Not Truckers but Rockers
With its three lead guitars, DBT reminds many fans of Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Patterson Hood, 41, knows he came up with the name Drive-by Truckers for his band. He just isn’t sure how he came up with it.
“I just thought it up,” Hood says, and laughs. His wild eyes flitter back and forth underneath a mop of dark, disheveled hair. While his face hides behind the hair and beard, his voice is strong and confident. He knows what he wants to say and won’t apologize for saying it.
Hood assumes it was alcohol and his uncle’s 30-year career piggybacking International Harvesters to a dealer in Ohio that led him to unconsciously create the name. Like most of the songs he writes, Patterson says the name just popped into his head one day.
“I don’t make a lot of conscious decisions when writing,” Patterson says. “The antennae go up, and I turn what I pick up into something.”
Patterson founded Drive-by Truckers – known as DBT to the band’s many fans – in 1996 and crafted it into a bar-busting rock quintet that tells songs about common men and women in rural, downtrodden North Alabama.
Patterson, who shares the stage with fellow guitarists Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, bassist Shonna Tucker and drummer Brad Morgan, says his songs have a lot of truth in them. “They’re more composite sketches I created,” Patterson says. “I used to write more about specific people, but it got me into trouble.”
Those composite sketch subjects range from icons like Walking Tall’s Buford Pusser to a pair of soon-to-be high school graduates who run their car off the road and die pinned between a tree and the dashboard while listening to “Freebird.”
Patterson was born in Mussel Shoals, Ala., and raised by his mother, musician father and truck-driving, World War Two-vet uncle. He saw everyone from the Rolling Stones and Boz Scaggs to Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett play with his dad in the 1970s at the FAME recording studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Hood learned a little from each of them.
“There are only eight notes in the spectrum,” Hood says. “The more influences you have, the more individual you are. I like it all, Neil Young and Tom Waites. Oukast is my favorite band right now.”
But no matter how many bands Hood claims influenced him, DBT – with its three lead guitars, three songwriters and Southern-tinged rock – can’t escape comparisons with another famous Southern band: Lynyrd Skynyrd. And Hood thinks that’s OK. Southern Rock Opera, released in 2002, is a double album tribute to DBT’s forerunners. Hood says he tries to bring as much energy to DBT’s live shows as the Van Zant boys did to theirs.
Live performances have become DBT’s bread and butter. They normally tour 200 venues a year and put out albums almost annually. “We do have an almost blue-collar work ethic to playing,” Hood says.
As hard as DBT works, it only matches how hard they play, onstage and off. Their hard-driving style is what brings in most of the fans. “Performing is fun,” Hood says. “I like to see people having fun, out there raising hell.”
DBT shows are long rock operas – often more than two and a half hours long with dueling guitars and extended solos played by chain-smoking musicians who pass around a bottle of Jack Daniels. There are no politically correct, MTV-generation softies in the band. But even though their songs are packed with profanity and references to drugs, alcohol and death, that doesn’t stop the fans from coming.
“We have all kinds of fans at our show,” Hood says. “We’re really, really mixed. We have fans in their 60s and 70s, fans that are teens; we even have little kids that come to the shows and know all of our songs. That kind of trips me out.”
And Hood hopes the fans keep coming. He wants to keep playing for as long as possible, but he wants to make sure that as his band gets more and more popular they still retain that raw edge.
“I want to be able to support my family, but I’m not ready for my ‘Love in an Elevator,’” Hood says, referring to the highly successful single from Aerosmith’s 1989 Pump album that many fans believe moved the band from real rockers to sold-out caricatures of themselves.
Three Lives Saved
Veteran driver Rick Dent wasn’t looking to be a hero, and he wasn’t looking to be recognized. But he found both when a car driving in front of him on a two-lane road in Louisiana swerved to miss a deer and landed in a ditch filled with 5 feet of water.
The car’s occupants – a father and his two young children – couldn’t get out because the doors and windows were stuck, and the car was sinking fast.
“The car was filling up with water, and a man in a big red truck pulls up, jumps out, runs to the water’s edge, looks at me and says ‘Are you OK?’” says Bob Strickland, the driver of the car, in a Goodyear release.
Snakes were swimming in the 40-foot-wide ditch, and Strickland’s 3-year-old daughter, Megan, was screaming.
