With dirty jokes, raunchy lyrics and all-around crude but witty attitude, the Saddle Tramps have a reputation that precedes them. Good or bad, it’s all backed up by well-played, smooth guitar melodies and an overall musical precision that makes the listener feel like they stepped onto a 1950s sock hop dance floor.
Wednesday night’s “Grease Release” party for the Sparks-based band is to play music and promote guitarist Scotty Roller’s brainchild of professionally formulated Saddle Tramps hair pomade. No, seriously, not an album. He was inspired by his own greaser hairstyle and thought it would make for a cool collectible. While the band hopes the event will bring in old fans, they are also hoping to make a few news ones.
The band started with Roller and bassist John Von Nolde slinging stinging jokes back and forth on stage, with the occasional song interrupting the quick-witted banter. That was in 1999; today, the Saddle Tramps have added two additional members: drummer Mike “Powder” Young joined the band nearly five years ago and guitarist Jon Perry joined last summer when Roller and Von Nolde were looking for accomplices in musical mayhem.
Both Young and Perry played in the Reno hardcore rock scene. Young played in the band Chico Esquela and met Perry when they played together in Crushed By Jefferson.
It is serendipitous how Roller and Von Nolde came to know each other all those years ago and the higher powers that seemed to have a sense of humor.
“I was playing with John’s nephew and he said, ‘My uncle plays the bass,’ ” Roller said nonchalantly like he’s told this story a thousand times. “We recorded our first album four months after we got together. It’s called ‘Cooking with Pepper Spray.’ ”
During its nearly decade-long run, the band has released several albums. The latest release, “Don’t Laugh It’s Prayed For: Songs of Sacrilege and Salvation,” was in May 2007.
The album’s title might suggest tame lyrics and mature, easy-listening content, but that’s just a façade. The live performances, though, are mellowing out.
“We’re toning down the shows a bit,” Von Nolde admitted sorrowfully, like a child who just had his mouth washed out with soap. “For years we were known as the dirtiest band in America.”
As the four-man band (plus one retro-honey go-go dancer) practiced for Wednesday’s gig in Von Nolde’s Spanish Springs living room, rehearsing insults was just as important as rehearsing songs. The verbal abuse spewed like a well-orchestrated comedy sketch, and the rock-a-billy/rock/country/whatever-else-you-can-call-it music sounds a little like Elvis, a little like Johnny Cash and a little deceptively sweet like Patsy Cline. In fact, the ambiguity of the Saddle Tramps’ musical genre even confuses the band.
“I guess we’re country, I guess,” Von Nolde says.
“We’re not rock-a-billy enough for the rock-a-billy guys, we’re not country enough for the country guys and we’re not rock enough for the rock guys,” Young chimes in.
While the Saddle Tramps are hoping for a good turnout next week, Roller warned that the show is for mature audiences only; meaning leave the kids at home.
While some may question the band’s style it is easy to get hooked on the Saddle Tramps’ sound; there is no question that larger success is destined for these guys who don’t take themselves too seriously. The “Grease Release” gig will ready the band for its mid-west tour that kicks off in April.
The Saddle Tramps’ party kicks off at 8 p.m. in the Nugget’s Celebrity Showroom. Tickets are $15 and include a can of pomade and a commemorative poster signed by the band. Tickets can be purchased at www.tickets.com or by calling 800-648-1177.
For more information about the Saddle Tramps visit their official Web site, www.thesaddletramps.com.