Archive for 2001

Rolling Stone has released its year-end “Top 10” and “Best Of The Rest” lists. The 97’s Satellite Rides makes the B.O.T.R. list with other “also rans” like Paul McCartney, Macy Gray, R.E.M., Weezer, New Order and Ryan Adams. Senior R.S. critic David Fricke writes:

Old 97’s

Satellite Rides


Old 97’s singer Rhett Miller writes stone-country, lovin’-and-cheatin’ tunes for urban canyon dwellers. The band rocks these songs like a runaway subway train. Born in Dallas, Old 97’s are truly gifted in the Nashville arts. But they were wearing New York plates when they made this baby. then posted a more ecumenical “Critics’ Top Albums of 2001,” where the 97’s pop up several more times:


2. The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Like Wilco, they’ve moved way beyond the limiting alternative country genre to create an album that would have sounded right at home during the glory days of British and New York new wave.


3. The The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Alt-country by way of the Lower East Side, Rhett Miller’s melodies and vocals are earnest and urgent and just right.

Finally, R.S. critic Gail Worley chimes in with what may be, for the Old 97’s, the best endorsement ever:


7. The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Because their fans are violent maniacs!

Happy New Year y’all! See you at the shows.

From Malcolm Mayhew in the December 21, 2001, Ft. Worth Star Telegram:

The Old 97’s are in the midst of some major changes: The band is currently in negotiations to sever its ties with Elektra Records (its home for three records), but band singer Rhett Miller is signing back on Elektra’s dotted line for two solo records.

Group drummer Philip Peeples says the band and Elektra are working out a “buyout” deal. That is, Elektra will pay the group a lump sum of money instead of honoring the terms of the band’s renegotiated contract – tweaked earlier this year – that initially called for two more 97’s discs.

The deals, Peeples says, are still in the works. “I can’t really believe anything until I get the paperwork from my lawyer,” he says. “Last I heard, though, we’re going ahead with this.”

Miller re-signing with Elektra will undoubtedly cloud the future of the alt-country quartet. Not only will it surely cause some inner-band strife, but Elektra will want Miller to focus on his solo career. And the same thing that happened to Miller and bassist Murry Hammond’s side-project, The Ranchero Brothers – it got indefinitely shelved – may wind up happening to the 97’s.

But Peeples remains optimistic about the 97’s’ future.

“We existed before Elektra, and we’ll exist after,” he says. “This has always been our band, and we’ll decide if and when we’ll stop it. We’re hoping to just start over at a new label.”

Peeples says Miller’s solo deal is actually coming at a good time.

“We were going to tell Elektra that we wanted to take some time off anyway,” he says. “I have another baby on the way. Murry’s planning on doing a solo record and another one with his fiancee. Ken’s got a side-project going,” he said, referring to band guitarist Ken Bethea. “We’ve all got a lot of other stuff going on, so the timing’s perfect.”

The Old 97’s will perform with Daryl and Slobberbone Dec. 28 at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth. — Malcolm Mayhew

Though Zac Crain takes a somewhat more pessimistic view in the 12/27 Dallas Observer, you shouldn’t get too stressed about it. As mentioned previously, the Old 97’s will continue appear together for shows and perhaps limited touring, until Rhett finishes up his projects for Elektra, at which time they’ll likely return to the studio. Check back soon, as Hit By A Train will have official word for the band itself as soon as details firm up.

Also, have I mentioned the Old 97’s tribute band, the Satellite Riders? And did I mention that they put on a show with all the intensity and polish as the Olds? And did I mention that they even look like the 97’s? So, you gonna be at the Sons of Hermann in Dallas to catch the Satellite Riders tomorrow? 😉 Finally, here’s wishing a Safe and Happy New Year from the Old 97’s family to you and yours. Cheers!

Yeah OK, sometimes tribute bands are a blight. In North Texas though, they seem to rock. For example, Weener and Bluh pay tribute to Weezer and Blur respectively, while putting on A+ shows in their own right. Of course the 97’s have a growing list of bands who cover their songs, and now, they too have a, ahem… tribute band. Billing themselves as “Satellite Riders,” these four guys, who even look a bit like the 97’s – Mike Shrimpton (drums), Derek Smalls (bass), Nigel Tuffnel (lead guitar), and Dave Hubbins (rythym guitar/lead vocals) – have been plugging away for as long as the Old 97’s themselves, and have garnered their own ever-growing flock of converts. They also bring to their shows the same happy intensity as the Olds, and now, 97’s fans can check ’em out in a classic Old 97’s venue, and within a day of an Old 97’s show. That’s because on Thursday December 27 (the night before the Old 97’s play Ft. Worth’s Ridglea Theater) you can check out the Satellite Riders at Dallas’ Sons of Hermann Hall. Be there!

