Tav Falco photo by Peter Lee.

To the best of his recollection, it was sometime in the early 1980s when Tav Falco last tried to play a show in Athens. His band Panther Burns was a young, Memphis, TN-based rockabilly outfit, born in a cotton loft on the Mississippi River in 1979. In the beginning, Falco boasted little musical skill or experience, aside from chainsawing a guitar into pieces during an act of performance art. Yet he paired up with guitarist Alex Chilton of Big Star to create an “art-damaged” balance of their respective abilities.

Over the ensuing four decades, the Arkansas-born auteur’s career has flourished. On songs such as “Brazil” from 1981’s Behind the Magnolia Curtain LP, or his cover of “Strange Fruit” on 2018’s Cabaret of Daggers, Falco has mastered a singularly primitive motif. Blues rhythms carry his less-than-pitch-perfect singing, creating an off-center momentum in which songs feel as though they could fall apart at any moment. But he always keeps them together, creating a marvelous tension—at least when the group is allowed to play.

That fateful trip to Athens began when Falco and Chilton, along with original drummer Ross Johnson and bass player Rene Coman, piled into a ’64 Thunderbird and set out for a three-night run of shows in Nashville, Athens and Atlanta. The group hadn’t made it an hour outside of Memphis when Johnson “got scared” and turned the car around. When the rest of the band made it to Nashville, they recruited a “drunken hillbilly” named Alvin to play drums. Read the full story at Flagpole.

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