A growing segment of country music is going against the genre’s mainstream—and one of those rebels is Joe Buck (real name: Jim Finkley).
Buck has been playing obscure country music since the beginning of his music career as the guitarist for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and as the upright-bass player for Hank Williams III. Now he’s bringing his one man show, Joe Buck Yourself, to The Hood Bar and Pizza on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Joe Buck’s involvement with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Hank Williams III included punk-rock attitude, outlaw country and even tinges of early Americana. Hank Williams III sounds more like his grandfather than his father—only with lyrics that are similar to those by David Allan Coe. Joe Buck brings a similar attitude and performance style to Joe Buck Yourself.
When asked about his music career, Joe Buck responded with a laugh.
“Have I had a career?” he asked. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I thought I could be an athlete when I was a kid, and I hurt my leg. I saw Eddie Van Halen in 1980, and I thought, ‘That looks like a good job.’ I got myself some gear, and I went to town.”
He joined Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in 1998 as a founding member, but left in 2003 after meeting Hank Williams III in a bar in Nashville.
“It was a good time in my life,” he said. “I thought the music we were doing was important. I didn’t think ‘it’ so much or ‘us’ so much. For us, it was all about Southern kids having something that didn’t suck.”
Buck said mainstream country music has become somewhat of a sideshow act.
“I grew up with the old country guys, along with the punk-rock bands,” he said. “But the old country dudes … they were very strong, proud men and great writers. You listen to Hank Williams Sr., and there’s a reason why they call him ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare,’ man, and we’re left to believe in our world today that these are illiterate hillbillies. Yet none of our kids going to public schools these days can fucking read or write.”
He also feels that the country music of today is largely missing the art aspect.
“It makes me physically ill,” he said. “I believe that art is important to our culture. If music is music, it’s art. If it’s not art, and it’s not music, it’s math, and that’s what (mainstream country musicians) got. It’s like giving a cancer patient a salt tablet: It doesn’t heal their soul, and it doesn’t do anything to them. … (Old music) is the reason why I dedicated my life to music—because it did something to me.”
The Independent spoke to buck shortly after Miley Cyrus’ infamous performance at the MTV Music Video Awards.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life, and playing thousands of shows—and I’m in the same business as THAT? I don’t know what that is with the Smurfs, or whatever the hell those things were, and the post-adolescent bit. Any time when goodness happens, it’s corrupted immediately and used in devious terms for commercial value.”
Buck said that he never sacrifices his independence or artistic vision.
“Yes, I need to make a living making music to go around and play shows. I have to put gas in my tank; I have to eat; and I have to buy T-shirts to sell. There’s an economy of this, but when it becomes strictly for-profit, then it has nothing to do with music.”
Buck is also working on a book, and he talked about his recovery from a near-fatal car accident.
“I had this car wreck that almost killed me,” he said. “My little hometown people at the hospital were great at putting me back together. My legs were crushed, along with one of my arms. They put me back together great, but they gave me Demerol during six days of being in an induced coma; when they got me off of that, they tried to give me an OxyContin—when I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I was mad at them. I got all this shit drilled into me and a halo in my leg. They’re really good at fixing you, but they wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, because I had a tour with Hank in three months, and they thought I was delusional about going back to work.”
During his recovery, he went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for physical therapy.
“I had to go to Vanderbilt for physical therapy, where everybody is an invalid. … Everybody has shit getting drilled into them; you have your own special wheelchair, and the whole thing. What they saw with me was dollar signs. They pushed dope harder on me than drug-dealers do. I’ve never been to medical school, and I just wanted to go back to work. I refused their dope, did it my way, worked out for eight hours a day, and went back to work in 3 1/2 months. Had I done it their way, I would have been on dope for the rest of my life; I would have made minimal progress; and I never would have gotten better.”
Joe Buck said that when it comes to making a living, he’s one of the fortunate ones.
“I’ve been lucky, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing when I play,” he said. “I hear this every day about how I have inspired people. I know what they’re saying. I love what I do, and when they see people reveling in their jobs and doing what they’re supposed to be doing in life—they don’t see that very often.
“When I go to the store, I don’t see the people there reveling in their jobs. What I’m trying to do for people with my songs is convince everyone that they can do whatever the fuck they want. Lose the fear, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Failure is how you learn your most valuable lessons.”
Joe Buck Yourself will play with Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills at 10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission to the 21-and-older show is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook.