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Jason & the Scorchers, originally Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, were a Rock / Country rock band formed in 1981 and led by singer/songwriter Jason Ringenberg.

With a sound that straddled hard rock, punk rock and country music, Jason and the Scorchers are noted for their energetic live performances, and earned strong reviews from critics: Mark Deming, who declared they "blazed a trail for the cowpunk and alt-country movements that followed in their wake."[164190]

However, their mainstream success was limited, and Jason and the Scorchers disbanded in about 1990 before reforming since.


Early days

A native of Illinoismarker, Ringenberg founded the group in 1981, and they soon established a strong reputation among indie-rock circles.

Country rock was not a new concept. Some of rock's earliest pioneers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins established their reputations playing rockabilly, a country-rock hybrid, and the late '60s and early '70s saw a new wave of country rock by performers such as Gram Parsons, Neil Young and Eagles.

However, all of those efforts pre-dated the raw sound of '70s punk and '80s alternative rock, and by the '80s, most country resembled mainstream pop, making Jason and the Scorchers something a novelty in their hometown, Nashvillemarker, Tennesseemarker, as their ragged, high-energy music was somewhat unprecedented. This made The Scorchers a natural for eclectic venues such as Nashville's EXIT/IN.

Rock critic Jimmy Guterman reports that in late 1983, during a concert held "in the basement of a now-boarded Philadelphiamarker dive...Jason Ringenberg balanced himself on a rickety stool...and wished aloud what he wanted his band to sound like. 'Like a religious service,' he said wistfully, 'only a lot dirtier.'"

According to the band's website, the Scorchers worked out "on stage what they had in their heads and hearts from their teenage years: roots in country, hearts in rock, minds more or less in the gutter. All the members of the band grew up around country music, but they were interested in rock as well. The way [guitarist] Warner E. Hodges told it, his father (who was a traveling USO musician) heard Warner's bands thrashing through Van Halen and Kiss-type songs and suggested that if they played Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash, it would sound great. So perhaps it was one part their own doing, one part Edgar Hodges', and one part divine inspiration."

As Guterman would later report, "onstage, the early Scorchers...eschew[ed] all subtlety. [Drummer] Perry Baggs concentrated on destroying his snare with style, and [bassist] Jeff Johnson stood intent and rail-straight, an ideal foil for the two wild men up front...Guitarist Warner Hodges slid from delicate lap steel to Keith Richards-style guitar heroics without making one seem like a departure from the other. Whether he stood at the lip of the stage, leaning over the audience, sucking a cigarette, or he spun himself into speedy circles that would have made any mere mortal dizzy, Hodges personified the country boy too thrilled to be rocking to care how ridiculous he looked. The same went for Ringenberg. His own dancing during the rocking numbers suggested (The Honeymooners') Ed Norton on methamphetamines, but when he strapped on his acoustic guitar and stood center stage, no one could argue that he wasn't haunted by the ghosts of Hank [Williams] and Lefty [Frizzell]."

Debut EP

The Scorchers eventually released their debut, D.I.Y. EP, Reckless Country Soul, in 1982 on the independent Praxis label. Guterman would later write that it "captured the explosive band in its untutored infancy...Across its four terse, hilarious songs - full of rants against British hair bands [on 'Shot Down Again'], analyses of Jerry Falwell's shortcomings as a marriage counselor, and an irreverent homage to Hank Williams - the band was able to erect a sound that approximated nothing so much as Joe Strummer hurling a wrecking ball through the Grand Ole Oprymarker. This was no joke."

