Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics meld rockabilly with surf rock to make music that's not as crazy as it sounds. 

File Under Schizophrenic

Deke Dickerson remembers riding the bus to school one day when he was 5 or 6 and discovering that musically he was whistling a tune different from his peers. All his little school chums were happily singing "Rhinestone Cowboy," Glen Campbell's mid-'70s hit, while Dickerson had Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" running through his head.

"That's when I knew I wasn't the round peg in the round hole," says Dickerson during a telephone interview from his California home. He was getting ready to hit the road for a three-month cross-country tour that brings him to Poe's Pub Feb. 16.

Dickerson, 31, grew up in Missouri, but he says his musical roots come from the old-timey music he heard from his Virginia-bred grandparents. His own folks were not particularly musical, he recalls, but as a boy he took to the guitar with a vengeance. There wasn't much else for a guy to do, he says. "It was about two miles away to the nearest kid," he remembers. "Growing up I was obsessed with [the guitar]."

From the start, Dickerson says he was drawn to the music of Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and other early rockers. By the time he was 13, he was organizing bands to play rockabilly music at local pizza joints.

Untamed Youth, his first serious band, specialized in '60s surf and garage-band music. They managed to scare up some small-label interest and toured regularly in the late '80s. Dickerson says they were so young that his dad drove them on one early tour that took them to "one gig in Ohio and two gigs in New York City." Ready for stardom, Untamed Youth eventually headed west in 1991 for Los Angeles with dreams of the big time.

The band soon "fizzled out," Dickerson recalls, but he liked L.A. and stayed to hang out and meet others who shared his enthusiasm for early rock 'n' roll. He discovered there was a decent-paying niche for his type of music, and though he paid the bills courtesy of a "screwy office job," he gigged regularly. Dickerson eventually met Dave Stuckey and formed the Dave and Deke Combo. The combo released several albums and toured Europe five times before it broke up in 1996.

Dickerson formed his current band, the Ecco-Fonics, in 1997. With Dickerson's trademark custom-built 1959 double-neck Mosrite guitar in tow, the group has toured steadily since its inception playing for widely divergent crowds.

Dickerson's second CD "More Million Sellers" was recently released on Hightone. He says that it accurately captures the band's sound but he hopes that it's not too across-the-board stylistically. "It's so schizophrenic," he says. "It throws a lot of people off …. They don't know where to file us away."

But whether it is filed under rockabilly or roots rock'n'roll, Dickerson's music is finding its way closer to the mainstream.

"Everything feels like it's still going up," he says of the band's future. "Actually, things are looking very

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