‘Somebody’s $%! could get whupped over this’
divMade in the late 1970s and early ’80s and popular the nation over with “truckers, country stars…record shop employees” and many a teenage boy, the prank calls on the formerly underground “Redneck Tapes” — now officially “The Real Leroy Mercer,” recently issued on CD by Nashville’s Dualtone Records — were the work of Knoxville, Tenn., resident John Bean. Cured of Hodgkin’s as a teenager, Bean again suffered from cancer, allegedly brought on by his prior radiation treatments, in his early 30s. He devoted the final years of his life to good times, and these recordings are pure evidence of it. Don’t confuse Bean with his many imitators, as his psychologically manipulative, wildly comic genius spawned a veritable industry of imitators, from the Jerky Boys to radio jocks Lee Roy Mercer and Roy D. Mercer, whose names pay homage to Bean’s most famous telephonic pseudonym. He used it on his call to Knoxville’s Thom McCann shoe store looking for restitution for a pair of boots he’d recently bought and which “got wet, folded up and it looks a damn dog’s been eatin’ on ’em.” Similar quests for “retail justice” dominate the disc.