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DBT July 18th, 2011

This was posted to the DBT Facebook Page today. Patterson should write a book:

BUTTHOLEVILLE

I wrote Buttholeville on my kitchen table at my crappy one bedroom apartment in

Florence AL in the spring of 1988.

I was then playing with Mike Cooley in the band Adam’s House Cat.

Things weren’t going particularly well on any level back then.

I was very frustrated with everything in my life, personal, musical, financial, you name it.

I don’t remember if I had my guitar or not, as sometimes I wrote without it, especially as

my girlfriend, who lived with me then, worked days and was usually in bed by 10.

Dirty little secret,I wasn’t actually intending the song about any one particular town at all.

I was certainly frustrated about where I was and there was a lot about my hometown that

was pissing me off for sure, but the song was more about my general state of mind

(and the general state of mind of the people I had to do business with at the time, booking

my band in a bunch of redneck clubs in the southeast) than just my hometown.

I was just mad and frustrated and such simple emotions inspire a very simple (you could

even say simplistic) song.

Basically one chord (nowadays a G minor although with us tuned down that would be

played like an A minor) driving over and over in a slight variation to a Chuck Berry riff

(Appropriated almost verbatim from Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”, although that

might have occurred later when the band worked it up).

None of that is too clear, like so much from that point of my life.

It’s all a blurry hazy collage of memories that each year renders a little blurrier and

hazier.

I do remember writing the words though.

It was very quick.

I had the first line and that led to the second and so on until it was done.

Probably not even ten minutes. Maybe five.

I wanted it to sound as redneck as what it was making fun of.

That was kind of the point.

Oh and Billy Bob was a real person.

Part of my frustration was having this band that was kind of starting to be kicking.

We had just won MUSICIAN Magazine’s Best Unsigned Band thing and was getting all

of this buzz and press and no one would let us play in our hometown.

There was a club called Southern Touch that we had played a couple of gigs in very early

on and it sold to a new owner (who ran it into the ground in about four months flat).

We went to him trying to get a show and finally talked him into letting us charge $5 at

the door, collect it ourselves and play for that.

No money from him and he got to make the bar, which at that time was almost always

empty.

He agreed, then when we packed the place out he tried to steal the door $$ from us.

He wasn’t around very long after that, but his name really was Billy Bob.

The car was real also, although it wasn’t mine. (I actually drove a little Honda that I

ended up putting 1/4 million miles on).

I remembered a couple of brothers who were friends of mine since 1st grade (still are)

whose Mom drove a dirty gold 68 Bonneville four door.

In 1988, it wouldn’t have been retro-cool yet, it was probably long since in a junkyard,

but it rhymed with Buttholeville so there you have it.

One of the brothers, much later mentioned that their mom had that kind of car and I told

him that’s where it came from.

I think he liked that.

Ronnie and Neil was THAT Ronnie and Neil which shows that even back then my mind

was already working towards that direction.

I was always fascinated by their misunderstood little feud and mutual admiration, which

leads to the Jimmy Johnson part of this story.

Jimmy Johnson was my Dad’s partner in music at Muscle Shoals Sound for over 25

years. They were also really close, maybe best friends.

Jimmy discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd (before Al Kooper or Alan Walden) and engineered

the Rolling Stones’ sessions that brought us “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”.

He’s a cool guy and really like part of my family.

I played in bands with his son Jay back in High School and could probably write a book

on just those stories alone.

Jimmy knew about us winning that contest and I’m sure was a little proud of me and

came to see Adam’s House Cat play in early 89 (at a club called Swampers that later

opened where Southern Touch once was).

While he was there, he saw us play “Buttholeville” and was so angry that we would write

such a song about his beloved hometown, the place where all of his childhood dreams

had come true, that he wanted to ‘whip my ass’ and Jay actually had to talk him down

from doing so right then and there in front of everyone.

Jimmy was a big imposing guy back in those days and could easily have taken Cooley

and I both out. I doubt anyone there would have tried to stop it.

Now a little side note. I grew up loving my Dad and worshipping the music that he made.

My original record collection was like a miniature version of his. A little Elton, a little

Neil, a little Pink, a little Zeppelin.

The Beatles, The Stones, Steely Dan, even God-forbid some Eagles.

Then in 1977 I saw a thing on some late night TV show about this “horrible” new music

fad from England and I was hooked.

Suddenly I was scouring the racks looking for Punk Rock records (not necessarily easy to

find in North Alabama at the time).

I followed and learned the best I could but suddenly Punk Rock was My Dad’s and I’s

first generation gap.

He was a studio player in the business of trying to make everything sound as close to

perfect as possible and I loved a music that reveled in it’s own imperfections.

I mistrusted the sheen that records were then thought to aspire to and loved the ratty

sounds and unbridled anger and emotion of this beloved new form of Rock.

I also recognized aspects of it in older more traditional albums by some older artists (Neil

Young, who was one of the few of the old guard to embrace it early on).

