In the span of about two weeks, Patterson Hood got divorced, had his car stolen, and watched the band he started with Mike Cooley, Adam's House Cat, break up. This was back in 1991. Shortly thereafter, he and Cooley were eating dinner and listening to an elderly couple who looked like they'd just come from church discuss a newspaper's account of G.G. Allin's show at Memphis' Antenna Club the night before.
"The guy actually kind of looked like Thurston Howell from Gilligan's Island," Hood recalls. "They were sitting there having dinner, eating macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, or whatever. It was hilarious hearing a 70-something man commenting about a G.G. Allin show. It said in the paper that he was throwing shit at the crowd and people were literally running out in the street. The guy stopped and said, 'I guess even punk rockers don't want to be shat upon.'"
Hood captured that scene in a song called "The Night G.G. Allin Came to Town," which he wrote for Cooley as a birthday present. Although the pair went on to form Drive-by Truckers in 1996, it would be another three years before the tune actually made it onto a disc — Pizza Deliverance, the act's second release. The song would have fit just as well on Gangstabilly, the band's chicken-fried 1998 debut.
By their third album, 2001's Southern Rock Opera, the Truckers were a little more straight-faced. The record was well-received and earned them a steadily growing fan base — and more than 200 dates on the road. During that time, they polished their arena-sized production, allowing it to move into the arenas it was built for rather than the dive bars where it was perfected. Even so, Hood says, the band missed the intimacy of the early days.
At the same time, Drive-by Truckers have also gone through some bittersweet changes. Last year, the group's longtime guitarist/lead singer, Jason Isbell, announced his departure from the band to pursue a solo career.
"He's an enormously talented and prolific writer," Hood says. "With three writers in the band and two of us being particularly prolific and being able to put out a record every two years, that didn't make for too many of his songs to really surface, no matter how much we tried to do that."
Softening the blow is the addition of legendary Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spencer Oldham, who will join the Truckers on this tour and on the new album.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.