Deke Dickerson & His Ecco-Fonics

Bald as a cue ball and with more hooks than a convention of Long John Silver impersonators, Deke Dickerson bounces deftly between jump blues, western swing, surf rock and cornball rockabilly. On stage, the lively, lean guitarist unleashes puerile barroom jokes and sometimes trades in his double-necked guitar for a romp on a clown-horn-equipped unicycle. Yet Dickerson does not want to be pigeonholed as a novelty act; he has far too much talent for that.

Although often imitated in the white jive subculture of rockabilly, Dickerson runs rings around the predictable Brylcreem-and-Levi's crowd. He stays ahead of the curve by ignoring them. "On the whole, I don't listen to rockabilly," he says. "I listen to a lot of old country, R&B and the blues, which is like the rockabilly players from the 1950s who weren't listening to the kind of music they played."

Groomed on Missouri hillbilly twang near the small college town of Columbia, Dickerson took his first musical outings to Willie Dixon and Bill Monroe shows. As a teenager, he formed Untamed Youth, a surf band that bridged Bobby Fuller, Link Wray and Agent Orange. After that band's breakup, he left the sloping hills and rowdy taverns of the Missouri backwoods for the silicon and steel of Los Angeles. There he teamed up with Dave Stuckey to form Dave & Deke, a popular duo that toured Europe several times. After signing with Hightone Records in 1998, Dickerson made three crystalline albums: Number One Hit Record, More Million Sellers and Rhythm Rhyme and Truth.

Despite such boastful album titles, in person Dickerson comes off as a self-effacing, easygoing Midwesterner at odds with his glitzy adopted hometown. "Out west, guys play in the garage one minute, then make huge videos and records, and break up the next night," he says. "They're basically handed gold bricks on a plate, then complain about it. Back where I come from, no one dreamed of making records."

Dickerson also has published three issues of a fanzine dedicated to obscure Missouri musicians from the '50s. "It's strange," he chuckles. "In every city I go, there's a bunch of pasty white guys who know all my lyrics. And they write the same kinds of fanzines I did."

One of Dickerson's articles explores his love for The Dukes of Hazzard. The musician started collecting kitsch from the show at the age of 13, when his grandmother gave him a pair of Bo and Luke Duke socks for Christmas. "When the band breaks up," he writes, "I will purchase an old Dodge Charger, paint it like the General Lee, and hitch a camper to the back. Then, I will tour the country as the Traveling Dukes of Hazzard Memory Caravan."

Until then, we've got the Ecco- Fonics.

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David Ensminger