Southern Culture on the Skids Talks About Working With Hasil Adkins and Being Nominated for “Coolest Song in the World”

On Feb. 10, outsider singer and songwriter Hasil Adkins was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Adkins, who died in 2005, influenced some of the more out-there artists who would follow in his wake: The Cramps and Flat Duo Jets are two who name the psycho-billy pioneer as a favorite. Also in that group is Southern Culture on the Skids, which has been making fun, often silly music for more than three decades. Like Adkins, the band has written songs about chicken.

Southern Culture was asked to perform at Adkins’ inauguration. The band had played with him many times and included a tribute to him (“Cicada Rock”) on its ninth album, 2004’s “Mojo Box.” Guitarist Rick Miller says he was pleased to see “the Haze” honored.

“It was kind of a Hasil love fest there for a little while, the crowd really liked it,” Miller says. “I was amazed that they let a guy so far outside of the traditional music scene into their hall of fame. They inducted some traditional musicians too: Frank Hutchinson, along with some traditional bluegrass and old-time.”

Other honorees included Ann Magnuson of Bongwater and the late Fred “Sonic” Smith of MC5. Smith’s widow, poet and musician Patti Smith was in attendance. She and her son Jackson were joined onstage by guitarist Lenny Kaye to honor Smith. “There was also some guy [Michael W. Smith] who’s huge in the Christian market,” Miller says. “I don’t know who he was, but it was all really good.”

Many years ago, Miller tried to put together an album of Adkins’ songs.

“I got in the mail a box of, like, 10 reel-to-reel master tapes from him,” he recalls. “There was a note in the box: ‘Pick 16 for the record and two for a single, and send the rest back to me.””

Unfortunately, as the project neared completion, the record label went out of business.

“I just sent all the tapes back to Hasil,” Miller says. “Some songs ended up on Norton Records later on. But they showed a side of Hasil I didn’t really know: country, hillbilly-flavored and bluesy songs.”

Southern Culture on the Skids earned some recognition of its own late last year. Sirius XM Underground Garage radio host Little Stevie Van Zant nominated one of its songs, “Dirt Road” from 2017’s “The Electric Pinecones, as one of the coolest songs in the world.

“We noticed that the list [of nominees] was stacked with some good records,” Miller says. “So I was like, ‘Eh, I don’t know how good we’ll do on this.'”

Noting that he doesn’t know how many of the group’s fans listen to Little Steven (“obviously more than I thought”), Miller emphasizes that the band appreciates the gesture. “We came in fourth. It was an honor that they even picked our song [for consideration] in the first place.”

The band’s current tour travels to more than 24 dates along the Eastern Seaboard and the South, including sets at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Eventually there will be a new CD for fans only, one featuring material from the band’s years on the Geffen label.

“We own the songs,” Miller explains. “I wrote ’em. I own the publishing. But Geffen owns the versions of the songs. So when someone maybe makes an indie film and wants to use one of those songs, we have to refer them to Geffen. We get kind of lost in the shuffle.”

Rick Miller says that the re-recordings mean that those tunes “can be part of our catalog again. We’ll probably put together a little bootlegger’s choice and make it available to fans who say, ‘I love that “Banana Pudding” song. What album is it on?'”

He laughs when he notes that the new recordings sound really good.

“We’re actually better now than we were then,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s going to be a plus or a minus.” S

Southern Culture on the Skids performs with openers Chrome Daddy Disco at the Broadberry on Thursday, March 15, at 8 p.m. $15 – $20.


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