Archive for 2001

Hug loved one

September 14, 2001

Hug a loved one. Everything else is peanuts. Just as the civilized world has been shaken by the violence of September 11, so have the Old 97’s. Lead singer Rhett Miller is currently bunking with friends in Manhattan, after the attacks in lower Manhattan left him unable to reach his apartment there. There’s other news too, and lots of new tourdates, but the webmaster, who’s been stuck away from home and a keyboard for two weeks now, is tired and cranky. But happy to be back home with family and friends. As soon as he gets 12 hours sleep, he promises to have more news, so check back soon.

Back on June 25th, the Old 97’s snuck into an Atlanta recording studio to lay down one single track. And you don’t need to wait to hear it. That is, you won’t have to wait if you have cable. The new Showtime series Going To California, airing Thursdays at 10 pm ET, features a theme song of the same name (sample lyric: “Going to California, let’s get lost along the way…”) by, surprise, the Old 97’s.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m sorry about the long delay in new news on the Old 97’s. But since it’s been a while, there’s plenty to report. In this edition: New records, new photos, new shows, new wives, new suits, new Rancheros, and… an alien invasion? Let’s hit the pics first.

The Old 97’s flew home from to Texas after their July 18 Tonight Show performance, and put on some scorching summer shows in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. Many many cameras were in attendance and the resulting photos have turned up all over the web. The URL’s?

Speaking of pics, one Rhett Miller goes noticeably upscale, in a fashion shoot on page 108 of the new Rolling Stone (the “HOT” issue – R.S. 108), dressed in ahem… Prada and Hugo Boss.

And what’s up with the Ranchero Brothers? (For the uninitiated, the Rancheros are Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond in an acoustic, Everley-ish alter-ego of the Old 97’s.) The long-running saga of the Rancheros’ debut album continues. Though recorded in early 2000, the album’s producer Hammond had a chance to mix just a handful of the eighteen tracks recorded by the duo. Among those is “In The Satellite Rides A Star,” the namesake to Satellite Rides. (Check out the “Sounds” page for an extended excerpt). The remainder sit unmixed on the hard drive of an ailing computer. What will it take to get the album finished? How about a software update, days of uninterrupted days of attention from their producer, and according to one unconfirmed report, the possible addition of one or more new and yet-to-be-recorded “up” tracks. Plans have always been for the Ranchero record to debut after the commotion surrounding Satellite Rides has settled down a bit. This would all seem to point toward a Spring 2002 release. But that’s only a guess.

Mainly, Murry’s got to have some free time to get it finished, and free time is something he simply hasn’t had for over a year. First there’s been the rehearsal for and recording of Satellite Rides. Then the touring. Plus the courting. Oh yeah, did I mention that Mr. Hammond is getting married? He is, and recent live shows have seen the dedication of both “Question” and “W-I-F-E” to the newly engaged bassist. Still, the Rancheros played an unannounced gig, their fist since November, at a recent Largo show in L.A. which had been advertised as a Rhett Miller solo show, and they hit the Largo stage again on August 23. Never seen a Ranchero Brothers show? You need to go, as a Ranchero show resurrects the lost art of the hootenanny.

So lots of bands have dedicated fans. But how many bands have fans who’s actions might ignite rumors of a (musically tasteful) alien invasion, or confound the spy satellites of a hostile power? See, just west of the intersection of I-295 and I-95 in Trenton, New Jersey, large mysterious hieroglyphics have recently materialized, apparently carved into the tall native grasses of the Robeling Memorial and Delaware Raritan Canal State Parks. From the ground, they appear innocent. But from the air, it’s obvious that someone, somehow, has mowed out giant letters which read: OLD 97’S. Who did it? One heavy equipment operator and Old 97’s fan Mark Layton. Now, we need someone to get up there and get a picture! Volunteers?

So how’s the 97’s current (7/31 – 8/12) gig as the opening band on the Matchbox 20 – Train – Old 97’s arena dates? Rhett Miller reported on that 7/31 chat that early shows have seen an excellent 10,000 or so folks in their seats for the 97’s, with some fine crowd reaction to the band. Last evening’s show in Toronto apparently saw a smaller and more laid-back crowd for the 97’s set. Kieran Grant, music critic for the Toronto Sun wrote this:

But it was Dallas, Texas, openers Old 97’s who were the most interesting band of the night with their bright, unbridled, wildly sentimental post-country-punk. As the cruel realities of this rock game so often seem to dictate, played to a politely indifferent reception.

The Toronto Star added:

By contrast, the Texas quartet Old 97’s launched the night with a short but blissful set of hard-driving, straight-ahead rock and roll that featured blistering renditions of “King Of All Of The World” and “Up The Devil’s Pay” from this year’s Satellite Rides disc.

Singer Rhett Miller expressed the band’s gratitude for being asked to open the show. But on a bill with Matchbox Twenty and Train, the Old 97’s looked like renegades showing up for the prom in jeans and a T-shirt. And bless them for that.

