— that’s Wheeler Walker Jr. and his debut album, Redneck Sh*t
The first listen to a Wheeler Walker Jr. song can get your brain spinning in a dozen different directions at once. “Did he just say what I think he said?” “You can’t do this in country music, can you?” And finally, “Damn, this is some pretty good music.”
Though released in early 2016, Wheeler Walker Jr.’s debut album Redneck Shit—which features the track “Drop ‘Em Out” on the latest installment from StripJointsMusic.com—sounds as if it could have come right from the 1970s or early ‘80s. Walker makes no bones about the fact that his influences are derived from such classic country artists as Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, David Allen Coe, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He’s also very blunt in noting that many of the bands on country radio today, as he states, are “complete dog shit.”
“This stuff that’s out on the radio now, I call it Milli Vanilli with twang,” says Walker in an exclusive interview with ED Publications. “Willie (Nelson) is still around, Merle (Haggard) is hanging in there, but there isn’t much left. I wanted to give it a shot of making some real country music.”
He did give it a shot—and then some. Redneck Shit shook up the country music world by debuting at number nine on the Billboard Country chart. In their review, SavingCountryMusic.com states, “The genius of Redneck Shit is how each of the 11 songs is perfectly structured and stylized to reflect a specific era or influence in classic country music, making the album a really strong country music experience beyond the lyrics. The music of Redneck Shit is excellent. And so are the lyrics if you’re looking for belly laughs.”
Those belly laughs are, of course, the other side of Wheeler Walker’s music. Redneck Shit also debuted at number one—on the Billboard Comedy chart. This “Shit” is funny, and so sexually graphic and completely over the top that listeners will either love it or hate it—there's no in between (sort of a country version of Steel Panther). Comedy, as it turns out, is right in his Walker’s wheelhouse: He once had his own show on Comedy Central called “The Ben Show” (his real name is Ben Hoffman). In fact, the track “Eatin’ Pussy/Kickin’ Ass” was featured in a skit on the show in 2013. But make no mistake: With Wheeler, the music still takes center stage.
“The music comes first; sure, the lyrics are funny because they’ve never heard this type of language in country music, this type of honesty, this type explicitness,” says Walker. “It’s real shit. I was talking to a guy on the radio and I asked if he found it offensive, and he said no, that’s just how people talk. Why am I such a revelation? Hip-hop has been doing it for 20 years. The lyrics for country now are so … a guy now has a song about buying him a boat [Chris Janson’s “Buy Me a Boat”]. Buy me boat? No wonder people are listening to me if that’s the alternative.”
The word is that Walker had a batch of songs that he wanted to record for several years, but no one in Nashville (the epicenter of country music) wanted anything to do with his raunchy approach to the lyrics. After being turned down again and again, Walker took matters into his own hands. Through his contact with friend and accomplished country musician Sturgill Simpson, Walker reached out to Grammy winning country/rock producer Dave Cobb. Walker collected his life savings and made Cobb the offer: You produce it, I’ll pay for it.
“Dave Cobb heard the demos and he just said, ‘let’s do it,’" Walker recalls. "He has so much going on, he does what he wants to do and doesn’t overthink it. And there’s something very freeing about paying for it yourself. Redneck Shit came out on my own label (Pepper Hill Records), and I ain’t got to answer to anybody. I’m sick of this dog shit that’s coming out of Nashville. I said, let’s do some raw shit and put it out. My assumption was no one was going to listen to it, but I was wrong.
“I gambled on myself, and I honestly thought I was going to lose,” Walker adds, candidly. “I’ve been to Vegas a lot of times, but this might be the first bet I ever won. If you believe in yourself that much then put your money where your mouth is. Most of this dog shit out there right now, in a lie detector test, do you think these guys would put their life savings on the line for that new record they just put out? Most of them wouldn’t. I wanted to make this record so bad, and no one was going to make it, so I had to do whatever I had to do to make it happen.”
With tracks like “Fuck You Bitch,” “Sit On My Face,” “Better Off Beatin’ Off” and the album’s title track, it’s easy to see why so many of the straight-laced business types shied away from Walker. But for the strip club industry, embracing a track like “Drop ‘Em Out” seems like a perfect fit. The track is, after all, an ode to boobs (and a damn fun singalong): “Drop ‘em out, let me see them titties, gonna take a long look at those tig ol’ bitties, areolas lookin' real nice, lookin’ real pretty, let me take a gander at your boobs.”
“It’s a lot of fun and catchy as shit,” says Walker of “Drop ‘Em Out.” “It sums up that whole (strip club) world in about 90 seconds. Maybe I’m crazy, but when you leave the club that might be the one you’re humming that night. It may be way different than everything else your’e playing, but why not have some variety? That’s the fun of a strip club, the mixture of music. I think even the hip-hop guys could like this song. Trust me, you ain’t gonna lose a whole lotta people singing about boobs. It’s a dream come true to hear ‘Drop ‘Em Out’ in the clubs.”
— story by Dave Manack