In 1993, Mike Judge unleashed the two greatest rock critics in television history when “Beavis and Butt-Head” did their scathing commentary on MTV videos: “This sucks, Butt-Head; turn it off, turn it off.”
Now Judge, who went on to make “King of The Hill” and “Silicon Valley,” is turning his eye back to music with what looks like it will be the best music documentary series ever, “Mike Judge Presents: Tales from The Tour Bus.”
The six-installment series, which airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on Cinemax, is, like the rest of Judge’s work, irreverent and hilarious — which sets it apart from most music documentaries almost as much as the animation does.
“We’re trying to make it less like a history lesson and trying to find the crazy, funny stories that haven’t always been out there," Judge told Rolling Stone. “A lot of country-music documentary stuff that’s been on TNN and CMT has been very polite. But a lot of the stories I’ve heard are more gnarly than Motley Crue stories.”
That’s certainly the case with Johnny Paycheck, the Charles Manson-lookalike who had a massive 1977 hit with “Take This Job and Shove It.”
A wildman with no respect for the law, Paycheck stole cars as a kid, became a coke fiend once he had some success — a bandmate said he did a mind-boggling $10 million of cocaine — and wound up in prison for shooting a fan in the head.
And those are just the highlights — or lowlights — of the off-the-rails story that Judge and his collaborators tell in the series’ hilarious first episode. He does it via interviews with Paycheck's bandmates and managers, all turned into animated characters, and cartoon recreations of Paycheck and his high jinks, interwoven with some old performance footage and photos.
You can watch that episode at cinemax.com.
Next up is Jerry Lee Lewis. It had to be a trick to get the Killer’s tale down to a half hour. But, from the promo trailer, it looks like Judge gets the real inside dope on Jerry Lee: Among the witnesses are his sister Linda Gail and Myra Lewis Williams, the cousin he married when she was just 13.
Then comes a two-parter on George Jones and Tammy Wynette — the series promo shows the Possum on his lawn tractor headed for the liquor store — Billy Joe Shaver, along with Lewis, the series' only living subject; the outlaw king Waylon Jennings; and Blaze Foley, who got himself shot dead in the late ‘80s and is the “Drunken Angel” in Lucinda Williams’ song.
Next up, if the series gets renewed, as it should, is gangsta rap, likely to feature the likes of the Geto Boys, who are friends of Judge. Then heavy metal, which means the gnarly Crue stories have a chance to make it to the screen as well. I can’t wait to see Mick Mars and Tommy Lee as cartoon characters. (Wait a minute, Tommy already is a cartoon character).
Check out producers panel at Lincoln Calling
Lincoln Calling is again this year offering a day's worth of free, open-to-public workshops: a pair in the morning centered on music festivals to be held at The Bay, and a pair in the afternoon at the Nonprofit Hub, 211 N. 14th St.
First up there at 4 p.m. will be "Perspectives from an Emerging Independent Music Scene in Nebraska" with Gary Dean Davis of Speed! Nebraska talking about the 45RPM record label he's run since 1996.
Then, at 5 p.m., comes the most interesting workshop of the lot, "Finding the Right Sound in the Studio." It will have five of Nebraska's top producers talking about what they do and how they do it. Similar panels I've seen at South By Southwest have been fascinating.
On the Lincoln Calling panel will be Mike Mogis, the Omaha producer/engineer who has done work for many national artists, including Bright Eyes, of which he is a member, Justin Townes Earle, First Aid Kit, Jason Mraz and She & Him.
He'll be joined by Lincoln producer/engineers Charlie Johnson of Fuse Recording and Lucas Kellison of Sadson Studio, Omaha's Rick Carson of Make Believe Studios and Chris Pickering of Brooklyn's Dull Tools.