“It’s not every day we have a member of the Los Straitjackets in our band, so I figured we’d do some surf,” announced roots-rock guitarist Deke Dickerson near the start of two sets at Valentine’s Music Hall on Monday night.
A tall guy in a straw cowboy hat, Dickerson looked like he could lead his own cattle drive as he charged through surfed-up versions of the mythic cowboy tale “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and rockabilly rave-up “Whistle Bait.”
Pete Curry, who plays bass for surf-rock instrumentalists Los Straitjackets, was the drummer at Valentine’s for Dickerson’s Ecco-Fonics band, which also included bassist John Flynn and pianist Amy Hawkins.
“Let’s let Pete Curry step from behind the drums and play guitar,” Dickerson said before Curry demonstrated his considerable surf guitar skills on “Slaughter on 10th Avenue,” a musical score turned into an instrumental hit by the Ventures, and “Hawaiian War Chant,” a traditional island song reinterpreted by rock and rollers.
After taking over lead guitar duties once again, the Missouri-born Dickerson demonstrated why he’s considered one of the finest rockabilly guitarists in the world – and one who can play a multitude of musical styles – with some lightning runs through Dick Dale’s challenging surf instrumental “The Wedge.”
One more surf number, “Pabst Blue Ribbon” – an original written by Dickerson as a teenager in the Midwest surf-punk band Untamed Youth – was capped off by bassist Flynn chugging two successive beers during breaks in the song.
The set then veered toward rock and roll territory, as couples jittered in front of the stage to Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Lovin’ Up a Storm” and juke-joint jumper “Poontang.”
Dickerson took a break to sell records and t-shirts to the crowd — a solid audience for a Monday night and one filled with musicians from local rockabilly bands, including the Lustre Kings’s Mark Gamsjager, who set up the show.
Dickerson’s second set featured off-color originals “Misshapen Hillbilly Girl” and “I Might Not Come Home at All,” burly surf instrumental “K-39” and Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mule Skinner Blues,” wherein Dickerson unleashed some impressive yodeling that sounded at times like a stuttering Porky Pig.
The show closed with an encore of frat-rock classic “Wooly Bully” and “In the Meadow,” a barnyard mash-up of Elvis and “Hee Haw” from Dickerson’s days in ’90s hillbilly band the Dave and Deke Combo.
Amusing moment of the night: After a member of the audience yelled out a request for Black Sabbath, Dickerson played licks from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” while singing the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme song. It made all the sense in the world once you heard it.
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photograph by Flyer Squad
DEKE DICKERSON SET LIST
Ghost Riders in the Sky
Slaughter on 10th Avenue
Hawaiian War Chant
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Lovin’ Up a Storm
Red Headed Woman
Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
Misshapen Hillbilly Girl
The End of the Line
I Might Not Come Home at All
Dance Franny Dance
Mule Skinner Blues
In the Meadow