Roger Alan Wade

Roger Alan Wade talks about his song “The First Time I Saw Waylon,” songwriting heroes, his radio show with cousin Johnny Knoxville, and his new lease on life with Brandy Lee Dixon.

BLD – You ready?

RAW- Yeah! Let’s nail it!

BLD – How long have you been writing songs and performing?

RAW – Well, we got this video out now called “The First Time I Saw Waylon” and man, that’s pretty much where it started for me. I dabbled around, ya know, the campfire or on the front porch kinda thing- but then, Waylon Jennings came to town and man, I saw him and I thought ‘that’s the coolest white guy I ever saw in my life!’ He come out there, walkin’ that line and I thought, “That’s what I’m going to do.” The next day I went and got me a real guitar and that’s been, I guess Brandy, that’s been 25 years ago maybe 30. I ain’t looked back since. Waylon was Elvis to me. Of course, I love Willie, Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Johnny Cash and Dylan but Waylon as a performer and a singer, he was it for me. I was just out of high school working at a stove factory downtown. I was really pretty happy with it until I saw Waylon, then it was curtains on regular life.

BLD- Ya know, I never got to see Waylon live.

RAW – That’s the only time I ever got to see him live. I was always a little afraid to see him again. I thought, if this is all just in my mind I want to keep it. I’d hate to go back and then it be something less. Like seeing superman without his cape or something.  I waited for years to go see Dylan. He’d come around and I wouldn’t go see him. Ya know, cause I hold him on this pedestal. I was afraid it’d just be this guy and a guitar. Finally, I went and saw him and I was not disappointed! I didn’t understand a word he said, but it was just amazing! His presence is just something special. I was really just a kid then so I didn’t know much about the “Greenwich Village Dylan” so it was pretty electric for me from the get go. I’ve gone back and listened to those records I love it when he goes off on his tangents. His work has just been a big blessing in my life. I just really dug on him for a really long time.

BLD – How do you feel about The Band?

RAW – I think they are the greatest rock n roll band on the planet!

BLD – Tell me what made you decide to record your first album.

RAW – Well’ we got one out called  All Likkered Up…

BLD – That’s the first one…

RAW – Yeah, that’s the first one. We were just up at Johnny Knoxville’s house , that’s my cousin. He has been so kind to me and so supportive. He had Chris Pontius one of the “Jackass” boys, who has a wonderful band. I was drinkin’ pretty hard then and I had really just written a bunch of crazy songs as exercises. I had run into the wall, ya know? I had spent most of my life at that point in honky tonks and libraries . I was trying to read everything I could get my hands on and then drink the night away. I had just kind of hit the wall and I was writing these crazy ass songs just for fun and just to be writing about something and ya know, some of ‘em were ok,  I reckon! So we got loaded and decided to record them. It’s just really done good. It’s really not something I want to do all the time. I still dig it and it was just something I was going through at the time. Now we are on to other things, kind of. There is still elements of that is everything, I guess . Ya know, ’cause it’s all a big joke or so it seems. It was just making it through the day there for awhile. Then we put out  Stoned Traveler album. It’s a little bit more serious but I think we are gonna put out another one sometime after the first of the year. Everything that we have recorded, we have recorded in Knoxville’s living room. We cut, I guess, 60 or 80 cuts the last time I was there. We got a bunch of stuff left in the can we are gonna release some of that. I’ve also started writing again and I’ve got some new songs. Ya know, we were just having fun (with All Likkered Up).  Knoxville is a huge music fan. He’s been so good to me and the thing best about him is how he treats people. He never lets fame go to his head. He is still the same nut that left Knoxville, Tennessee all of them years ago and went to L.A.  and became a big star.  He is still exactly the same and he has been so good to me and it’s just a pleasure that his love of music and my playing music- it’s crossed- and allowed us to spend a lot of time together and enjoy something we both love. I just didn’t get into that whole Nashville scene at all. They don’t miss me and I don’t miss them. I was really just pleased at playing here in my living room or playing in honky tonks but then Knox got involved, of course that a whole ‘nother ball game there! It’s nice to have some people hearing it and diggin’ it. It’s just been an absolute dream come true.

BLD -You seem to already have a big following and fan base..