It wasn’t until much later that I made the connection that early Rock and Roll and even

Country Music was often closer in spirit to the things I loved about Punk Rock than the

slick studio processed music of the late 70’s (and for that matter much of what was later

called New Wave).

If Hank Williams had come along in 1977, he would have been called Punk Rock, but I

digress again.

I doubt Jimmy Johnson listened to much Punk Rock and I’m sure he would have hated it

if he did.

There was nothing in his formative experience to lead him to appreciate “Buttholeville”.

It was just a bunch of spoiled snotty young kids thumbing their nose at him, his

hometown and the very life that he held so dear.

Never mind that my intention in writing the song had nothing to do with any of that,

suddenly his issue with my song and me became the story and I was far too young,

rebellious (perhaps snotty nosed and spoiled too) to back down.

To my way of thinking, anyone offended by a song was what that song was about so

therefore…

I guess our feud lasted well over ten years.

I didn’t really see much of him during those days and as that song got more (negative)

attention in my hometown, the legend around it became bigger and bigger.

As they say in John Ford movies, “Print The Legend”.

A few years later, I ended up moving off and a few years passed and I began rethinking

my turbulent relationship with home, both literally and figuratively.

Home, as in my family and home as in my hometown and home as in my region, which I

have also always had a somewhat bumpy relationship.

As it’s well known, I co-wrote an album, maybe several about these things and on ‘that

one’ in particular, I wrote a song about the friendship/feud of Ronnie and Neil.

In writing that song, I wanted to re-connect it with my own roots and my own little Rock

Feud so I wrote the Jimmy Johnson verse as a sort of acknowledgement/fig leaf to him.

To further connect the dots, Jimmy and Ronnie Van Zant, both of whom possessed very

explosive tempers, had had their own falling out way back and Ronnie wrote the Muscle

Shoals verse of “Sweet Home Alabama” as his fig leaf to Jimmy.

I loved connecting “Ronnie and Neil” to “Buttholeville” and have always sort of

considered that song to be part of the Southern Rock Opera narrative.

I sent Jimmy a copy of Southern Rock Opera and was told that he appreciated it. I doubt

he wants to whip my ass anymore.

It should be noted as I write this that last night my band played a show in a mid-sized

Canadian city.

To folks where I’m from, Canada is this mythical liberal place with big beautiful clean

cities, wide-open spaces and abundant free healthcare.

Canadians are known as a friendly people.

A big part of the front row last night was this group of drunk morons wearing matching

hockey jerseys and acting like total assholes.

They were dipping Skoal for Christ sake, something I’ve never seen at a DBT show in

Alabama or Georgia.

They were bumping into the fine folks around them who were trying to enjoy a show that

they paid their hard earned money for.

They were spilling beer all around and I actually saw one do a line of something off of

his buddy’s fist.

I have no idea where they were from and really don’t care. (Some nice people I talked to

after the show speculated that they were from the surrounding countryside).

There were only five or six of them but that’s all it took to make it a shitty experience for

most of the people around them,

so Buttholeville Really is a State of Mind.

In a couple of weeks I will be participating in a panel at the WC Handy Festival in

Florence AL dedicated to the multiple generations in Muscle Shoals Music.

I will be sitting with my Dad and Jimmy and Jay Johnson.

DBT will be playing a show that evening, headlining the local festival, which for the

record we’ve never been asked to play before.

A lot of our never being invited probably is directly related to my having written that

song back in 1988.

I suspect that “Buttholeville” will come up (it usually does whenever I see Jimmy).

I’m still not sorry for the song or my intent with it, but I am sorry that he took it the

wrong way and was so angered about it.

I certainly won’t bring it up.

The last time I saw Jimmy Johnson was when The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section

was being inducted into The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

It was a beautiful ceremony that included Booker T and The MGs, Duane Eddy, The

Crickets, Keith Richards and George Jones among many others

Jimmy came up to me afterwards and said he sure was proud of me and what all I had

done.

Then he proceeded to tell me he really never thought that he would feel that way since I

used to be so misguided and all.

“You’ve turned out OK, but I sure don’t like that song you wrote”.

Patterson Hood -Originally written in the Back Lounge on Tour Bus (Brittany) outside The Phoenix, Toronto Ontario June 15th, 2011, revised and updated on July 16, 2011 from my office in Athens GA.

2 Responses to “Back,Back,Back,Back…”

  1. Sunrise Says:

    I think you wanted to offer Jimmy Johnson an olive branch and not a fig leaf. I could be wrong. I’ve never met the guy. And I suppose it’s very possible that he’s a raging exhibitionist. (…because olive branches are traditionally peace offerings, while fig leaves were used in biblical times to cover exposed genitals…).

    Is it ironic that this observation comes from someone who lives in (not so mythical) Southern Ontario?

  2. Gord Says:

    Sorry to hear about the jerks in the audience. I know it was a great time in Waterloo.

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