DECEMBER MIX! Scott McClanahan, Chris Oxley, and the Holler Presents “Holler-Day Sampler”
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I never listened to holiday music of any kind when I was a kid. Usually, it was just country music playing throughout the holidays.
So when EL asked me to compile the December play list, I decided to get together with my Holler Presents partner Chris Oxley and listen to some songs from those Decembers of long ago. Our friend Marcus stopped by and we talked about the tracks as they played. We took notes of what we said.
1. Patti Page — “Tennessee Waltz”
CHRIS: When I think of this song, I think about how we listened to it twelve times in a row on the way to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a reading with Donald Ray Pollack.
SCOTT: That trip makes me think about how you pretended you were a French dude named “Jean Francois” and people were really confused the next day when you finally dropped the accent.
MARCUS: The spirit of Christmas makes my pecker hard.
CHRIS: Stop. You can’t say stupid shit like that.
SCOTT: I used to dance by myself when I was a kid to this song. My mom had all of these old albums and I loved this version. I was a lonely kid.
2. Ray Price — “You Done Me Wrong”
MARCUS: This song sounds like the song “I’d Rather Be a Bird” from Easy Rider.
CHRIS: Who was in Price’s band, The Cherokee Cowboys? (Answers himself). Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, and Webb Pierce, I think.
MARCUS: Yeah, that’s a good band.
CHRIS: They also had the greatest Nudie suits in the world. Those fuckers knew how to dress.
SCOTT: It was before the “baroque” period in Nudie suits. That’s the problem with indie lit. Nobody knows how to dress. People should just buy new wardrobes instead of worrying about their “craft.” It’s like what Joe Strummer says, “Like trousers, like mind.” All you need to be a great writer is the right pair of pants or the right dress. That’s a fact, jack.
3. & 4. Roger Miller — “Kansas City Star,” “Little Green Apples”
CHRIS: Roger Miller wrote two types of songs: songs for committing suicide and songs for taking amphetamines.
MARCUS: “Kansas City Star” sounds like amphetamines.
SCOTT: Did you know Roger Miller used to guest host the Tonight Show for Carson back in the ‘60s? He did a whole interview where he acted like Groucho Marx was Karl Marx and he kept asking him questions about the Communist Manifesto. Groucho was not amused.
MARCUS: Didn’t Groucho drop acid?
SCOTT: I think. Roger Miller also bought a thousand baby chickens from this farm and took them with him on the tour bus. They stopped at some classy hotel and Miller got on the elevator and let off about fifty baby chicks on each floor. It created pandemonium in the hotel that night. Wait, I think that was Miller. I’m not sure.
5. The Louvin Brothers — “Satan is Real”
SCOTT: Nothing gets rid of that nasty little baby Jesus or holiday aftertaste better than The Louvin Brothers. YES, Satan is real and all hail!
CHRIS: We actually hung out with him in Clarksdale, Mississippi last year. It looked like he put on weight. Don’t you think he looked like he put on weight?
SCOTT: Yeah, a couple of pounds. I think he needs to cut down on his carbs.
6. Skeeter Davis — “It’s the End of the World”
(Marcus gets up and goes to the bathroom)
CHRIS: Skeeter Davis was once married to Ralph Emery for all of those EL Nashville Now fans in the audience.
SCOTT: I love those books Emery wrote (Memories and More Memories). They’re like Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, but for country music.
CHRIS: I have nothing else to say about this song.
(Marcus returns from the bathroom).
7. Conway Twitty — “Only Make Believe”
CHRIS: Conway Twitty had his own theme park. Twitty City is the shit.
SCOTT: I went there when I was a kid. Twitty had that whole man perm thing. Poor people were crazy about the man perm in the ’80s. I had an uncle who worked in a factory for General Motors. He left one day normal and came back years later with a man perm and covered in pimp jewelry. The last thing you should ever do is give poor people money. We just spend it on pimp jewelry and man perms.
CHRIS: It’s the Holler Presents dream to have our own theme park.
8. Ralph Stanley — “Little Moses”
CHRIS: If Moses wasn’t around, we wouldn’t be here.
SCOTT: Moses is the reason for the season.
9. Tex Ritter — “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)”
CHRIS: Tex Ritter called Jerry Lee Lewis a piss-ant. Tex Ritter was a punk.
