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!