND HIS TALKING STEEL GUITAR, ROSALIE ALLEN, etc.
On these I focused on genuinely creepy country music--songs about car accidents, aborted fetuses, drug and booze abuse, racism, etc. I also wanted songs where the performer wasn't aware of how creepy he or she sounded. No irony or novelty tunes allowed! Johnny Reb is the king of the racist country creep-out. Some people do freak out on the racist country stuff. One fellow I know re-recorded the Creepy Country comp. with those tracks removed! What a puss!
FREEDOM WINS AGAIN
Artists include: JON & ROBIN, DICK CURLESS, JANET GREENE, LYNDON JOHNSON, VICTOR LUNDBERG, BILL ANDERSON, LEE MARVIN, etc.
There's an almost endless supply of "patriotic music." Songs about landing on the moon, Communism, presidents, how great America is, etc. Public service announcement records can be a great source of weirdness.
Jon & Robin - "There's an American Flag on the Moon"
REAL SICK SOUNDS!
"Disturbing novelty songs."
Artists include: PASTOR JOHN RYDGREN, SPIKE JONES, SHOOBIE TAYLOR, T. VALENTINE ("Hello, Lucille, Are You A Lesbian?"), VICTOR LUNDBERG, JACK WEBB, WILLIAM BENDIX, MRS. MILLER.
VINTAGE AUDIO SLEAZE
Artists include: THE BLENDERS, OSCAR BRAND, JOHN VALBY.
There have been bawdy and X-rated tunes since man started making music--apparently, many of these records were sold "under the counter" at stores during the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The classic example is The Blenders "Don't Fuck Around With Love." Oscar Brand records are pretty common, and John Valby is about as filthy as a man can be. A genius! I think in the 60s and 70s, "sex" records were just another genre to exploit.
Do yourself a favor and order all these bizarre, patriotic, and perverse country albums for $10 each. Mail the money to Jim Blanchard, P.O. Box 593 Maple Valley, WA 98038, or go to his site and Paypal him.