You know what this blog needs? More country music. It can’t be that Hank3 and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy are the only weirdos ever to put on a cowboy hat and yodel about their dog dying. There must be more freaks out there in bolo ties and cowboy boots, doing things to pedal steel guitars that Jimmie Rodgers never intended.
Sure enough, with a little help from you folks out there in reader land, we finally managed to track down some truly weird-ass country. And it turns out most of it is coming from, of all places, Germany. This Metafilter article gives a good overview, covering everything from horrible mainstream crap like Texas Lightning, who represented Deutschland in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, to sort of amazing novelty crap like The BossHoss, who do Teutonic country covers of stuff like “Hot in Herre” and “Hey Ya.” Yep, stick a cowboy hat on a German and tell them to start singing, and you’ve pretty much got yourself an instant what-the-fuck-fest.
But that Metafilter article missed one very important figure in Germany’s proud tradition of pretending to be Texas ranch hands. (Although a few folks were wise enough to mention him in the comments.) His name is Tex Haper and he is “Der Cowboy aus dem Norden.” That means “Cowboy of the North” but like most things, it sounds more impressive in German. Especially if you say it like this.
Tex has been doing his German cowboy/trucker routine at least since the early ’80s. Maybe even longer than that…on his website, there’s a page of photos that shows him performing with five different bands dating all the way back to the early ’60s, but it’s hard to tell whether any of them were country or not. We Googled all of them and came up empty-handed. Could a bunch of German dudes in 1979 wearing matching blue shirts and calling themselves Die Schneuzer have played country music? Maybe, but the likelier story is that they were some kind of Can-inspired Krautrock band.
Since going solo around 1980, Tex has cranked out a steady stream of awkwardly country-flavored ditties, often accompanied by the kind of cover art that collectors drool over for kitsch factor alone. He’s still going strong today, sporting a beer gut and Hulk Hogan-esque mustache. Well, “strong” might be overstating it a bit…his only recent YouTube videos look like they were shot at a glorified karaoke night in Thailand. But he was popular enough at one point to do this:
This is the part where I have to admit that because Andy and I don’t speak German, we really have no fucking clue what this guy’s full story is. There’s almost nothing about him on the Interwebs in English. So what’s that video from, and when was it shot? Ich habe nein frickin idea. If anyone does know, clue us in.
What we do know is this: when it comes to low-budget country music videos, Tex Haper is basically Willie Nelson, Picasso and David Lynch all rolled up into big German hunka-hunka burnin’ man-schnitzel. Some are only available on his website, but most have found their way onto YouTube, which at this point is basically the Smithsonian of genius low-budget music videos. I’m really tempted to post all of them but then this damn page will take forever to load and I know you people have short attention spans. So I’ll restrain myself and just leave you with two. First, here’s Tex’s answer to “Viva Las Vegas”:
And finally, I leave you with Tex Haper’s greatest contribution to humanity, the song “New Wave Country,” which for reasons that will remain forever shrouded in mystery did not spawn an entire new genre of bad ’80s music. And no, “Cotton Eye Joe” doesn’t count.
Zayte Buti’s tribute to Dustin Pedroia and coconut water should replace “Sweet Caroline” as the thing Red Sox fans sing during the 7th inning stretch
I was born in New England, so I’ve pretty much been a Red Sox fan since before birth. If Mom could’ve shoved a tiny Red Sox cap up her baby chute, I’m sure she would have. So like everyone else in Red Sox Nation, I’ve spent most of the past five days curled in a fetal position around a case of Sam Adams Octoberfest, occasionally yelling out “Boston Strong!” and the lyrics to “DIrty Water.” It’s the traditional way we celebrate a World Series victory, dating all the way back to 2004.
I’m sure many Red Sox tribute songs will be coming out in the days ahead, most of them focusing on facial hair. But none will be weirder than “Dustin Pedroia Hydrates Natural-l-y” for our old pal and former Weird Band Poll champ, Zayde Buti. Take it away, Zayde.
For those of you who weren’t around way back in 2010, when we first discovered Zayde: He used to make cheesy synth R&B anthems about fast food, often dressed up in full-on Wendy’s drag. When we heard he had decided to switch things up and make a folk/country/blues album, I have to admit we were kinda bummed out. But we needn’t have worried. Even strumming an acoustic gee-tar, Zayde’s still a 9.2 on the weirdo scale.
Zayde’s promising a new album called Going, Going, Gone! sometime in December. We’ll keep you posted on its impending release. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go curl up in a fetal position around a case of Vita Coco coconut water. Well, I love that coconut water, oh, Boston you’re my home…
Today’s weirdo was suggested to us by a fellow named Bunche, who has a nifty little blog called The Vault of Buncheness that we highly recommend checking out. He mostly seems to write about movies and comic books (and was apparently once on the staff at Marvel Comics—we’re not worthy!), but he’s also a connoisseur of weird music, and suggested we get better acquainted with a dude called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, whom he calls a “phantom genius who unfairly hovers deep in the outskirts of musical limbo while other far less trailblazing country stylists such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. have gained immortality.” Holy crap, Bunche! Calm down already. You convinced us.
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—or “The Ledge,” as he likes to call himself—is the stage name of one Norman Carl Odam, an early rockabilly performer from Lubbock, Texas whose greatest (well, okay, only) claim to fame was a 1968 novelty hit called “Paralyzed.” Clocking in at roughly two and a half minutes, the song is basically just one long proto-psychobilly freakout, with The Ledge wailing and yodeling incoherently over one frantically strummed chord and some frenzied drumming (played, oddly enough, by T-Bone “I somehow survived this to go on and produce the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack” Burnett), punctuated by what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, a bugle solo. (“Bugle rape” might be more accurate.) It makes the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” sound like a Puccini aria by comparison.
By his own account, The Ledge cooked up “Paralyzed” because he wanted to write “a wild song that would captivate everybody.” Improbably enough, it worked. The song got Odam a recording contract with Mercury Records, landed him on Laugh-In (which was a very big deal in 1968), and even attracted the attention of a young British singer named David Bowie, who later created a character named Ziggy Stardust as a nod to The Ledge. This part sounds made-up, we know, but it’s really true. There’s a widely circulated photo of Bowie and The Ledge together from around 2002, when Bowie covered another Odam song, “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship,” for his Heathen album. They’re buds.
Unfortunately for The Ledge, he would never be able to repeat the success of “Paralyzed.” But that sure as hell hasn’t stopped him from trying. Odam continues to record and perform to this day—mostly, it seems, for people who are just interested in making fun of him, but he soldiers in with the cheerful demeanor of someone who’s either batshit crazy or has achieved some Zen-like level of enlightenment the rest of us poor suckers can’t even conceive of. It’s probably a bit of both.
We’ll leave you with one of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s most famous clips. This is from a performance of “Paralyzed” that was done for an Australian variety show called Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The image quality is atrocious but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the sound is pretty top-notch. If The Ledge were actually forming words, you could almost make out what he was yelling.