When Americana pioneers Uncle Tupelo released their major-label debut, Anodyne on October 5th, 1993, it should have been the beginning of something big.
In a way, it was. Led by Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy from tiny Belleville, Illinois, the alt-country movement’s promising breakout band was packing clubs in major cities across America and Europe, not just the college towns where they spent years building their fan base.
They were following up their left-turn acoustic record, March 16-20, 1992, recorded with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, with their best record yet — one that amplified the band’s strongest assets, the marriage of Jay Farrar’s yearning heartland spirit with Jeff Tweedy’s punk-rock soul.
Anodyne smoothed the jarring, start-stop rhythms of the band’s first two records, No Depression and Still Feel Gone, into a straight-ahead steamroll behind new drummer Ken Coomer. Farrar’s barbed guitar riffs sear on “Chickamauga,” where he compares a crumbling relationship to a Civil War bloodbath. Quieter moments such as the title track flex the strength of new multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, who played dobro, banjo and fiddle, and former guitar tech John Stirratt, who held down bass when Tweedy switched to guitar.
Despite the buzz, Uncle Tupelo never had a hit. Their closest brush with fame was playing Late Night with Conan O’Brien on national TV, and they didn’t break the Billboard Top 200 until the compilation 83/93: An Anthology peaked at Number 173 in 2002. But following the band’s final show, a mere six months after releasing Anodyne, the band’s influence grew as Farrar and Tweedy found success with Son Volt and Wilco, respectively.
Eventually, the friction between lifelong friends Farrar and Tweedy brought down the band at their biggest moment. Tweedy rushed the remaining members of Uncle Tupelo into the studio to record Wilco’s 1995 debut A.M., while Farrar took the long cut and found success with the hit single “Drown” on Son Volt’s Trace a year later.
Farrar has continued to wrestle with obscure, early country and folk music and his textured guitar wranglings over eight solid albums. Wilco has evolved from a Tupelo-twin to an engine of reinvention, from the deconstructionist country-rock of 1996’s Being There to the shimmering heartbreak of 1999’s Summerteeth and 2001’s experimental Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Although the two have apparently reconciled since the band’s final show in 1994, Anodyne is where the fissures in their friendship, and Uncle Tupelo, grew into a fault and spawned two of Americana music’s biggest bands.
Part I: Nobody Likes ‘Em Where They’re From
Cary Hudson (The Hilltops, Blue Mountain): They had made a cassette release, and they sent it to the radio station in Oxford, Mississippi. The DJ there said, “Hey, we just got this tape in. I bet you guys would like it.” We somehow touched base with them. They were touring out of Belleville, we were touring out of Oxford.
John Stirratt (The Hilltops, Wilco): They got a cassette of [1989’s] Not Forever, Just for Now. I think it might have been the second self-released cassette that Tupelo did. We were all really knocked out by it. On the back of the cassette, there was a phone number, and it was Tony Margherita’s home phone number — the longtime Wilco, Uncle Tupelo manager.
Gary Louris (The Jayhawks): I have a vague recollection of those guys kind of following us around a bit. They showed up at some shows and they wanted to jam. I didn’t know who they were. I’d just gotten done with a gig, and I didn’t feel like jamming with people I didn’t know. I think Marc Perlman, our bass player, did though.
Stirratt: Our band the Hilltops were the rock band in town. We had country leanings, but when we heard Tupelo, it was very influential. We probably leaned on that a bit more. We called the number on the cassette, told them we had a cool club down here, we would open for them if they would come down.
Louris: We had gotten to know each other, but I’d never seen their band. Jeff got in touch with me and said, “We’re playing at the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis, you should come down.” And I was just like, “Holy shit.” They were great. Whenever they’d come into town, they’d end up sleeping at my place in the early days.
Hudson: We played at their album release when No Depression came out [in 1990]. They would come and stay with us in Oxford, and we’d stay at their house in Belleville. They had a fridge that was filled with nothing but beer, and a huge trashcan that was filled with nothing but beer cans.
Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers): I was in a band called Adam’s House Cat from ’85 to ’91, and we played the Antenna club in Memphis opening for Uncle Tupelo one night and that’s the first time I’d heard of them. No Depression had just come out, and it hadn’t even started getting much press yet. I don’t remember what the turnout was. I mean, it was a small, little punk-rock dive bar. It probably held 250, maybe 300 tops, and it wasn’t full, but it was more people than we would’ve pulled at the time.
