Like a rolling home
Trailer Park Troubadours coming to Chico for Chico Creek Nature Center benefit
R.J. “Antsy” McClain, lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter for the Trailer Park Troubadours, blames his band’s existence on country singer Sammy Kershaw’s 1993 hit “Queen of My Double Wide Trailer.” Antsy and the other Troubadour, Stephen Foster Fleming III ("Flem” for short), who plays guitar and bass and sings back-up, decided to follow what looked like the beginning of a trend of “trailer park music” and start a band, only “it turned out not to be a trend after all,” Antsy explained. Ten years and six albums later (with a seventh due out this summer), the Troubadours are still at it.
Antsy spoke to me by phone from his home state of Kentucky: “We started playing music in our kitchens after Sunday dinners,” he said of himself and third cousin, twice removed Flem, who grew up four trailers away from him in Pine View Heights Trailer Park on the east side of Screamin’ Holler, Ky. “It got us out of doing the dishes. … It was a sit-around-the-kitchen-table hobby that got out of hand.” When they realized that, by having guitars around their necks, “women paid more attention to you,” well, “that was a big wake-up call.”
The Troubadours mix comedy with music—"the big comedy of the ‘80s mixed with rock-and-roll of the ‘70s,” says Antsy. Their musicianship is excellent and their lyrics are clever. From the song “Living in Aluminum": “Let me ask you, honey/ Which is better:/ A mansion full of money/ Or a trailer full of love?”
From “It Ain’t Home ’til You Take the Wheels Off": “It ain’t home ’til you take the wheels off/ ’til it’s up on blocks/ There ain’t nothin’ like your very own spot,/ your own redneck Camelot…”
And, always with at least one eye on the tee-vee at all times, the Troubadours don’t shy away from current events. Keeping things fresh with “Mud Wrasslin’ at Pinky’s,” they throw Martha Stewart and Barbara Walters in the ring together.
“We’re like the Smothers Brothers with a band. … It’s a Soul Train meets free-for-all Dave Matthews mosh pit kind of thing,” explains Antsy. That may sound like a wacky mix. And it is. But the Troubadours are “kind of turning into a jam band,” complete with fans who call themselves “Flamingoheads” (after the ubiquitous pink plastic birds) who follow the Troubadours from show to show. Pre-show tailgate parties and three and one-half hour shows are not uncommon. “But there ain’t no cussin’ or spittin'. You can bring the kids.”
Joining Antsy and Flem at the Vets’ Hall show will be Jimmy Jackson on guitar, Bob Aguirre on drums and "Loose Bruce" Wandmayer on bass, Dobro and sax.