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How I (and you?) Discovered Uncle Tupelo / Wilco


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Saw the Replacements in Baltimore at Shriver Hall (Johns Hopkins University), circa 1991 I think...

Some band called Uncle Tupelo opened. Were supporting their 2nd album at the time.

A buddy commented "give them another guitarist and they're a hard rock band, give them a fiddle, they're a country band."

I liked what I heard, and the rest is history...

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Saw the Replacements in Baltimore at Shriver Hall (Johns Hopkins University), circa 1991 I think...

Some band called Uncle Tupelo opened. Were supporting their 2nd album at the time.

A buddy commented "give them another guitarist and they're a hard rock band, give them a fiddle, they're a country band."

I liked what I heard, and the rest is history...

Nice

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I vaguely remember hearing of Uncle Tupelo and thinking, "That's a great name for a band." I think they played an event here in Des Moines for the Drake Relays. Then, when they split, I remember reading reviews of A.M. and Trace that reminded me of when Husker Du broke up and Bob Mould released Workbook (my favorite LP of all time) and Grant Hart released Intolerance. I bought them both. I played A.M. a bit more. Then Being There made Wilco one of my favorite bands.

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I was aware of Uncle Tupelo when they were an active band, but I don't think I ever heard them.  I think I unfairly associated them, based on the word Tupelo, with the local rockabilly scene that was rapidly morphing into a greaser version of a swing revival, and for that reason I had no interest in hearing them.  

 

I first heard Wilco when I worked in a restaurant.  It was a place where a lot of musicians worked, and the owner was a musician, so he let us bring in CDs to play in the dining room.  AM was new at that time, and was one of the most frequently played CDs.  I remember thinking a lot of the songs were really catchy.  Box Full of Records is really good music for bussing tables. That's how Wilco came onto my radar.  I think I saw them on TV a few times after that, and enjoyed them, but it wasn't until YHF that I actually bought a Wilco album and became a fan.  I had heard the hype for that one, and I saw the CD in a store while I was in DC.  Our hotel had a CD player, and we listened to it as soon as we got back to the hotel and loved it.

 

At the same time I was first hearing Wilco, Sun Volt's first single was on the radio constantly, and then I learned that this guy and the Wilco guy were from Uncle Tupelo.

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i bought a CD copy of Anodyne for a work friend of mine who i thought might like it... can't recall why i chose that one tbh. but he burned me a copy and away i went! still bummed it took me a long time to finally see Wilco play live (saw them on the YHF tour), but I had moved out of the city by '96 and didn't see as many shows.

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I saw a nice little write-up/review of Anodyne in Rolling Stone.  Picked it up and liked it.  Then picked up Trace when it was released (loved it) and A.M. when it was released a few months later (liked it). But when I got Being There as a Christmas gift from a friend in 1996, I was blown away.  To quote Patterson Hood, "And the rest (as they say) is history."   That friend who gave me Being There for Christmas?  We got married a few years later.

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My former college roommate made me a mix tape with Graveyard Shift on it in 1990. A few years later he sent me a tape w/ March 16-20, 1992 and Anodyne; I really dug Anodyne. Being There was the first Wilco I bought not long after it was released. Been hooked ever since.

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I've probably told this story a few too many times here, but what the heck. It's a fun one.

 

In 1997, I caught a Bruce Cockburn show down in Sarasota, and ended up befriending a fellow concertgoer. We got to trading tapes over the next few years. He got me into a few artists, including the solo work of Neal Casal (RIP), and a little band called Blue Mountain out of Mississippi.

 

It turned out that the bass player for Blue Mountain was a woman named Laurie Stirratt. Her brother, John, had played with Blue Mountain back in the 80s when they were stilled called The Hilltops. He then went on to play in a band called Uncle Tupelo, then Wilco.

