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Meet Crooked X, The Quartet of 14-Year-Olds MTV, Kiss and "Rock Band" Adore

December 19, 2008 1:55 PM ET

When Rock N Roll Dream premieres January 13th on MTV, the rock doc will introduce the world to Crooked X, four heavy-hitting 14-year-olds from the heartland of Coweta, Oklahoma, who went from having their parents drive them to practice to playing arena shows with Kiss and Ted Nugent. But for all their fresh-faced youth, the X boys have been playing together since they were 10 and 11. They started out covering songs by their heroes — Metallica, AC/DC, Cream — playing their first gig at singer Forrest French's sister's birthday party, but quickly started writing original songs, the first of which, "Nightmare," would become the first tune by an unknown act to be included in the Rock Band game.

But Crooked X had already been a local phenomenon, playing around the Midwest to a burgeoning fanbase. Guitarist Jesse Cooper says his rock-musician father "asked us years ago, 'Do you want to be a garage band, or do you want to be a touring band?' " Making the commitment meant disciplined practice "Five, six days a week, not including all day at home... we all grew musically together."

After placing second in a nationwide contest on CBS Early Morning Live, the band got a leg up from managers Spencer Proffer and Doc McGhee, the latter famed for breaking everyone from Bon Jovi to Skid Row. Now Crooked X are set to release their self-titled EMI debut album in conjunction with the show. It presents a band that sounds considerably older than 14, but maybe that's because, as Cooper says, "Most of the music I listen to was made before I was born," citing Metallica, Eric Clapton and Alice in Chains as key influences.

There are hopes for the show to become a series chronicling Crooked X's touring life, but rocking is job number one for the young Oklahomans. "We want to be able to inspire people," says Cooper, as he and his buddies prepare to become the rock stars they were born to be, which all works out for the best, since, as he admits, "We suck at Rock Band."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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