Joe McEwen (A&R, Sire Records): When I got that first tape, I probably didn’t pay that much attention, and then the first album came out, No Depression, so I was aware of them. The manager, Tony Margerhita, kept in touch with me and I would see them when they came through New York.
Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco): I was in a band out of Nashville called Clockhammer. We were working with producers Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and we were doing our first record for a BMG subsidiary [in 1991]. While we were loading out, Uncle Tupelo was loading in [to record Still Feel Gone]. It was Mike [Heidorn, drummer] and Jeff and Jay. We just sort of shook hands and they had that old blue van that I got to know a little bit about.
Louris: They brought me in to play some guitar [on Still Feel Gone]. By then, the tracks were kind of coming together. It was much more of a rock record. It has some rootsy feel to it, but it had a lot of indie rock and some punk-ish kind of rock. They weren’t quite embracing the acoustic direction that they did with Anodyne.
McEwen: It was really the March album [March 16-20, 1992] that woke me up, and I think a lot of people. I like the other records, I just didn’t really see where this was going to fit in in my head, you know? But the March album was great. It was something different in the fact that they went backwards to go forward. It wasn’t alt-rock, you know, it wasn’t any of the things that were on MTV — Buzz Bin or Alt Nation or whatever those outlets were. It stood out in a different way, and kids were responding to it, and I responded to it myself.
Max Johnston (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco): My sister, Michelle Shocked, was having a big tour [the ill-fated Arkansas Traveler Revue in 1992] with her and part of the Band. Robbie Robertson wasn’t there. It was [Garth] Hudson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko. Taj Mahal was on it, and Uncle Tupelo of course. Michelle wanted me to come out, so she flew me out to Boston or something. When I got there, she knocked on [Uncle Tupelo’s] hotel room door and shoved me in and she said, “You’re staying with these guys.” I don’t know if they were aware that I was even gonna be involved, but they were extremely accommodating. They invited me up [on stage] to play mandolin and fiddle and a little banjo here and there. But we’d all get up on stage at the end, like the big encore. The Band and Taj and Tupelo and everybody up there. That was really awesome.
It was a lot of chaos going on so that tour really didn’t last very long. The way I remember it, there was something about Michelle wanted them to play “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and they said, “No, we don’t play that no more. We don’t do that.” I think that’s what the deal was. They quit, and everybody that was on tour was making a decision whether they want to stick around or not. I remember people said, “If the Band’s off, I think we’re off, too.” And [Uncle Tupelo] took off, and they said, “Well, do you want to come with us?” And I was like, “Yes, I do.”
Stirratt: In the fall of ’92, I got a call from Tony. They wanted to find out if I wanted to replace Brian Henneman, who was a guitar tech, but also in the Bottle Rockets. Not only had I never been to Europe, but it was a way to jam with the guys more, which we had done a lot on the road with the Hilltops. We had really good times just playing music with them. I had never been a guitar tech before, but I knew how to change strings.
Coomer: My first gig was at Lounge Ax in Chicago [in early 1993]. I didn’t realize it was sold out, but it was like wall-to-wall people. We get on stage and the first one we did was “Gun,” and there’s a break where I’m supposed to count it in, and I just sort of sit there like deer in the headlights. There’s Jay and Jeff staring at me like, “OK, you can do it. Let’s go.” And then I was fine. But the pause was a much longer pause than anticipated.
Hood: In the early Nineties I’d moved to Athens, Georgia, and was wanting to put together a band, and a friend of mine made me this mix tape of all this old-timey country stuff, the kind of stuff I’d hear at my great uncle’s farm, or he would play, that I didn’t embrace at all growing up. But I heard it with fresh ears. I just fell madly in love with that mix tape and started buying every old-timey country record I could find, and right around that time, I kinda rediscovered [Uncle Tupelo]. The one that really hit me at that time was the one Peter Buck did, because I was listening to all that old-timey country. I was just in the early stages of putting together the Drive-By Truckers right at that moment in time.
Coomer: Every night being on stage and hearing Jay’s voice in my monitor was pretty freaking exciting. As a three-piece, I remember just being up there and Jeff would do his songs and then Jay would start singing and I was like, man, what voice is that? Honestly, I think he has one of the greatest country voices, for being under 50 at the time, that I’ve ever heard.
Part II: If You Still Believe, Let’s Take the Long Cut
Louris: Joe McEwen was really good friends with our producer, George Drakoulias. We were making records out in L.A., and I got to know him that way, and really liked him. I was just kind of the torchbearer for Uncle Tupelo in those days.
