Kool Kat of the Week: The Day the Music Lives Again: Celebrating Deacon Lunchbox and Benjamin Sat. Night Jan. 28 at the Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Jan 27th, 2012 By:

This Saturday night Jan. 28 at the Plaza Theatre, redneck street poet laureate Deacon Lunchbox will live again at the The Love that Won’t Shut Up Memorial Show and Screening: A celebration of the lives, loves, music and friends of Benjamin and Deacon Lunchbox.” If you say, “who?” then shame on you; it’s time to get educated and why we’re declaring Deacon our first posthumous Kool Kat.

For Atlanta’s Cabbagetown alt-music scene, the April 1992 auto accident that cut short the lives of Timothy Tyson Ruttenber, aka Deacon Lunchbox, drummer Rob Clayton and bassist Robert Hayes of the incredible Jody Grind was the Day the Music Died—as impactful as the plane crash that stole away Buddy Hollen. Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper was to a nation falling in love with rock ‘n’ roll in 1959. The Jody Grind was on the cusp of a national breakthrough and had been featured recently in Rolling Stone. Deacon Lunchbox coined the term “Redneck Underground” and had a crazy style all his own that went beyond performance artist and street poet and was, well… Cabbagetown personified and then some. The Sat. night event at the Plaza also honors Benjamin Smoke, the marvelously manic cross-dressing lead vocalist of Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet whose life was cut too short by hepatitis C in 1999. If you don’t know about Deacon, Benjamin and how pivotal the Cabbagetown art/music scene was back in the late 1980s/’90s, Creative Loafing wrote a great piece about it in the June 24, 2010 issue called “The Triumph and Tragedy of the Cabbagetown Sound.” The article was composed as an oral history featuring interviews with more than a dozen people who were part of that scene.

The Plaza event includes screenings of the short film, LAWRENCE OF LAWRENCEVILLE HIGHWAY by Neil Fried, which starred Deacon, and the documentary BENJAMIN SMOKE (2000) by Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen, as well as an amazing line-up of Atlanta independent music scene  veterans who were collaborators and friends with Deacon and Benjamin including Smoke That City, Debbey Richardson, Slim Chance and many others. The Jody Grind’s lead vocalist Kelly Hogan even is coming down from Chicago. And you know the Deacon Lunchbox set by Jim Stacy (AM Gold, Grand Moff Tarkin, GreasePaint, LaBrea Stompers, Pallookaville, Starlight Drive-In, etc.) will be something to behold. We hope the rumors are true  that he’ll be doing a choice selection of Deacon’s signature Atlanta-inspired numbers such as “Omni Beer” and “Lewis Grizzard, I’m Calling You Out!” Amazingly this whole crazy shindig is just $10, with proceeds supporting the nonprofit Plaza. Think about dropping a little extra at the door, though, because independent cinemas like the Plaza are having a really rough time right now and we don’t want to be singing about the Day the Movies Died in Atlanta, too. As Deacon would say, “Brown bag it Ladies and Gents!”

ATLRetro asked Jim Stacy to share a few personal memories of Deacon, one Kool Kat that Cabbagetown and Atlanta lost way too soon. If you have any stories to share about Deacon, drop us a line at atlretro@gmail.com and we’ll add them to this feature, too. Hope to see you Saturday at the Plaza when the South may not rise again, but Cabbagetown sure will.

ATLRetro: In your opinion, what was special about Deacon Lunchbox?

Jim Stacy: For me he was like an older brother or uncle. He was, for sure, one of my heroes. He was the first time I had seen someone craft a persona that was more than just a performance foil. He was Tim, but Deacon was larger than Tim. Deacon could be more outspoken because he was a character. Now that’s not to say that Deacon wasn’t Tim and Tim wasn’t Deacon; it’s just Deacon amplified whatever Tim needed to say. I was really influenced by this process. I’ve spent my career inventing persona after persona to do the same thing. I think being able to provide a voice from a Character rather than “a Guy” allows for much more concise points to be made, in a shorter time, with no questions. It works like this: Here’s this guy on stage, he looks like this, he said this, he did this, this is what I think about what he just did and said.

Deacon, it was almost a cartoon of Tim. Though he looked and acted like Tim, when he put on the “Deacon” persona, the audience didn’t have to get to know the performer, they only needed to get to know Deacon, listen to what he said and then viscerally react. That all can happen through a Character. It’s no different than Alice Cooper or Ziggy Stardust. I just didn’t know it could be done by regular people.

Do you have a favorite memory/story about Deacon?

I have tons, but the most special is not really the most fun. Deacon called me either before or after the last show the day they were killed. He always started the conversation with, “FUCK YOU!” I don’t remember when. He called asking if I wanted to do another Psycholympics with him at the old Cotton Club. Told me we’d talk more after he got home. It was sometime later I got the call Robert, Robert and Deacon had been killed.

I still have a random dream where an old dial phone will ring and I’ll pick it up and someone will yell “FUCK YOU!” out of it.

Before the wreck, during Desert Storm I, he called me, telling me I had been drafted and hadn’t shown up at my induction. Told me that a car would be pulling up to “Get your pansy ass ready to serve your Country.” He had me convinced for 15 minutes I was going in the Army that night.

What will you be doing Sat. night at The Love That Won’t Shut Up Memorial?

I’ll be doing a few Deacon numbers as Deacon on some of Deacon’s props. It will be a pale substitute for the real thing. Pale indeed.

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Raising a big PBR toast as Star Bar’s Bubbapalooza turns 20

Posted on: May 26th, 2011 By:

Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend may be a lot bigger and more famous, but down home here in Atlanta, the heartland of the Redneck Underground, we have our own mighty fine shindig called Bubbapalooza. Like all good and crazy ideas, it started with a man with a dream. Gregory Dean Smalley was a prolific guitarist and songwriter who settled in Cabbagetown and used to play in one band or another practically every night in Atlanta and Athens bars and clubs until he succumbed to AIDS in the mid-‘90s.