Dent, a 52-year-old trucker from Diana, Texas, made a decision that would make him the 2004 Goodyear North American Highway Hero.
Dent swam to the car and tried to help the father open his car door. When their joint efforts didn’t work, Dent put his foot against the side of the car and wrenched the door off its hinges.
Strickland handed the kids out to Dent, who carried them up on the bank, but the man’s foot was stuck under the dash.
Dent dove under the snaky water and freed Strickland’s foot. Then he carried the man to the bank, the car sinking behind them.
“The kids were scared to death, and he was pretty shook up, so I got some blankets from my truck and called the wrecker,” Dent says. The Stricklands were all safe, and no one was seriously injured.
“I feel like they probably would’ve drowned in the car because there wasn’t a single other car coming,” Dent says. “I feel like God had a big hand in putting me there.”
When the company Dent drives for, Groendyke Transport, found out what he had done, his friend Ruben Moore and assistant terminal manager Joey Kirk suggested nominating him for the 2004 Goodyear North American Highway Hero award.
Dent refused, but Moore nominated him without his knowledge.
When the Dents found out he was a finalist, Dent’s wife of 27 years, Tamara, encouraged him to accept the honor.
“He told me, ‘I don’t feel right accepting all this attention when it’s something people do every day and something anyone would do,’” she says. “But I told him anything positive about truckers is good because very seldom do you hear good things about truckers.”
Dent agreed that good publicity for truckers is important. “Even the dad who I helped said he had a bad opinion of truckers, and this changed his whole outlook,” he says.
He says he hopes the Goodyear Highway Heroes can inspire other truckers to help each other out on the road. “I hope that the trucking community will work together a whole lot better,” he says. “In the past we really looked out for each other and helped one another.”
Dent, along with three other finalists, was honored at a banquet during the Mid-America Trucking Show.
“He was so nervous, and with his blood pressure, he was beet red,” Tamara says.
When he was announced as the winner, they were both surprised. “I couldn’t even see I was crying so hard,” Tamara says. “I felt proud and shocked but disappointed for the other guys. There’s a whole mixture of emotions there.”
Goodyear gave Dent a ring, plaque and $10,000 U.S. savings bond. And the day after his honor, he was already getting recognized by fellow truckers.
Dent says he believes all the finalists are heroes. “I don’t know how a hero is supposed to feel, but I feel special just being involved with these other guys.”
Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America. Nomination forms and program details are available at www.highwayhero.net or the Goodyear Highway Hero Hotline at (330) 796-8183.
José Ogas Jr., of Fayetteville, N.C., driver for TMC Transportation – While traveling on Interstate 70 in Pennsylvania, Ogas saved a man and his daughter from their burning car on Dec. 31, 2003. Ogas applied his Army training as a member of a combat lifesaving team when he administered first aid until paramedics arrived.
Pat Foraker, of Quaker City, Ohio, driver for Transport Corporation of America – Foraker and his wife Brenda saved the lives of two women in a two-car crash on April 15, 2004.
David Tucker, of La Grande, Ore., driver for Seneca Foods Corp. – Tucker saved the life of a female California Highway Patrol officer, who was brutally attacked during a traffic stop on Dec. 2, 2003.
The Truckload Carriers Association wants to capture the trucking life in a photo.
TCA’s Truck Driver Photo Contest will award cash prizes to photographers who can portray the industry and life on the road in a positive way. Any truck driver – company driver or owner-operator, leased or independent – may enter the contest.
The grand prize is $1,000, second place $750, and third place $500. Fourth through sixth place will receive $100 each, and honorable mentions will receive $50 each.
A driver may submit no more than three photos. Digital images are accepted as long as they are shipped with a print and are 300 dpi or larger. The contest deadline is July 17.
Suggested subjects include truck shots, action photos, shots of children and/or pets with a truck, close-ups of truck parts, views of the road or depictions of life on the road.
Attached to each photo should be the entrant’s name, address and telephone number and company name, address and telephone number. Do not write on the back of the photo; instead, use an address label or a separate piece of paper affixed to the back. Any information about where the photo was taken or about the subject would be appreciated.
Mail contest submissions to:
Truckload Carriers Association
Attn: Photo Contest
2200 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314
Photographs from professional photographers will not be accepted.