Signing with EMI

The EP was well-received for an independent release, and when EMI signed the Scorchers in 1983, Producer/Engineer Terry Manning was brought on board, new tracks were recorded, and more copies were soon repressed and repackaged as an expanded record titled Fervor. By now, the Scorchers were fairly popular as a live act, and rock critics from noted publications began to take notice. Robert Christgau praised Fervor in his "Consumer Guide" column, writing that "crossing Gram Parsons's knowledge of sin with Joe Ely's hellbent determination to get away with it, Jason Ringenberg leads a band no one can accuse of fecklessness, dabbling, revivalism, or undue irony. The lyrics strain against their biblical poetry at times, but anyone who hopes to take a popsicle into a disco is in no immediate danger of expiring of pretentiousness." Fervor also attracted much attention for its groundbreaking cover of Bob Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie." A song which originally appeared on Dylan's Blonde on Blonde in 1966, the Scorchers' version did not originally appear on Reckless Country Soul but, newly recorded by Manning, was added as a bonus track to Fervor.

Fervor earned a great deal of critical praise, placing at #3 on The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1983, and the Scorchers quickly followed it with two full-length LP's: Lost & Found produced by Terry Manning, and Still Standing produced by Tom Werman. Both albums were critically acclaimed (particularly Lost & Found which placed at #22 on the Pazz & Jop for 1985), but neither achieved any chart success. Pre-dating country music's popular neotraditionalist movement of the late '80s and early '90s, the Scorchers were unable to obtain substantial airplay on either rock radio or country radio, as mainstream rock stations considered them "too country" while mainstream country stations considered them "too rock." In 1987, EMI dropped the Scorchers from its label, and Jeff Johnson left the band. He was replaced by Ken Fox, who later joined The Fleshtones.

Third LP and split-up

After a three-year "fallow period," the Scorchers released a third LP, Thunder and Fire, where they steered more towards hard-rock. Reviews were mixed, often negative, and sales were disappointing. "The songs were more metal-influenced," according to the band's website, "as Warner [Hodges] had a big hand in the production. Then Perry Baggs was diagnosed with diabetes during a tour in 1990. Warner called Jason and said he couldn't do it any more. As Warner said it later, 'we didn't break up, we fell apart.'"

After the Scorchers split, Ringenberg turned to country-oriented solo work, Hodges moved to Los Angeles to work in the video business, and Johnson moved to Atlanta while Baggs remained in Nashville.

Compact Disc retrospective

A few years later, EMI Records hired Jimmy Guterman to compile a compact disc retrospective of the Scorchers' music. A single compact disc containing 22 tracks, Are You Ready for the Country?: The Essential Jason and the Scorchers, Volume 1 was issued in the fall of 1992, including all of Fervor, Lost and Found, and four rarities. (Reportedly, plans for a second volume never materialized.) The compilation would fall out-of-print years later, replaced by a shorter compilation that excluded all of the rarities, but it helped introduce the Scorchers to a new generation of listeners who were experiencing a different musical landscape.

Alt country goes mainstream

By the mid-1990s, following the unprecedented success of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day, alternative music had broken into mainstream culture; this change in the music scene encouraged the development of Alt country, a movement presaged by bands like Lone Justice, X and the Scorchers. Groups like southern Illinoismarker's Uncle Tupelo and Nashvillemarker's the Kentucky Headhunters were now building on the developments made by their predecessors.


According to the band's website. it was around this time that "Jeff [Johnson] bought a copy of Essential Jason and the Scorchers, Volume 1...He liked it and decided to try to re-unite the band." Johnson contacted Hodges first, who hadn't played guitar in roughly a year. Hodges hung up on Johnson after hearing him suggest a reunion, but Johnson called six more times that same night. Eventually, Johnson tried Ringenberg, calling him at four in the morning "until Jason agreed to do it." Hodges eventually agreed to a reunion as well, "with his rationale being 'Okay, I won't be the bad guy.'" Baggs also agreed to the reunion, and with the original Scorchers together again, the group began touring in 1993. The reunion shows were a critical and commercial success, eventually extending into 1994. A demo tape of new recordings were also made that year, and Ringenberg was able to secure the band to a new contract with Mammoth Records in Chapel Hill, North Carolinamarker. The band then released a new album in 1995, titled A Blazing Grace, which returned them to their original sound. The Scorchers then released another new record, Clear Impetuous Morning, in 1996.

