Wednesday, May 18, 2005 road blog 4

Everyone... I'm home for one day after an unbelievable weekend in Mexico with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers... which immediately followed a fantastic record release party and tour. The guys in the Radio Nationals have a hilarious tour diary posted at if you want more details. I'll be back writing when I can, Love, Johnny Hickman... Tornado of Activity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 road blog 3

Ahh....forgive me friends.... I’ve been chastisably remiss in my reporting. So much has happened since my last entry that I almost don’t know where to begin so I’ll just take a deep breath and backtrack. Suffice to say that I have had one of the most utterly hectic, intensive yet thoroughly satisfying 2 month runs of my entire up, down and around musical career. After the west coast / desert leg of “Cracker CVB acoustic duo” (Lowery/Hickman) shows I said goodbye to David and flew immediately up to Seattle Washington to meet up with my good friends and co/conspirators in musical merriment , Radio Nationals. (More about these guys soon).

* 2/27 Upon landing I checked into a cheap motel and slept for a desperately needed 12 hours straight. *Johnny’s road tip #41!...always crank up the ac/heater unit no matter the temperature. Even the fan only setting will mask any annoying noises like sub woofing jerk cars at 4 AM, knocking maids with voices like fingernails on chalkboards at 9AM or fellow musicians doing unspeakable things in nearby rooms...or hallways. Upon waking I called my friends Barbara (also my publicist) and Jared (singer/songwriter for Radio Nationals) and informed them that I had not fallen off the face of the earth but was actually in town. I then walked 3 or 4 miles up and down the hilly neighborhood streets surrounding Seatac to get provisions at a distant drug store. Note to self.....never begin a 2 month tour with brand new boots. My blisters were getting blisters. On the way back I had a great Seattlesque throbbing feet were miraculously saved by a battered, abandoned bicycle laying 15 feet below, tangled in long vines in a ditch near some woods. The handlebars were bent comically sideways and there was no chain, but as it was mostly downhill from there I hopped on with my swinging bag containing shaving cream, razors, vitamins, band-aids, Neosporin ointment (with pain relief) and a power cord. As I gleefully coasted down one particularly steep suburban hill at perhaps 35 mph....tears filling my numb and dumb ears, I had a sudden, harsh realization. No chain = no brakes. As the gods of comedy would decree, a late 60s model Ford Falcon glided up next to me. “Hey....he says you’re Johnny from Cracker...are you?”. The guy riding shotgun yelled, grinning from ear to ear as he gestured toward the driver. “NO” I yelled smiling. “I’m much smarter than he is!” This cracked the pair up no end. “Nice bike!” The driver laughed, thumbs up as he cruised along. “Need a ride?” “Naw.....but I’ll take a tow” I said, grabbing the door handle and steadying myself . “Where you playing?” They asked. “The Tractor.....Saturday” I yelled as I veered off towards my hotel down the side street. They honked and waved as I wobbled away. I lay the bike in a patch of grass and walked to my room. Looking out the window an hour later it was gone, some other freak probably saving my life for me as he walked off with his prize.

*Monday Feb. 28........Jared and I dropped an advance copy of “Palmhenge” by Seattle’s legendary radio station WEXP.....we begin the first rehearsal with the band and later Jared and I play an impromptu acoustic show.

*3/1 through 3/ 3 Rehearsed, drank brown liquor, ate lots of fish and rehearsed some more. Drank copious amounts of Rainier beer in honor of how fast the guys learned my songs.

*3/4 Drove down to Portland for our debut show together at Dante’s. On the way we drive past the area around Mt. St. Helens where Radio Nationals lead guitarist Aaron Taylor was born and raised. That night after he played a red hot set I gave him the nickname “Lavabilly”. Days later digital pictures of me in an ice machine at 4 AM materialized. Don’t ask.

*3/5 I’m proud to announce that we nearly blew the roof off of Seattle’s legendary Tractor club. After recording Palmhenge with some of the best musicians I know I was a bit worried about how I would pull it off live. This show confirmed my theory that these guys were THE SHIT. They backed me superbly on my set and then ended the night triumphantly as they hammered the sold out crowd with their own great set...bringing me back up for a few raucous encores. Ahhh total bliss...made even better by a brief spotting of the guys who towed my freak bike earlier in the week.

*3/6 We load the gear into Jared’s van with Rick, Rich and Aaron and then Jared and I packed CDs, ipod, Red Bull, Coffee and began the drive to San Francisco for the second of our acoustic duo shows together. On the stereo.....Neil Young’s new greatest hits CD, Slobberbone, Bottlerockets Blue Sky, Drive By Truckers (lots), Bobby Bare Jr. , and random gems from Jared’s impressive collection. Computer wiz Jared kindly installs a wireless card in my laptop. We both sign up for the Flying J wireless deal for a month. Pull up to the truck stops, grab a coffee etc....log on! Old Johnny gets with these new fandangled ways!

*3/7 Monday night.... booked at the last minute, we did our gig at Hotel Utah in S.F. Small but enthusiastic crowd...great club. Some of the sweet local girls adorn the stage with a hundred candles for us. Great vibe. Look forward to playing here again with some advance notice/publicity next time. Victor K. and his mate Troy were there to share the wine and good cheer. If there is a better way to spend a Monday night I don’t don’t know what it is.

*3/8 HOLY SHIT!! These are the days that test the boundaries of good health both physical and mental........the erstwhile “Flying Js” woke up early and drove nonstop to Salt Lake City Utah for our gig at Monks. 13 hour trip...barely made it at 10 PM in time to set up, have a beverage with the always cool Mike Finch, Wolfitz and company before hitting the stage. Really enjoyed this cool little venue...great pizza....the owner even presented us with a set of groovy, square Maker’s Mark high ball glasses after the show.