McEwen: Gary Louris happened to be in my office once, and he said, “You should really sign those guys, Uncle Tupelo.” He knew I was interested in them somewhat, and that just triggered something. Like, “Yeah, I need to do this.”
Louris: I just made my pitch and said, “I’ve seen them, they’re great. They’re kinda this combination of the Minutemen and Woody Guthrie.” So, if I had any part in it, I’ll take credit, but I don’t remember the real details other than the connection between me and Joe McEwen was George Drakoulias.
McEwen: I met with them out in St. Louis — Tony, Jay and Jeff. I promised them creative freedom, which they certainly had, and then they went to Austin and made Anodyne.
Brian Paulson (Producer): I might’ve seen them at the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis, because they were friends with the Jayhawks, who were friends of mine. They were producer-shopping for Anodyne, so I went to Chicago to the Lounge Ax to see them. I think it was one of the first shows they played with Ken. We hung out in the basement and talked specifics of making a record, kinda feeling each other out.
Stirratt: Maybe late April, early May , and they called me and said, “Just come to Belleville, we’re gonna make a record in Austin.” I showed up thinking I was guitar-teching, and they handed me a guitar and a bass, so that was awesome.
Johnston: We did a good amount of rehearsing, but it wasn’t anything too arduous. It was, “Let’s just go in and make this record and see what comes out of it.”
Paulson: They wanted to be in Austin, and I just did some poking around. [Cedar Creek Recording] had a console I thought I could work with and pull results out of, and it was available, so that’s what we ended up with.
Coomer: I have so many fond memories of that [studio]. They had an old Neve console. It was just as vibe-iest as could be. In fact, you could tell the Warner Brothers checks were coming in because they started putting on a new roof while we were there. It was obvious money was coming in.
Stirratt: It was a great room. It was really like certain places in Nashville, a lot of wood. The console was actually, I think it’s true, but that was the Graceland console, the console they would move into Graceland to record Elvis [Note: It was reportedly used on the last three Elvis albums.].
Paulson: Everything was live, front to back. Nothing was edited together. That was a straight-up live document. There’s an immediacy and it gets people to commit to things, and it’s terrifying, but it gets results. The energy that you capture just doesn’t exist on something that’s overly thought-out.
Johnston: We did that record with zero overdubs. What went to tape is what came out. There’s definitely some clams. I don’t know how much anybody notices. But I certainly do.
Paulson: There was a certain amount of tension because it was a whole new format for the band. But also there was a sense of excitement and exploration. I know Jeff enjoyed tracking things live. I think for Jay it was just easier because the phrasing of his vocals and his right hand were basically the guiding rhythm of the whole track. That’s where the feel came from.
Stirratt: The thing about this whole record, it was much more linear. It was really getting away from the first two records.
Louris: [Anodyne is] a much more mature work. It’s a stronger record than Still Feel Gone. Anodyne was a major step toward finding their own sound and claiming a certain, more traditional approach. [It was] kind of brave at the time to just go really full force in that direction. I like all their records, but that one is just — they kind of arrived at their own thing.
Paulson: I think some of the new members weren’t sure what was going on because the dynamic between Jay and Jeff was pretty much set and largely unspoken, so it kind of left everybody else in the dark.
Stirratt: I don’t really know for sure what was going on between them at the time, but Jeff seemed to be asserting himself a lot more. Jeff wanted to play guitar, I know that. I don’t know really how the negotiations were in regards to that. I can’t imagine they were very easy, given what happened.
Paulson: We would record a Jay song, and then next we’d record a Jeff song. It was just sort of equally split. Jeff, I guess because he was coming into his own at that point, he would capture the spirit of his straight away. Just getting it captured it and hearing it back was exciting to him, whereas Jay was definitely more meticulous about a vocal take and just a general feel. And sometimes it would take a while for him to get to a place that he was happy with.
Stiratt: I remember “Anodyne,” the title track, being maybe the one that might have been the toughest to get. I remember having listening parties — we were staying in some roadside hotel in Austin, and we would just get together and listen every night. It was just moving really fast. I remember really digging the “Acuff-Rose” tune. “Slate” was really great; “New Madrid” really stuck out.
Paulson: “The Long Cut” stood out to me because that was the first time the new format, the five-piece band, just locked in. I think that was the moment when they became a band. Coming across the speakers in the studio, I could hear it as a record already.
