HOT TALK: Fresh Parodies, New Voices and Distorted Echoes of Elvis

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime CMT.com contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

Cledus to Offer Chart-Fresh Parodies
Look for Monument Records to release a series of six-song Cledus T. Judd albums beginning next year. The idea is to keep the comedian’s parodies up-to-date with what’s on the charts. First out will be A Six-Pack of Judd, a collection that will probably be flagshipped by the single “Who’s Your Mama?” — a takeoff on Toby Keith ‘s chart-topping “Who’s Your Daddy?”

“You know, a parody relies heavily on timeliness,” Judd tells Hot Talk. “Sometimes it’s hard to get current. Back in my early days, I’d hear a song on the radio, go in and cut it [as a parody], and we’d have it out to radio in four or five days, even if it was on a cassette. Now I don’t quite have the luxury to do that, because there’s so much more involved.” By going the six-song route, Judd says, his record label can put out two of his albums a year instead of one every year or year and a half.

The comic and CMT host explains that he’ll select his musical targets by sifting through the top 15 titles on Billboard‘s latest country singles chart. From these, he’ll pick six to transform. In addition to having more timely parodies, Judd points out, the albums will also be less expensive. “Instead of $16 or $17 for a record,” he speculates, “you’ll be able to purchase it for, say, $7 or $8.”

OK. Let’s play along. “She’ll Leave You With a Smile” might be worked into “She’ll Leave You With the Check.” And how about changing “I Just Wanna Be Mad” into “I Just Think I’ve Been Had”? Hey, this parody stuff is fun.

Dirt Band “Kids” Ready For Record Deal
Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen, the two singers spotlighted in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band video “The Lowlands,” say they’re seeking a record deal as a duo. Hanna’s father is Dirt Band founder Jeff Hanna. McEuen’s dad is the rightly revered NGDB banjoist, John McEuen. “We grew up right around the corner from each other,” the younger McEuen explains. “So it’s about 15 years we’ve been playing together.” Separately, Hanna played and sang with the Mavericks , and McEuen toured the bluegrass circuit with his father when he was on hiatus from the Dirt Band.

“I’d say if you put the Mavericks and a great bluegrass group together,” McEuen muses, “that’s what Jaime and I kind of sound like — with an Everly Brothers vocal situation.” Hanna places their sound somewhere between “Southern California rock” and the traditional country music of the Circle series.

And what might these two name their act if a record deal does transpire? “Well,” says McEuen, “we have great names to start with.” Then, waxing whimsical, he continues, “We’d like to come up with great names for both of us. Maybe ‘the Beagles.’”

Michael Peterson Has New Management, New Album Coming
Producers Blake Chancey and Kyle Lehning are putting the finishing touches on Michael Peterson’s first album for Monument Records. Peterson recently switched his management to Marv Dennis & Associates.

Only Fools Rush In … or Elviscerated Aloft
Of the many definitions of hell, consider this one. You’re Elvis Presley ‘s former orchestra leader — so you know what the King sounded like at the height of his power. But now you’re trapped in an airplane with an inept Elvis impersonator who’s serenading his mother over the intercom with “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” “He was awful,” Joe Guercio tells Hot Talk, recalling his recent flight from Las Vegas to Nashville. “It was his mother’s birthday, so they let him sing to her.” Guercio, who now lives in Nashville, conducted the orchestra for Presley during his Vegas glory days. He says he stood in line for the restroom with the ersatz Elvis after he had completed his impromptu performance. “I said, ‘You must really love Elvis,’ and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I do all his songs.’” But did Guercio reveal his own identity to the imposter. “No,” he says, “I just laughed and went on.”

Pictures From an Institution
The Dirt Band (see above) came to the Country Music Hall of Fame last week to present artifacts to the museum and talk about recording Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III, their latest album. Jeff Hanna, who donated a set of his washboard thimbles, ruminated about how the band members were still kids in 1971 when they allied with country veterans to record the first Circle. “Although actually we’re the grownups now,” he said, “when you’re in the room with Johnny Cash [who's on the new album], you don’t feel like it.”

Randy Scruggs, who played on the first Circle and co-produced the other two, told what it was like growing up as Earl Scrugg ‘s musically advanced son. “I remember my mom writing notes so I could get out of fifth and sixth grade for Waylon Jennings [recording] sessions.”

As Scruggs, his father and the band gathered to conclude the presentation with a singalong of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” John McEuen found himself facing a temptation he couldn’t resist. “Before we get underway,” he announced, “it’s not often that a banjo player has this chance.” So saying, he lifted his banjo, turned to Earl Scruggs, who was cradling his own five-stringer, and plucked out the taunting opening notes of “Dueling Banjos,” popularized in the film, Deliverance. Scruggs just grinned and let it pass.

Ty Herndon Bows Christmas Album
Ty Herndon , who lately departed Epic Records, has released a new Christmas album on his own label. A Not So Silent Night features mostly traditional carols. But the title cut is one Herndon co-wrote. Details about the album and ordering information are on Herndon’s Web site.

Alan Tim Travis Learns the Ropes
Sipping lunch the other day at Café Malaise, I found myself sitting shoulder to shoulder with Alan Tim Travis, the rising newcomer from Ephemera Records. As we spoke of matters small and smaller, I detected in his voice a weariness common to young artists who discover how little the world cares about their musical dreams. Here, I thought to myself, is a man with stories to tell. Even so, I wasn’t about to abandon my drink to avoid hearing them.

“So, Alan Tim,” I yawned, “you must have learned a great deal your first year out there on the road.”

“Damn straight,” he snapped. “The first thing I learned is that you don’t sign with a manager who carries a map of Music Row in his hip pocket.”

“A sage conclusion,” I agreed. “Do go on.”

“Well,” he went on, “I found out that you can’t use your music video as a form of airline identification. And you should never play for the door at a club that doesn’t have one.”

“All words of wisdom,” I nodded.

He caught the bartender’s eye and made a circling gesture over our glasses with his forefinger. My heart melted with affection.

“Another thing,” he winked, “you don’t use the term ‘cash bar’ when you’re dealing with the media.”

I tried to look wounded.

“In this business, you’ve got to set realistic goals for yourself,” Alan Tim droned on. “Take me, for example. My goal is to have a platinum album before the earth’s supply of that metal is depleted.”

“You’ll get there, ” I assured him, hoisting my subsidized glass for emphasis.

“Still,” he said, warming to the subject. “You’re bound to make a few career mistakes. I say this as the new national spokesman for the Dandruff Relief Fund.”

“A mere trifle in the scheme of things,” I offered reassuringly.

“Say what you will, though, partner,” Alan Tim observed, “there’s still a lot of generosity in the music business.”

“How so?” I demanded, the muscles in my brow wrinkling with incredulity.

“Well,” he said, “my producer lets me cut his songs, and my record company lets me use its lawyer.”

“Saints,” I said.

Got news? Tell us about it. You can contact me at HotTalk@cmt.com.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.