Next subject: rumors. How can I put this delicately? Let’s try it this way: THE OLD 97’S ARE NOT BREAKING UP, despite what Mike Rhyner and the guys on KTCK’s The Hardline might have inferred on their Friday 12/12 broadcast. What’s up anyway? Well, The Hardline replayed bits of an interview recorded when they had the band in the studio over a year ago, in which Señor Rhyner razzed Rhett Miller, saying he was going to go solo and bust up the band. A somewhat flustered Miller denied it. Then on 11/2 of this year, Rhett joined the Hardline for another interview. Again, they gave him a hard time about making a solo record, the difference being that this year, Rhett decided to go ahead and make one. Then on the 12/12 show, the Hardline boys reported that Rhett has signed a two-album solo deal with Elektra, with Rhyner apparently tacking on an “I told you so,” implying that the Old 97’s were breaking up as a result. It ain’t so. As reported here on 11/5, Rhett is hitting the studio on February 8 to begin work on his second solo album, but the Old 97’s look to return to the studio themselves in 2003 or 2004 to record a follow-up to Satellite Rides. The Old 97’s will continue to play scattered dates and perhaps limited tours until then, and again, nothing received here indicates a breakup of the band, though obviously a return to the studio will depend on Rhett’s reception as a solo artist.

And it ain’t like the guys won’t be busy next year, to whit: You already know that Rhett and Murry are getting married. And no, not to each other, smartypants. Philip and his wife are expecting another baby, and Ken Bethea’s going to be keeping busy with the music himself. He reports, “I’ve been practicing with a bass player here in Dallas some. I’m going to try to book something in Jan I think. Maybe Feb. I’m singing and wrote the songs. I’m not sure whether I’ll book with my name or a band name or what. Also I’ll probably at least add an instrumentalist. The music is pretty folky… i’m only using my classical guitar. I may use some electric on some of it…” Be sure to check back here for all the details, as they become available.

Speaking of the Rhettster, Pamela Des Barres (author of 1987’s wild Rock & Roll tell-all, “I’m With The Band – Confessions Of A Groupie“) conducted an interview with him for Titled “Rhett Miller’s Good Job,” it’s available by clicking here. Sample” Rhett and I settle into a dark Rainbow booth, and I regale him with stories from the infamous bar’s notorious past. I tell him how his band the Old 97’s sends me reeling. How he’s the sexiest frontman to come along in way too long. How it’s a rare joy to discover music that makes air worth breathing. I tend to gush a bit. Oh well, it’s part of my charm.” Look out, Rhett!

Also, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has a terrific, multi-part audio interview with Rhett on their site. The link was forwarded to me in August. I then promptly misplaced it, but am happy to (finally) have it posted it for your listening pleasure.

Finally, Traycie West finished up work on a wonderful Old 97’s screen saver back in October, which I’ve also been seriously slack in getting around to posting. Designed for Windows users, it’s in a 3.19mb .zip file, and finally available by clicking here. Until next time, Merry Christmas!

Ok kids, it’s the holidays, and that means it’s time to for Old 97’s trivia. Quick, what are the only two Old 97’s songs on record which feature a horn section? Give up? It’s the same two songs which are the only Old 97’s Christmas songs on record: “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” both recorded for a 1995 holiday compilation by several Dallas area bands, called Honkey-Tonk Holidays. Interestingly Rhett Miller revealed at a recent solo show that the producers of WB’s Roswell have also asked the band for permission to use “Holly Jolly Christmas” in an upcoming episode, so keep your eyes peeled.

Whereas over at the Showtime, you may recall, producers of the series Going To California, asked the band to come up with a theme song for their show. The result is a great little (1:20) number called “Lost Along The Way.” And now you can hear all three of these songs in the “unreleased singles, demo’s and outtakes” section of Hit By A Train’s “Sounds” page. Enjoy!

Ready for a quicky? Click her for the latest Old 97’s photo site: In addition, there’s this in from the House Of Blues:

“ invites you to check out the Green Room with the Old 97’s… It’s one hour with the Old 97’s playing the music they love and telling you why, in their own words. This is a great opportunity for fans to get a little more intimate with an artist through music.”