Hood: “Acuff-Rose” was probably the first Tweedy song I really, really fell in love with. Like, I really love that song, I think it’s just the coolest thing to write about.
BJ Barham (American Aquarium): Tweedy stepped up to the plate. “New Madrid,” that’s a Wilco song in the making. It just so happened he recorded it while he was still in Uncle Tupelo. “We’ve Been Had” is the same way, “Acuff-Rose” is the same way. But Farrar really started showing what Son Volt Trace was gonna be with songs like “Chickamauga.” Here you have Jay Farrar comparing his relationship with Tweedy to the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and I think it’s a really fitting song to be on their swan-song album. And then he’s got “Fifteen Keys,” which is one of my favorite Farrar songs, period.
Paulson: They’d be in the lounge kind of rehearsing things as this string band. I’d walk in, and [they] just sounded alive, much more alive and vibrant than what they were trying to do in the electric format. I figured, why don’t we continue in that vein? We started tracking some of the stuff as a more acoustic route and it just sounded better coming across the speakers as it went down. “Fifteen Keys” in particular, I think that was the start. I’m sure there are probably multitracks of electric versions [of that song] kicking around.
Coomer: I remember Jay saying something about, “Can you play that without playing sticks?” At first [“Fifteen Keys”] did sound like “Chickamauga.” It was actually more rocking than that.
Paulson: [Tracking] was fast and furious. I believe it was just between two and three weeks for the whole thing.
McEwen: At some point I called Jay, and at that point Jay to me was the leader of the group, just as a perception. And of course it was a one-minute call: “Yeah, good, good. [Laughs]. I think he did say that Doug Sahm was on a song.
Stirratt: I was with Jay Farrar at the Phoenix Hotel when we saw Doug. We were at the front desk, Doug’s back was to us, and Jay actually recognized his voice. He goes, “That’s Doug Sahm.” Then he swapped numbers, next thing we know he’s pulling up in a ’74 Lincoln. He had the same car as McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O. I was like, “That’s McGarrett’s car!” And he was like, “You’re damn right.” He was just such an amazing presence.
Coomer: I remember John and I were standing out front of Cedar Creek waiting. Doug Sahm was coming to the studio and we were going to cut “Key to My Heart.” We don’t know when he’s going to get there, but we know it’s soon. And all of the sudden, we see this old, black Continental, with the suicide doors, swing around the corner and come blasting up the drive. Just blowing gravel everywhere. He jumps out, comes running in, he’s got a carrot juice mustache and the first thing he says to us, “Boys, have you tried carrot juice? Straight carrot juice. It’s better than cocaine!”
Paulson: I remember the energy level ratcheting up pretty high the minute he walked in the door. Doug being Doug, he just put everybody at ease immediately. And the same with Lloyd Maines [who played pedal steel guitar]. The energy of both those men just lifted the room.
Coomer: Jeff was becoming a better writer. I think some of it, and this is an outside opinion, yet an inside opinion, was like, Jeff was always looking for new music to excite him. I don’t think Jay ever bought a record past the first Dinosaur Jr. He knew old country.
Barham: This is the first record where you really start seeing bands start to branch from that root system. It’s very clear that Tweedy is going one way and Farrar was going the same way Uncle Tupelo was always going. Uncle Tupelo was always Farrar’s band, in my opinion.
Paulson: You had two great voices and two really intriguing songwriters in one band. It was kind of a perfect storm.
Barham: Up until this point, Farrar was the songwriting force that was Uncle Tupelo. And I think he is out in full effect on this record. It just so happened that Jeff Tweedy caught up with him.
Hudson: It’s a great dynamic when you have multiple songwriters because you’ve got so many great songs to choose from. It is a difficult dynamic to sustain.
Stirratt: It was actually very harmonious during the record, the making of it, to be honest. Not until the tour happened, did the wheels fall off.
Part III: Time is Right for Getting Out While We Still Can
McEwen: I loved [Anodyne] immediately. I thought it was by far the best thing they ever did. I think the biggest revelation for me was that I always assumed it was more Jay Farrar’s band, and Jeff Tweedy was a secondary guy. This record, all my favorite songs — almost — were by Jeff. And I didn’t really think about it, except when we were deciding what the singles would be. It was a consideration — whose voice is gonna be the lead and whose song.