SCOTT: I think Ritter said that because Jerry Lee urinated in the corner of his living room one night at one of the Ritter family parties.
10. Hank Williams — “Angel of Death”
SCOTT: He died just a couple of miles from here, or at least that’s where his chauffeur pulled over and found him dead in the back seat of the Cadillac. There’s this great local mythology about Williams being seen alive that morning in Beckley, WV at the old Beckley Hospital. Maybe that’s where he picked up the hot dose. Escott pretty much tears that theory apart in the Williams bio he wrote a few years back. Williams may have been already dead by the time he left Knoxville, humming along to this song.
11. Marty Robbins — “Devil Woman”
CHRIS: Marty Robbins is your favorite singer, right?
SCOTT: Yep. He also drove his own stock car. I’m going to be a race car driver one of these days. It’s either that or get into professional wrestling management. The best artists always drive race cars — at least on a spiritual and metaphysical level.
12. The Statler Brothers — “Bed of Roses”
SCOTT: My parents took me to see The Statler Brothers five years in a row at the West Virginia State Fair. I also saw a package show with Johnny Cash and George Jones that blew me away around that time. The West Virginia State Fair used to be like making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
CHRIS: We need more songs about “scarlet women.”
SCOTT: Kurt Vonnegut wrote an essay about the Statler Brothers where he calls them the best poets of the twentieth century.
12.1. Oak Ridge Boys — “”
SCOTT: We didn’t pick any Oak Ridge Boys.
CHRIS: Get your shit together, Oak Ridge Boys.
The devil’s drink.
13. Eddie Rabbitt — “Driving My Life Away”
CHRIS: Eddie Rabbitt is a porn star. If you don’t like Eddie Rabbitt, then you’re pretty much lost.
SCOTT: He’s the type of dude that looks like he’d softly kiss your closed eye lids in the middle of coitus, or wear dress socks during the act.
MARCUS: I’d want Eddie Rabbitt to hold me for a long time afterwards. What’s coitus?
SCOTT: It’s what happens after the spirit of Christmas makes your pecker hard.
14. Don Gibson — “Just One Time”
SCOTT: Don Gibson’s drunk girlfriend slapped Chet Atkins once during a session. A bunch of back-up singers beat the shit out of her. They kept shouting in the middle of the stomp fest, “You can’t slap Chet Atkins in this town. You can’t slap Chet Atkins.”
15. Little Jimmie Dickens — “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose”
CHRIS: It’s not a novelty song. It’s a lifestyle.
SCOTT: Little Jimmie Dickens is the Antonin Artaud of country music.
MARCUS: Who the fuck is Antonin Artaud?
SCOTT: Crazy French dude who was a big Little Jimmie Dickens fan. I think he actually ran the Paris fan club for a couple of months.
16. Stonewall Jackson — “Waterloo”
CHRIS: He was the killer Gary Gilmore’s favorite singer. If you’re contemplating murder, or a life in murder, Stonewall Jackson may be the artist for you.
17. Mel McDaniel — “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”
SCOTT: It’s just a great song. Is there anything else to say?
(Marcus leaves to go to the bathroom again).
CHRIS: Mel McDaniel just recently died.
(Marcus returns from the bathroom again).
CHRIS: What the hell do you keep going to the bathroom for?
MARCUS: (grinning) Something illegal.
18. & 19. Hank III/ Tom Waits — “Fadin Moon”/ “Ghost To a Ghost”
SCOTT: I don’t even really like Hank III, but Guttertown is one of the best albums of the year. Mr. Waits brings it as usual.
20. & 21. The Holler Boys — “Nah Nah Song”/ “Visiting Graves”
SCOTT: These songs are one way tickets to tickle-town, boys and girls.
CHRIS: These guys were born to be immortal.
MARCUS: I don’t really like the songs you guys write.
by Scott Mcclanahan
— Holler Presents is a film, music and book company located in Beckley, WV. In 2011, they published Scott McClanahan’s Stories V! They will publish Vampire Conditions by Brian Allen Carr in 2012. Scott McClanahan’s novel, Hill William, will also be published in 2012 by Tyrant Books. You can visit them at hollerpresents.com.