Jesse James Dupree is coming home. Well, not really home. But Lincoln’s where the Jackyl singer finds some “family.”
“We get there about once a year,” Dupree said. “The first Jackyl album broke out of Lincoln, Neb., believe it or not. So it’s like a second home to us. We love Lincoln. The Blaze radio station is one of the best rock stations in the country.
“I really do love coming to Lincoln. I’ve got a lot of friends I call family there. I don’t know about other artists, whether they keep up with people. But for us, it means a lot to stay tight with people, and there are a lot of them in Lincoln.”
Dupree mentioned The Blaze for a reason. Twenty years ago, the Lincoln station started playing songs from band’s self-titled debut album while teaming up with Homer’s Music to put the album on sale as a “pick of the week” for almost a month. “Jackyl” started flying out of Lincoln stores.
“It just changed our lives,” he said. “It really did. The record company called and said ‘What’s going on in Lincoln?’ From there, it started. I’d never been to Lincoln in my life then. But we had to go there, and we keep coming back.”
The last time Jackyl returned, The Blaze just had undergone some dramatic changes. Program director Tim Sheridan, who championed Jackyl and is a Dupree friend, had been fired, his morning show co-host Jon “The Animal” Terry was moved to midday and a syndicated program replaced their popular show, prompting protests from the station’s listeners.
“Even when Tim got let go, we were out at The Grove and celebrating each other,” Dupree said. “You can’t change the people, even if they aren’t there anymore. It’s a shame they (Three Eagles management) didn’t have any respect for the sense of family. But it’s a testimony to the fiber of the people who built that station that they were out there with us.”
Jackyl will be back Friday at the Bourbon Theatre. While the set will be full of songs that Lincoln has grown to love, like the chainsaw anthem “The Lumberjack” and hits “Down on Me,” “Push Comes To Shove” and “Locked and Loaded,” it also will include some songs from “Best in Show.”
That’s the title of the new Jackyl album, to be released July 31, literally within days of the exact 20th anniversary of the release of “Jackyl.” The single, “Screwdriver” already is out and the disc contains “Encore,” that’s destined to become a stripper anthem.
“That whole album, it really is a fun record,” Dupree said. “In all sincerity, and conceited as it sounds, I really, really enjoy the record. It’s one of our records that I just play for fun. It’s in the spirit of the 20th anniversary.”
So why has Jackyl lasted for two decades? For Dupree, the answer is simple:
“Jackyl is the continuation of the fundamentals of rock 'n' roll; that’s something that doesn’t go away,” he said. “We’ve never been a part of a clique or a movement other than straight rock 'n' roll -- three chords and an attitude. The fact that we’ve stayed around says a lot about rock 'n' roll, not just for us, but for any other band, like AC/DC, that has stuck with it.”
While he’s been rocking for 20 years, Dupree has branched out into other industries. He’s a television producer, having done the high school football series “Two-A-Day” for MTV and now is the driving force behind Tru TV’s “Full Throttle Saloon,” the show about the Sturgis, S.D., bar that he proudly says is “the top-rated cable show in its time slot.” He’s also managed production for some record labels, including one owned by Kiefer Sutherland.
Six years ago, Dupree got into the beer business, creating Jesse James America’s Outlaw Beer, which is brewed, appropriately in St. Joseph, Mo., the hometown of his namesake, the real outlaw, Jesse James. That beer only recently came to Nebraska.
His latest creation is Jesse James Whiskey, which took off immediately and now is on sale in 30 states, including Nebraska. Suffice it to say that Dupree is so plugged into the beer and spirits biz that he cited Nebraska distributors by name while we talked.
James didn’t really have an explanation as to why he’d expanded beyond music, saying only that he’s discovered that corporations involved in television and spirits are just as ugly as those that run the music industry.
“I’ve never looked back to think about it that much,” Dupree said. “I’ve poured concrete for a living. I’ve driven nails for a living. I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff. Every day, I don’t have to pour concrete, I’m thankful.”
Nor should fans be concerned that Dupree’s television, management and liquor businesses will cause him to put down the chainsaw and walk away from the microphone.
“People ask me when do you think you’ll stop playing,” Dupree said. “That’s like asking when am I going to wake up one day and ask to have my penis removed. It (playing) is not just what I do. It’s who I am.”
Dupree’s going to be hanging around in Lincoln Friday afternoon before the show. He’ll be at a downtown bar near the Bourbon -- he couldn’t remember which one during the interview. He’ll sign bottles of Jesse James whiskey and talk to those who find him. After all, it’s kind of a family reunion.