RAW – Everybody is just part of the Big Ass Happy Family. Ya know, we just aint got time for negativity or anybody that ain’t happy or having a good time. It’s just like well man, maybe this ain’t for you, go on down the line there’s enough sadness in this world without adding to it. So, we are just about having fun and treating each other right!

I quit drinking….

BLD – I was gonna ask you about that…

RAW – I’ve been clean and sober now for over a year. It was a year in Feb.

BLD – Wow, that’s great!

RAW – Thank you so much. It’s been the best thing in my life. What it has really done for me is zeroed me in on what you were talking about before, about things being real. Ya know, you just want to go into everything with good motives and good intentions. My tolerance for bullshit has just gone. It just bores me. I mean let’s just be real and lets get on with it. I mean if it ain’t real, then take it some place else. It’s just a natural thing now, it was like that before I got into drugs and drinking real heavy. When I got into that, it’s like your motives and intentions are scorned and to have to bullshit everybody, you bullshit yourself. To get away from all that has been a total rebirth. I was always wishing for these big breaks and wishing something would happen. Now, I’m so happy it didn’t cause now it’s all brand new. We are not like some revival act or something like that. It’s all brand new and it’s just really cool that at this point in my life for it to be all new and we are undamaged goods. It’s not something to resale, it’s for the first time. We have a lot of ammunition and a lot of experience just cause of that 29 year low I went through. The experience is coming in handy and the songs that we were written and the things ya learned, ya know? It’s just been the sweetest thing ever. I really do appreciate this and ya’ll helping us get the word out and everything.

BLD – It’s my pleasure, definitely.

RAW – I can’t wait for you to hear the new record. As soon as we get it all together I’ll get you a copy.

BLD – That’d be great, thanks!  So, let talk a bit more about your video for “The First Time I Saw Waylon.”

RAW – Well, we were just hangin out here in sweet ol’ Chattanooga and Knox calls one day and says, “ Man, me and Dimitry Elyashkevich (camera man) are coming in and we are going to shoot a video for “The First Time I saw Waylon.”

Shooter Jennings  gave us some footage to use. Some old stuff of Waylon and he just let us use it for nothing! It was really sweet of him. Knox and Dimitry came in and we shot it all in one day. We were just goofing off and we went by my mom and dad’s and down to my brother’s pool hall and shot some stuff there. Then, we went to my daughter Shandy’s house . She had some old 8mm footage, from the old days from when I first saw Waylon. We sat in her living room and watched some of it. While we were there we also shot a video for D.R.U.N.K (out now), Knox shoots fast . He don’t like to overdub nothing or redo nothing. He wants the honest actual thing and it took me awhile to get used to that way. I’d be recording stuff and if I messed up on guitar or singing I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it cause I’d think ‘well, we can just go back and fix that’. Not with Knox! Knox likes the lumber with the bark still on it. He likes it honest and real. I learned a lot from him like that. I would drive myself nuts trying to get it a certain way. I’d really be sucking the life out of it. The things I love about them records is the honesty . Like you said about the old way, he’s really hammered that home. It’s like, well, that’s how we look today or that’s how we feel today, that’s how we sound today and there ain’t no fixin’ it up. It’s take it or leave it.

BLD – Is the replica of Waylon’s guitar yours?

RAW – No, Knox had a guy near Knoxville that fixed that up for us. I don’t know the whole story behind that but it was really sweet of him to do that. The guys name is Cody Hixon and like I said, Shooter gave us the footage of Waylon. Everyone has been so supportive and it has been running on CMT. I’m kind of funny about Waylon. I want everyone to love him like I do!

BLD – I really love that you mentioned Billy Joe Shaver in the song…

RAW – Man, they ought to just build a fence around him and declare him a Monument. If there was a songwriting war I would want Billy Joe in my fox hole. I’d put him up against anybody. It’s so natural for him, it’s nothing contrived. I’ll sit and listen to him sometimes and he sets my stuff on fire. He makes us all try to be better from being that good. Kristofferson had a line in one of his songs. I think it was a later one. “I know the difference between Waylon and Willie and Willie Waylon and me, but I ain’t saw nothing like Billy Joe Shaver and what Billy Joe Shaver can be,”(Roger sings).  Now, that’s coming from the master himself. Kristofferson. He knows Billy Joe lights it up.

BLD – He’s also a really nice man.

RAW – One time, this was years ago when I was still trying to do that Nashville thing, I had wrote a song and Hank Jr. recorded it and it went to number One.

BLD – “Country State of Mind”?

RAW – Yeah, I went to the BMI Awards ceremony and in the back of my mind I was thinking, Why am I here? I mean, I didn’t see Billy Joe or Willie or Kris Kristofferson there. I thought ,‘ If anybody needs awards, they do!’ This is when I felt they were getting no acclaim at all. I was just this damn long haired kid from Chattanooga and I didn’t know shit from apple butter. I was sitting in there and they gave me my award and they give you a medallion and a certificate . The first thing I did when I left there, is I went right to where Billy Joe hung out and sure enough he was in there. I tried to give the award to him and he wouldn’t take it. He said, “ You take that on home to your mama”. So, I did and she still has it hanging on her wall. That’s how much I think of him. I just adore him.

BLD – You’re a really great songwriter yourself.

RAW – Well, I have learned a lot from those cats, Guy Clark. Do you like Guy Clark?

BLD – Oh yeah..

RAW – I just love Guy. It’s like the difference between Faulkner and Hemingway that’s the difference in Guy Clark and Billy Joe. I mean they are at that level and they don’t write alike or sound alike in any way. They both have that Texas influence and they are masters of the craft. There is so much to be learned from them. It’s such a blessing to have cats like them to look up to, along with Kristopherson , Dylan and Willie Nelson. What a songwriter he is! They are all so different in so many ways but they are the same in some sense. They are all just head and shoulders above the rest. I’m sure you’ll see people with top songwriters or swanky people to do for them, that don’t really cut through me, man. I like these switch blade guys that live it. They guys who have been there and they’re not just telling you what they think you want to hear. When I think about songwriting, performing even, you gotta lay your balls on the anvil and hand ‘em the’s like if we’re going to be friends you want to hear what I’m thinking, not what I think you want to hear. So much of songwriting is tell them what they want to hear- that’s bullshit! That ain’t your responsibility as a poet or a writer to tell people what they want to hear. Tell me what your thinking and if it sells, then great- if not, well, then at least you were being honest. You still have something you can hold onto and be proud of. Some of these people don’t remember half the songs they wrote. It’s like, man, it’s too hard to do to end up doing that. You should write enough so that you aren’t married to all of ‘em, but if you’re just writing a bunch of fluff it ain’t gonna be nothing that sticks with you. I really don’t know much about today’s country music. I’m not saying that proudly, it just don’t do that much for me.

BLD – Today’s country just ain’t country to me…

RAW – Yeah, I was sitting here one day and I don’t know why this came up but there was this line from a song I wrote that Hank Jr. did, and I was real proud of it cause I wrote it sitting on the back porch over here in East Ridge, Tenn. On the back porch of a shotgun house. The line was ‘Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace’ and I’ll be damned if Big and Rich didn’t use it for an album title!

BLD – Are you serious?!

RAW – Yeah, my girlfriend Tristen (Trissy) saw something where they were popping off that they wrote that line cause that’s where they were at the time.

BLD- Ya know, I guess I’ll give those guys credit for 2 things and that’s all… Working with Billy Joe Shaver..

RAW – Yeah, I cant say much about that..

BLD – And they did something with John Anderson. I’m a big John Anderson fan, for sure. That’s it, though.

RAW – Man, I love John Anderson. I think he is one of the best country singers in shoe leather. He did a version of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” I also love Levon Helm’s version. When I heard John Anderson do it, it knocked my shoes off.. (this is where R.A.W does a damn fine Anderson impersonation), “Put your make up on. Do your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” (He sang it just like you would think John Anderson would.)

BLD – I’m gonna have to find that. I haven’t heard it and I love J.A. .. You have had your songs covered by a lot of people. We’ve already mentioned Hank Jr. you’ve had George Jones do one and Waylon just to mention a few. What was the song Waylon did?

RAW – It was a duet and at the time I really didn’t appreciate it cause i thought it was that easy. The duet was with Waylon and Johnny Cash. The song was “American By Birth and Southern By The Grace of God” and it was just an old anthem about BBQ and throwing horse shoes and stuff. It was on their Heroes album when they were doing the movie Stage Coach with Kris and Willie. The song wasn’t in the movie but they shot the cover on the set of that movie cause they had all the cowboy clothes on. It was a long time ago and I still cherish that, having both of them sing one of my songs. As a songwriter that’s pretty cool.

