Every so often, OC Music News head honcho Jimmy Alvarez sends me a message, “Hey check out this band…” It is usually a new artist, so when he shot me Jesse Dayton, I assumed it was a newbie starting out. I clicked on the video for “Charlottesville” and messaged back… “Hey! This is great, but not your usual style?” Alvarez then launched into all the artists Dayton has played with and I was a little embarrassed I did not know who this badass dude is.
So who’s on that list? Johnny Cash. Willie Nelson. Glenn Campbell. Waylon Jennings. The Supersuckers. Rob Zombie. X. Duff McKagan. Mike Ness. The dude even played Bill Clinton’s inauguration with Lucinda Williams, and as of this Halloween weekend, he has added Danzig to his roster.
But Dayton doesn’t rely on the icons of music; his own stuff is damn cool. A song named “Daddy Was a Bad Ass?” Sign me up! His rockabilly vibe and punk edge is calling me.
Now we can all get to know Dayton better because next week he is releasing a book detailing his work with those amazing artists. His memoir “Beaumonster” drops November 9th and 10 new songs will be available as well. He also has several dates in So Cal next week as part of his upcoming West Coast tour.
The Texas native spoke with our very own Alvarez this weekend and gave OC Music News a glimpse into life as one of the busiest dudes on the planet and all the different projects he’s got going on. But first, how the hell do you get in the room with Cash and Campbell?
“I was raised in this little town on the Texas Louisiana border, so I grew up listening to classic country and weirdly enough, punk rock,” Dayton explained. “It’s a weird thing, but Joe Strummer saved me from listening to bad hair metal. Fast forward, I’m in my early 20s, and I’m in Nashville and I’m doing this TV show because my music is too classic country edgy or whatever. So they put me on TV instead of the radio, and I get a call from Waylon Jennings. Waylon calls me at my hotel and says, ‘I saw you on TV last night. Would you like to come down and play guitar on this song?’”
Dayton went on, “I went down to the studio and – by the way, if you Google Jesse Dayton, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, all this footage will pop up from that first day back in the ‘90s – I went down to the studio and knocked on the door and Johnny Cash opened the door. So I ended up playing with both of them. I recorded with Waylon on a couple of his records, and I recorded with John. Then they just started passing me around. They’re like, ‘Hey, there’s this young guy who’s cool and keeps his mouth shut.’”
Dayton didn’t just assist; he kinda saved things. Jennings had injured his picking thumb, so it was Dayton who took over guitar duties on 1996’s “Right for the Time.”
As for Cash, Dayton describes their meeting: “The first day that I met Johnny Cash, he was very funny. He goes, ‘Hey, have you ever seen that show, “Aliens?”’ I said, ‘Are you talking about the real aliens?’ He goes, ‘No, the movie.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I love “Aliens,” John.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I love it when Bill Paxton says, “We’re all effed and doomed.”’ Everyone was cracking up because it sounded nothing like Bill Paxton and everything like Johnny.”
Another legend Dayton has memories with is Mr. Willie Nelson himself. “Right before the apocalypse hit the world, the pandemic, I actually got to do some shows on the Outlaw Music Festival,” he told us. “I just saw Willie not too long ago, but, yeah, it was great. I mean, I got to play ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ and several of the classic Willie songs with Willie on a record.”
It was not his first encounter with Nelson though. “I met Willie when I was pretty young, and I got my first record deal because – this was before they called it ‘Americana music’ and no one really knew what to do with me because I was playing this kind of country type stuff,” Dayton explained. “Oddly enough, I had played with The Supersuckers on this record called ‘Must’ve Been High.’ When that record came out, all the skaters and punk rockers on the West Coast and East Coast, they couldn’t stand it. But then we went and did ‘The Tonight Show’ with Willie Nelson. The next day, it blew up, and this was right about the time when you started seeing punk rockers wearing pictures of Johnny Cash shooting the rod on their shirt.” (Ok, never heard it called “shooting the rod!”)
While Dayton has a career steeped in country music and the legends of it, that’s not all he can do. His punk rock side is just as strong. So strong in fact, he was called in to play with Danzig this weekend.
“I got a phone call a few weeks ago from Glenn Danzig, and Glenn – who I’ve never talked to, never met in my life – said, ‘Hey, I got your number from Shooter Jennings and Rob Zombie and they said if you’re going to play a Halloween show in Hollywood of all Elvis songs, then you should hire Jesse Dayton to play guitar for you,’” he explained. And that, kids, is how Dayton ended up in Hollywood, doing a sold out Halloween show playing Elvis songs with Glenn Danzig.
Another one of our favorites at OC Music News has also called Dayton in. In 2015, when Billy Zoom of X was diagnosed with cancer, the band turned to Dayton. While doing the North American tour with John Doe, Exene Cervenka and D.J. Bonebrake, Dayton detailed his experiences online. Those posts got the attention of Hachette Book Group, who then approached Dayton to write a book about his many collaborations and memories.
Next week, “Beaumonster” (“It is called ‘Beaumonster,’ because the name of my hometown, Beaumont, that’s a nickname for people from my hometown.”) arrives and we can all enjoy Dayton’s in-depth stories about playing with X and working with Rob Zombie.
Oh yea, that new music! Dayton’s album in support of the book arrives as well, and it includes his versions of songs from the artists he writes about. The CD includes “Burning House of Love” (X), “Pretend I Never Happened” (Willie Nelson), “Born With A Tail” (The Supersuckers), “Just To Satisfy You” (Waylon Jennings), and “Story Of My Life” (Social Distortion).
“Story of My Life”
THE ESSENTIAL JESSE DAYTON
“What I love most about Jesse is that he’s a genuine person. Through his music and stories, we have a new appreciation for our sonic heroes and what went into putting those songs together that have been a big part of our lives.”
Dayton reflects fondly on his time with the bands featured on the disc. “John (Doe), for a while there we were very close because we were working together a lot. We did David Letterman, one of the last episodes together before David retired. We did a bunch of stuff together,” he told us. “John came out of the Los Angeles punks scene, but I’m this kind of weirdo, kind of little hayseed Texas, Louisiana Cajun. It’s great when I meet like-minded people because I’ve been the outsider my entire life. That’s what the book is really about. My admiration for people like John and Exene or Mike Ness, or people who just included me in their reindeer game.”
So Cal shows:
NOV 10: Whistle Stop, San Diego
NOV 11: Gallagher’s Pub HB, Huntington Beach
NOV 12: Campus JAX, Newport Beach
NOV 13: Redwood Bar & Grill, Los Angeles
Pick up “Beaumonster” on November 9th and then see the amazing man in person.