Departure of Jeff Johnson

In 1997, Jeff Johnson amicably departed from the band, wishing to be with his wife and essentially retiring from the music business; he was replaced by Kenny Ames. A live album, Midnight Roads and Stages Seen, was recorded that November and later released in May 1998.

Independent releases

In 1999, Walt Disney Records folded Mammoth Records, two years after buying them out, leaving the Scorchers without a label. Since then, the band has independently released a live concert from 1985 on Ringenberg's own homemade label, Courageous Chicken Records. Titled Rock on Germany, it was released in 2001.


Jason & The Scorchers

  • Reckless Country Soul EP (1982)
  • Fervor (1983)
  • Lost and Found (1985)
  • Still Standing (1986)
  • Thunder and Fire (1989)
  • Essential Jason & the Scorchers - Are You Ready For The Country? (1992)
  • A Blazing Grace (1995)
  • Both Sides of the Line (1996)
  • Clear Impetuous Morning (1996) aka "Self-sabotage"
  • Reckless Country Soul (1998)
  • Midnight Roads & Stages Seen (1998)
  • Rock on Germany (2001)
  • Wildfires and Misfires (2001)
  • Still Standing (2002) - 1996 Re-release

Side projects

  • One Foot in the Honky Tonk (1992) - Jason Ringenberg Solo
  • A Pocketful of Soul (2000) - Jason Ringenberg Solo
  • All Over Creation (2002) - Jason Ringenberg Solo
  • Disciples of Loud (2003) - Warner Hodges Solo
  • A Day At The Farm With Farmer Jason (2003) - Farmer Jason
  • Empire Builders (2004) - Jason Ringenberg Solo
  • Rockin' In The Forest With Farmer Jason (2006) - Farmer Jason
  • Best Tracks & Side Tracks 1979 - 2007 (2007) - Jason Ringenberg Solo
  • Centerline (2008) Warner E. Hodges Solo


On September 18, 2008, Jason and the Scorchers received the Americana Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in the Performance Category. The band performed during the Annual Awards Show at Nashville's famed Ryman Auditorium. Bassist Jeff Johnson participated at this event, the first time that all four of the original band members played together on stage since 19 January 1997, when the Scorchers played Club Zydeco in Birmingham, Alabama. Warner Hodges and Jason Ringenberg led a modified version of the Scorchers through a full set at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville after the Americana awards.

Current status

Ringenberg now performs as Farmer Jason and does children's music . He also does solo shows playing his own stuff and even Scorchers classics.

The band will play several gigs in Scandinavia and Britain in May 2008, as you can see on Jason Ringenberg's official Website. This coincides with a couple of solo shows from Jason and Farmer Jason around the same time, and Warner E. Hodges solo shows (which you can see on Warner's myspace)end of April. This marks something like the real return of the band. There will also be a US show at the Johnstown Folk Festival, Labor Day weekend 2008.

In June 2007 Jason & the Scorchers reunited for a Perry Baggs- Benefit- Show in Nashville.

They also played one single European- gig in Spain in September 2007.

Warner E. Hodges is a full-time member of Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, touring through Europe in October 2007, as well as releasing a new Homemade Sin album 12 May 2008 on Jerkin Crocus Records, UK, and touring UK, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden

In 2007 Warner E Hodges, Kenny Ames and Fenner Castner played four UK shows under the name Ginger and The Scorchers, with Wildhearts frontman Ginger on vocals, as well as a full tour as a three piece solo Warner E Hodges project, he will be touring the UK again April 2008 (see

In March 2009 the Scorchers are "back in the saddle"- Jason & The Scorchers record a new album-this will be their first recording session in ELEVEN years. The title is "Halcyon Times" and is due out in 2010.

On March 26-28, 2009 Jason & the Scorchers will be guests at MPI: Music Producers Institute, a three-day studio clinic at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville.

Notes and references

Warner E. Hodges is a member of Homemade Sin, they are releasing a new CD in 12 May 2008.

External links

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