Archive for 2003

ARRIVED – Hark the herald angels sing, and in the Miller household they’ve been heralding the arrival on Maxwell Iahn Miller, all nine pounds of whom joined the rest of us on November 15. And like the rest of the second generation 97’s, he’s truly one beautiful baby. I think, however, that all the papa’s involved will admit to having married extremely well.

DUE – A new Old 97’s album, damnit. The good news is – or rather, the good rumors are – that the 97’s will hit the

studio in February to wax a late Summer of ’04 release.

DONE – The Old 97’s have new mangement, which they share with Kings of Leon, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris among others. It is, I believe, Vector Management out of Nashville, and according to both Ken and Murry, the new guys are extremely enthusiastic about getting the boys back in the studio and out on the road, and the band is just as enthusiastic about the new mangement.

COMING SOON – The Old 97’s are hitting the road again! January will see the boys kick off a mini-tour, and if the past is any guide, these sets should feature some the the tunes the guys are working up for inclusion in their upcoming CD. And while they may return to the road in March and April to warm up for a full fledged tour latter in the year, miss these January shows at your peril!


Ah september

September 18, 2003

Ah, September. A chill is in the air, and like salmon, the Old 97’s now make their way upstream back to Texas to molt and spawn.

OK, bad analogy. The only salmon that show up in Texas do so rolled in seaweed and rice, or packed in a can. And I’m pretty sure no molting is in the offing, and the spawning’s in the Spring. Oh well. BUT, 97’s-related shows are filling in the calendar nicely, thank you. The latest? Murry Mr. Hammond and his lovely and talented bride, Grey DeLisle, take the stage at Dallas’ All Good Cafe, TONIGHT, September 18, while the Old 97’s themselves take the stage at Antone’s, ACL Fest, and Sons of Hermann Hall on September 19, 20, and 21, respectively; and with the Ranchero Brothers and Murry & Grey joining the bill at the SOHH gig.

Writes Murry of the 9/18 show, and other tidbits:

I’ll do 45 mins., then Grey and I will do the rest of the night. I’m bringing the ol’ harmonium, and I’d love for you to see it. It will give you a good idea of what my solo album (yipes!) will sound like next year.

Everyone’s good, looking at the future for a change. We’ll likely *begin* the process of recording next spring, and will shoot for a fall release. We don’t quite have a record yet, but we’re more than well on the way, and I’ve no doubt we’ll have a pile we’re happy with by then. I’m really happy with my 97 songs so far, and the solo pile is really shaping up, too.

So there you have it, and check back soon!

They’re alive! Last week, Rhett dropped and line and to say “that the projected release for the new 97’s album has been pushed back to early ’04. This is due to uncertainty about what label it will appear on, Murry and Grey’s travel schedule in October, and my son’s looming birth…”

So while it’s OK to be a bit bummed, you gotta admit there are some good causes. Also, as 2003 marks the Old 97’s 10 year anniversary as a band, there’s a decent possibility of an Anniversary show, perhaps one in Dallas around the time of the 97’s appearance at the ACL Fest. “Maybe,” says Papa Rhett, “a storytellers/acoustic type of deal.”

Then yesterday, Ken Bethea checked in on Hitchhiking with this:

hey ya’ll,

I’ve been kind of sick and not been dinking around on the web the past few weeks as much as normal. So I made it here and after reading a few posts thought I would chime in.

The Antones and of course ACL shows are confirmed. I’m 90% sure the Sons of Herman in Dallas is. It was my big idea to (since September is our 10th year anniversary WITH Philip (technically I supposed murry, rhett, Darin Wood and myself were going by The Old 97’s for the previous six months but that was more or less one long sad sound check) play instore/storyteller/unplugged/whatever you want to call it style and mainly play songs off our first two cds. We’ll talk about them and tell some tales. I think it will be fun.

The show in Dallas in early August was nice but like the poster said, very hot. I got sick after it… some kind of virus for a week. We were pretty ratty performance wise… I think we’ve kind of gotten out of practice because of the lay off. I never could make my guitar sound right. I think most likely this was just due to the time off from hearing it. I had the settings set the same as I always do.

