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WHEELER WALKER, JR. with Michael Dean Damron

Saturday, Jul 29, 2017 9:00 PM PDT (8:00 PM Doors)
Dante's, Portland, OR
21 years and over

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Wheeler Walker, Jr. is a country singer and songwriter who wants to bring back the classic honky tonk sound and the glory days of outlaw country music, and he's determined to do so by writing songs that would have gotten him yanked off the Grand Ol' Opry broadcast in a matter of seconds. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Walker spent decades on the outskirts of the music business through the '80s and '90s, playing small clubs and earning an insider's reputation as a talented songwriter. But as Nashville began embracing a more polished sound, Walker found it increasingly difficult to be heard in Music City. He landed record deals at three different major labels, but according to the artist, his music sounded too strong and his lyrics were too bold for country radio, and his habit of dropping mild expletives into this tunes led to him being dropped from all three labels without the completed albums ever seeing the light of day. By the mid-2010s, Walker had lost his patience with playing by Nashville's rules, and after meeting producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with the likes of Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, they went into the studio and cut the album Walker always wanted to make. The album in question was titled Redneck Shit, and its first single quickly became a cult item that racked up impressive airplay on satellite radio and plenty of online spins. However, the song, titled "Fuck You, Bitch," was just as lyrically offensive as the title would suggest, which meant mainstream country radio ignored it at all costs. In February 2016, Redneck Shit was released by Pepper Hill Records (distributed by Thirty Tigers), and with songs like "Beer, Weed, Cooches," "Sit on My Face," and "Can't Fuck You Off My Mind," the album had something to offend nearly anyone, and Walker seemed poised to finally become a star in Nashville, despite his boundless contempt for the country music establishment and a terminal case of potty mouth. If Wheeler Walker, Jr.'s story sounds too strange to be true, that's because it is; Walker's long career and colorful back-story, as well as his music, was all dreamed up by comedian and comedy writer Ben Hoffman, who writes and sings Walker's songs and owns the trademark to his alter ego. Hoffman briefly hosted his own show on Comedy Central, The Ben Show with Ben Hoffman, and has written for the TV shows Archer, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and InfoMania. While Wheeler Walker, Jr. may be a fake, the Redneck Shit album and the "Fuck You, Bitch" singles are very much real, and Hoffman has given numerous interviews to music publications in character as Walker, sharing his apparently sincere opinions about the sorry state of mainstream country music, as well as Walker's epic past. ~ Mark Deming


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