They sing about banana pudding and Mexican wrestlers. There is nearly as much grease in their hair as there is on their plates. Their latest recording, Countrypolitan Favorites, made author Stephen King’s 2007 list of his favorite CDs.
Perhaps more than anything, they have outlasted every trend in music for more than two and a half decades and escaped the Incredible Shrinking Music Industry with nary a scratch. For a band that has never quite fit in, never really made
it big commercially, Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS) has an enormous fan base that transcends genres and generations. A party band to the bone, their corn-fed, country-fried, trailer park swamp songs may be on the kitschy side of the Mason-Dixon line, but make no mistake, these are real musicians with super- sized talent.
SCOTS — singer-guitarist Rick Miller, bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman — will perform Aug. 30 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds as part of the Primer Nationals Car & Motorcycle Hot Rod Show. Miller took time out from their rigorous touring schedule to school me on country music, southern cooking and rock’n’roll.
VCR: Define “countrypolitan.”
Rick Miller: I think it came about when a lot of Nashville artists in the ’50s and ’60s tried to cross over into the pop market. It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek and a little bit historical reference.
What was the impetus for making a record of cover songs?
My wife was pregnant and I didn’t know how much time I would have to work on original material. Not only did we have to learn the songs, it took some effort to kind of turn it into our own thing but still keep the essence of the original.
We could have done a record of originals in the time it took to do that. [Laughs.]
Some of the songs you chose to cover are very interesting and unexpected, probably none more so than “Life’s a Gas” by T-Rex.
Yeah. I’m a huge T-Rex fan. I thought, “Wow, that’s almost like a country song.” And the lyrics are sort of about missed opportunities; there’s a certain melancholy to it.
How did the recipe sharing start?
We’re from the South and the South has its own unique flavor and cuisine. People used to come up to us all the time and say, “Oh, I’ve got a great recipe for ya’.” Then, with the Web site, we thought, “Hey, let’s put up a recipe page.” My
wife is a southern girl and she’s entering the Paula Deen Pork Cook-off this month with a pie crust with a layer of Smithfield ham, mashed potatoes and a bacon lattice. It’s like a Dutch pork pie.
As unabashed meat consumers, what was it like to play a PETA fundraiser?
They told us we couldn’t allude to anything meat [related]. We couldn’t play songs like “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork.” But it went over really well. We enjoyed ourselves. Pamela Anderson was the host and she was with Kid Rock, and there ain’t nobody from Detroit who don’t eat Polish sausage.
You’ve been known to incorporate food into your live show. Can we look forward to that at the Primer Nationals?
I don’t know. Sometimes we get a bucket of chicken and have some people come up and dance and eat some chicken. It makes for a good prop. Sometimes people show up at our shows with banana pudding for everybody. That gets messy. People wouldn’t like that on their cars.
Are you into cars?
I’ve got a ’69 El Camino. I take my garbage to the dump in it. [Laughs.] I keep up with the hot rod stuff, and so many of my friends are into pinstriping and stuff. It’s a project I’m waiting for my son to get old enough to do together.
What’s the secret to your longevity?
We have fun. And we’re lucky enough to be able to make a living at it. No one’s getting rich, but it’s a great job. Even though we’ve gotten older and traveling isn’t a lot of fun, being able to play music for people is the best.
Do you think being sort of niche has anything to do with it?
Oh, we’re totally niche — that’s why we survive. We also have some really, really great fans. We’ve never had any mass acceptance of any sort or Nashville hits. But you know, it’s that lack of success that makes us successful.
The Primer Nationals Car & Motorcycle Hot Rod Show featuring Southern Culture on the Skids and more Aug. 30-31, doors open 8 a.m. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura www.primernationals.com