As far as new material goes, we haven’t, as a band, worked on any. Rhett and Murry have written songs but they always write songs. So I’m not sure when we will get a chance to sit down and start playing some together. It’s tough. Rhett lives in NY now and Murry is still in Burbank. Philip and I are both here with 2 kids each. We’re sort of stuck in a way where the band has done well enough to keep it going, but we’re not rich at all so it’s kind of hard to get the time to get together and play. For one thing… Philip and I would have to round up babysitter$$$ 🙂 Not too mention Rhett is going to be a dad in November.

Anyway, I guess I’ll get some sleep. If you have any questions post them and I’ll check back here for the next week or so. If you have any special requests for the sons show post them as well but don’t expect much in the way of super obscure type songs like ray charles because frankly, we don’t really know them. We know the songs on hitchhike and wreck of course.

Hmmmm… except maybe dressing room walls. I’m not sure how we would do with that one. Been a while.

Oh yeah… totally off the subject but is anyone an electrician? I have a problem trying to install my ceiling fan.


night night…

ken bethea

So the 97’s will have their next album completed… this FALL??? Hmm, many thanks to sharp-eyed Wrecker Brian Sanderlin who spotted this nugget in the July 18 Chicago Tribune:


Miller finding a second wind

Singer poised on cusp of stardom

By Allison Stewart

Special to the Tribune

July 18, 2003

Rhett Miller, solo artist and occasional frontman of the alt-country quartet the Old 97’s, has a baby on the way, which partly explains his recent string of unorthodox, but potentially lucrative career choices. They include an opening slot on the Tori Amos tour, a gig singing “Homeward Bound” for a Mastercard commercial and, most improbably, an upcoming date playing Las Vegas with Uncle Kracker, an event Miller seems to be regarding with equal parts wonder and dread, though he’s much too polite to say so.

It’s been 10 months since the release of his amiable, impressive solo debut, “The Instigator,” and things have gone only partly as planned. Though Miller made the album with the assistance of famed Los Angeles record producer Jon Brion and seeded it with near-irresistible pop hooks, it was met with only moderate interest by radio programmers and the complaints of Old 97’s purists, of which there are many.

“I guess it’s gone well,” Miller says. “I didn’t see the American people going [crazy] over it like they did over John Mayer or something. I have heard the grumblings like I knew I would hear, but every record I’ve done has had that. Old fans come up to me and say, `I wanted to hate this record, but I love it.’ I mean, it’s still me. It’s not like I made a dance record like Jewel.”

It would have been easy to imagine that Miller, who is famously attractive and sweet and sings wistful love songs that reference Don DeLillo, would be embraced by mainstream audiences as a less irritating but equally charismatic version of Ryan Adams… Miller [also] isn’t sure what his label thinks, but it probably isn’t good: Elektra Records, to which he is signed both as a solo artist and as a member of the Old 97’s, might release him from his contract. Or, more awkwardly, drop the 97’s and keep him. The band recently regrouped to play some shows around their hometown of Dallas and to lay down some demo tracks for a new album, though any actual release date would hinge upon the resolution of their contractual issues.

Miller, who over the past few years has taken an increasing leadership role in the band, hints that his experiences recording “The Instigator” might influence the upcoming sessions. “As much as I liked recording like a garage band, I do feel like I want to experiment a little, maybe bring in some guest musicians or something.” To illustrate, Miller gave everyone in the Old 97’s, one of the most exemplary, meat-and-potatoes country-rock bands in existence, copies of Bowie’s glam rock concept album “Ziggy Stardust.” (While the band’s reaction to this is lost to history, Miller swears they were thrilled.) Miller also hopes bluegrass stars and sometime tour mates Nickel Creek will make a guest appearance, schedules permitting.

The band hopes to have the record finished in early fall; Miller’s baby is due in November, and the singer, who recently bought a house in upstate New York with his wife, is preparing to spend the winter as a full-time father.

“I’m definitely ready. After all these years on the road, I’m dying for it, actually.”

Rhett Miller

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.

