Deke Dickerson makes retro rockabilly new again


Deke Dickerson-what a boss name! It practically screams muscular strength, tempered with an old-fashioned sense of style. Like an astronaut. Very Right Stuff.

Deke Dickerson himself isn't a rocket boy but a rockabilly star-a full-fledged music geek and recording artist of considerable style. Still, in an interview, the California-based chief of Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics evinces the crew-cut confidence of pre-geriatric John Glenn. You have to have some cojones to name your very first album Number One Hit Record, as he has titled his swinging debut.

Dickerson and his Ecco-Fonics-bassist Brent Harding, guitarist Johnny Noble and drummer Brian Neville-climbed in their van last week to launch a series of tours. But asphalt, black coffee and strange places-the usual ingredients of a tour-are hardly new to Dickerson, who threw together his first band as a Missouri high school student, reacting against the disco thump of his formative years.

Deke Dickerson strums his stuff at the Cowboy Bar this Sunday

"When I was growing up, the late '70s, that was such an awful time for music," he says. "My dad had some hip records, some Elvis and Jerry Lee and all that, and I got kind of obsessive about it in the end. I started digging through stores looking for artists that no one had ever heard of."

Indeed, Number One Hit Record, while not annoyingly eclectic or anything, does sound like the work of a man with one king-hell champion of a vinyl collection. Only six of 16 tracks are Dickerson originals. The rest are a grab-bag of tasty, obscure covers, from straight-ahead, barrelhouse rockabilly to countrified jazz and swing beats.

While their sound works despite its varied sources, critics invariably file the 'Fonics under "rockabilly." Dickerson isn't complaining. He likes rockabilly, after all. It would seem, though, that the rigid boundaries drawn by the latest retro crazes-the swing revival and all that-don't fit comfortably over the 'Fonics' oeuvre. Dickerson takes it all in stride.

"This is the music I've always played," he says. "When I was touring with my old band, the Dave and Deke Combo, we'd go to places like Nashville and Atlanta and Austin, and there'd always just be a small contingent of people who were interested in roots music. In the last couple of years, though, it's just exploded. There are thousands of people out there in vintage suits these days, y'know?"

Which, no doubt, will give American Studies majors something to write about for some time to come. Dickerson, however, says there's a limit to his fetishization of the past.

"A lot of people dig out that vintage stuff to purposely mess up their sound, to distort it or whatever," he says. "I use old stuff only to the extent that helps the sound instead of hurting it. It's like vintage clothes-I like 'em, but when I wear vintage clothes and it comes down to underwear, I buy new underwear."

Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics play the Cowboy Bar on Sunday, January 24, with Missoula surf gods Thee Hedons. 8 p.m. $7 at the door, $5 in advance, tickets available at Ear Candy Records.

The annual Robert Burns Dinner serves up a slice of Highland life


Robert Burns was the poet's poet, a life-devouring troubleman who forsook wimpo wonderings about Grecian urns and the like in favor of the temporal: cavorting with the lassies, composing odes to mice and lice, even scratching messages on church windows with diamonds.

As he lived a life less ordinary than many a sitting-room sonneteer, it's only fitting that Burns is probably the only poet to be fêted with an annual dinner commemorating his birth. The traditional January get-together is a cultural staple for expatriate Scots around the world-an evening for dining, dancing and skirling pipes.

The Missoula Scottish Heritage Society will host their annual Robert Burns dinner this Friday. With authentic food, music and Scottish country dancing, participants can expect nothing less than an exciting, delightfully anachronistic slice of the Highlands.

Take in traditional Scottish music, food and custom at the annual Robert Burns Dinner this Friday.

To the uninitiated, the menu for this year's Robert Burns Dinner reads like something that, had he been Scottish, the Mad Hatter might have offered his guests at high tea: Cock-a-Leekie soup (chicken and leek soup), Champit Tatties (mashed potatoes) and Bashed Neeps (mashed rutabagas). And, of course, the Haggis, a Scottish delicacy almost as emblematic of the country as Burns himself, a foodstuff so swathed in reverence and lore as to come complete its own built-in definite article.

Most Americans, of course, regard the Haggis as some sort of Scottish culinary aberration: sheep lungs, liver and what-have-you cooked to Highland perfection in a bonnie wee sheep's stomach. Scotsmen are perfectly aware of the mystery surrounding this vaguely unsettling delight, which sort of looks like a misshapen, double-wide Thuringer sausage. Maggie Collington, Chief of the Missoula Scottish Heritage Society, even admits to purposefully throwing tourists off the trail in her native Bannockburn: "We used to tell them it was a bird," she confesses, "with one leg shorter than the other so it could run around the mountainsides and still keep its balance."

At the Burns Dinner, reverence for this "king o' foods" is manifested in elaborate ceremony surrounding its grand entrance. The Haggis is borne aloft by the chef, who strides triumphantly into the dining room to a bagpipe accompaniment. The chair of the dinner then enjoins an honored guest to deliver the "Address to the Haggis," which he does by toasting it in an elaborate speech and scoring it with a Saint Andrew's Cross-shaped incision. Any lingering doubts as to the true nature of the entree are now dispelled as the speaker, addressing the Haggis directly, lovingly "cut[s] you up wi' ready slight, trenching your entrails gushing bright." Don't knock it 'til you try it. Brave was the man, remember, who first ate an oyster.

The Burns Dinner is by turns solemn and celebratory. The Selkirk Grace and the Immortal Memory are august invocations indeed, but toasters salute the poet's philogynous side with his "Address to the Lassies," a self-explanatory toast to the maidens of whom the poet was so fond. "He was quite a rascal," says Collington, "and quite a man with the ladies."

The meal draws to a close with trifle and Drambuie, at which time the music and dancing start up in earnest. Featured acts this year include Shaughnessy Hill, the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band and harpist Jane Taylor. Everyone is invited to work off some of that Haggis with vigorous Scottish country dancing and perhaps a fine Scottish ale to the memory of the ploughman's poet, a fitting tribute to a poet who enjoyed much the same thing.

The Robert Burns Dinner will be held Friday, January 22 at the Doubletree Hotel at 7 p.m. Tickets $20 for members of the Scottish Heritage Society, $25 nonmembers, $10 children. Call 728-3100.

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