Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood apologizes for band name, calls it a “drunken joke”
Country pop band Lady Antebellum recently changed their name to Lady A amid the reckoning over systemic racism that's gripped the country in the weeks since George Floyd's death at the hands of police, and now Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers has written a new essay for NPR about his band's name. He starts by addressing the controversy that has emerged since Lady A's name change, over a Seattle soul singer who has been performing under that name already for over 20 years (they've since settled the issue). "I try to be a good person, but must admit, I snickered about it all," Hood wrote.
"Then, a question smacked me right in the face," Hood continued. "What kind of asshole would name his band Drive-By Truckers?"
The band name was intended as a tribute to two forms of music that I loved and revered. Hip-hop in the mid-'90s was filled with crime sagas, not necessarily far removed from the content of old Johnny Cash songs — which, of course, I also loved — and a direct descendant of the narcocorrido. I would not (and regardless, could not) rap, but I could approach my subject matter in a lyrical way, set to this old music that was a new passion of mine. From the start, the band was fun and rowdy and loud as hell. Our name had an irreverence that befit our style and sense of humor. It was such an absurd band name that I didn't have to worry about a blues performer in Seattle having the same. I had the privilege of being blissfully unaware.
I'm not going to, and can't, claim that those were simpler times. They weren't. Rodney King was still a very fresh memory, and the forming of my band roughly coincided with the O.J. Simpson trial and all of the racial turmoil that accompanied it. The murders of Tupac and Biggie Smalls were just on the horizon.
"It has always been my intent to be a good person," Hood continued, "and to try to be a better person. It's always a work in progress. Many of our band's songs have attempted to examine our country's fatal flaw of racism, from its origins in slavery and religion to our current systematic failure to advance beyond this quagmire of hate and mis-opportunity. It's an ongoing conversation that can be at times painful, but necessary. Our name was a drunken joke that was never intended to be in rotation and reckoned with two-and-a-half decades later, and I sincerely apologize for its stupidity and any negative stereotypes it has propagated. I'm not sure changing it now serves any higher purpose, but I'm certainly open to suggestions."
Ex-DBT member Jason Isbell acknowledged his ex-bandmate's essay on Twitter:
Read the whole essay at NPR.
Check out pictures of Drive-By Truckers at Newport Folk Festival 2017 in the gallery below.