I was such an idiot and into what I was doing and writing one right after another. I really didn’t stop to appreciate it. I was just young and crazy and I thought , ‘well, I’ll get another one, I got to write one better than that.’ cause I never really liked that song.

BLD – Well, it’s obvious they liked it. 

RAW -Yeah, that was sweet they did it. I was just so busy trying to write some more I didn’t take the time to appreciate. Only now does it come through. I had seen this thing on CMT about top artist of all time and I got to watchin’ it, and 4 out of the top 5 or 5 out of the top six people had done one of my songs. Not Hank Sr. cause he was already dead but I had his son do one. There was Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon, Willie Nelson covered “My Body Is Just a Suitcase For My Soul”, he did a duet on that with his son Billy Nelson. Willie is one of my all time favorites. His daughters and his family have just been so good to us. Amy Nelson and her band. Paula Nelson also has a great band. We just went out and did some shows with her. They’ve all been so kind to us. Willie and the whole family. Connie has really got us kickin’ in Austin and opened some doors for us there. Austin, I just love that place. I had never been in all those years. All my heroes were there. To go down there and play and to be received so sweetly has been a wonderful thing.

BLD – Tell me some about the song you did about Jesco White and his family.

RAW – Well, me and Knox have this show on Sirius radio. It’s like cousins gone wild and we just have a blast. Well, there was this song I had written way back. It was actually a phrase my girlfriend had used, ‘ This Ought To Be One Big Ass Family Jubilee’ I thought, man that just sounds like a song. So, that’s what our radio show is called. One Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee. I was using the song for the show and you ain’t heard nothing’ till you heard Knoxville chime in! He’s got a style all his own. Ended up Knox had played it for Jeff Tremaine. They are doing this video that I think has Academy Award written all over it. it’s called The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.

BLD – Wow! Really??

RAW – Yeah! Have you seen the old Jesco stuff?

BLD – Oh yeah, about 8 or 9 years ago I think it was?

RAW -Well, this is like that times a thousand! This is done like a real movie documentary kind of deal.

BLD – Is Mamie on there too?

RAW – Yeah! We sat out there with them for hours and you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. It takes your breath away cause you cant get your head around it and you cant quit laughing and five seconds later you forget about it ’cause something even wilder had happened! It’s the most amazing piece of film I’ve ever seen.

BLD – I’d like to meet Jesco.

RAW – I never met him and I’m not sure I want to after seeing all this! I mean, it is out there. It’s just beyond words!

BLD – I’m so happy they are doing a documentary.

RAW – Yeah, and they approach it with such respect and integrity. It’s just so powerful. I’m just really excited to see what’s going to happen with it. Now, to get back to the song, Knox played it for Tremaine and they decided it really fit the bill. So, the word I have got on it is that they are going to use it. Of course you never know about these things until the very last. I think it fits it perfectly, too. I’m the worst dance writer and I was trying to get something you could dance to. I’m still not sure if it’s got a dance groove to it. The Jesco version goes like this, (RAW sings) “ Down the hills and the hollers, down the mountainside. We are the sons and daughters of Birty Mae and D Ray White. Some folks wonder why we wonder thru this wilderness. We just look at ’em like they’re crazy and tell ’em kiss our ass. We are one big ass happy family, under one big ass family tree. We are one big ass happy family and life is one big ass happy family jubilee.”  There’s a second verse if ya got the time,(RAW sings some more) “Almost heaven West Virginia, almost hell, it’s paradise . Home to the wild and wonderful Whites. Down from Grady holler, the dancing outlaw came. They all come from Boone County, now the whole world know our name. we are one”… It just goes on out like that. I don’t know if you can tap dance to it but it was pretty good.

BLD – That was amazing! So, tell me what you know about Hasil (the Haze) Adkins?

RAW – Oh man, Knoxville turned me on to Hasil.

BLD – I got to see him once before he died.

RAW – Have you seen that where this lady thinks Hasil is going to be her man and she’s fighting this old broad for him? They were playing in one of them old honky tonks up there. He always got to be sitting on something whether it’s a car or whatever..

BLD – I think in that scene in Hasil’s documentary, Mamie is the one who breaks up the fight and stops it.

RAW – She can whoop some ass!

BLD – I wouldn’t want to fuck with her!

