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Friday, August 5, 2016

If You Like Hard Listening Music, Then the Rock Bottom Remainders Are for You

While most of Roy Blount Jr.'s public appearances involve his talking about his books or delivering a hilarious lecture on the people and the habits of the South, you can sometimes see him performing with the most literate band in all the land - the not-so-legendary The Rock Bottom Remainders.

The band, which took its self-mocking name from the publishing term "remaindered book" (a work of which the unsold remainder of a publisher's stock of copies is sold at a reduced price), consists of some of America's biggest selling authors including Stephen King, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, and Amy Tan.

At his appearance earlier this week in his home town of Decatur to discuss his new book Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations, Blount briefly talked about the Remainders and his role in the band.

"I really have no idea why I'm there," he said. "Some of the guys can actually play, but If I even pick up an instrument it goes out of tune".
As authors (how many of the these have you read?) the Remainders handle books
much better than they do musical instruments or live vocals
For those of us who have been fortunate (of unfortunate enough, as the case may be) to have actually heard the Remainders live, we know that Blount is a member of the Critics Chorus and performs as the nightly emcee, providing hysterical introductions to the band and its rotating members of the night.

Blount freely acknowledges that he has some problems with background singing. In Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude, a collective book written about the band's 1993 tour (which can be purchased for as little as 99 cents from Amazon), Blount said the following about his vocal part in the chorus in of "Land of a Thousand Dances":

"I still can't get all the "na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na's right. I just can't. I have tried and tried. Along about the eleventh na, I na-ing when I shouldn't or not na-ing when I should".

There was also that moment right in the middle of a version of the South Carolina's greatest shag dance garage rock classic "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" when San Francisco-based author and music critic Joel Selvin turned to Blount and allegedly said: "Hey, there are notes in there, you know".

Not surprisingly, Blount offered one vignette at his talk that involved both the Remainders and food.
It concerned Stephen King, what the mega-selling horror writer is afraid of, and the southern side dish staple okra. Here's how Blunt writes about it in his book in a section entitled "Okraphobia":

"Someone - not me, maybe Greg Isles, the only other Southerner in the band - happened to bring up okra, just is passing, you know, as one will. And my friend Steve reacted as another person might to a vengeful psychokinetic wallflower, or a runaway rabid St. Bernard, or an insanely jealous Plymouth Fury. 'Nooo,' he said. "'I don't want okra. No okra. No"

Now while Blount might have self-doubts about his contributions to the band, his fellow Remainders all acknowledge that their emcee bestowed the best label ever on the type of music they are engaged in on stage. Blount says that the Remainders play "Hard Listening Music".

During their early years, the Remainders often traveled with an on-stage, performing musical director. Among those serving that capacity were rock icons Al Kooper, Warren Zevon, and Roger McGuinn.

Roy and I talk writing, rock, and the Remainders.
But for Dave Barry, who plays lead guitar and sings, the greatest rock star moment for the Remainders was the night Bruce Springsteen sat in for a rollicking, rousing rendition of the three-chord E/D/A classic "Gloria".

After the song, Springsteen turned to Barry and said, "Your band's not too bad. It's not too good, either. Don't let it get any better, otherwise you'll just be another lousy band".

And if you are ever fortunate (or unfortunate enough, as the case may be) to catch the band live, you'll definitely find that Barry, Blount, and rest of the Remainders have taken Springsteen's parting message to heart and demonstrate it every night they take the stage.

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