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The number to call remains BR5-49

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 1998

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There's also a story behind "You are Never Nice to Me."

"We were standing in an airport somewhere overseas in the lines for the passport, and me and our drummer were just standing there talking," says Bennett. "A woman and man standings behind us. We were just listening to them because it was so funny. She was 50 years old, kind of beefy, decked out to the hilt, and he was this little Woody Allen looking of guy. She was just shooting him down. Finally he said, 'You know, you are never nice to me.'"

As for covers, the disc starts off with Buck Owens' bouncy "There Goes My Love," a semi-hit for George Morgan in 1957 with Bennett tackling the vocals.

"It sounds totally like us," says Bennett. "We tried it, and it sounded like a radio song or whatever...We were familiar with it, but we hadn't thought of it as a potential BR5 song."

"Wild One" has a definite country beat, unlike the popular version from Iggy Pop. In fact, listeners almost wouldn't think it's the same song.

The buoyant "Seven Nights to Rock" was adapted from the Nick Lowe version. First heard by a producer, the band was looking for a follow-up to "Wild One" to appeal to the non-country crowd.

"We started doing it live," Bennett says. "We thought we should save it to the end because it's really strong. It really rocks. These guys have got a good ear for working with us, these people who are pitching us these the songs."

Moon Mullican of "Cherokee Boogie" fame, first recorded the song. " It's kind of a swing, boogie song woogie song," Bennett says.

"There's not much retro about this record," Bennett says of the songs. "Every record is influenced by (what came before). It almost took too much of a focus away from the music to have this image to be (in) Nudie suits. The cool thing about this record is if people will listen to the whole thing and really listen to the originals, we don't sound like Hank's band or anything like that because we've also heard The Beatles and The Clash."

Bennett, who grew up on Bill Monroe and Horton, played music on weekends after his logging gig was over for the week. He answered a Sunday classified ad for a rhythm guitarist and harmony singer and next thing he knew he was in a band with Herron in Portland, Ore.

While many bands played Top 40, Bennett tossed in Hank Williams and Bob Wills covers.

Wanting to be a songwriter, Bennett headed for Nashville about five years ago. "I got itching to play more. These songwriter nights, you do two songs a night after everybody's going home except for the real drunks. It just wasn't very rewarding."

He headed to the tougher part of town, Lower Broadway. One night, he went by the Tootsies Club and heard Mead playing Horton songs.

And Mead had played with Wilson in Kansas.

Meanwhile, McDowell partied in the area. "We knew Jay had all the same records at home," Bennett says. McDowell soon was aboard as well.

Herron had moved from Portland, completing the band.

A few months later, the band hit the cover of Billboard Magazine about the Lower Broadway scene.

And the rush was on to sign the group.

A meeting with RCA occurred before Billboard. A label exec was "trying to make us believe that he really appreciated what we were doing...He said, 'I think it's great anybody who could do 'North to Alaska' with a straight face, I admire,'" Bennett says.

"We understand the kitsch factor, but also I love that song," Bennett says.

Needless to say, RCA was out of the running with Arista eventually signing the band whose name came from a "Hee Haw" skit.

BR5-49 definitely seem to cross musical genres.

Bennett says this happened because music fans are "hooking onto the human element of the music. A lot of genres of music especially right now, a lot of (it is) synthesized music and canned music and techno. Besides, it's kind of like that as far as everything goes in the U.S. right now. Too many TV channels. There are so many different kinds of people that are desensitized to everything."

"Everything is just so corporate in this country," he complains.

"It's as alternative to anything as it is to that," Bennett says of BR5's music. "It's not really alternative country. It's just music. A big aspect of this record that we hope comes off (is that it has) a lot of different aspects, a lot of different feels and vibes in music. I think that's another thing people latch onto."

"It's different. It's fun. We might say a little something, say the Opie song.. when you get a good laugh out of that, it just takes the edge off the room. We're all in here together having a good time. It doesn't have to be all this big tension of 'you paid to see us and you're down there.'"

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