The last bit of news for today? Well when the Old 97’s signed to Elektra back in ’96, it was a three album deal, with Elektra having an option for two additional albums. Satellite Rides is the Old’s third Elektra release. So now what? Happily, it seems that despite some recent turmoil at the Warner music labels (Wilco having recently been dropped by Warner’s Reprise label) the good folks at Elektra retain their faith in good music and a little band from Texas, as Rhett Miller announced in a 7/31 on-line chat that Elektra has picked up their option for another two albums from the Old 97’s. Right on, right on!

This just in from Old 97’s lead guitarist Ken Bethea:

Subject: old 97’s leno on 7-18

Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 18:35:43 -0500

From: Ken Bethea

…We just heard about 30 minutes ago we’re gonna be on Leno tomorrow night (7/18, Wednesday). We’re flying out tonight at 10:30…



ps – I think we’re going to play “Rollerskate Skinny.”

A later message from a friend at Elektra says the boys will actually be playing “Designs On You,” which would seem to make a bit more sense as “Designs” is, uhm, the single. So place your bets (“Designs vs. Rollerskate: The Smackdown!”) and get those VCR’s ready… quickly.

For ten long days the “news” page and several others here at Hit By A Train have been down. In addition, all e-mail addresses (and that means the “Satellite Rides Sweepstakes“) have been kaput too. And while the immediate crisis has passed, the cause of the original problem hasn’t yet been fully determined, so please let me know if you encounter other problems with the site.

Since the last news update, “Designs On You” is making one nice splash, thanks to you guys! Elektra began it’s push to radio this week, and already “Designs” is the number 1 most added single on “AAA” Radio and the #6 most added on “Hot AC” Radio. I’ll do some checking, but this may well be the best ever debut for any Old 97’s single!

But on the downside, the Old 97’s last week suffered their first cancelled show in eight years. It was the Saturday June 16 show at Hooligan’s in Long Branch, New Jersey, and occurred after singer Rhett Miller reamed his voice into a whisper with several brutal weeks of touring and a blistering 6/15 show at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza. Read on, as guitarist Ken Bethea dropped a line on the night of the cancelled show, as the band sat bored in their hotel:

We cancelled our show tonight in New Jersey.

For the people who came, we are soooooo sorry. We’ve never done this. We want to apologize.

Rhett’s voice, for the first time in 8 years, was gone. Shot. He couldn’t talk. Only whispers this morning and coughing up gross stuff.

We talked about playing like, 6 Murry songs and some instrumentals but it would have probably just made Rhett want to sing and hurt it more. I know a couple of jokes. Murry and I can juggle a bit. We could maybe have gotten Noah to jump onstage and do the splits.

Worst news is yet to come…

Springsteen was coming to the show. He was on the way when the club owner called him and said we had cancelled.


So Murry and I are sitting here in Philly on a Saturday night with nothing to do. We’re watching Justice Files.

At least tomorrow I’m going to Gettysburg to look at battlefield and he’s going to DC to look up train stuff…

We’ll be back home in July. Hope to see ya then.



The second single off the Old 97’s Satellite Rides will be the sly and lilting “Designs On You.” Elektra begins its push to have radio stations add “Designs” to their playlists on June 18. That means it’s time we kick off Phase II of our “Satellite Rides Sweepstakes,” and start cranking out those calls to our favorite stations too!

To get you primed, check out this big batch of 97’s webanalia. First up are these cuts, recorded live in-studio for the folks at VH1 and MTV:

Designs On You

King Of All The World

Lonely Holiday

In addition has their own exclusive, live acoustic versions of “Indefinitely” and “King Of All The

World,” available for download in the Liquid Audio format at:

And for 24 hours, beginning at 3:00pm EST June 21, the House of Blues ( will be webcasting the recent Old 97’s El Lay show. For more info on the June 21st webcast click here.

Also, the Olds are featured at as Celebrity DJ’s where they’re spinning some favorite tunes. If you click here for more, you’ll note a playlist that includes the likes of Stereolab and the Stones, The Breeders and REM, Thelonious Monk, Waylon Jennings, and KISS.

Now, if Matchbox Twenty were to supply a playlist, we might safely guess that it would include the Old 97’s, which are “One of our all-time favorite bands… and possibly one of the greatest bands ever.” – Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. And speaking of MB20, before they take their August spot on the Matchbox Twenty – Train bill, the 97’s remain on the road, in a headline tour which also includes the terrific Josh Joplin Group. Be there!

Finally, several of you asked what happened to the 97’s scheduled June 11 taping on the Late Late Show with Craig Killborn. Apparently the taping schedule was changed, so that the Monday 6/11 Killborn show was being “pre-taped” last Friday, June 8. That meant that your favorite rock band was unable to make it, but will likely be rescheduled to appear at a later date.

…oh, oh, almost forgot: This past Monday, before the Old 97’s taping for HBO’s Reverb, calls are received at the show’s venue, L.A.’s Knitting Factory, from one über-talented performer who is trying to make sure he’ll be able to get in to see the 97’s set. Afterwards, said singer-songwriter is seen backstage visiting one-one-one with the Old’s Rhett Miller. OK, so pulling rank to get on a guestlist or slip backstage ain’t unusual. But what if the performer in question had in the past gone out of his way to blast the Old 97’s, both publicly and privately. Yeah, so maybe 1997’s squabbles are old news, but in a slow week, it was cool to hear the the Old 97’s and Ryan Adams are getting along well these days.