Not Just Any Yahoos | The Yayhoos

"We get to go wild on self-expression with our own bands, which makes it easier to do the team thing with the Yayhoos when the time comes."


yayhoos.jpgIf you can find anything written about the Yayhoos that doesn’t contain the term “Americana supergroup” you’ve uncovered a rarity that should command top dollar on eBay. The label is warranted, but perhaps misleading. Explore the history of past supergroups and you’ll find stories of conflict, friction, and infighting. While the typical supergroup puts all their musical eggs in a single basket, the Yayhoos have always been a side project for their members, satisfying different needs than their main gigs and, in the process, helping the Yayhoos avoid the pitfalls frequently associated with the supergroup moniker. Via e-mail, band spokespersons Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and Dan Baird discussed how the Yayhoos work together…and hinted at how they might be different.

“We started out as a songwriting get-together, then we went out and played some gigs in support of everybody’s solo records” explains Ambel. “Since everybody has their own thing, the Yayhoos really has turned into a full-fledged team effort. We get to go wild on self-expression with our own bands, which makes it easier to do the team thing with the Yayhoos when the time comes. I’ve never worked with a band that can pitch in and get behind whichever guy whose song they are working on and really help out the way the Yayhoos do.”

The dictionary describes a yahoo as “a crude or brutish person.” Baird explains that yayhoo is the “same word” spelled to reflect a “more Southern pronunciation.” The band’s name suggests how the Yayhoos are different from the average rock band. It’s a quality one writer described as “no pretentious artsy subtlety…just plug it in, play it, sing it.” Their first release, Fear Not the Obvious, was recorded with just that attitude, using an improvised recording setup to document their original songwriting get-together. Only later did it occur that they had something more than a demo.

Their upcoming release, Put the Hammer Down (due June 20 on Lakeside Lounge), involved more traditional recording sessions in a real studio (Ambel’s Cowboy Technical Services) but the attitude stayed the same. “Everything/Anything” from the new disc sounds like the theme song to a fictional sitcom starring the Yayhoos. It introduces the players and tells us what each brings to the band.

“My name’s Roscoe and I’m the boss/without me the Minnow would be lost.” An original member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts and the Del Lords, Ambel is currently Steve Earle’s guitarist of choice. One of the best producers of roots-rock records around (notable to St. Louis audiences are his production duties on four consecutive Bottle Rockets discs from The Brooklyn Side through Brand New Year), Ambel plays guitar and acts as producer on all of the Yayhoos projects.

“My name’s Dan, I talk loud and a lot/without me this band wouldn’t rock.” Dan Baird was the frontman of the Georgia Satellites and wrote their biggest hit, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” Since the breakup of the Satellites, he’s continued as a solo artist, sideman, and songwriter.

Bassist Keith Christopher sings, “My name’s Keith and I’ll take a drink/without me this whole band would stink.” Christopher played with Baird in the Georgia Satellites and has since worked with Billy Joe Shaver, Paul Westerberg, and Todd Snider.

“My name’s Terry, ‘Mr. Genius Man’/somebody gotta write a decent song for this band.” Drummer Terry Anderson’s songs have been recorded by Jo Dee Messina, Etta James, and the Georgia Satellites. In a band where everyone is a songwriter, Anderson appears to be everyone’s top critic. Baird says that, as songwriters, they don’t cut each other any slack, adding that the first step to approval by the band is being able to “look Terry in the eye after you play your song.” Anderson’s past bands, the Woods and the Fabulous Knobs, were regional favorites in the Carolinas. He currently fronts the Olympic Ass-Kickin Team.

With each band member having a steady gig, the motivation for playing in the Yayhoos is twofold. First is something different. As Baird explains, “I don’t play exactly like this with anyone else. I’m not the singer (though I sing); I’m not the guitar player (but I play); I’m not the bassist (but Keith lets me hold his bass for a song or two). I’m a band member, and that isn’t something you get all the time.”

The other motivating factor is just plain fun, which translates into fun for the audience. In fact, fun is the explanation for how the band chooses cover songs, deciding to add their version of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” to the set list (a song Ambel calls “the Scandinavian Louie Louie”) for that very reason. They worked it up while on tour in Norway. Explains Ambel, “We whipped it out in Oslo; the crowd was stunned. Reindeer in the headlights.” The latest album has covers of the O’Jays “Love Train” and the B-52’s “Roam.” When I suggest starting a rumor that Baird would be sporting a beehive in homage to the B-52’s during their upcoming Twangfest performance, Baird replies, “No beehives, but if I find a crimping iron, watch out.” Regardless of hairstyle, Twangfest attendees should expect some fun when the Yayhoos hit the stage.

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