Deke Dickerson – King of the Whole Wide World


Roots-rocker Dickerson has cranked out solo albums (along with his Dave & Deke Combo output prior to that, not to mention his recordings with Untamed Youth in his teen years) with such frequency and consistently high quality it’s almost annoying. He sings great, plays killer guitar, often supplies bass (and sometimes even drums and sax), and writes the best “new old hits” you’ve never heard. Plus, there’s invariably an oddball twist or two on every record, lest it ever appear that he’s taking himself too seriously.

His latest, modestly named release (previous albums include Number One Hit Record, More Million Sellers, and Mister Entertainment begins with the titled track – a dead-on Jimmie Rodgers impersonation, complete with overdubbed 78 surface noise. But after that 38-second intro, Deke and his Ecco-Fonics blast into a rockin’ take on bluegrasser Jimmy Martin’s “Deep River,” with Dickerson achieving a typically round, popping tone.

In other hands, an original like “I Can’t Wait To See You (Go)” might descend into novelty, but not so with Deke. No, he saves that for the next tune, “Misshapen Hillbilly Gal” – in the grand tradition of Merle Travis’ “I Like My Chicken Fryin’ Size,” and featuring “Crazy Joe” Tritschler trading guitar licks with J.W. Wakefield’s steel, along with guitarist Rusty Blake’s “takeoff” solo.

Dickerson’s best quality, perhaps, is his ability to nail sounds and styles from 50 years ago without sounding like a museum piece. That said, his cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ obscure “Put Me Down” (with, of course, Carl “Sonny” Leyland on piano-pounding) could be snuck into a mix tape of the Killer leaving diehard fans none the wiser.

Most of the album was recorded at Deke’s own Ecco-Fonic Studios, but “Do You Think Of Me” was cut in Austin, featuring Dave Biller on pedal steel and Southern Culture On The Skids’ Mary Huff on higher-than-high vocal effects.

Meanwhile, the instrumental “Double-Clutchin'” features the twin (and triplet, and maybe quadruplet) guitars of Deke and Crazy Joe, with some help from the oversized tube mixer that was built for Lawrence Welk guitarist Buddy Merrill and now belongs to Dickerson – the one guy who can do justice to such a piece of history.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s June. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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