Go Deeper

Ricky Lake Jackson Needs to Get Back Home

Posted September 9th, 2012

It’s pronounced “uh-MAIR-kuh.”

Most of my exposure to so-called Southern Rock has been through either the biker part of my family (no joke, despite, or is it because of? my family origins in northwest Pennsylvania), Midwestern friends who played such things during drunken nights in college in a nostalgia for a time that never was and that they could never have experienced, and in a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” played by two bands at my college who joined forces for an epic encore in a dining hall.

So, when I went to meet Ricky Lake Jackson of Jawbone Junction, five-month-old baby in tow, I was ready to hang. Stuck in Philadelphia after the death of their lead guitarist, they’re doing a three-night stand at the Twisted Tail during Philly Fringe, to try to get some scratch to get back home to Arkansas.

After the jump: How Ricky Lake got his name, the death of Slim Willie Jefferson, and face-melting.

According to Ricky Lake, Trenton wasn’t good to them. Slim Willie got some bad meat in a pulled-pork sandwich, and passed away in their tour bus. I asked him if he saw the famous sign reading “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”

“What the hell does Trenton make? I guess they make laws in Trenton with that guy, Christie? Christie-Kreme is more like it, Jesus,” says Ricky Lake.

All joking aside, the death of Slim Willie was a huge blow to the band.

“I played with Slim Willie all my life,” wails Ricky Lake. “We’ve been stuck here for the past month. We used all our money to send the body back to Arkansas,” to Jawbone Junction, the town from which the band takes their name.

Ricky Lake misses Jawbone Junction, which he calls God’s country. “It’s a little slice of heaven down there, they make moonshine up the hills, trees, fresh air, shit, man. I probably shouldn’t say shit in front of the kid though, huh?”

I assure him it’s OK, although I start to question the wisdom of bringing my five-month-old daughter to meet a Southern Rock growler in a South Philly bar. Ricky Lake Jackson, by the way, is so named because there are, in fact, two Ricky Jacksons in Jawbone Junction. Ricky Lake Jackson got his name because he lived by a lake; Ricky Mountain Jackson lived up the mountain.

“We named our band after the town we come from. It’s about 100 people, a post office, a general store. Fishin’ during the day, whiskey at night. We’ve been touring the South since ’98, down to New Orleans, north up to Louisville. This was our big northern debut, heading as far north as Hartford, as far west as Chicago. But Slim Willy popped off, and we gotta make some damn dough here, know what I’m sayin’? I’m tired of sitting around here scratching my balls,” Ricky Lake says.

To make money, they tried street performances, but those didn’t go well.

“I get up in their face, and grind on people. When I’m singing, I get up on people and try to rock ’em out,” he says.

He promises big things at the Twisted Tail, with which he fell in love at first sight.

“I walked in here, and was like, this is perfect. It’s Shangri-La up here, I can just walk up to these walls and take a guitar and play a face-melting solo anytime I want. You walk in that door for our show, you better be prepared to get kicked in the face with some ass-kicking Southern rock and roll,” Ricky Lake says.

“It’s like a vicious slap on the ass. Stylistically, I’d say we’re somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd and a choir of heavenly angels? Just like the sound of rock and roll in heaven would be like mixed with the ass-kicking music of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m on rhythm guitar just chunking out some ass-kicking riffs. Cottonmouth wails on harmonica, making that shit scream. But you should’ve heard us with Slim Willie. It’s like God reaching down from heaven and taking your ears in the palm of his hand and saying, ‘This is what I meant music to be.'”

His hopes for the show are high: “Just juicy women packed in from the front of the stage to the back of the room. Dudes can come out and rock out, it’s cool, but there are some definite perks that come along with the job. ”

Like the women, although, true to form, Ricky Lake doesn’t have a family. “No wife, no girlfriend, no old lady dressing me down. It’s tabloid fodder, son.”

Well, a family that he knows about. “You know how many kids I see walk around looking like me? In Little Rock especially. There are skeletons rotting in my closet. I don’t mean that literally, though, make sure you put that in there,” says Ricky Lake.

“There’s many a woman that’s tried to tame Ricky Lake Jackson, and many a woman that has failed.”

I ask him what he looks for in a woman. “I dunno, a nice pair of tits? I just look at women. I hate women that like to talk.”

Jawbone Junction: Live at the Twisted Tail opens with two shows tonight (at 10:00 pm and midnight) at the Twisted Tail, 509 S. 2nd Street, Queen Village. It also runs September 16 and September 23, with shows at 10:00 pm and midnight each night. All shows $10.

–Nicholas Gilewicz