Price: $15 (all ages); 312-559-1212

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

So how in the heck have you guys been, eh? I’ve been running Hit By A Train since 1997, and this has been by far the longest break between news updates. Of course with the band on quasi-hiatus, there just ain’t been a lot of news to report. The boys did make some great appearances in Big D hereabouts back in April. Ken and Philip even popped in to turn the Ranchero Brothers show at the Barley House into a full fledged double bill, with the 97’s in effect opening for the Rancheros! The only thing missing? Hearing songs the Rancheros or 97’s might be road testing for upcoming albums. As of yet, there’s no word on when. Well, OK there was actually one new song. I believe it was the Ranchero’s “Won’t Be Home No More,” played by the 97’s and promised to be included on the next 97’s album. A must.

What else? Well, by all accounts Rhett is big in Japan, and mobbed by hoards of screaming Japanese females whenever he pops into the Land of the Rising Sun. And speaking of suns, or daughters, that reminds me, since he’s announced it at recent gigs, I guess it’s OK to mention here: Rhett’s gonna be a daddy. Personally, I think a girl would be ironic, as 16 years from now, one can imagine an older and wiser Rhett growing increasingly paranoid about the attention his daughter gets from young men like… well… the ones in Rhett Miller songs. That big Karma Wheel just keeps on turnin’, don’t it?

<fuzzy memory> I spent six of the four best years of my life at college, where for a time I DJ’d at a low power campus radio station. We used to get records from every fly-by-night company on the planet, and one day back in 1981 this two-bit company called HibTone sent us a single by some group with a ridiculous name. Then my friend and I put that 7″ on the changer, and got knocked out by “Radio Free Europe.” By R.E.M..

By 1994 I was back in north Texas, when one week, a then-guitarist for Slobberbone invited me to a ‘Bone show at a little club just a few blocks away. Opening for Slobberbone was this group, “Old 97’s”, about whom I’d vaguely heard. Midway through the first song, my jaw was on the floor. They were amazing.

In thirteen years, I’d nearly forgotten that music could be so loud, so fast, so smart, or so much fun, and I certainly hadn’t said “wow” about much new music since 1981, when that shiny happy 45 from REM hit the changer.</fuzzy memory>

So why all the misty, water-colored memories? Well dang, haven’t you heard? The Old 97’s will be joining R.E.M., among others, at the second annual Austin City Limits Music Fest, from September 19 – 21, at Zilker Park in lovely Austin, Texas. Advice? Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Well, you get the idea. I’ll be there again this year, and this time to see my two favorite bands of the past 25 years. Rock freakin’ on, baby.

Can’t make it to Austin? Well, howzabout Dallas on August 9? That night we celebrate the 9th Anniversary of the very first radio program to play the Old 97s. It’s the “Adventure Club” 9th Anniversary Party, and host con most, Josh Venable has lined up a great bill at Trees. It’s the Old 97’s, with Eisley, Peter Schmidt (of Legendary Crystal Chandelier and Funland), and Cordelane. Come on kids, think about it:

Great music. Old 97’s. Dallas. August. Good friends. Hot weather. Cold beer. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because it doesn’t get any better.

BTW, I have Eisley’s “Laughing City” in the changer right now. Excellent! See the whole lineup, damnit. Get your money’s worth. I will. And I’ll try to post again soon. Of course Ken and Murry, and the band have the keys to this joint too. Come on fellas, what are you doin’ on your summer vacation?

Ooh, ooh, almost forgot. Better late than never, Elektra has released “Our Love” as the second single off The Instigator, and it’s started to rack some airplay. Call your favorite station and ask for it by name!

Murry recently checked recently in with news on the 97’s front: “The 97’s are reconvening in May to sit down with lists and guitars and start talking seriously about the next album, and I want to have some songs in my pocket. I told them I’m shooting for four on this one! We’ll see. I think I can pull it off.” And Murry also seem to be a more or less full-time member of wife Grey’s DeLisle’s band, “The Homewreckers,” who are currently in the midst of recording a follow-up to Grey’s 2001 Homewrecker, this time with Todd Burke, who produced the last Ben Harper record, handling the knobs.

And anyone here remember the Satellite Riders? They’ve continued to plug away as the worlds finest (and only?) Old 97’s tribute band all throughout the 97’s hiatus. And they return to Dallas Sons of Hermann Hall on Friday night, May 9! For those of you unfamiliar with the Riders, here’s a reprint from a December 2001 post:

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…

Oh yeah, Rhett content: man I guess he’s big in Japan, right? With all those Japanese tour dates? We’re going to have to sit him down and get the skinny on what it’s like being the center of a screaming mob of Japanese women. In the meantime, you can check out this nifty new interview with Rhett from the Ventura County Star. And don’t forget to check our new MP3 of Rhett’s performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound,” first broadcast on this year’s Oscar telecast. Props to David Welsh for supplying the clip!

