If ever a cartoon were to summarize the maniacal imagination of JD Wilkes and his Southern Gothic band the Legendary Shack Shakers, it would be a modern-day take on Minnie the Moocher. Cue the new Halloween-appropriate music video for “Sing a Worried Song,” animated by former Rick and Morty artist Zach Bellissimo.
The black-and-white video features a Betty Boop-style female lead, who gets captured by the devil after texting in a graveyard. “Some people have read into that because I just went through a divorce and they think that I’m maybe sending the ex wife to hell, but that’s not what I’m going for,” Wilkes tells Rolling Stone Country. “Basically, it’s, ‘If Betty Boop were a millennial today, what might she be doing in the graveyard?’ It’s sort of an update on the form.”
Wilkes created a storyboard for the video before handing it off to Bellissimo, who he says “just went nuts.” The animation includes singing corpses and a tree that grows out of Wilkes’ cranium, sprouted by the tombstones of Edgar Allen Poe, Flannery O’Connor and Don Knotts. That idea, he says, came from an old Leon Redbone poster. “If you notice, they’re all coming out of my head, so my family tree of influences end up being the powerful thing that takes down the devil,” Wilkes says.
The animations are interspersed with live footage of Wilkes leading his band in a white tuxedo, à la Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.” Filmed at a theater in Paducah, Kentucky, before one of the band’s hometown shows, it was a particularly madcap recording: Done in one take, the band’s smoke machine set off the fire alarm. “If you look close, you can see the flash of the smoke alarm,” Wilkes says. “There’s like 200 people outside waiting to come in and we’re trying to squeeze in this video because it’s all the time we’ve got and we got to take the tuxedo back to the rental place.”
“Sing a Worried Song,” a sinister dirge about the earth taking back its dead, is featured on Legendary Shack Shakers’ new LP, After You’ve Gone, released August 25th on Last Chance Records. The band plays the Basement in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 28th.