Picture Of You: Memories of Country Dick celebrated Saturday in San Diego at Beat Farmers Hootenanny

Beth Gwinn

“We picked up guitars and we changed our names. With experience of a tortured youth, turn up the music and go in search of the truth.” In their prime circa 1985, Jerry Raney, left, Joey Harris, Rolle Love and Country Dick Montana.
Beth Gwinn Photography courtesy of Edwin Nutting

The party didn’t stop after the Beat Farmers left the stage because the bandleader wouldn’t allow it. The same is true for the man himself. When Country Dick Montana died 20 years ago, he left indelible memories with everyone he knew or entertained. Larger than life, his party continues.

“The Beat Farmers Hootenanny, 20 Years Without Dick,” will be held Saturday in the Belly Up Tavern in Solona Beach. The surviving Beat Farmers will be back on stage, along with many others from the San Diego musical community and still more devout fans of the band.

20 Years without Dick“The best part is that people fly in from all over the world and they make it a big deal every year to get together with their friends,” said Beat Farmers guitarist Joey Harris. “We’ve got Germans, Norwegians, and Canadians, of course, and it’s just a really good, fun night.”

In addition to the Beat Farmers reunion – Joel Kmak will play drums – the players will perform with their respective bands: The Farmers with Jerry Raney, Joey Harris and the Mentals, and Rolle Love will play with the band Nancarrow.

Buddy Blue, a founding member of the Beat Farmers, died in 2006.

The annual reunions can get messy, warned Mojo Nixon, who played in the Country Dick side project the Pleasure Barons.

“We had a big ta-do on the 10th anniversary,” Nixon said. “Everybody who ever played with Country Dick was there. And in honor of Country Dick, I got so fucked up, I couldn’t play. Somebody was telling me what key the song was in, and I don’t think that mattered at all.

“I can’t believe Country Dick being dead 20 years. I can’t believe one, he lived that long, and two, I’m still alive.”

Nixon, a psychobilly guitarist, will be on assignment for NASCAR radio’s “Manifold Destiny” show and miss this year’s hootenanny. Paul Kamanski, who wrote songs that appeared on every Beat Farmers record, will stand in for Nixon in Joey Harris and the Mentals. who, The band will perform Kamanski’s songs “Road of Ruin,” from the album “Van Go,” and “Indigo Rider,” from Country Dick’s posthumous “The Devil Lied To Me,” Harris said.

Country Dick Montana

The King of Cowpunk’s rein was too short, really sticky.

The Beat Farmers songs live on in the members’ other bands.

“With all the different groups we’re in now, we’re playing them differently than we did 20 years ago, so rehearsals are pretty important,” said Harris, adding a self-deprecating caveat. “It just so happens that we’re not going to get a chance to rehearse this year.”

However, the surviving Beat Farmers performed recently at “Gabfest,” a benefit for Mike “Gabby” Gaborno, the lead singer for the Cadillac Tramps who is suffering serious illness.

“We got together in December so I think we’re going to be OK,” Harris said. “Ultimately, it’s four good eggs up there. It’s going to sound fine.”

Ensuring the good sound will be the Beat Farmers’ forever tour manager and engineer, Tom Ames, who usually has to miss the reunion show because he is working with the band Reel Big Fish.

Ames said he had not informed anyone that he will attend this year.

“I am going to do the sound,” he said. “Fuck those guys.”

At the Dec. 29 Gabfest, the Beat Farmers songs included “Ridin,’ ” “Hollywood Hills,” “Dark Light,” Riverside,” “Make It Last,” “Girl I Almost Married,” “Blue Chevrolet,” “God,” “Deceiver,” “Key to the World,” and the Bo Diddley tune, “Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.”

One of the other bands at Gabfest caught the Beat Farmers’ attention: Jonny Two Bags and Salvation Town. Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham is best known for playing with punk rock pioneers Social Distortion and the Cadillac Tramps.

“Jerry and I made it our job to get them on the bill for this Saturday,” Harris said. “We think it will be good to have a nice big club filled with Beat Farmers fans to see them play.”

Rockabilly royalty also will grace the stage when former Pleasure Baroness Rosie Flores appears. Sara Petite will perform, too. “She is our local Americana girl,” Harris said. “She’s adorable.”

Flores and Petite will be backed by Raney’s Farmers, which includes former Penetrators Joel Kmak and Chris Sullivan. Country Dick played with the Penetrators using his real name, Dan McLain, before he started Country Dick and the Snuggle Bunnies. While everybody in the Snuggle Bunnies was considered a “Dick,” McLain’s Country Dick Montana began with the Beat Farmers.

Snuggle Bunny bassist Nino Del Pesco, who lives in Oxnard, said he plans to attend the Hootenanny, along with Jimmy Krieger. Del Pesco, Krieger and Dane Conover, who penned the Beat Farmers “Happy Boy,” played together in the band Puppies.

Country Dick Montana died Nov. 8, 1995, and on that date 20 years later, Tahoe Onstage began a nine-part series on the one-of-a-kind entertainer. Mojo Nixon described the performances as “some sort of hillbilly ballet, drunken-mushroom artistry previously unseen on the planet.”

Harris said memories about Country Dick have been at the forefront for many people since the anniversary of the tragedy.

“(The) series of articles in November and December brought that all to a head,” Harris said. “We’ve all been going through our photo books and tour schedules and stuff like that and talking about Dick a lot. Of course we love him and miss him still but what the Belly Up does that is cool is that it honors somebody from the Beat Farmers’ past.”

This year’s showbill features John Leslie, a San Diego disc jockey who died at a very early age.

“It’s been a long time since anyone has mentioned him and all of a sudden he’s on the poster, which is really sweet,” Harris said.

Mighty Joe Longa also adorns the poster. The longtime San Diego keyboardist died of cancer at the age of 62. Among Longa’s many bands were Joey Harris and the Mentals. A portion of the cover fee will go to Longa’s family.

Pay up, cheaters.

  • 20 Years Without Dick
    The sixth annual Beat Farmers Hootenanny
    Bands: The Beat Farmers, the Farmers, Joey Harris and the Mentals, Jonny Two Bags and Salvation Town, Rosie Flores, Sara Petite and Nancarrow
    When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12; doors open at 7
    Where: Belly Up Tavern, 143 S Cedros Ave., Solana Beach
    Purchase tickets: http://bellyup.com/6th-annual-beat-farmers-reunion
  • Beat Farmers forever tour manager Tom Ames does it all. LINK
  • For links to the nine-part series, visit the Country Dick Montana website: LINK

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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