Fringe Characters

The PC Cowboys -- the pride of Bridge City and planet Earth's only politically correct country band -- have been busy lately. There have been a couple of lineup changes, including the departure of a founding member and the addition of a fourth player. And as the band celebrates its tenth anniversary, the biggest gig of their life looms: a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe, the U.K.'s most prestigious comedy/arts festival, one at which more than 800,000 tickets are sold every year. The band will be over there for a month, so we thought it would be a good idea to sit down and chew the fat with lead singer Hamshire Fannett. What follows is a near-verbatim transcript of our chat.

HP: Last time we met, you had a different band. What's the lineup these days?

HF: Well, Toomey Starks, basically he quit. Various stories about why, but we think his wife has him chained up to some lawn furniture back of the house, but we haven't actually seen that. We've still got Arthur ["Don't Call Me 'Art'" Dekko] playin' bass, and we added a new guitar player -- a guy named Hoot Bergeron, from Winnie, Texas. Actually he comes from the famous Bergeron family of Winnie -- he's the heir to that huge pecan log fortune. He's a real interesting character -- we've got him playing a left-handed guitar. He's right-handed, but we got a real good deal on this left-handed guitar and he plays it upside down. Then we got us a fourth guy -- we added a fiddle player name of Stubby Johnsen. He is actually from Sweden. He came to our hometown of Bridge City, Texas, as part of a musical exchange program. We sent an air-conditioner repair guy to our sister city of Bridge City, Sweden. He didn't come back 'cause he found out he was gettin' paid the same amount and nobody in Sweden has air conditioning. He was takin' saunas and gettin' massages ever' day. So Stubby -- he kinda got liquored up one day and walked into the Dairy Queen and defected. He said, "I give up, I wanna be a citizen" and he recently got married, so he's got a green card and everything. As far as we know, he's the only semi-legal Swedish immigrant playin' country in the States.

Is that the first Dairy Queen defection?

As far as I know. See, we don't have an embassy or any of that fancy stuff in Bridge City, so the Dairy Queen is actually the highest seat of government. So it sounds kinda random, but if you really think about it, it makes sense.

Of course, y'all have put Bridge City on the map internationally. And I understand y'all have a real big show coming up.

Real interesting story there. There's this buddy o' mine from a long time ago, a comedian named Paul Provenzo…He used to date a girl from Bridge City. I hadn't seen the man in, like, 15 years, but I run into him and give him a couple of CDs and he said, "Man, y'all gotta come over to the Edinburgh festival." So we're sittin' there goin', "All right, that's, like, a six-hour drive, you go to Harlingen and make a right. All right, we could rent a van…"

Fill up on cheap tacos and huevos rancheros…

Right. And then we come to find out it's in another damn country.

Naw! You mean it's across the border!

See, that was my next thought too. I thought it was like Noo-wavo Edinburg. But, naw, it's over in Europe or something. We're gonna fly there, and that's why we're doin' this fund-raiser thing, to try to get money for the trip.

So do they speak English over there?

Not exactly. My cousin has Internet, so I got there and did some research. They have different words for things, but they think we can get by. We're talkin' about hirin' a local translator, and maybe have him sign along with our songs. Then we got thinkin' about, and all of our songs, they just have two different signs. It's either the [rocks hand back and forth as if chugging beer] drinkin' thing, or the [rocks arms back and forth doggy-style] wocka-wocka hubba-hubba thing. So as long as we had him up there we could just give him two posters: the wocka-wocka thing and the chug-a-lug thing. He could hold them up and then they could figure out what we were talkin' about. Kinda like laughter and applause.

Let's talk about that fund-raiser some more. I understand those communist countries over there like to tax Americans to pay for all their socialized medicine and stuff like that.

See, now you're talkin'. Them local guys don't have to pay no airfare, and what's fair about that? So initially we were hopin' that somebody would just give us the plane tickets, but then we realized we didn't know anybody with that kinda money. So we're just gonna have to come up with actual cash.

You're staying over there a month?

Yeah, all of August pretty much. The good part about it is it's not as hot as it is over here. They tell us that it's cooler. You know, we've got a song called "Idaho (But Then I Lost Her)." We wrote that 'cause we had saved up a bunch of money and bought us a time-share in northern Idaho, and we had the use of it in the second two weeks in January. So we tried to drive up there, but we didn't make it. We got snowed in on the highway in Montana. The time-share does look nice in the pictures, though. Anyway, we think the weather in Edinburgh in August is gonna be kinda similar to Idaho in January.

About minus 80, that kinda thing…

Yeah, 'cause they're in the Eastern Hemisphere, which is the opposite of us.

Tomorrow is today over there.

Yeah, I couldn't figure it out either. More drinkin' time is how I look at it.

You never have a hangover over there, cause tomorrow is today.

That's right.

Speaking of drinking, I understand this fund-raiser's gonna be at a brewery.

Yeah, it's over there at Saint Arnold's. Real nice folks. They've taken care of us for a long time. We actually used to sleep over there. Until they found out about it. They took it pretty well, they still talk to us and ever'thing. We figured if you don't have a place to sleep, what better place to get locked into than a brewery? So they would give a tour and we would slip off into a cooler or something like that.

Nice air conditioning…

Yeah. Then they would come in on Monday and say, "Hey! How'd you get in here?"

I try to plan to be in bars when floods are coming. I was mad that I wasn't in a bar when Allison hit.

Now see, that was bad plannin'. I did that too. I actually left a bar that night to try to get home, which might have been the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life. I ended up spendin' the night in my truck in front of a damn Walgreens. My house flooded, my wife was now my ex-wife, and I had to stay sober all night long. That's what I call a lose-lose-lose situation. The PC Cowboys fund-raiser will be Sunday, June 20, at the Saint Arnold Brewery, 2522 Fairway Park. Free refreshments will be provided. For more information, call 713-686-9494.


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