Music

Southern Surrealist J.D. Wilkes To Perform At Continental Club

The Legendary Shack Shakers will be releasing Cockadoodledeux in celebration of twenty five years as a band.  Front man J.D. Wilkes will perform in Houston for a solo show on Sunday, October 24.
The Legendary Shack Shakers will be releasing Cockadoodledeux in celebration of twenty five years as a band. Front man J.D. Wilkes will perform in Houston for a solo show on Sunday, October 24. Photo By Joshua Black Wilkins
J.D. Wilkes has been called many things; a renaissance man, the last great rock and roll front man, a genius and a self proclaimed “southern surrealist." Most of all he is known for his work as the magnetic front-man of the dynamic band, The Legendary Shack Shakers but Wilkes is a man of many talents.

The Legendary Shack Shakers are celebrating 25 years of wall shaking music and good times with their latest release, Cockadoodledeux, due out November 5, on former Dead Kennedy's front man Jello Biafra’s label, Alternative Tentacles.

J.D. Wilkes will be stopping in Houston for a special performance at The Continental Club on Sunday, October 24. This tour, which began as a solo tour sharing the bill with Scott H. Biram and Jordan Joyes, has now morphed into something new with Wilkes on banjo and harmonica, his wife Miranda on the washtub bass and Legendary Shack Shakers drummer Preston Corn.

“Now it's kind of like an impromptu three piece backing me up and fleshing it out,” says Wilkes. “It’s got a cabaret variety show aspect to it now which I'm enjoying.”


Though Wilkes is disappointed that the timing of the release of Cockadoodledeux and this tour did not align due to delays in production of vinyl all across the country, he is enjoying this new project and process of breathing a new life into some of his older songs while waiting to officially celebrate the new album.
Cockadoodledeux celebrates the band's 25 years of music and friendships and features appearances from members of the band throughout their careers as well as special guests like Biafra himself howling along on the first single released from the album, “Rawhide.”

When asked how he picked the comical song to kick off the album Wilkes says, “It’s catchy and has the reference to The Blues Brothers scene where they're trying to pick a country song to sing in this honky tonk. So much of that movie and Spinal Tap, the scenes are relatable to traveling musicians over the years. You end up experiencing something like all of those comedy scenes.”

The album takes in the broadly encompassing sounds of the country music genre while always playing with humor in the lyrics.

“There’s a lot of funny songs,” says Wilkes. “Some sense of humor dropped in accessibility too. Catchy, accessible, funny, lighthearted things that country music was a little more accessible genre than the weird stuff I usually write and the heavy stuff I’ve been writing lately. It was nice to come up for air and do something a little more light and a moment of levity for the band,” he explains.


When asked if centering on country music was difficult when creating the album Wilkes says, “Not really because there are so many sub genres; bluegrass, Tex-Mex, western swing and cowpunk. When you say those next to one another, it just seems diametrically opposed but they're all under the big tent of country music.”

“It was a family reunion and the country music genre lends itself to that kind of thing. It has a homey feel and is sentimental,” he says, adding that though the title is a play on the band's 2003 album, Cockadoodledon’t it’s actually more reflective of their lesser known 1998 album, Hunkerdown.

“It was a family reunion and the country music genre lends itself to that kind of thing. It has a homey feel and is sentimental.”

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J.D. Wilkes is known for his onstage energy and almost preacher-like ability to draw the audience into his dark tales with gallows humor and a spine shaking back beat, whether solo or with the band.

When asked how he taps into that same energy in the studio Wilkes says, “I’ve learned how to get into the character over the years and I'm not as shy anymore in there. I brought in my buddies, some people you've known forever and if they are around you are happy. There’s a lot of good energy on that record cause the people had it too,” he says.

He admits that it can be challenging to take the stage solo without the high voltage energy of his usual band leaving him playing banjo alone and feeling like "a tinker toy", an experience which is only making him more appreciative of his current three-piece band.

Wilkes has written two novels and is currently wrapping the sequel to his previous novel, The Vine That Ate The South. Wilkes is also a visual artist, something he initially sought out as a career and got his education in before music took over.

“It all kind of goes by the same sort of considerations,” he explains. “You hook people in, lead them along, excite them, then make them wait for it and then excite them again and then make them wait for it and then excite them again for a big rooster tail and then kill it before you wear it out and leave them wanting more. It’s the same rules for a performance, a gig, a song, a play, a movie or a book.”

J.D. Wilkes will perform with Scott H. Biram and Jordan Joyes on Sunday, October 24 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main, 9 p.m., $15-25.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes