Nov 1, 2019
About This Episode
For this episode, we hear the music
of Tent Show Radio's host himself, Michael Perry, joined by his
band The Long Beds.
"First time I ever heard Waylon
Jennings," says Michael Perry, "was on an 8-track tape in a
four-wheel drive truck doing sixty miles an hour down a Wyoming hay
meadow. We were running late for Bible study." The songs on Tiny
Pilot (Perry's latest musical release with his band the Long Beds)
are a direct reflection of that experience. Ranging from
straight-up twang to churchly harmonies and populated by characters
drawn straight from rural and small-town America, they launch from
places like the overpass outside Perry's beloved hometown of New
Auburn, Wisconsin (population currently 562), a gospel service in a
granary, and the kitchen floor of a woman about to drop a world of
hurt on her drunken husband. "I was raised by farmers and preachers
and tough country women, and I suppose my songs reflect that," says
Perry. "Then again, certain wisdoms are available only from
whistlers, frauds, and sinners, so I try to slide them a line or
two as well."
Raised in a church so austere that
hymns were sung with no choir, no accompaniment, and no church (the
congregation met in a farmhouse and sat on straight-backed wooden
chairs) Perry and his brother learned to sit side-by-side and work
out harmonies on the fly. Those Sunday mornings instilled in Perry
a love of singing "clear and pure" that can be heard throughout
Tiny Pilot – most especially on the songs, "842 Miles," "If They
Give You Wings," and "Sweet Edge of Time." Conversely, anyone
introduced to Ol' Waylon by means of a four-wheeling 8-track is
bound to shoot for some boogety-boogety now and then, as Perry and
the Long Beds do on "Undone," "Somewhere South of Sunday," and (in
a respectful nod to Ol' Hoss himself) "After Waymore's Blues."
Perry began writing songs in the
early 1990s during long nights when he was struggling to survive on
prose (he is the author of numerous books including: Population
485, Truck, The Scavengers,and the New York Times bestseller
Visiting Tom). With no arts background (he has a nursing degree) he
found himself drawn especially to the work of poets and
singer/songwriters. (In interviews Perry tends to list his greatest
literary influences as Dylan Thomas and Steve Earle – and not
necessarily in that order.) "I remember writing late one night and
hearing a Kevin Welch song with the line, 'I whiskey'd up my coffee
cup… sittin' here tryin' not to call you up,'" says Perry, "and I
was floored by the rhythm and the story in that single line…" He
began writing songs as a way to break up all-night typing sessions,
and eventually he had enough of them that a musician friend invited
him to play a coffee shop. "I'm not saying I was nervous, but I
ripped out a sixty-minute set list in thirty-two minutes flat,"
says Perry. By 2004, he had begun recruiting Long Beds. In 2006, he
released his first album, Headwinded.
While the music made by Perry and
the Long Beds has been variously described as 'country folk,'
'roughneck folk,' 'folk-twang,' and Americana, they prefer the
description given by an audience member after a benefit concert in
Perry's old high school gym: "You sound just like Gordon Lightfoot…
only zippier!" Nice – but there are limits. "Zippy or not," says
Perry, "when 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' comes on the
radio, we sit down, shut up, and listen."
About Michael Perry
Michael Perry is a New York Times
bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn,
Perry's bestselling memoirs include
Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom, and
his latest, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through
Philosophy. His first book for young readers, The Scavengers, was
published in 2014 and first novel for adult readers, The Jesus Cow,
was published in May of 2015.
Raised on a small Midwestern dairy
farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a
ranch in Wyoming, then wandered into writing. He lives with his
wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the
local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an intermittent pig
farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated "Tent Show Radio,"
performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long
Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down
Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never
Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues.
Learn more about Michael and where
to get his publications at www.sneezingcow.com.
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