 

I didn't know anything about these types of bands. My first concerts were Kiss, The Who, and Aerosmith, so I come from a classic arena rock background. I thought all this indie rock stuff was rather quaint, especially the connections among those little club bands. As I started to get into the alt-country bands like Blue Mountain, it was a natural extension to check out Wilco. I believe most of the original Wilco material I heard came from a tape trade with my buddy: the Jeff Tweedy Lounge Ax show from 3/26/98. That show featured Uncle Tupelo songs, covers, originals, and some then-unreleased material from what would ultimately become Summerteeth. I took a deep dive into that tape, and then started seeking out Wilco official releases. This was all during the spring and summer of 1999.

 

Local community radio station WMNF had a contest to win a pair of Wilco tickets that summer if you called in with Jeff Tweedy's correct age. I believe he was 34. I called, got through, and guessed 35. Oh, sorry, sir. So close. I called back and got through a second time, and guessed 33. Oh, sorry, sir. I called back a third time and guessed correctly, winning free tickets to my first Wilco show at Jannus Landing, a tiny general admission outdoor venue in St. Pete that crams in about 600. I took my buddy who had turned me onto Blue Mountain and the other artists mentioned above.

 

That show was a revelation. It was the only Jay Bennett show I ever caught, but they really delivered. When Jeff screamed "Nothing" and it bled back through the monitors in a loop, I was floored. I'd never seen someone come across like that in a little club show. They were playing like they were going to be around a long time, playing bigger venues. Been a fan ever since. It wasn't until after that show, by the way, that I backtracked and got caught up with all the old UT material.

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I work in an office all day.  At one point, I was in a situation where I could listen to music off my computer (2005 I think) and started listening to a radio station’s “new music channel” because I was tired of pretty much everything else I listened to at the time. Over the course of a few weeks (or months?), I noticed a particular song that really grabbed me.  One day when I noticed that song playing again (I had to keep the volume low), I jotted down the info.  Handshake Drugs by Wilco.  The station was playing that and Heavy Metal Drummer from the recently released Kicking Television album.  Handshake Drugs just captivated me.  I’d never heard (or paid attention to, maybe) such feedback and….just…sound!

Frankly, it might have ended there.  I’d never heard of Wilco and knew nothing about them, so it probably would have become a faint memory of “that one song I can’t think of now was really cool!”, except…By some strange fate I was in a Walmart (of all places) electronics department and remembered “Wilco” so looked in their cd bin and low and behold there was Kicking Television!  So on a whim, I bought it.  I listened to it pretty much non-stop as soon as I got it.  Completely hooked.

To top it off and really anchor my addiction, shortly after that, I noticed an advertisement for them to play fairly close to me as part of the Kicking Television tour.  And I never (at the time) go to concerts.  But I HAD to see Wilco.  So I talked my wife into joining me (which she did just to humor me).  Oh my!  The whole show was exactly what I had hoped for, but my strongest memory is when they played Via Chicago.  My jaw was on the floor.  I have no way to describe seeing that song live for the first time, as a new fan, with zero background and no idea what to expect.  Wow!

I know I’m off topic a bit, but another side note:  That concert was their first show after Jeff’s mother passed away.  Being so new to the band (and not tuned in here at the time, either) I had no idea that Jeff was going through that sadness.  Even today I feel some guilt for being so excited and happy at the show while he was dealing with the loss of his mother.  I do recall Jeff saying something like “I’ve gotta be honest; I don’t really feel like being here”; but I had no clue what he was talking about.

Anyway, all of that stuff together in a fairly short amount of time…yeah…that’s how I got here.

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I found mp3s of War on War, Heavy Metal Drummer, and Hummingbird. I can't remember why. I do remember that Wilco was one of those bands I read a lot about in 2003-2004, when I was getting into other "indie" music like Pavement, Elliott Smith, The Postal Service, etc. War on War was definitely the first song that clicked with me, I liked the acoustic rhythm guitars, that was a sound I was looking for but had trouble finding previously. These days that sort of thing isn't that special but fortunately there was a lot more I found interesting about Wilco's sound.

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