Our Back Pages
Five years, 28 issues, 2,824 pages. It’s far too much to revisit in one sitting with any sense of completion, and entirely impossible to encapsulate on a single page. What follows, then, are simply a few things that made us smile, from 1995 to 2000.
ND #1 (Fall 1995): David Menconi’s Town & Country article on an upstart North Carolina band called Whiskeytown was preceded by an account of the adventure he’d had interviewing frontman Ryan Adams at a local bar, where an unruly participant in an open mike raised such a ruckus that the cops eventually had to clear out the place. “Thus ended my interview with Ryan — the first time I’ve ever had one called on account of third-party psychosis,” Menconi wrote.
ND #2 (Winter 1996): In memory of Country Dick Montana, who died onstage in Canada on November 8, 1995, the Screen Door page was devoted to thoughts about Montana posted to the AOL No Depression board. Among them, Michael Hall’s haiku:
Beer spray. Burst. On your
Guitarist. Mad; you’re sheepish.
Country Dick: wild, true.
ND #4 (Summer 1996): I explained the origin of the magazine’s new subtitle, “The Alternative Country (Whatever That Is) Quarterly”: “Folks occasionally ask Dad what the kids are up to. When he tells them about No Depression, he usually receives puzzled looks in return, so his stock answer has become, ‘It’s a magazine about alternative-country music — whatever that is.'”
ND #6 (Nov.-Dec. 1996): Russell Hall’s dual-Q&A with Vic Chesnutt and Jack Logan included Chesnutt’s forthright assessment of the Beatles:
VIC: I liked the White Album. I’m a White Album kind of guy.
ND: What about the early stuff?
VIC: It fucking sucked. I fucking hate the early Beatles.
VIC: Oh yeah, I fucking hate it. Until they started to smoke weed, they sucked.
ND #7 (Jan.-Feb. 1997): Townes Van Zandt passed away on New Year’s Day 1997. His longtime friend Richard Dobson recalled his final phone conversation with Townes, a couple days after Christmas: “‘Take care of yourself,’ I said. The words jumped out of my mouth — I knew better than to try and preach. There was a barely perceptible pause before the last words I heard him utter: ‘Yeah, well Adios.'”
ND #11 (Sept.-Oct. 1997): Ross Grady’s feature on Six String Drag yielded a revealing anecdote about exploring musical roots from frontman Kenny Roby: “You’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, this is killer, where’d he get that from? Oh yeah, he got it from this guy! Yeah, Ray Charles, he was influenced by Charles Brown. Okay, listen to Charles Brown. Well, who’s he influenced by?’ And you go back, and split off, and before you know it, it’s like 1920, and you’re saying, ‘What the hell am I doing here?'”
ND #13 (Jan.-Feb. 1998): William Cocke visited the Carter Fold, vanguard of country music’s birthplace, for our travelogue feature, A Place To Be. “I came to the conclusion that, while going to bars and honky-tonks for music has its place, it does one’s soul good to go to a place like the Carter Fold. Through hard work and sacrifice, Janette Carter and her family have managed to create and maintain the perfect memorial to their famous forebears.”
ND #16 (July-Aug. 1998): The infamous Claire O. on Jerry Jeff Walker, in a review of his album Cowboy Boots & Bathin’ Suits: “As one is the loneliest number who not whom harbors like a loaded boat deep respect for Walker, Texas Arranger, I am like Paula Jones unsettled that like sand in my dandies, this album leaves me uncomfy in the end.”
ND #18 (Nov.-Dec. 1998): We reprinted a handful of articles Lyle Lovett wrote for the Texas A&M school newspaper in 1978-79 about fellow Texas songwriters whose tunes appeared on Lovett’s Step Inside This House album (Eric Taylor, Steve Fromholz, Michael Murphey and Willis Alan Ramsey). We also included a piece he’d written about performing with the Houston Ballet: “Experiencing life is wearing a pair of ballet tights. The label in mine read men’s size C. After putting them on, I figure I’m a D or an E.”
ND #22 (July-Aug. 1999): Joshua Tree, California, resident Mark Olson drew “A Traditionalist’s Roadmap” to the area for the Screen Door page to tie in with Holly George-Warren’s cover story on Gram Parsons. “We’re gonna drive a ways past the site of the old rugged cross,” Olson wrote in a short musing that accompanied the map. “Down where the willows play havoc in the wash. Rolling out of a Yucca Valley swap-meet parking lot. Look up there, in the mountains — that’s where Gram Parsons died.”
ND #23 (Sept.-Oct. 1999): Bill Friskics-Warren’s cover story on Buddy & Julie Miller captured the ties that bind the Millers both spiritually and musically: “When she and Buddy sing, ‘If my love was fire/It would burn this house down,’ they do much more than make the notes work. Their voices — his reedy, hers willowy, both exquisitely soulful — modulate in much the same way as partners who anticipate each other’s moves on the dance floor.”
ND #25 (Jan.-Feb. 2000): Don McLeese, on the late Doug Sahm: “Not only was Doug a larger-than-life character — a world-class talker and self-mythologizer — but nobody better understood that categories are for small minds rather than big hearts, and that all Texas music emanates from a common source.”
ND #27 (May-June 2000): Barry Mazor, on Neil Young’s Silver & Gold: “Volatile, laid back, prone to veer off in unexpected directions and circle back without warning, he has produced a body of work that marks a hundred sideroads off the same highway. Pop artists, styles, trends have come and gone in a flash; Neil rolls on one record label for decades, and remains forever…Young.”
We can only hope to do the same. See you down those sideroads…