Coomer: Touring was really good at first. I mean, really good. We would just laugh and it was a camaraderie. You create your own moral universe. But, in that moral universe, everything’s a solid. Everyone takes care of each other.
McEwen: There wasn’t such a thing as AAA or Americana [radio formats]. Almost no one at the company had seen them, and Sire was a small part of Warner, and Warner, did a lot of the promotion and distribution and a lot of the marketing. They came to New York and played Tramps, and as much as the album blossomed, their live show all of a sudden became something special. It went from a really good bar band to, “These guys are special, they have a future.” I remember they got a really big write-up in The New York Times.
Coomer: We were playing mostly sold-out shows, and then the band went to Europe. You’ve got to understand, the first time I’d been to Europe was with this band. We played London and it’s just — you could see the frenzy.
McEwen: After the Christmas break, Tony called and said, “Well, I have something to tell you,” you know, that they hate each other or they don’t talk and haven’t talked, and they’re gonna break up. I was just completely floored by that … I went out to Chicago to meet with them together, just alone, the three of us, to try to see, like, do you realize what you guys are throwing away here? But it was immediately apparent within five minutes or less that this is not a reparable situation at all. There was a lot of venting. So I left.
Stirratt: Obviously we patched it up enough to go out to do some more [shows]. I don’t really know if it was about the debt or whatever that Tony had. I think it was more than that, they probably wanted to play a bit more.
Johnston: We were scheduled to meet up for rehearsal [for the 1994 tour]. I think I got a call from Tony Margherita. I was getting ready to go up there, and he says, “Yeah, this is going to be the last.”
Jay said the words that mattered. He said, “The only person I’m sick of in this room is you,” and pointed at Jeff.
Louris: I heard they were breaking up and I didn’t think it was a good idea. I remember I flew from L.A. to get to that show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and went backstage with them and sat down with Jay and Jeff and maybe try to talk them into staying together. And obviously, that didn’t work. I didn’t know the depth of their relationship enough to know some of the things that had gone on between them. To this day I don’t really know everything, but I’m friends with both of them.
Coomer: You could cut the tension with a knife. The shows were great, but they weren’t speaking. Jay wouldn’t sing harmonies on Jeff’s songs.
Stirratt: I think Jay was just not performing on Jeff’s songs in an adequate way. I think that’s what Jeff felt was going on.
Johnston: The other guys kind of remember a little bit better about the night that it went down in Chapel Hill. I remember a fight or something like that going on. I don’t know to what degree it was physical. I was in the back lounge doing the back lounge thing and I was clueless. People do that, you know. They get together on tour and you know somebody long enough, you’re going to tussle every now and again, I guess.
Stirratt: They were in flat-out fisticuffs on the road. I remember Chapel Hill. Nobody knew what was going on. It’s like brotherly stuff. We were trying to ask questions. I think Jeff was forthright, but Jay was over it. I think he didn’t want to go into detail about why he didn’t want to do it.
Coomer: It came down to the meeting. Jeff was getting frustrated and pushing Jay for answers. Jay was being quiet. So Jeff kind of demands a meeting with everybody. We’re all in there and the front-of-house guy had some narcolepsy-style illness where if there’s tension, he passes out. He passes out, hits his head on the table. Jay didn’t say a lot, but Jay said the words that mattered. He said, “The only person I’m sick of in this room is you,” and pointed at Jeff. And that’s kind of it.
Louris: Looking back, it was wrong of me [to try to keep them together]. It was well-intentioned. I loved the band and I thought they should get past this.
Stirratt: Doing Conan, that was a big deal. [Note: Uncle Tupelo was the musical guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on February 21st, 1994, five nights after Chapel Hill.] I thought Jay didn’t want to do it. There was some push-pull between Jay and Tony and Jeff. I don’t know if it was just a question of Jay feeling like his band was being taken away. There was always some democratic aspect of the band.
Coomer: It’s like, “We’re canceling this next show because Sire is flying you to New York to play Conan O’Brien.” We’re like, shit, yeah! So then it comes down to what song are we going to do? I honestly believe, and I could be wrong, I think Jay might have assumed it was going to be one of his. And then the label said, no, we want “The Long Cut.” And that’s what we did, man. I remember Tony took a long walk with Jay around the block. How Tony convinced Jay to do that is beyond me. … Jeff, near the end, pulled us aside and said, “I want to keep playing, what about you guys?” And we’re like, “Yeah. What are we going to do?” So we carried on. It was kind of scary.