Finally, the Old 97s will be playing several Texas dates in May, though perhaps none more meaningful than one on May 8, at Emo’s in Austin. That night, several bands in including the 97’s and the Deathray Davies, will be playing a benefit for the family of “Handsome Joel” Svatek, former roadie and all around handyman for the Old 97’s and several other Austin bands. Joel was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year, and proceeds will go to help Joel’s family deal with their loss.

I just received this from Ken. It needs to be up here:

This morning I was reading through the Dallas Morning News. Basketball tourney first, then some general sports, the comics (specifically Peanuts), weather, and the metropolitan section. I finished with war news. On the bottom of a page was a picture of a marine carrying a little injured Iraqi boy. The boy wasn’t wearing any pants. He looked so scared. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him all morning.

I have a little boy about the same age. Mine gets scared when his balloon pops.

I’m not going to whip you all down to much with this email. This is neither pro or against our war in Iraq. But if you (like me) have been beaten down by the generals, the protests, the politicians and the reporters, remember one thing: Iraq is decimated. It’s the worst place on earth right now to be. And roughly half of it’s population are little ones.

I bet they’re terrified.

I looked around on the web and found this:

UNICEF helps children get the care and stimulation they need in the early years of life and encourages families to educate girls as well as boys. It strives to reduce childhood death and illness and to protect children in the midst of war and natural disaster. UNICEF supports young people, wherever they are, in making informed decisions about their own lives, and strives to build a world in which all children live in dignity and security.

That comes from the UNICEF website. I just spent a little time poking around it.

So this isn’t really a panhandling email. But, if I could touch those little kids I would try to help them. I can’t though. I live in Texas, 93 millions miles from Iraq. So I’m going to send a hundred bucks rather than spend it on a combination DVD/VCR which was what I was going to do with it.

Think about helping out. Whether you support this war are not makes no difference. Regardless of what happens over there with all the big people running around burning gunpowder, the little people are losing out.

Hopefully someday the world will be a nicer place.

Here’s the website address:


ken bethea

PS: If you can help it, don’t reply to this email. I don’t want any “attaboys” or “the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi” replies. Don’t waste your time I don’t really care. 🙂

Spend your time helping someone who needs it.

If you’ve ever caught the magic at a Ranchero Brothers show, you know that Rhett and Murry spin out some of the finest folk-pop harmonies this side of classic Simon & Garfunkel. That said, Cathy M. reminds you to keep ears open for a new MasterCard commercial, set to premier during Sunday’s Oscar telecast. Singing S&G’s “Homeward Bound” will be none other than Rhett Miller, and one can hope this might also make the occasional playlist at his solo shows. Still, short of a live appearance by one or all 97’s, I’ll again be missing our annual celebration of vacuous, walking eating disorders, and coke-addled heartthrobs. As such, you guys will have to let me know how it sounds, but should an MP3 of the commertcial grace grace my e-mail box, I’ll be sure to post it with credit given.

Here’s some Rhett news you can you can use, especially if you live in or near Memphis. On February 27, Rhett and Memphis’ WMPS are throwing a private concert in one very intimate and cool venue: The Capriccio Bar in the grand old Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. This show is a private event for fans and listeners, so tickets are not for sale. If you’d like to attend, you can register to win tickets – and get full details – at

Date: Thursday, February 27, 2003

Location: Peabody Hotel’s Capriccio Bar in Downtown Memphis

149 Union Avenue; Memphis, TN 38103

Doors open at 5pm and Rhett set starts around 8pm. Be there!

From Old 97’s & I Love Math skinsman and proud papa Philip Peeples comes this: “This Saturday, February 15, is the ‘I Love Math’ CD release date with an in store at Good Records at 4:00 pm. Then, later that night, the official CD release show at the Barley House, where else? Hope to see you soon,”


Whaddya mean you haven’t seen I Love Math yet? They put on a great fun and tuneful show. You miss ’em, it’s your loss!