Posts Tagged With: Whiskey Town

More artifacts from long ago: Sadlack’s souvenirs

WhiskeysadsWith owner Rose Schwetz’s announced June 1 deadline for finding a new space fast approaching, the fate of Sadlack’s is still up in the air. Plenty of rumors are going around, stories of possible spots for a relocated Sadlack’s; but for now, none of them are substantial enough to report. In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to post a couple of things from Whiskeytown’s birthplace.

First, on the right is a flyer from one of the earliest Whiskeytown shows, back when their name was still two words. This wasn’t the very first Whiskey Town show, but it’s pretty close; it dates from late 1994, and appears to have been drawn by Ryan Adams himself. You can find it hanging on the west-facing interior wall of Sadlack’s, framed and just inside the back door at about eye level.

RyanAutographNext, here on the left we have a circa-2001 autographed photo bequeathed by Ryan himself after he hit it big as a solo act — and also after he learned a more stylish way to sign autographs. Back when he would get autograph requests in the early days of Whiskeytown, Ryan tended to employ more of an elementary-school scrawl. Anyway, this is also framed and on the same wall as the 1994 show flyer. If Sadlack’s does relocate, I hope both of these artifacts will find their way to the new spot.

Finally, below is a photo from the Sadlack’s Facebook page, taken on a pretty momentous night in Whiskeytown lore. This was Whiskeytown playing on Sadlack’s back patio on the night of the band’s first big lineup implosion in 1996. Following this show, bassist Steve Grothmann, fiddler Caitlin Cary and drummer Skillet Gilmore all quit, leaving Phil Wandscher to carry on with a rather chunky Ryan (see Chapter Six of “Losering” for more details). Caitlin and Skillet would both return; but this was Steve’s final show as a permanent member.

Whiskeyend

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Further artifacts from long ago: The 1995 “Star Watch”

WtownEarlyWhen I was researching and reporting “Losering,” I went looking for every word I’d ever written about Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown over the previous decade and a half, and I thought I’d found everything — until now. While looking up Chapel Hill native Michelle Dorrance in the newspaper’s archives the other day, I happened across a little blurb I’d forgotten all about. It was in a Sunday feature called “Star Watch” from April 1995, in which the News & Observer’s seven arts critics (oh, those were the days) spotlighted up-and-coming local artists and performers we thought were worth watching.

The list included a few folks who would go on to legitimate national careers, including tap dancer Dorrance, who will be receiving a major award next month; Ben Folds Five, then a couple of months away from releasing their first album; singer/actress Lauren Kennedy, who has had a very successful Broadway career; and, four months before the first time I met and interviewed Ryan, “Whiskey Town” (which is how the band’s name appeared in the credits of that spring’s Who The Hell compilation). Here’s how it read:

Whiskey Town

The Band: Ryan Adams, guitar and vocals; Skillet Gilmore, drums; Phil Wandscher, guitar; Caitlin Cary, violin; Steve Grothmann, bass

The big deal: Why did these ex-punks start playing country music? As Adams puts it in one Whiskey Town song, “So I started this damn country band/’Cause punk rock was too hard to sing.” For a demonstration, check out their brilliant deconstruction of “Blank Generation” on the new Richard Hell tribute album “Who the Hell.”

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Artifacts from long ago: The “Suck” contract

RossGradyRoss Grady’s name comes up a couple of times throughout “Losering,” which is fitting. He’s been an important presence in Triangle music for more than two decades, as a writer, deejay, obsessive chronicler, devoted fan, gadfly and all-around bon vivant. Ross was friends with various members of Whiskeytown as the group was forming in 1994 and he’d known of Ryan before that, when Ryan would call up trying to talk himself onto the WKNC local-music radio show Ross did. Ross discussed that when I interviewed him for the book in 2011:

I remember I was living on Cutler in Boylan Heights in about 1993, circa Patty Duke Syndrome. My phone was ringing, I answered and it was this Ryan Adams guy who wanted to tell me things about what he was doing. There was this adorable assumption that I’d give a shit, even though I’m pretty sure I had no idea at the time who he was. You know, jerks call all the time telling you crap you don’t want to hear about their awesome band. But at some level, Ryan was qualitatively different. It was funny as opposed to disturbing, which calls like that usually are. What was sort of endearing about Ryan was he had absolutely zero self-consciousness at all about it. He just had this assumption that you needed to know what he was doing, but not in an obnoxious way like 50 other people you could name. I can’t put my finger on why. I almost feel like it was because I’d never heard of anything he was talking about. Usually when people call they’ve already mailed their stupid tape, I’ve seen their stickers in every bathroom around town and they have a reputation as being irritatingly self-promotional. Ryan was the same, but somehow I’d never heard of him.

Ross wrote the earliest story on Whiskeytown that I could find — January 1995 in The Independent, an alternative country-themed piece about Whiskeytown (then “Whiskey Town”) and Pine State in which 20-year-old Ryan declared, “I don’t have time to be unclear — I’m going to die someday.” A bit more than three years after that, Ross had an entertaining interaction with Ryan at a show in the spring of 1998. It was a well-oiled conversation that concluded with Ryan drawing up a “contract” promising the following:

I hearby give Ross Fucking Grady the rights to anything I did that sucked.

You can read more about this in Chapter 10. The document in question is archived for posterity online here  — or you can check it out below. In October 2001, not long after the big Guitatown dustup, Ross posted a picture of this to the online newsgroup alt.music.chapel-hill under the heading “The ‘Suck’ Trial.” That triggered several days of lively commentary, including Ross’ own observation that he “should start seeing checks from Gold any fucking day now.”

SuckContract

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