Ryan Adams recently played a well-received acoustic bluegrass set with Infamous Stringdusters at last month’s Newport Folk Festival, long-ago site of one of the the rock era’s great confrontations. Newport was where Bob Dylan horrified and enraged folkie purists back in 1965 by putting aside his acoustic guitar to play loud electric-guitar rock backed up by the Butterfield Blues Band. Rock-mythology enthusiast that he is, Ryan made a nod to that history as well as his own penchant for confounding the expectations of his fanbase with the for-the-occasion T-shirts he was selling at the gig:
I would go electric but my fans are already used to disappointment.
So we’re greeting the new year at my house by cleaning up a bit; you know, throwing some things out, moving other things around, hanging pictures on the walls, tidying up here and there. And while sorting through a long-neglected pile of old T-shirts the other night, I rediscovered one of my favorite Ryan Adams souvenirs.
It’s a shirt dating back to Ryan’s fall 1999 solo tour (recounted in Chapter 11 of “Losering”), a time when his band was in limbo and he was “Working For A Whiskeytown Free World.” It says so right on the back of the shirt, as you can see below. I love the sentiment on the front, too:
RYAN ADAMS IS ON FIRE SOMEBODY PUT HIS ASS OUT
Van Alston, who served as Ryan’s tour manager back then (and also co-wrote the Heartbreaker tune “Come Pick Me Up”), was the guy responsible for this little piece of DRA sartorial genius. Van made up a limited-edition run of just 48 of these shirts to sell on the road, and they went fast. But he was kind enough to give me one before they left. Not that I’d ever part with it, but I expect this would fetch a pretty penny on eBay.