Your daily Letter to the Columnist — Oct. 10, 2013
Note from Dan: Sunday’s column about Donna & I and 30 years together brought in a many kind emails from readers. One was from former Roanoke Times staff writer Chris Gladden. It’s below, along with the story he is referencing, which I dug out of the newspaper’s morgue.
Your anniversary column brought back memories though not necessarily romantic ones. I, too, was an admirer of Root Boy Slim and once had the good fortune to do a foner with him when I worked as a features writer and music and movie reviewer.
When he came on the phone, he didn’t seem to know what country he was in. Then he whooped about how he loved to get drunk in the morning. The following interview was a series of surrealistic ravings that had me spewing my coffee all over the old Selectric II.
It was impossible to put his gut-splitting rambles into any kind of a narrative form so I just let Root Boy rant and rip. It stands as one of the funniest pieces under my byline but I can’t take credit. The Root Boy carried the water and chopped the wood. He was a blast of Gonzo for a Hunter S. Thompson acolyte.
Also, Shaefer was my college beverage of choice before I grew taste buds and a better income flow. Forget the Clydesdales. This was the workhorse of college beer drinkers of a certain era and region.
Thanks for the memories,
Jan. 18, 1980
Root Boy Slim fields tough questions
By CHRIS GLADDEN
Guitarist Ernie Lancaster describes Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band as “just a rock n’ roll band with a mad man out front.”
A recent telephone interview with Root Boy Slim, who is bringing his band to the Depot in Radford Saturday, did nothing to dispel the impression left by Lancaster’s description.
It went something like this, minus some digression and rambling:
Reporter: How’re you doing?
Root Boy in a basso profundo growl: “How’m I doin’? Um, that’s a tough question. We’re, um, sampling the agricultural products of Florida.” (Aside): “Put on some reggae.”
Reporter: Who are your musical influences?
Root Boy: “Howlin’ Wolf is probably my biggest influence. I haven’t been diggin’ the blues like I used to. In the late 60s I was learnin’ the harmonica. I guess I have though. Played it on two albums.
Reporter: How did you get your name?
Root Boy: Rattlesnake Rattle [bass player, former college classmate and Yale quarterback Bob Greenlee] gave me Root Boy. It’s a conjure. It’s white magic.” (Root Boy belches loudly). “Come on down to Radford Saturday night and I’ll show you why I can’t complete a sentence.”
Reporter: You went to Yale?
Root Boy: “Yeah. I have a college diploma. Can you believe that?”
Reporter: What turned you from the 9-to-5 world to music?
Root Boy: “LSD.”
Reporter: How old are you?
Root Boy: “35 but put down 18. It’ll look like I lived a hard life. Excuse the hard answers.” (Root Boy shouts): “This is the age of the homegrown! 1979-80 is the year of the homegrown!” (More quietly): “Did I mention my rap about Jimmy Carter making it against the law for paraphernalia?” (Root Boy does indeed go into a rap. The words legalizing marijuana and pipes and papers emerge clearly). “My friend, uh, acquaintance, Hunter Thompson, said Jimmy Carter had the mind of a 10th grade civics teacher.”
Reporter: Do you associate much with Hunter Thompson?
Root Boy: “Na, we bump into each other. The last time he saw me he said I ought to be locked up. That’s somethin’ comin’ from him. I come on strong some time.” [Note from Dan: This happened at a party at George McGovern's house, according to what Slim told me].
Reporter: It has been reported that you favor Guinness stout for breakfast.
Root Boy: “Drink it like Budweiser in Jamaica. It has lots of vitamins and iron.”
Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band has indeed recorded two albums. Ben Cromer, production and operations manager for WVWR-Radio and a record reviewer for The Roanoke Times & World-News, said that Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change band approaches rock n’ roll and rhythm n’ blues with a humorous viewpoint.
Cromer pointed to the song “Boogie ‘Til You Puke,” a disco parody. In parody, “the best comes from musicians who can play the music,” Cromer said, and placed Root Boy and band in that category.
Incidentally, no one in the band has undergone a sex-change operation.
According to Lancaster, Root Boy decided to sit in with a band Lancaster was involved with in Florida. The singer was an Elvis impersonator named Danny Dollar, Lancaster said. He was billed with his band as Danny Dollar and the Change.
“Root said, ‘If I sit in it’ll have to be called the Sex Change,’ ” Lancaster remembered.
Concerts are at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tickets are $5 and are being sold in advance. For information, call 639-9665.”
Note from Dan: I never considered “Boogie ‘Til You Puke” a disco parody. Another tune by Slim, “My Wig Fell Off,” most definitely was, as was “My Sign Don’t Work.” Either way, $5 was a BARGAIN to see Root Boy.