This album is a "greatest hits" of sorts for a band that never actually released any other album. Three best buds while students in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 1980s, Bob, Brock and Franky started making music accidentally in their hovel of an apartment when Bob said he wanted to learn to play guitar. Franky said he'd teach him, and Bob should get a book of songs he'd like to learn out of the public library.
Bob came home with a book of Country and Western classics. The easiest song looked like Marty Robbins' El Paso, and they started in from there. As they were picking their way through it, Brock came home and started singing along. His gravelly baritone was the perfect blend for Bob and Franky's rough-hewn guitars, and before long they were working their way through the book, singing to the refrigerator as their only audience. They branched out and soon had a playlist of two hours, emphasizing their affection for the singing cowboys of the movies, such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers, and also country and western music (emphasis on the western) of the 1950s and 1960s, like Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton. Think of them as a primitive version of Riders in the Sky, without the glitz. After a few open mikes at Memorial Union, they were invited to play at the now-defunct Union South for a brown-bag lunch, and had several appearances at the even longer-defunct Poor Richard's Coffeehouse off campus.
They kept playing and honed their craft to some of the toughest audiences in the world: drunks on State Street at bar time. It was there that they got their tagline: "The drunker you are, the better we sound." Their last major concert was at a benefit for the historic Dean House in Monona. The Dean House is still standing, somehow still surviving the mayhem. Just like the original Skillet-Lickers, the incarnation led by Wacko Bob is a rough-and-tumble outfit.
While the band broke up shortly thereafter, these recordings, done on the couch on Johnson Street about 1982-84, live on as a memory of the notion that if you love the music enough, you don't really need to be all that good. Brock's legendary impatience with the process led to most of the songs being done in a single ramshackle take, with no overdubs or corrections (one song prominently features a siren from the nearby firehouse). This ain't Abbey Road. But it's hard to not smile when you listen to these guys having fun and poking good-natured fun at the songs and themselves. And now, "it's Miller time---time for the biggest, pukingest drunk since, well, last Tuesday."
Thanks to the also-defunct Right Track Studios, Milwaukee, for the original CD mastering back in 2000.