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Bill Davis got the thrill of his five-year rock 'n' roll career recently. Answering the phone at the band's New Orleans headquarters, the Dash Rip Rock lead singer-guitarist heard an unmistakable, molasses-sweet drawl on the other line that made him positively weak in the knees. The Southern belle in question? None other than Donna Douglas, who played curvaceous hayseed Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.
A phone call from a faded sitcom starlet may not get you all charged up. But, then, chances are you're not a self-professed Hillbillies hound like Davis. He paid the show his ultimate tribute by naming his country-rock band after the recurring character Dash Riprock, Elly May's beau during four years of B.H. episodes.
"It was cool to talk to her," enthuses Davis in a recent telephone interview from New Orleans. "She still does a few spots on TV, like on Turner Network Television, saying things like `Hey, watch The Beverly Hillbillies, y'all.' So I guess she kind of thought we would be an opportunity for some exposure for her. She was talking about a video, and we were thinking that would be so cool. Of course, she was asking waaaaay too much money. We were like, `Don't call us, we'll call you.'"
Davis isn't so sure a collaboration between the born-again Douglas and his wild-eyed, moonshine-soaked band would've been such a good idea anyway. "She's a good Christian woman now," explains Davis. "I don't think she'd want to associate with this band's crazy shit."
Dash Rip Rock, which likes to think of its music as "Hank Williams on crack," has built its career on "crazy shit." This is especially true of its live shows, where the band is known for its power-punk cover of the Helen Reddy- Tanya Tucker hit "Delta Dawn" and its raunched-up R.E.M. retread "The One I Fuck." Its most memorable gig of late had the band lip-synching to several songs in a display of support for ostracized pretty boys Milli Vanilli.
Because of its whacked-out live shows and its boob-tube obsession, D.R.R. has been written off by some as a joke band. Now, Dash Rip Rock will admit to being many things--a bunch of crazy yahoos for one--but "joke band" is a description Davis just doesn't cotton to.
"We're not Dread Zeppelin, we're not a joke band," asserts Davis. "People might expect that cartoon aspect from us, but they're not always going to get it. It kind of depends on what kind of show we're doing. If we're playing at the Ritz in New York, we'll just go out and do our songs and try not to fuck around too much. But if we're doing a club like [Tucson's] Mud Bugg's or Tempe's Long Wong's, we'll fuck around. We played Long Wong's once, and we had this flute guy come up and we did a bunch of Jethro Tull songs. It was a trip."
Still, there's more to this band than its crazy cover songs and vast knowledge of Beverly Hillbillies trivia. The group's Sons of Ma and Pa Kettle stage persona belies its deft songwriting and musicianship. D.R.R.'s Cajun-spiced roadhouse rock rarely sacrifices tunefulness for loopiness. And its live shows prove that the band's chops are just as impressive as its sense of humor.
Davis calls Dash Rip Rock's latest album, Not of This World, a tribute to the band's core audience: "Goddamned cotton pickers and wild rednecks." Not surprisingly, then, the country-shaded numbers are the album's real beauts: "Jolie" is a rollicking, purist rockabilly tune and "Little Girl Blue," with its weepy pedal steel, is a bittersweet ballad worthy of Hank Sr. himself.
But the new LP also has what Davis describes as a "hellaciously punk" side, which he credits to Memphis producer Jim Dickinson. "Jim has worked with the Replacements and the Cramps," he notes. "So we figured we had this great, kick-ass rock 'n' roll producer, why waste him?"
The only downside of Not of This World are the good ol' boy lyrics, which have Davis offering females either sweet talk or knuckle sandwiches. The singer insists that this old-fashioned Ralph Kramden-style sexism on songs like "Rattle Trap" and "Rich Little Bitch" is supposed to be taken in jest. "We were trying to be tongue-in-cheek, but people are taking them quite seriously," laments Davis. "I've been apologizing my ass off. After gigs I've had women sit me down and lecture me."
Davis claims that the fake machismo on the new record is part of a proud rock tradition. "It's posturing really, and it goes back to Elvis and Jerry Lee," he says. "We were just trying to get back to the basics. We were thinking why can't we just be raw and sing about women and cars and drinking and riding around on Saturday nights. I mean, that's rock 'n' roll."
Dash Rip Rock will perform at Asylum on Friday, December 7. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Dash Rip Rock likes to think of its music as "Hank Williams on crack." "Why can't we just be raw and sing about women and cars and drinking and riding around on Saturday nights. I mean, that's rock 'n' roll.