Johnston: When I got that call, I must have known something. Jeff was talking without Jay around: “Well, we’re going to keep playing, right? If this falls apart?” And we’re like, “Oh, hell yeah, we’re going to keep playing.” It wasn’t in stone at that point, but it must have been in stone in somebody’s mind. He was just putting his finger in the air seeing which way the wind was blowing with everybody. I was rooming with Jay one time and he asked me, “Well, if this doesn’t work out maybe you’d still want to play with me.” I was like, “Oh yeah, sure.” I didn’t know who was going to go where.
Coomer: I remember we went to that last show, man. Mississippi Nights in St. Louis. There were people crying. I could see them in the audience. It was a big goodbye fest.
Hudson: It felt like a big deal that you were playing the last Uncle Tupelo shows. And there was a sense in the air, too, that it was a for-real deal. They weren’t going to break up and kiss and make up, you know?
Coomer: We had a party over at Tony’s house, because he lived right outside of St. Louis in Maplewood. And everyone’s saying their goodbyes and I’m pretty sure there was just a shrug of the head, the Jay shrug, to Jeff, when he was saying goodbye. That’s between those guys, but it was ugly. It was. It wasn’t pretty. Are break-ups ever pretty?
McEwen: I told Seymour [Stein, VP at Warner Bros.] I wanted to sign both of them separately, so we ended up doing demos for what became Wilco and what became Son Volt, which, for each of them, were songs from [their] first albums.
Coomer: We were in Maplewood rehearsing, writing songs. Jeff had ideas. We went in quick. I mean, quick. That was kind of a scary time, without a doubt. I would say it was more scary than exciting. I think A.M. has a lot of charm. It feels a little all over the place and panicky, but I still think it has a charm and an innocence to it.
Stirratt: I’m amazed it actually came out as good as it did, given how fast it was. We had one day of pre-production. “I Must Be High” was the first thing we ever rolled tape on in that band, first take.
Coomer: Jay put out Trace. That was an amazing record. I don’t know if I can tell you this story, but when we all first heard Trace, you know, we’re in the vans. And it’s Tony and the whole band in one van and the crew is in the other van. … Some people in the van had edibles. A cookie. A pleasurable cookie. And so, then, Tony says, “I’ve got it! I’ve got his record.” Tony pops it in the CD player. Nobody says a word. An absolute word. Tony is driving. We’re running down the highway, the record ends, nobody says a word. Ten minutes. Tony rolls down the window, pops out that CD and throws it out. I thought I was going to pee my pants.
Johnston: I vaguely remember that, yeah. I don’t think anybody else felt hostile or anything towards the quality of the record or had any judgment one way or the other. But I can understand why Jeff would. It was very brave of us to listen to it at all.
Stirratt: Jeff had tunes ready to go and the band was ready to go. I think Jay was able to really take his time. It stands as one of the better records of the best records he’s ever made. It was certainly, definitely, a call to arms in terms of the Wilco camp. It was definitely upping the ante for us on the second record, for sure.
Barham: If there was a class on how to start an alt-country band, this is 101. This is in your syllabus on Day One. You’re talking Gram Parsons and then you’re talking about Uncle Tupelo. This was punk-rock kids from the Midwest who listened to Iggy Pop and the Stooges, who decided to pick up mandolins and acoustic guitars and fiddles and start playing their own kind of music. It’s paramount that you mention Uncle Tupelo when you mention this genre, because without them kind of paving that way between the late Eighties scene and the early Nineties rock scene, you don’t have what we call Americana now, what we called alt-country in the late Nineties. You don’t have that without Uncle Tupelo.
Louris: Of course, I was rooting for both sides. [Trace] is a beautiful record, you know, and maybe got out of the gate a little quicker than Wilco. But they both have done great work so I don’t try to pick sides.
Barham: Obviously I chose my side when it came to Uncle Tupelo. I tend to lean to the side of Wilco. I have fallen back in love with that A.M. record, but I still argue that Trace is the stronger of the debuts. But as far as sophomore record on, I think Tweedy’s got him every step of the way. I think Tweedy wins the battle except for debut. And that’s why, instead of being called the Tear Stained Eyes, we’re called American Aquarium.
Hood: In my own band, you know, we’ve gone through changes. People can romanticize what would’ve happened if we hadn’t gone through certain changes. You can do that all day, but who’s to say? Maybe it was meant to be exactly what it was [for Uncle Tupelo]. Do those four records and then move on.