By Simone Goldstone, NB Indy Soundcheck Columnist
Hillbilly fever hit Campus Jax on February 27 in a time-warp mash-up of Western Swing, Honky Tonk, and Rockabilly music sung, strummed, and bass-slapped by Deke Dickerson and the Whippersnappers.
Clad in embroidered western suits, as if playing at the Grand Ol’ Opry, the trio delivered a surprisingly fun, whimsical, and rockin’ homage to American roots music.
Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis lovers rejoiced this vintage tribute to the precursors of rock and roll. Mixing the humor of Johnny Cash songs with the exuberance of Buddy Holly, Deke Dickerson and his band provided a delightful evening for Route 66 travelers, Southern transplants, and train car counters.
The show was live-streamed and performed in-person. In red suits and painted guitars, with a lone call of “Here, Kitty, Kitty,” the fun began. Whimsical and upbeat, the trio preformed what they called “mid-tempo Hillbilly music.” Hillbilly music is really just early country, which is partly what Rock and Roll is based on (with a touch of rhythm and blues).
A patriotic testimony to vintage music, the night was full of playful lyrics you would imagine hearing by hay fields and on the side of dusty country roads. I was not expecting such a fun show that acted a mood brighter as the band indulged in their ridiculousness.
“Let’s not delay, let’s get right down to the Hilly Billy!” Deke said with serious conviction. With steel-string guitars and an upright bass, the band played covers of artists such as Marvin Rainwater and Johnny Horton. Every show the group features a famous hillbilly, and that night it was Johnny Bond. Deke discussed Bond’s musical career, “He was known for songs about alcoholic beverages and drums, including the song we’re doing next,” the musician laughed.
The trio launched into “Sick, Sober, and Sorry.” Reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s famous “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” it was country music self-deprivation at its best. After the song, Deke recalled that coincidentally, he lived in Burbank next door to Johnny Bond’s widow and ended up collecting his favorite singer’s old records at her estate sale.
After a Ray Pray song and some Rawhide-sounding tunes, the trio played an original song written about the Pandemic. Deke sounded like a woeful Hank Williams, although instead of lamenting about love-sick blues, he mourned the loss of cinemas and Saturday nights in a comical and well-rhyming number.
The band finished with their big hit called “Wild, Wild, Thing,” which is the song featured in the band’s professionally shot music video. “I’ll put on my walkin’ shoes, and I’ll leave you with the blues, ‘cause you’re foolin’ with a wild, wild thing.”
The show concluded and suddenly the audience found themselves back in ocean-adjacent Southern California, instead of the rural country hills the music hailed from.
All and all, it was a surprisingly fun performance, and one would enjoy the quirky, themed night regardless if they were a fan of country roots music or not. I can’t help but feel somewhere in Orange County’s past, patrons of Zubie’s Country Western bar are cheering that the spirit of knee-bending, Stetson Hat-wearing music is still alive and well.
Campus Jax on Campus Drive in Newport Beach has nearly two dozens concerts lineup over the next several months, including tribute bands (Queen Nation, The Springsteen Experience), jazz, rock, blues and solo artists.
Visit www.CampusJax.com for a complete list of concerts.