*3/9 Drove toward Denver after spending the night in the middle of nowhere at the “Touch Nothing” motel. (Jared’s name for sticky carpet, see through sheets, cigarette burns on everything, kind of luxury accommodations.)

YEE HA! After hearing of the CVB/Cracker equipment thefts, Jared has decided to sleep in the van with the guitars many nights. A true hero. One night he was awakened by the sound of a would be thief trying to pry the lock off the van door. When the asshole got a look at Jared (who is a 6 foot 3 man mountain) bellowing and scrambling for the door he pissed himself, legs flying and his his bones mercifully big little brother barreling after him like an angered grizzly as he fled into the night.

*3/10 We play a loose but fun show at The Lion’s Lair in Denver Colorado. The “Flying Js” have their first band argument but decide that we are brothers and laugh it off. Just like real musicians should do. I get a short but sweet visit with my wife and 2 year old son who are staying with my in laws from nearby Ft. Collins. In the morning we thank my friend’s John and Eddy for putting us up and head south.

*3/11 Jared and I arrive in Denton Texas to catch the first of two farewell shows performed by local legends Slobberbone. Old friends of Radio Nationals, these guys did an outstanding goodbye show preceded by a short film of performances and interviews from their ten years on the road together. It was bittersweet to see this great band live for the first and last time as their fans cheered and wept, lone stars held aloft in the sold out crowd. My friend Patterson from Drive by Truckers (who was out on tour himself and could not attend) was a very close friend of Slobberbone so we scored him a limited print farewell poster signed by his buddies. One of those nights that just feel magical all around.


*3/13 I grab my acoustic guitar and play an unannounced opening set with Jared at Rudyard’s in Houston Texas. Ian Moore is the headliner and his crowd is attentive and cool. Nobody knows who I am until Jared makes an announcement. I find this experience to be strangely enjoyable....especially when the set goes over very well. Ian and his band are quite impressive and afterwards we end up going to a friends house for an all night jam session with musicians sleeping on pool tables amid empty beer cans. Ian kindly tosses me an air mattress that he stows away with his gear. We all awaken to a huge tray of fish tacos and good coffee from our gracious host! Nice. I stupidly leave 2 of my harmonicas behind as we go careening off to Austin.

Next up..........tales of howling ribaldry at South by Southwest!!

Saturday, February 26, 2005 road blog 2

Johnny and David..."The Cracker / CVB Acoustic Duo Tour 05." Western run Day 5. Hello friends....thank you everyone who braved the relentless rains to come and see us. The first three shows have been an absolute pleasure for us...

2/20 : The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano CA was delightfully packed. The first show of a tour can be a little rusty but due to the great crowd response we soon felt right at home replete with synapsis firing back to life. David and I had a good night taking the occasional boisterous request (including one from my two year old son) and pulling out some rarely played songs.

2/21 : The Big Fish Pub in Tempe AZ. This cool little punk rock club did a great job of setting the show up for us last minute after the original venue closed mysteriously. The night was whiskey fueled and rowdy for an "acoustic" show. Our buddies The Drive By Truckers would have been proud me thinks. The staff at the club were hospitably much so that shots of a certain German poison were lined up on the bar after the show which led to....

2/22: Solar Culture Tucson AZ. Hangovers pummelling us from within, we inched our way from Tempe to our long beloved Tucson. David started the show with this recently learned wisdom...."Never try to keep up with your 25 year old tour manager". I’ll drink to that....water. For those of you who may not know, Cracker has had a decade and a half love affair with Tucson. We recorded herein 93, naming the 4 song EP after the contained the first recording of "Eurotrash Girl". Years later wrote a batch of songs here which became most of our record "Forever". I recently returned to record most of my solo record here as well with local alt country legend Teddy Morgan producing.

2/23 : With our multi tasking, multi talented tour manager/soundman Casey at the wheel we made the long drive to San Diego through sheets of silvery desert rain. The storms out here have been so relentless that the normally gray brown desert is now a bright green....the weeds overtaking the cacti for visual attention. Beautiful day of gray, stopping for a fine, cheap Mexican lunch halfway. "Life is good...or so it seems."

Saturday, February 5, 2005 road blog 1

Greetings all. Although I plan to make this about the road, my first post here comes from home. The closest I've been to the road lately was a trip to Los Angeles 2 days ago to see Michele Shocked playing with the Sin City Allstars at Molly Malone's. I shuffled in with my buddies Sluggo and Mark from the band Skeetertruck. A Maker's Mark on the rocks was promptly placed in my hand......nice when your friends know you. Michelle was in fine form as were Sin City. For those who may not know, Sin City is a collective of Southern California based cowboy rock/country musicians. They organize the Gram Parsons tribute show known as "Gramfest" every year. Gram's daughter Polly is part of the scene. Wednesday's theme (these characters like themes) was The Dukes of Hazzard. They had a constant silent movie of episodes from the 70s cult favorite projecting over the audience and onto the opposite brick wall. You could sip a beverage and watch constant muscle car chases interspersed with close ups of Daisy Duke's famous back bumper as rough and ready country and southern rock faves shook the rafters. They called me up to sing a number so I launched into Merle Haggard's (hey...sounds like Hazzard right?) "Mamma Tried". Of course the band, many of whom are Bakersfield alumni knew it like the backs of their PBR grippin hands. It was well worth the drive for this Inland Empire desertbilly. I can't promise that all of these posts will be as coherent as this one...(jet lag, sleep deprivation and or alcohol may be a factor) but I will speak my mind and enjoy myself here from time to time. Thanks for checking in friends. All the best, Johnny