MORE

Cross Canadian Ragweed, Drowning Pool and Kinky Friedman on Their Worst Gigs Ever

Cross Canadian Ragweed on a better day.
Cross Canadian Ragweed on a better day.
Caity Colvard

When things go horribly wrong and then keep going that way, there's no better strategy to maintain your sanity than to think about the story you'll have. Music writer Jon Niccum has collected a bunch of those stories from musicians and published them in a book called The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All, which you can buy here. To give us the flavor, Niccum's shared a few Texas-centric anecdotes. Below, you'll find Cody Canada talking about Cross Canadian Ragweed's shitty experience in Nebraska. Then Dallas' Drowning Pool tries out some misguided stage banter, and noted politician and dog-lover Kinky Friedman gets belligerent on SNL.

The group Cross Canadian Ragweed was cooked up by singer Cody Canada, guitarist Grady Cross, drummer Randy Ragsdale and bassist Jeremy Plato---its name derived from a combination of Cross, Canada and Ragsdale. The band honed its sound in the early 1990s while based in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2001, the members relocated to Texas, developing a rabid following---in part because of extensive touring---before disbanding nine years later. The quartet became emblematic of the American Red Dirt movement known for merging country and rock.

"It was Gordon, Nebraska. It was the biggest shithole gig we've played. We'd been on a seven--week run...Everybody was missing home and missing families. We'd actually come home for one day for a friend of ours' birthday party. Then we turned around and went to Gordon, Nebraska. We'd just been there. It was under one hundred miles from Sturgis [South Dakota], and we'd just played Sturgis. We thought, 'This better be a pretty kick--ass gig if we're taking two days off just to drive.'

"We got there and it was in an outside rodeo arena. The trailer we played on had particleboard sides and roof, and they had gotten it stuck in all the cow shit and horse shit earlier that day. They were trying to pull the stage out and they swung shit all over---so it was green, dried crap. They asked us to have a bite to eat because they were cooking steaks. We were sitting in the horse--stall area, and there were flies buzzing all over the food. People were actually sitting in piles of horse shit.

"The guy walked up to our road manager and said, 'You know, Randy Travis said this is the worst gig he ever played.'

"We thought, 'Why in the hell would you repeat that?'

"They were harping on us all day to play country--friendly songs for the crowd because there were a lot of older people there who were sponsors. But we said, 'You hired us, so we're going to play what we are.'

"Halfway through the set, the guy came up to our road manager and asked if we could finish the night playing nothing but Willie Nelson---which if it was our idea, we'd have done it.

"That was the worst gig ever. Usually our contract is ninety minutes, and we play two hours and fifteen minutes. But that was one of those where right when the clock hits that ninety--minute mark, 'We're out of here!'"

---CODY CANADA, CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED  

Despite running through singers the way Spinal Tap did drummers, Drowning Pool continues to be one of the most consistent forces in the alt--metal scene. The Dallas quartet was launched in 1996 by guitarist C. J. Pierce, bassist Stevie Benton and drummer Mike Luce, and by the ensuing decade had secured frequent slots on the festival circuit, from Ozzfest to WrestleMania.

"It was on a Sunday night in Salt Lake City, Utah. Friday and Saturday nights had been spent playing LA and Vegas. Not only did we play those cities, we took full advantage of the excess both cities offered. We pulled into Salt Lake on Sunday, sleep deprived and very hung over...Everything came apart during the show---speakers blew, guitars went out of tune. Our enthusiasm was gone by the end of the third song. Toward the end of the set, however, most of the crowd had come to life even though we were barely hanging on. Prior to the last song, Dave [Williams, former singer] had the audience fired up.

"'Give it up for heavy metal!' he screamed.

"The crowd roared back!

"'Give it up for alcohol!'

"The crowd roared louder! Dave had them right where he wanted them.

"With his final anthem, he cried, 'Give it up for Satan!'

"Not a peep from the crowd. It was one of those classic moments when you hear crickets chirp. We played the last song and walked off the stage in silence."

---STEVIE BENTON, DROWNING POOL

Kinky Friedman's career pursuits include songwriter, novelist, humorist, cigar entrepreneur and onetime Texas gubernatorial candidate. Born Richard S. Friedman, he was given his nickname, due to his kinky hair, by songwriter Chinga Chavin. In the early 1970s his band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys found a unique niche in pop culture as a satirical country--western act. Songs "The Ballad of Charles Whitman," "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed" turned into cult classics, impressing heavyweights such as Bob Dylan, who often joined Friedman on tour.

"Saturday Night Live was a disaster [in 1976]. That was a great opportunity. I should have fit right in. We had a great version of 'Charles Whitman' ready to roll. We'd already rehearsed with John [Belushi], Danny Aykroyd and Steve Martin---'the sniper in the tower'---it was hilarious. And they canned it just before I went on, and that put me in a petulant snit. I got really wrongways with all the producers and stuff. They had a legal problem with the family of Charles Whitman, so they caved in right at the end. But that would have been perfect. It would have been killer. It was a major production number. But right at the last minute I was left just doing this ballad by myself---'Dear Abbie' about Abbie Hoffman---and that was kind of weak...But there have been a lot of worst shows, because I'm not really a musician. It's the curse of being multi-talented. No one takes you seriously. And the people who love my books and take them seriously don't even know I write music---and vice versa. If I could have gotten those audiences together, but now it's too late. I'm in my sixties, which is too young for Medicare and too old for women to care."

---KINKY FRIEDMAN

About Jon Niccum, author of The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All

Jon Niccum is a writer and critic for the Kansas City Star. He has been a contributor to Details, Village Voice, Esquire.com, Miami Herald, and Phoenix News Times, and is the former music and film editor at Kansas City's leading alternative weekly, The Pitch.

Niccum has penned the official record label bios for dozens of artists, including Evanescence, Jeff Beck, Leon Redbone, and Joe Satriani. Prior to a career in journalism, he was a professional guitarist and bassist, and continues to record with his ongoing cult band Bobby and the Chuxx. For more information, visit www.worstgig.com.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >