Hancock plays the Gas Lamp on Sunday, Dec.
11 at 9 p.m. Jake Orvis & the Broken
Band open. Tickets are $12 at Midwestix.
By Michael Swanger
Wayne “The Train” Hancock personifies the
old adage that you have to live the honky tonk
blues to sing them so convincingly.
Oh, brother, can The Train sing ’em.
Since the release of his critically acclaimed
1995 debut album, “Thunderstorms and Neon Signs,”
the 46-year-old Texas troubadour has been ignored
by commercial radio and the Nashville Machine
(screw ’em anyway); eked out a living playing
a never-ending series of one-nighters in juke
joints along the lost highway; been busted by
Johnny Law in just about any town you can name
for twisting one up with friends; separated
from his wife; and spent some time in rehab
(sort of). All of which, he wears like a badge
of honor, or courage.
Yet to his admirers, those who defiantly wave
their middle finger at unauthentic music, Hancock
is the undisputed “King of Juke Joint Swing.”
His sound is akin to a mix of Jimmie Rodgers,
Hank Williams and Bob Wills, but it is his own
and is uncompromising in its pure artistry.
Refreshingly honest, onstage or off, I caught
up with The Train last week. Here’s what he
had to say.
CV: Bloodshot Records issued a statement that
you entered rehab. How did that go?
WH: I was supposed to go to rehab, but they
had a big ol’ waiting list. I was overworked
and needed a break, so I took three months off,
got my head straight and laid off drinking and
smoking reefer. Then I joined a motorcycle club
in Texas, which was better than going to rehab
because when you prospect for a motorcycle club
you can’t drink or smoke. That pretty much whipped
that, man. I’m almost 50, and I got tired of
going to jail all the fuckin’ time for it.
CV: When was the last time you got busted?
WH: Earlier this year in Illinois. I hadn’t
smoked it, but I had it on me. I told the guys
at the jail when I was leaving who I was, so
they looked up my music and liked it so much
that they just dropped the fuckin’ charges.
CV: What’s the name of the your club?
WH: The Darkhorse Motorcycle Club. We’re not
one-percenters. We ride under the Bandidos,
but we’re not into bad things. I wanted to do
something because when I’m at home I just stand
around with my hands in my pockets. I’ve been
with them about six months and been a patch
holder for about two months.
CV: Any plans to record a new album?
WH: I hope to get back in the studio next spring.
I started writing songs about riding motorcycles,
I thought that’d be a cool, different approach.
I got a new song called “Ride.” Me and my wife
of three years, we split up. It was in the cards.
I don’t think I’m supposed to be married. Doing
this is hard on a relationship because I’m gone
all the time. Neither one of us wants a divorce,
we just can’t stand to live together.
CV: How would you describe your fans?
WH: The ones that listen to us mainly is the
rock and rolls. They tell me they love my music,
but hate country music. I say, ‘I’m with you.
I hate country music, too.’ There’s a prejudice
in Nashville against independent artists and
that people on major labels are better than
everybody else. You know, brother, that just
drove me away from it.
CV: On your last album, “Viper of Melody,”
you wrote a poignant song called “Working at
Working.” How has the recession affected you?
WH: The shit’s getting pretty tough. Out on
the road you used to be able to get a decent
meal at Denny’s for $5.50. Now it’s $10. Everything’s
doubled out here. We might not be able to afford
our own jet plane working on the lower end of
things, but it’s guaranteed work playing the
clubs. That’s golden. That’s really all I want.
That’s why I’ll work for another 25 to 30 years.
Play ’til you die. CV