“We all had ‘Dick’ names, too,” recalls Nino Del Pesco of his onetime Snuggle Bunnies bandmate Dan McLain, aka Country Dick Montana. “It was a real wild time, especially at the Spring Valley Inn on Sunday nights!”
Best known from the Beat Farmers, Montana’s wisecracking persona helped make their tune “Happy Boy” a Doctor Demento radio staple. Eighteen years after McLain’s onstage death from a heart attack on November 8, 1995, the group’s current incarnation, the Farmers, will return to the Spring Valley Inn to pay tribute with a free show on Saturday, November 9.
The Snuggle Bunnies were among around a dozen groups Montana graced, including punk pioneers the Penetrators and garage legends the Crawdaddys, as well as the Incredible Hayseeds, Country Dick’s Petting Zoo, Country Dick’s Garage, and the Pleasure Barons, with MTV madman Mojo Nixon and Blasters riffmaster Dave Alvin.
“I’m the guy who pushed Dan into forming the Snuggle Bunnies after a failed attempt at a band called the Country Dicks,” recalls Del Pesco, a founding member of the Puppies who talked his bandmate, guitarist James Krieger, into hopping aboard. Featuring several future Farmers, the Bunnies included Del Pesco and Dan/Country Dick, along with guitarist/mandolin player Skid Roper, Robin Jackson, Paul Kamanski, and Joey Harris. “Jimmy left after a couple rehearsals, which ushered in Joey and Paul,” recalls Del Pesco. “Richard Banke was the last to join, long before his Mojo Nixon days.”
The band’s theme song “Bunny Call,” from their Adventures in Paradise album, began as a different number. According to Roper, “I came to rehearsal one day with ‘Cattle Call,’ a song I used to sing in a duo. Nobody liked it, but Country Dick loved it and announced in his deep voice, ‘I’m doin’ that song, and it’s now called ‘Bunny Call’... He also took another song I did, ‘Maverick,’ and turned it into ‘Country Dick.’”
Roper and Nixon went on to a fruitful musical partnership, as well as playing together with ’80s roots rockers Skid Roper & the Whirlin’ Spurs, who may be making a comeback. “I talked on the phone to Jayne [Robson] in Kansas recently and I think we are going to record another Whirlin’ Spurs album,” says Roper. “Lance [Soliday] wants to do it. Jayne wants to do it. I’ll talk to Dan [Vazquez] after he gives me that Smith’s Ranch Boys record he promised.”
Nixon recently released his Mojo and Country Dick Home Recordings 1991 via mojonixonworldempire.com, featuring the duo — according to the site — “Getting high and playing some songs.”