RAW – I wouldn’t either. Not even with a shot gun! Hasil is incredible. There aint no dress up on that. It’s straight to the bone. It was just one of the realest things I had heard. It knocked me right out of the car seat when Knox played it. He was just whistling and tapping his foot he said, “ that’s Hasil Adkins!”

BLD – There are a lot of people that know about him but more should. Lets talk more about your radio show on Sirius.

RAW – Well, now it’s Sirius/XM radio. It’s called The Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee and it comes on Saturdays at 8:00 pm est. reruns on Sunday at midnight, on Wednesdays at 8:00 and Fridays at 1:00 am. Me and Knox are just telling the worst jokes ever and playing the best music ever and just having a genuine good time! I am very grateful to Little Steven Van Zandt for having the guts to create the Outlaw Channel. It’s been an absolute pleasure. We don’t know what we are doing and we don’t pretend to know what we are doing and we ain’t interested in learning what we are doing! It’s totally winging it and it’s a lot of fun. Jeremy Tepper and Scott Crynock are the voices of sanity that hold it together enough so we can get it on the air and they have been very kind to us. It’s just me and Knox going back and forth and visiting with each other and playing our favorite songs.

BLD – You’ve been touring around a bit lately should we be looking for other shows coming up?

RAW – Absolutely! Now, that I got all of the partying out of the picture I’m ready to go kick it. I had suffered under the illusion for so long that to be a writer or to be an artist you have to go to through the excesses. You have to just damage yourself so much with the whisky and all the other things. All your heroes did it so, I was just following in lock step with that. Once I got my head cleared it occurred to me, it wasn’t a matter of accomplishing things because they were wasted. It’s a matter of what could they have accomplished if they hadn’t wasted all their time and energy on this destructive crap. So now, like we were talking earlier, it’s just brand new. I’m just really excited about going out and playing, touring more and getting songs out there. Really doing it like it should have been done. I’m just so glad I got out of all of that while I still had time where as, continuing down the same path you may squeeze a few more songs out of it but not on the same level. I’ve always loved Mickey Mantel. I think his finest moment was in the end when was doing bad and he knew he was dying and he said, “I’m not an example, don’t live like me. This aint the way to go.” It was just a shining moment. He was an American Icon. Everybody knew who he was. For him to humble himself, it’s like you were saying about second guessing yourself, he was just like, well, I didn’t do it right. That really made him a true hero then. I’ve always done a lot of damage to myself and I want people to realize that ain’t the way to do it. I was my worst enemy for a long time. I was right there just living on the edge all them years and now I’m lucky to be alive and I’m thankful and humble to be alive. It’s not an attitude that I was strong enough to beat it, it’s by God’s grace I got a second chance and survived it. It just wasn’t working for me or my family. I still think, how in the hell did I get out alive? I loved it so much I never would have quit cause I wanted to. I don’t want to wear you out with my rants about my sobriety.

BLD – Rant away…

RAW – It’s just been the best thing I have ever done in my life and it makes the music come alive. Everything is so much more intense. It’s like I had dark sun glasses on all the time and now everything is new and the colors are bright and so clear. I have the curiosity of a child again. The difference between a poet and other people is that a poet stops and looks at things and is fascinated by them and when you are wasted all the time you don’t have the time for that. This has just been the best thing ever. My family and my four grandchildren have been a big inspiration for me. They deserve better.

BLD – On another note, why do you want to shoot Sally Field in the ass with a bb gun? (a lyric from one of RAWs songs).

RAW – Ya know, I’ve listened back to that and I still don’t fully understand that– so, I just don’t know! That’s another thing that goes back to Knoxville, he don’t clean nothing up or take nothing out.  So, I deeply apologize to Sally Field. That’s really something. That’s unacceptable. Poor Sally!

BLD – Ok. Last question, who’s your favorite actor?

RAW – Eddie Barbenell. He was in The Ringer with Knox. This guy is awesome hands down!

BLD – Well, that’s it. I thank ya for taking the time to do this.

RAW – Anything I can do to help. Stay out of the trees!


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Brandy Lee Dixon is from Nashville, Tennessee by way of Somerset, Kentucky. She’s a writer as well as a songwriter, passionate music lover, and a self-proclaimed Country Music Snob. She likes to drink, smoke, and fight the bastards of the Universe with the help of her faithful four-legged companion, Leafy The Wonder Dog.

Outlaw Magazine . Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.