Front Porch

The Beat Farmers’ 10th Annual Hootenanny—Come See if We Survive

The Farmers today: Joel Kmak, Jerry Raney, Chris Sullivan, Corbin Turner. Photo by Dan Chusid.

The Beat Farmers back in the day: Rolle Love, Country Dick Montana, Jerry Raney, Buddy Blue.

Dan McLain, aka Country Dick Montana.

If you grew up near Bancroft and Campo Road in the mid-’80s, there’s a good chance your favorite dive bar was the Spring Valley Inn. And if you walked into your favorite dive bar on a Saturday night, there’s a good chance you might have seen Mojo Nixon, jumping around the stage, drumming a five-gallon water jug to warm up the crowd before the Beat Farmers started their set. Well, fast-forward 35 years and Mojo Nixon is going to be joining the Beat Farmers again. And they found a bigger venue! On January 4, Mojo Nixon flies out from Cincinnati, where he now resides, for the Beat Farmers’ 10th annual Hootenanny at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.

Besides Mojo, the other guests this year include superstar guitarist Stevie Salas, who has played for Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart, and is the producer of the film documentary Rumble, which chronicles the contributions that Native-Americans have made to rock ‘n’ roll. Other guests include Ron Blair, former bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Chloe Lou, San Diego musician and leader of the indie band the Liddells.

“The first year we had Dave Alvin of the Blasters as our guest,” says Beat Farmers’ co-founder Jerry Raney. Alvin would return as a guest over the years. Other guests have included Peter Case, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal (btw, Eagles of Death Metals was the band performing when an infamous terrorist attack occurred in Paris in 2015), Mike Watt of the Minutemen, John Doe of X, Billy Zoom, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.

Many locals have made guest appearances at the Beat Farmer Hootenannies as well, including Dave Gonzalez and the Paladins, Casie Hensley, Rosie Flores, Jack Tempchin, Laura Jane Willcock, Jeff Berkley, Nena Anderson, the late Candye Kane, and the band Nancarrow.

With guests weaving in and out throughout the night, the 2020 Hootenanny will begin with a set by Joey Harris & the Mentals. Next, the Beat Farmers will take the stage, featuring Raney, Harris, Rolle Love, and Joel Kmak. Finally, the reformed Farmers will perform the Beat Farmer album Tales of the New West in its entirety to round out the evening.

For those who need a refresher, the Beat Farmers were formed in 1983 as a San Diego supergroup, recruiting some of the city’s best musicians from bands such as the legendary Glory, the Penetrators, the Crawdaddys, and the Rockin’ Roulettes. The original lineup consisted of Jerry Raney and Buddy Blue on guitars and vocals, Rolle Love on bass, and the irrepressible Dan McLain aka Country Dick Montana on drums when he wasn’t out in front of the band singing and performing his outlandish floorshow. In 1986, Buddy Blue left the band and was replaced by Joey Harris. The Beat Farmers quickly became San Diego’s top hometown band of the 1980s. Along with groups like the Blasters, they defined the new SoCal genre called Cowpunk. They soon achieved national prominence, releasing six studio and four live albums, along with numerous singles, EPs, and soundtrack recordings. With hits such as “The Girl I Almost Married,” “Gun Sale at the Church,” “Riverside,” and “Happy Boy,” the Beat Farmers toured continuously for ten years. Their song “Hideaway” was featured in the movie Major League and they performed that same song on the David Letterman Show. Tragically, Country Dick died on stage in 1995. After that, the surviving members began working separately on their own projects. Former member Buddy Blue passed away in 2006.

In 2005, the Beat Farmers reunited for a show called “10 years without Dick,” dedicated to Country Dick Montana, who had died a decade before. Soon, the Beat Farmers were performing regular reunions at the Casbah in San Diego. “The reunions were getting so big that we had to move to a larger venue,” remembers Jerry Raney. “At that time Chad Waldorf at the Belly Up suggested we do an homage to Country Dick and Buddy Blue there.” In 2013, the annual reunion, renamed the Beat Farmers Hootenanny, was moved from the Casbah to the Belly Up, where it’s been held ever since.

“How great it is to go out in the crowd and meet fans from Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Canada. It makes for a big night of love!” says Joey Harris.

“We invite our friends to come to work with us…and drink on the job!” says Chris Sullivan, who plays bass with the Farmers. Sullivan is also a former bandmate of Country Dick from their days in the Penetrators.

Corbin Turner, who sings many of Country Dick’s song as a member of the Farmers, adds, “I’m always honored to be a part of the Annual Hootenanny. Sharing the stage with such wonderful musicians and special guests is always a kick-ass way to start the New Year, full throttle, Farmers style, all the while paying tribute to our lost comrades the late great Country Dick Montana and Buddy Blue!”

And, while there is a place carved out at the Hootenannies for solemn remembrance, most of the night is devoted to the hijinks that made the Beat Farmers infamous at the Spring Valley Inn, especially with Mojo Nixon as special guest.

“One year,” remembers longtime Beat Farmer and Farmer drummer Joel Kmak, “Mojo Nixon turned to me and said, ‘I think we should practice the Helicopter’ to which I asked, ‘What the heck is that?’ So Mojo Nixon picks me up and does the Helicopter! Spinning me around and around, holding me above his head! The crowd is going nuts! He finally puts me down and I stagger back to my drum throne. Mojo is guest starring this year, too. Come see if we survive!”

Indeed, Saturday, January 4 promises to be a night of hard-rocking debauchery, just as Beat Farmer fans have come to love for now almost four decades.

Beat Farmers’ 10th Annual Hootenanny, Saturday, January 4, 7pm, at the Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros, Solana Beach, Tickets: $25.

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