Finally, is it just me or are the 97’s popping up all the heck over television. Sure, more sports arena DJ’s than ever are using the 97’s to pump up their crowds; but I’m talking about hearing “Question” on recent episodes of both Roswell and Dawson’s Creek, and “King Of All The World” on the 11/14 episode of NBC’s Ed. Cooler for me is that one local El Lay station is even using the unjustly overlooked “Can’t Get A Line” in its promos. So can you do a favor? Please drop a line when you hear the 97’s used in non-radio media broadcasts. You’ll have thanks, and I’ll post the most unusual on the site. More up soon, hopefully by Friday.

More september 11 stuff

November 5, 2001

More September 11 stuff. Sorry. On Friday November 2, Rhett Miller and fiancé Erica Iahn appeared on “The Hardline” at Dallas’ KTCK, The Ticket, and described in detail his experiences on 9/11. He follows it up with a nifty solo take of “Wish The Worst,” and the first verse of “Erica The Beautiful” too! Click the link below and scroll up to 1:02 in the program. (11/25: time updated to include 16 first minutes of the interview)

As you’ll note in the interview, Rhett and Erica have pulled up stakes and returned to L.A.. And since Murry Hammond recently joined his fiancé, Grey DeLisle in SoCal too, Angelenos look likely to be seeing plenty of Ranchero Brothers shows in the months ahead. What else? Well 2002 will likely see the release of Rhett Miller’s first solo album and extended tour since his 1989 debut, Mythologies. Look for Largo’s resident musical genius, Jon Brion, to join the in the proceedings as well.

The long awaited debut album from the Ranchero Brothers will, however, have to wait a little longer, as the Brothers seem determined to rerecord several of their tracks already in the can, and add several new cuts as well. Happily, Murry reports that much of new recording will take place in his burgeoning in-home studio, using, in many cases, vintage audio gear and microphones – all to deliver a warmth he felt was lacking on some of their previously recorded cuts. But Murry adds that 24 hour access to his studio, his new found mastery of ProTools recording software, and the addition of vintage gear should make for much more easily scheduled and efficient sessions, and for a more compelling release.

The Old 97’s will continue to play scattered shows and perhaps the occasional mini-tour; and look for them to reassemble in the studio come 2003 for their next Elektra release. And with Murry, Rhett, and Philip Peeples (who just moved to another house in Dallas) each setting up housekeeping in new places; Ken Bethea is the subject or rumors that he may be putting his studio chops to work on a children’s album. If you’ve ever heard his “Bug Song,” you know why that’s a great idea.

Finally, Rhett Miller has announced that Charlie the cat, whose brief 1998 escape inspired the writing of the Old 97’s first radio hit, has died. Accounts suggest that Charlie passed away of old age and not – as irony might have had it – by way of murder (or a heart attack).

Heartfelt thanks to Rosemary Darigo, Sandra Boncek Hume, and Tim Markus for forwarding the following, from page 33 of the new Rolling Stone (#880, 10/25/01 with the American flag cover):

My girlfriend and I live in an apartment three blocks from the World Trade Center. The day before it happened, I sat in the plaza at the base of the Towers, working on this really beautiful song called “Love Bird.” And it was such a beautiful day–the blue sky and the Towers, and all the people walking to and from work. I finished it at three in the morning in our apartment. Then we went to bed.

Erica and I were still asleep when the phone started ringing, and friends were saying that planes had crashed into the Towers. They were both burning, flames shooting out. I heard a man screaming and looked up, and there he was, falling. It was like he was swimming through the air, his tie flapping up around his head. And he landed on the median just in front of our grocery store. Firefighters immediately surrounded him, pushed him onto a gurney and carried him off. There are a lot of images I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase, but that was the worst.

We discussed the potential for the buildings to collapse, and both of us thought, There’s no way! I started to make a bowl of cereal. Then we heard the first tower go down.

Smoke wrapped around from either side of the window, as if it were arms wrapping around our window, and the view disappeared. That was the moment when everything stopped being normal. We ran out our door. We were both wearing sandals. We abandoned our cell phones and ran down fifteen flights to the lobby, and it was full of smoke. There were bloody people pouring into it.

The building was filling up with smoke, soot and dust. We were breathing in chunks. Erica and I went down the staircase and pushed the door open. We walked out, and it was knee-deep in dust and rubble; you got the sense that people were underneath it. And there was no one anywhere. We were running.

When we got four blocks away, the second tower collapsed. Little smoking pieces of metal and glass started raining down on us. And we were in a river of people running alongside the East River. The moment I don’t think I’m ever going to erase is when Erica looked back at me and looked up at the tower, and I could see her looking at her own death. It’s hard not to sound melodramatic, but it was the kind of terror that I’ve never seen on anybody’s face, especially not on my most loved one. You just feel so powerless.

We used to joke, because the Wall Street area after six o’clock is like a graveyard. And now our whole neighborhood is a fucking graveyard. I don’t think we’ll ever spend a night there again. — Rhett Miller of Old 97’s

Let’s not end the story there though. Next time you see Rhett, congratulate him. Not only did he and Erica survive, better still is the unofficial word received here, which says they are now engaged to be married. So three cheers for Erica and Rhett, who now join the recently engaged Murry and Grey in helping soon make the Old 97’s an all-family-man band.

Also, at their recent New Orleans shows, the Old 97s were joined on stage by a camera crew and by cast members from Showtime’s series, Going To California. The reason? Well, the Old 97’s perform the title track from that series, and a (gulp) video was being taped.

You may be familiar with the tired old story of the supposed “feud” between the Old 97’s and former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams. If the stories were ever true, they certainly aren’t any longer, as Rhett and the 97’s get a “thank you” in the liner notes of Adams’ latest solo album, Gold, and Ryan himself has been spotted at recent 97’s shows. Plus, Gold is one fine album. Check it out.

But you want new 97’s music don’t you? Cool, it’s out there. Robert Jenkins’ Summer Break Records has just released Sunny Teriyaki Hamburger Breakfast, a compilation from several Summer Break artists including Deathray Davies, Chomsky, Prescott Curlywolf, Pennywhistle Park, Calvert, Jetty Webb, Todd Deatherage, Sorta, HSL, Happiness Factor and Fury III. But the best part, for us, is that the S.T.H.B. compilation features the one-of-a-kind truck driving elegy, “Holy Cross,” an unreleased Old 97’s track from the Too Far To Care sessions, and “Sweet Thing Pine Bluff,” a beautiful unreleased gem from the Ranchero Brothers! Order yours today, and stay tuned to Hit By A Train for word on how you might win your own copy of Sunny Teriyaki Hamburger Breakfast.

Finally, the Old 97’s “Weightless,” makes an appearance on the soundtrack of the well-reviewed new thriller, Joy Ride. So help keep the economy moving and go to the movies! Take in a Joy Ride.

the Old 97′s fan site

September 29, 2001

Back in ’97 and ’98, much was said and written about the Great Old 97’s – Whiskeytown Feud. In retrospect, there probably wasn’t that much to it. First of all, Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams was the only member of that band who joined the fight, while 97’s lead guitarist Ken Bethea provided about the only recorded return fire from the 97’s. Well OK, there were those whispers that “Crash On The Barrelhead” might have been written in honor of you-know-who, but in general, it was the music press and fans of the bands – including, I’m afraid, yours truly – who put more fuel on the fire than those ostensibly involved.

Over the years the story slowly died down. The 97’s career continues apace, while last year Adams released the stunning and solo Heartbreaker, and followed it up with this year’s lovely swan-song from Whiskeytown, Pneumonia, recorded in 1999. Meanwhile reports of an older, wiser, and mellower Mr. Adams began to circulate. Before his 12/31/99 concert, Ryan donned an Old 97’s shirt on a dare, and for charity, then posed for a snapshot. Later, word trickled out of SXSW 2000 that Ryan and Murry Hammond had spent some friendly moments together. (During the Old 97’s – Whiskeytown “No Depression” tour in 1997, Ryan reportedly perfected “a pretty damn good Murry impersonation,” complete with that patented Hammond-shuffle-sidestep up to the microphone.)

Finally, we got word that Ryan had attended the recent “Reverb” taping by the Old 97’s at El Lay’s Knitting Factory, where he was spotted afterward in an animated and amiable visit with the band. Since then, he added a warm word about that show to the guestbook on the main Whiskeytown website, and today he followed that up with a greeting in this guestbook:

cant say enough about The Knitting Factory show. twas incredible. loved it with two electrics. Rhetts guitar is very, ‘Keith Correct”, a 72 I think.anyway, congratulations on a great show and a great album. hope to catch you soon (hope yr. throat feels better after the jersey thing)…

from ryan,

the mudslinging, nasty drunk who isnt far from 30 and feeling fine… (raise the age and up the death poll bets, I wanna side bet)


So what’s it all mean? Well, it’s safe to say that the “feud,” such as it was, is over. But it also means that the webmaster of this site will soon be on a all-crow diet, as he recodes old HTML to remove some tired and nasty references about Mr. Adams. Damnit, who knew he’d turn out to be a good sport?