You can’t reduce SCOTS’s music to one word. It’s simply too rich. But if you would make an attempt you could try something like “swamp hillbilly surf blues”, but even with this you’d let a lot of their influences aside, so maybe the simpliest would be “a true rock’n’roll band”. They’re precious, there’s not so many today.
Their career is now spanning more than 20 years and nearly 10 albums (and countless singles and ep’s) behind their belt. It was about time for Jumpin' From 6 To 6 to talk about this fascinating band that never fails to entertain.

by Fred "Virgil" Turgis

But, where does that name come from? Rick Miller : “When we started the band in the early to mid 80s in the Chapel Hill, NC area, every band was an REM cover band, and that pretty much sucked. We wanted to be more of a rockabilly, «Cramps» type band. So we were just looking for something. Some kind of name that would get us some attention, ya know? We were listening to the UNC radio (station) there and they were playing an REM song. I like REM fine, but at the end of it, the DJ says, « Ya that was REM, the sound of the new South. » I looked at my roommate and we said, «Gawd, if that's the sound of the « new South » I preferred it when it was on the skids. » That's how we got the name. »¹
Here’s for the name but what about the origin of the band? Well everything started in 1983 when Rick Miller (guitar) whose father worked in a mobile-home factory, formed the band with original lead vocalist Stan Lewis, bassist Leslie Land, and drummer Chip Shelby. They released an EP “Voodoo Beach Party”, which is now pretty rare (according to Miller some copies sold for $100!!) soon followed in 1985 by their first full length simply called “Southern Culture On The Skids” and released on the Lloyd Street Records label. (songs - Bop Bop Bop/Primitive Guy/I Dig Tunnels/Psycho Surfing/Cocktail Song/Rockabilly Mud/Atom Age Trucker/Demon Death/Nothing Song)
This album is kinda weird and it’s hard to make the connection with the band that we now know as SCOTS. The main reasons are that Rick doesn’t sing and the sound of the band and their inspirations are coming from just one source. Basically, you could resume this album as a cross between The Cramps, Tav Falco and a bit of Gun Club too. It opens with a rockin’ instrumental (Bop Bop Bop) that is maybe the best track of the nine that compose this lp. The sound is clearly more rockabilly (even if it’s a modern version of it) than the following albums. Lewis’ voice reminds Lux Interior but without the charisma and the power of the Cramps frontman. I can’t say this is a bad album, you find good ideas here and there like the spooky “I Dig Tunnel” but to be honest the main interest is the presence of Rick Miller and the fact that it is officially the first platter by SCOTS. Talking about a possible reissue on cd of this record, Miller answered to Butch Lazorchak “If our popularity gets to the point where somebody can make some money off of them, I'm sure they'll get reissued! At this point I don't have any reason to reissue them.”
This line-up lasted approximately until 1987, when Lewis left. The band kept on but soon after Land left too and she was replaced by Mary Huff from Roanoke. She was previously in a rockabilly band called The Phantoms who opened for SCOTS before.
“Some friend of hers told her that when Leslie quit we needed a bassplayer, and she had hitchhiked down to North Carolina, literally, to see the Butthole Surfers. She ended up trying out for us that same weekend, and she got the job.”²
The band then took a more country approach, with steel and accordion, which didn’t seem to please their following. According to Miller “It's funny, you know, we started out as basically a Cramps cover band in 1984 and progressed until about 1987, our front man left - and he was the big Lux Interior guy, right? But I wrote all the songs, and I wanted to take it more on a country route. And I mean, we covered Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Louvin Bros., all that stuff - nobody wanted to come see it. We lost all of our fans. Every one of them. (…) We ended up playing, like, coffee shops - I'm serious. Finally everybody quit except Mary and I”³
Looking for a drummer, Mary introduced Dave Hartman from Roanoke too, a guy she played with in a local band called The Trademarks. The following years, the trio toured and defined its sound and finally decided to put some music on vinyl (and cd too) in 1991 with “Too Much Pork For Just One Fork” (songs - Eight Piece Box - Roadside Wreck - Come And Get It - Cicada Rock - Back In The Woods - Big Pine Tree - Voodoo Cadillac - Firefly - She Bought A Dog - Dick's Theme - Chitt'lin Strut - Stone In My Pocket - Suede Pussycat - CW James, 00-spy - Chicken Fist - Five Dollar Shoes). With this record all the elements of the SCOTS mythology are taking places. The sound is slowly moving into the swamp blues territories. Rick Miller delivers tempos that would make the great John Fogerty and Tony Joe White proud. The change of rhythm section proves to be a good move. Mary Huff and Dave Hartman are the perfect support for Miller’s hillbilly stories. On “Voodoo Cadillac” Hartman brings a lot of elements like cowbell and cymbal, reminding, of course, Doug Clifford and Francis “Ronnie” Lewis, the drummer on Dale Hawkins’ best songs. For some reasons the band has been regularly dubbed as rockabilly which surprises Miller a bit “We get lumped in with being a rockabilly band, but we're not at all, there's as much Tony Joe White and Link Wray and all that sort of southern R and B rock 'n' roll, not just rockabilly, in all of what we do.” said Miller in an interview given to Michael Canning. Actually the sole connection to rockabilly on this record is to be found on “Roaside Wreck”. You’ll find on this record plenty of influences going from Slim Harpo to Link Wray and everything good in between. If musically this is the real debut of SCOTS as we know it today this is also true for the lyrics with the soon to be classic “Eight Piece Box”. If the first album didn’t have a real direction, “Too Much Pork…” (which doesn’t feature the song “Too Much Pork…” by the way) brings a real universe. Moist, the label that issued it, folded some time after the release making it hard to find. But the band owns the tapes and the rights so maybe in the future it'll be released.

To be continued...

¹ Interview with Andrew Frey – Maximum Inked 2004
² Interview with Butch Lazorchak
³ Interview with Carl Wilson – 1997