By Senior Reporter Mike O’Connor
Exclusive to Rolling Stone
This intrepid reporter has braved any number of strange, dangerous and often unlawful escapades in a mostly undistinguished career of rock journalism. Naked parasailing with David Lee Roth, home chemistry experiments with Ozzy Osborne, Going to the mall with Miley Cyrus all seemed like quaint anecdotes to me as I got off the 12 seat, one and a half engine “airplane” at the Scruggsville County Airport in Scruggsville, Georgia.
I was in S’town, as the locals like to call it, for the self-described concert of the century. The car service hired by Rolling Stone to pick me up was a guy named Earl who was late because his shift at the pig rendering plant ended 20 minutes after my flight arrived. The wait was well worth it as the smell of the inside of his truck prepared me for the sensory delights I was to later experience.
The reason for my journalistic sojourn was a concert taking place at the venerable Cletus T. Judwell Auditorium and Chemical Storage Facility. The headlining act……… the much rumored and highly anticipated debut of the supergroup The Growling Beavers. For six years the public has been clamoring, albeit in a quiet and almost unnoticed way, for this union of the remnants of two of southwest Georgia’s most fabled iconic bands. The Zeke Stensland Band disbanded in 2001 when its lead guitarist, principle songwriter and guy who owned the van, Bo “Skeeter” Skidmore was tragically killed in an explosion of his still. The Tire Irons Disbanded in 2002 when their manager stole their instruments and three of the four members were arrested in an illegal turkey smuggling sting operation.
After four years of legal wrangling Redneck records announced the release of the Beavs debut album “Songs We Wrote on Parole”. It immediately rose to number 237 on the Southwest Georgia Country Rock /Hillbilly music charts.
The Band took the stage one hour late to the strains of The 1812 Overture, which played until catcalls of “Turn off that Commie Crap!” were heard from the audience. Lead singer/ bass player Zeke Stensland was joined onstage by lead guitarist Delbert Mealy, harmonica player Jebadiah “Stonewall” Jackson, and drummer Darnell Dankins. The band immediately launched into its barn burning soon to be classic “Bucket Full o’ Love.” A portion of the audience immediately left the venue, went across the street and burned down a barn. Though ragged at times the band hit its groove midway through the show when Zeke took center stage, lights dimmed and he performed the three-song acoustic suite “Truck Stop Angel/Tractor Romance/My Darlin’ Loves Venison.”
Though never known as politically active, the band joined the immigration debate with Delbert Mealy’s thought provoking “Go Back to Cuba You Stupid Mexicans”. This received a rousing response from a group of men wearing strange hats who apparently showed up after mistakenly assuming they were at the new lodge for the Loyal Order of Moose.
The main set ended on a high note with the fan favorite “Triple Whopper Thanksgiving” leaving the crowd screaming and gasping for more……or maybe it was a reaction to the chemical fumes. The encore left an indelible mark on this reviewer as the audience was brought to a state of bliss by “My Truck Smells Like Beer but My Heart Feels Like Poop,” only to be blown away by the finale “Whole Lotta Yard Waste.”
The crowd screamed for more, for exactly one minute and twelve seconds, until word reached the audience that a truck from the Oscar Meyer plant had overturned on Highway 12, dumping 7 tons of pork product onto the road and it was first come first served.
I tried to talk to the band for a post concert interview but found them to be occupied in a game of “chase the rat around the dumpster” and were unavailable for comment.
Red Neck Records has announced that The Growling Beavers have decided to cancel their scheduled tour of Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Florida Panhandle. The band regrets any inconvenience to their several fans and promises a tour in the summer of 2009, provided they can prove that a concert tour meets the definition of community service.
*Originally featured in my wife, Wendy O’Connor’s annual publication “The Girlfriend’s Cookbook (and year in review) in 2008