Beat Farmers (Contemporary Musicians)
From their beginnings in San Diego 1983 until the untimely death of founder Country Dick Montana in 1995, the band would pack local Sand Diego watering holes with punkers, bikers, country fans, and rock and rollers. They became a cultural phenomanon with a huge following even though their albums never got any air play or support from the record companies. Formed tightly around the abilities and antics of front man Country Dick Montana, the band had a reputation for being serious party animals. Punk music was just waiting to grab hold on society and country music was also experiencing a rebirth. The Beat Farmers were able to appease both audiences melding all these different sounds, sometimes referred to as cow-punk.
The Beat Framers began when front man Montana, or as known in high school as Dan McLain, took a break from the band The Penetrators. Always getting into problems in high school, Montana was just as well-known for his musical talents as his loud mouth. Voted San Diego's top band, The Penetrators had a glorious following there. During time off between recording, McLain formed Country Dick and the Snugglebunnies.
The stage show, which hadn't changed much from the beginning, usually consisted of Montana taking regular swigs of beer while pounding out a crowd pumping song on his drums. Occasionally, he would emerge from behind his drums and entertain the audience with his accordion, or his deep voice. According to Kevin Ranson in the Detroit News, Country Dick had a talent for "scatological lyrics, cheerful vulgarity and booming bullfrog vocals." He loved to entertain, pull practical jokes and put on a show. Some say he formed the band just to be able to throw a party every night. According to Howard Owens at the Country Dick Montana memorial web site, "A Beat Farmers show was a party and the party always started early for Country Dick. He showed up at gigs before the sound check, arriving with the road crew. While the rest of the band lounged at the motel, Country did was drinking and joking around with fans. He signed autographs, posed for pictures, remembered birthdays and faces. He drank and laughed and hugged old acquaintances."
But it wasn't just his stage presence that brought people to see the show. The Beat Farmers had talent. They took turns playing different instruments throughout the show. They also took a lead from Country Dick and took on pseudonyms. Joey Harris became Dick Everly and played guitar, wrote lyrics and sang; Jerry Raney, became Shameful Dick, who also sang and played the drums and guitar. Other members included Paul Kamanski as Everly Dick and Buddy Blue, a slide guitarist. Blue eventually left the Beat Farmers and had some solo success. The musicians were inspired by bands like the Kinks, the Byrds, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Ramones. Montana was so influenced by the Kinks that early in his music career, he became president of the Kinks Preservation Society. As the Beat Farmers began listening to performers like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Randy Newman, they began to blend country rock and rockabilly into their songs.
In 1984, the Beat Farmers officially became San Diego's favorite band, as decided in a Battle of the Bands. The Beat Farmers began playing larger and larger clubs. Their original haunt, Spring Valley Inn, in el Centro, California, was just too small to fit their growing number of fans. They opened for Los Lobos and began talking with Rhino Records about a recording contract. With the album Tales of the New West released in 1985, the band was ready for an extended tour. After releasing two albums with Rhino Records, the band moved to Curb Records and recorded four more albums, including a live album and a greatest hits collection. Their first album with Curb was Van Go, and according to a review in Melody Maker, "The unusual thing about the Beat Farmers is that they sound as if they actually did have a damned good time in the studio making this album." While the singles never received much air play and sold poorly, the albums were considered a critical success, along the lines of Frank Zappa. All the while, the Beat Farmers constantly packed larger and larger bar clubs. "The Beat Farmers could pack any bar in the world, but he couldn't crack Billboard's Hot 100," mentioned a website dedicated to the Beat Farmers.
The band toured England in 1985 and recorded the EP Glad and Greasy for the British label Demon. In 1986, the Beat Farmers found themselves opening for Elvis Costello in Belgium. A year later, they released The Pursuit of Happiness on Curb. The album included the song "Make It Last," which nearly received country readio airplay, but upon hearing the rest of the album, radio station executives decided it really didn't fit in with a country format. The Beat Farmers decided to retour Europe, where they had enjoyed good support. The end of the tour almost came in 1990 when Montana was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. While undergoing surgery and treatments for the disease, the Beat Farmers continued to amuse audiences, even though people warned Montana to take it easy. But he was a musician that couldn't rest. Montana began playing and recording with cow-punk prankster, Mojo Nixon, and anyone else who wanted to play. He also continued his heavy drinking.
It was soon after the surgery that the Beat Farmers received a high compliment from then King of Late Night David Letterman. One night he told Paul Schaefer he wanted to quit the Late Show so he could go on the road with the Beat Farmers. In 1994, the band signed to a new record company, Sector 2 Sector. They had not been in a recording studio for almost 10 years and the result, Viking Lullabys, according to a website, "was critically acclaimed but failed to sell." The last album the band recorded together was Manifold, and it was released just before the Canadian tour that took Montana's life. Country Dick Montana died on stage, playing his drums. At the age of 40, he left behind many fans, followers, some albums to be proud of and numerous unpaid beer tabs across the world. The people that saw a live show were changed forever. While never experiencing true pop stardom, the Beat Farmers rarely had to worry about having fun.
Tales of the New West, Rhino, 1985.
Glad N' Greasy, Rhino, 1985.
Van Go, Curb, 1986.
The Pursuit of Happiness, Curb, 1987.
Poor and Famous, Curb, 1989.
Loud and Plowed and ... Live, Curb, 1990.
Viking Lullabys, Sector 2 Sector, 1994.
Greatest Hits, Curb, 1995.
Detroit News, September 27, 1991.
Melody Maker, July 20, 1985; July 19, 1986.
Rolling Stone, May 23, 1985.