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Webb Wilder Interview 1994
Interview with Webb Wilder 12/94

This appeared in the Watermelon Slices newsletter put out by Watermelon Records. This was done at the time of the first "It Came From Nashville" re-release.

Q: Why did you pick Nashville?

A: Well, first of all Southerners like the South. I came to Nashville as kind of a hunch, an educated guess that it would be a good place for me.

Rock 'n' roll and country have more in common than not. We don't have a typical Nashville country sound, but we thought we could use that to our advantage. It's sorta like we're a roots band for rock 'n' roll fans and a rock band for roots fans.

Q: Who is the "Ionizer"?

A: R.S. "Bobby" Field. We were over at a palatial home of Dan Tyler, and he had an ionizer. Neither of us had ever seen one. We asked him what it did, and he said it put out negative ions. Negative ions that create a positive effect. We thought that was funny. I said it sounds kind of like Bobby, doesn't it? Working with him can be a battle of wills type of thing with him and me since we've known each other for over 25 years, but it always has a happy ending. Since then he's been the "Ionizer".

Q: What inspired your credo?

A:"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em!". The true story dates back to the first out of town gig in 1985. It was Easter weekend, we'd been at George Street Grocery in Jackson, Mississippi. R.S. said, you know you're going to start doing interviews. He got out a boombox and we started recording a practice interview. At the end he said, "Is there anything you'd like to add?" and Webb said, "work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em!, the Webb Wilder credo," and that was that.

Well, sir, I'd been livin' that all my life, and verbalizing it, I realized I'd be livin' it for the rest of my life. It's an economical bit of philsophy- the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. And if it don't work, the rest will take care of itself.

Q: What inspired the film, Webb Wilder, Private Eye?

A: I was living with a friend, Johnny Miller. We used to have parties at our place out in the country that we called the Bunkhouse. It was a real rocking chair kind of scene, but we could play music loud and not bother anybody.

Johnny had been to see Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry on theGulf Coast and after the show in the parking lot, he got hassled by an off-duty highway patrolman. In the scuffle, he lost his Stetson. I gave him my hat. I went out to this western store- it's not there anymore, it was on Highway 98 and 589- and bought a new hat. It was the first of the "webb Wilder" hats. R.S. looked at it and said "That looks like a hillbilly detective hat!"

At the time we were reading Raymond Chandler, the best detective writer, and watching Andy Griffith, which is still the definative Southern television statement. R.S. was working at the University of Southern Mississippi in the Office Of Public Relations as the radio/tv editor (football games, public service announcements, etc.). He had an intern, Steve Mims, who needed to do a senior film project. I was working as a country AM DJ- at the time country music was at its worst. Ricky Skaggs hadn't put legitimate country back in country music yet.

Anyway, we followed up on the hillbilly detective idea and kind of blended all those things. It became a combination of Southern Gothic and science fiction. We used my old glasses from tenth grade. If you wanted to wear wire rims then, you had to get old man's glasses or "gentleman golfer's" glasses. You gotta realize I was the only kid in my elementary scholl to carry a pocket watch.

The film won a whole slew of awards, including one at the University Of Texas film festival, and went on to be picked up by the Campus Network, which showed it on college campuses in student unions across the country. The it was accepted by the USA Network's Night Flight program and shown throughout the eighties. A&E showed it some for awhile on a thing calles Short Stories.

All this helped in building the whole Webb Wilder band thing. People would ask me if I was the same Webb Wilder as the one in the film. I'd say "I hope there's only one."

Two of the people who appeared in it died recently- Hiwayne, played by Roger Brinnegar and Homer Greenspan, who was played by Jimmy Daniels.

Q: How did bing from Mississippi influence your music?

A: In only the best way. I grew up as an only child born in the suburbs in a college town in the golden age of television, watching unsupervised television with a wild imagination. The regional thing was very intact- hillbillies, etc.- but the media brought in the world. The South is the holy land of rock and rol. It was a lot of soul. There's the black influence, the whole bluesy thing and gospel.

Q: Who were your musical heroes?

A: My first was Roy Rogers. Cowboys were like God, it was that place in time in television. The real cowboys were from Texas, it's a mixture of the real West and the South. In Mississippi, which was settled by Celtic people, we were more likely to sit on the porch and watch the heads. I was a "Rexall Wrangler".

I loved music- my Aunt Montressa said I sang before I talked. My father wasn't as in to music, but I asked him what he liked and he said Hank Williams. I bought him a Hank Williams album and listened to it more than he did. I also liked the Everly Brothers and listened to Elvis. I was checkin' out what was out there. I was in the forth grade when the Beatles broke and I got into English bands, then the Byrds, and then the list goes on and on.

Combining influences, that's really what Webb Wilder is all about. We can't sing with English accents or pretend that we are balck or that Webb Wilder has hair. It would be dishonest. What I really like is the roots-music inspired original music. Sometimes that means just takin' someone else's song and doin' it your own way with your own tastes, influences, limitations and stregths. Other times it means writing songs.