While Greg’s physical presence may have passed away, his no-holds-barred musical soul still burns brightly every Memorial Day weekend at the Star Bar. It’s hard to believe that Bubbapalooza is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and yet to anyone who’s been in the Atlanta scene for any amount of time, it seems impossible to imagine that there ever

Ghost Riders Car Club

was a time when it didn’t happened. On Friday May 27 (doors at 7 PM) and Saturday May 28 (doors at 3 PM), feast on BBQ, knock down a PBR, see some of the city’s most lovingly restored pre-‘70s hot-rods and rock and ramble to 20 rockabilly, Redneck Underground, cowpunk, surf and county-inspired bands, as well as have a chance to win prizes from Little 5 Points retailers in a raffle and have your 20th anniversary picture taken at the PBR Photo Booth.

ATLRetro caught up with Star Bar Booking Agent Bryan Malone (The Forty-Fives) and Ted Weldon (Truckadelic, Ghost Riders Car Club) for a sneak preview.

Bubbapalooza 20 is dedicated to Gregory Dean Smalley who founded the first Bubbapalooza and raffle proceeds go to his family. For those who haven’t been in Atlanta that long, can you briefly recap who he was and how Bubbapalooza got started and got its name?

Blacktop Rockets

Greg Smalley came down from Cedartown GA. in the ‘80s and was a founding member of The Grease Guns, The Diggers and The Bubbamatics and played with The Chant, Blacktop Rockets, Slim Chance & the Convicts & who else?

He played with Amy Pike, Kelly Hogan and several more. God, everyone from those days. But, yeah, Bubbapalooza was his bastard love child from the early days of 1991. It started as a festival to showcase the Redneck Underground which was a bunch of bands from the Atlanta/Athens area and even North Carolina. Plus it was to celebrate the early Star Bar’s trailer trash extravaganza of bad ideas & all things southern. It was a great excuse to have a show where all your friends play a bunch of rowdy songs & drink all night.

There’s more bands than we could even mention that have played Bubba, but here are a few: Southern Culture on the Skids, Deacon Lunchbox, Drive-By Truckers (they have a song about Greg Smalley called “The Living Bubba”), Kevn Kinney, Dex Romweber, BR-549, The Delta Angels, Kingsized, Truckadelic, Charlie Pickett, Redneck Greece Delux, Slim Chance & the Convicts, The Belmont Playboys, Greasepaint, Rocket 350. This list could go on and on.

Every year seems like a big family reunion for Atlanta’s rockabilly/Redneck Underground/old Star Bar scene crowd. Having hit a milestone 20th year this year, do you think it’ll be even more so?

 

A ton of the bands that are playing this year were actually onstage during the first Bubbapalooza, so yeah it is most definitely a homecoming. There will be a lot of friends and family all weekend and the kind of familiar faces that you only see at certain shows or in some cases just this one time of year. Even Mama Smalley will be here also to oversee the proceedings.

Are you doing anything special for the 20th year?

Hahahaha. The big thing is we’re still doing it 20 years later. That’s pretty crazy. It’s unbelievable having a get-together like this that’s lasted that long. It kind of says something about the crowd that was here at the very beginning, as well as all those who’ve joined in over the years. You can count on three things these days: Death, taxes & Bubbapalooza. Hahaha.

But, yeah, we have 20 bands this year, enough bands for a three-day festival. It’s gonna be a great mix of the regulars like the Blacktop Rockets, Caroline & the Ramblers, The Billygoats, plus a whole bunch of newcomers this year like Bareknuckle Betties & Uncle Daddy & the Kissin Cousins, Midway Charmers & some crazy surf from the Disasternauts, too. There’s so much music we’re even having bands downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge and tons of stuff on the back patio as well.

[Web-based radio station] Garage 71 is hosting a pre-1970 hot rod car show on Saturday. We’re expecting 20 or 30 entries for that. Oh, yeah, and there’ll be free Slope’s BBQ Saturday afternoon. Haha. It’s just gonna be a big old helping of Bubba hyjinks.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Redneck Cruise-In Hot Rod Show?

The car show will be hosted by Garage71. All the cars and motorcycles will be pre-1970. That will be Saturday afternoon starting at 5 PM. There’ll be some cool stuff down here for sure. There’s a trophy, too, I hear, so someone will drive out a winner of something to brag about. Not sure what the trophy looks like, but I’m sure it’ll come with something greasy like a bucket of chicken. Anything’s possible.

Uncle Daddy & the Kissin' Cousins

Expect a healthy dose of good country music, rockabilly, country-punk, southern rock, surf bands, hot rods, BBQ and a whole lot of good times and cold beer. You don’t necessarily have to drink PBR but it sure helps. Helps with most things really. Ha.

This is the kind of event that could really only happen at the Star Bar though, and it’ll be full of people who like good country and rockabilly music and are ready to let loose for Memorial Day weekend. Every year someone comes up and says “Happy Bubba” and makes a toast. It’s down-home stuff.

Sonoramic Commando

What’s the craziest, funnest thing that’s ever happened at a Bubbapalooza?

One of the funnest things that happens every year is when the stage is packed with about 40 people for a drunken rousing rendition of “She’s Breakin My Heart While I’m Drinkin’ Her Beer”—the old Diggers tune. It’s always brings down the house and is quite a moment.

What question did I not ask you that I should have and what’s the answer?

What’s a bad idea that became a tradition? Boone’s Farm Saturday.

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