Onstage, the Whiskey Daredevils are musical stuntmen with plenty of tales to tell. For seven years these Cleveland thrill-seekers have been touring the countryside, entertaining crowds with explosive rural rock performances, somersaulting rockabilly, punk, surf, cattle westerns, country and good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.
The stories of the band’s misadventures inevitably make their way into the music. Take “Never Saw Johnny Cash,” which is the first song off the Daredevil’s new CD, Introducing the Whiskey Daredevils (it's actually the band’s fifth full-length, following Old Favorites, Essentials, Greatest Hits and The Very Best Of).
“It’s a horrible and true story about how I had tickets to see Johnny Cash, and I went to this fucking keg party instead and ended up making out with a girl with a mustache,” says frontman Greg Miller.
Every one of the CD’s 13 songs have a similar tale of bizarre awesomeness, and each will be told in length on Saturday, when the Whiskey Daredevils release their latest record at the Beachland Ballroom. Being one of Cleveland’s best musical raconteurs, we decided to ask Mr. Miller himself to discuss the genesis of each new tune. Read his insights below. Just remember to catch’em live — showtime is 9 p.m.; advanced tickets are $7, and the new album kicks ass.
Jumping straight to Song 2. Take it away Greg ... —Keith Gribbins
2. "It Ain’t Him" — I was reading a newspaper story in Chicago about how an argument during a dice game led to some guy shooting up a club. The witnesses were worried about testifying on the shooter, and they didn’t crack in questioning. “Never saw him …” The shooter didn’t want to chance anything, and later shot all the witnesses just to make sure.
3. "Left Me on a Train" — The problem about trying to live inside an “authentic” blues song is that it’s hard to write about your girl leaving you on a train at the crossroads. It’s probably more honest to tell it like it is. She left you in a beat up Subaru. Not as cool as a train though, is it?
4. "Thicker Than Wine" — I had a buddy that left me holding the bag when he got arrested once. I got tangled up in his arrest when I tried to clear him of some pretty big charges. Later on, instead of him clearing me out of the charges, he lawyered up and walked away leaving me with the problem. By trying to help him, I got totally screwed. I made the story a lot better by turning it into a Mexican drug bust instead of the Unauthorized Use of Motor Vehicle charge. It’s more exciting that way, but the betrayal is still the same.
5. "Last Guest List" — I was standing in the Beachland one time next to Dave Bowling, our old rhythm guitar player, when he noticed some women in their late thirties getting into whatever show we were at via the guest list. He turns and says, “They’re getting pretty close to their last guest list buddy.” One day you’re the cool kid on the scene. Next thing you know, you’re the last one left at the party. Life can be cruel.
6. "West Akron Shakedown" — We played at Annabells in Akron and it really seemed like the eve of the apocalypse. As soon as we got there a barfly kept hitting us up for a free T-shirt, free CD, free ANYTHING while we waited to play. Meanwhile, the room filled up with drunker and drunker people no longer in control of even their basic faculties. This heavyset girl got so drunk she couldn’t even stand and kept falling into my mic stand. At one point, she fell into it so hard that I thought the collision with the mic into my face had chipped my tooth. Fights broke out in the room. People falling down because of spilled beer. It was freezing cold outside. Water was dripping from the ceiling inside. It was a Ninth Circle of Hell kind of gig.
7. "Me and My Black Eye" — Guitarist Gary Siperko showed up to practice one night wearing sunglasses. As I assumed he wasn’t trying to become the NE Ohio version of Bono, I asked “What’s with the sunglasses?” Sunglasses come off, and there’s a nice shiner. Seemed he got really drunk the previous evening, woke up at a casual friend’s house with a black eye, cuts on his hands and bruised ribs. Couldn’t remember a thing. No idea how any of it had happened. He quietly left in the morning before anyone else was awake. As far as I know, he never called the guy to find out what he did or how he got the black eye. True story.
9. "Senorita" — We wanted to write a Mexican song. Problem is we live in Cleveland. I decided to write about the most Mexican thing I could think of, namely the Taco Bell on Snow and Broadview. The “senorita” is a dark eyed Polish girl that works the counter. It’s creepy like most of my “love” songs are.
10. "Going Dutch" — This is a compressed version of a long night in the Red Light District in Hamburg. You meet some real flotsam there. It’s sort of like a harder edged Amsterdam. Lots of Eastern European whores and their drug addict pals that want to roll you for money for their next score.
11. "Railbender" — Erie Brewing Co. makes this tasty and powerful ale. We played a gig in Erie once where we pushed the crowd to exclusively drink Railbender. At the end of the show, it looked like the Fall of Saigon. I really should have considered the effect that 7 percent alcohol content was going to have on them.
12. "Party Plates" — When I drive down the highway and see the orange and red “party plates” (i.e. the DUI license plate), I always look to see who is driving. I’ll bet you do too. It’s almost always some twentysomething year old man, backwards ball cap, with a glazed expression on his face. This is our homage to “that guy.” Also note, this is what we think Motorhead would sound like if they did a country tune.
13. Empty Out The Shake — When drummer Leo P. Love was working at the Jigsaw, he fell into that bar and nightclub employee lifestyle. This is our ZZ Top first person account of that time.