It is no surprise then, that the tagline for the local rockabilly band’s holiday show tonight at John Ascuaga’s Nugget is “Dysfunctional Christmas.”
“I come from an Italian household and most of my relatives are as dysfunctional as most Italian-American families,” said guitarist, vocalist and politically incorrect satirist Scotty Roller. “We’d sit around the table all 10 of us and it would always end in arguments.
There would be debates about how JFK was assassinated. It was never about personal stuff. ... It was argument for the sport of it.”
The story of Roller’s dad getting the Christmas tree is the kind of scenario they write movies about. Or the kind that end up in the kid’s psychiatric evaluation.
“When I was a kid we grew in an apartment and we had a late-’70s Ford Thunderbird,” Roller said. “My dad insisted on getting the largest tree on the lot and strapping it on top with twine. He’d be screaming and yelling when he couldn’t get it in the house so he’d drag it into the back alley and trim it down. Then he’d complain about how small the trees was and how much bigger it looked at the lot.”
Bassist “Big John” Von Nolde also has a fond memory of one holiday when his dad procured a tree.
“I used to spend Christmas Eve with Hans (his dad). I’d go up to Squaw Valley where he lived and one year we didn’t have a tree,” Von Nolde said. “He ended up getting a saw and we walked over to the neighbor’s property and cut down a tree. It was Squaw Valley, there were so many trees they weren’t going to miss one. That was our tree, with no decorations. I remember walking in the cover of darkness with this tiny saw. ... And he never wrapped anything ever. Presents would be under the tree in the bags they came in from the store.”
Keeping a secret is a skill Von Nolde obviously didn’t learn from father, but he did manage to stay tight-lipped about the winner of the “Made Up Music” contest, whose name will be announced at tonight’s show. Contestants submitted ideas for a new song title and the best was chosen by the band and the song they came up with will be debuted at the show. Also being debuted will be two new Saddle Tramps albums: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. The term “greatest hits” takes on a skewed meaning from a band with songs like “Fortune Cookie Nookie” and “How Can I Say I Love You (With a Shotgun In My Mouth)?” but true Tramps fans know the kind of greatness they’re in for. Each album covers five of the band’s 10 years in existence, Roller said. Vol. 2 will feature two Christmas songs that the band released four years ago as a two-song holiday album. The album cover of Greatest Hits Vol. 2 has family significance for Von Nolde. His father was a sports photographer for the Associated Press news organization and the album art will be a photograph he took of a German boxer “getting his ass handed to him,” as Von Nolde described it.
The holiday show will also be recorded for an upcoming Saddle Tramps DVD, though Roller said there are no details available about it yet because they simply don’t know yet. You can’t expect organization from a band that pens songs about flatulence and menstruation. Hopefully the band will show up to the Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuaga’s Nugget today at 8 p.m. For anyone with nothing better to do, tickets are still available by calling (800) 648-1177 or online at www.thesaddletramps.com. Supposedly this show sells out every year. Who knows why.