Rewind: Johnny J. and the Hitmen, “Nuclear Hayride”

reviews-johnnyjandthehitmenThe Hitmen were Dave Clements (bass) and Joey Torres (drums). We recorded that album in the later part of 1984 and it came out in January of 1985. We were the last guys around here playing rockabilly. We cut that at a small studio near Bayou St. John on North Hagan—Niteshade. All the songs were originals that me or Dave wrote.

Alex Chilton produced it. We’d been knowing Alex since he moved here from Memphis. We worked with him on a four-song Blue Vipers [previous band] session that never came out. He played piano and sang background on several cuts. Alex was the kind of guy that wanted to cut things raw. He didn’t want you to warm up, he wanted to turn on the knobs and get you to play right away. He always wanted that first take because he felt there was more energy. More often than not, he was right. He was real helpful with the mix too.

The album title came from an old ad we did with the Blue Vipers. We had a gig at an old theatre up in Shreveport and we needed something to put on the marquee. Shreveport had the Louisiana Hayride, so we thought it was clever to advertise us presenting a ‘Nuclear Hayride.’ I thought it would be a good title for an LP.

Rico [Rick Olivier] did the artwork—he still does artwork on my CDs. He got a Tulane coed and dressed her up Western style. He also got a bale of hay and got her to sit on top of it like she was riding a horse.

There were a lot of good songs on it. My favorite was ‘I Just Don’t Care.’ I really liked the riff we played on there. That’s my riff. To this day, Dave still does ‘Don’t Treat Me Like (I Treated You)’ on his gigs.

The album did real well locally. We sold out the first pressing pretty quickly. Back then we played Jazz Fest, Jimmy’s, Tip’s, the Rivershack. Mostly we played at Carrollton Station almost every week.

John Berthelot at Great Southern distributed the second pressing and he had connections in Europe. The album started selling over there. It got us a tour through Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland and Germany. It sold real well in Germany. We toured Canada too. We drove all across Canada in my old van.

Me, Dave and Joey started playing together again recently. But you know it’s hard playing some of those old songs because I forget the words.”