“The true story of a rock ‘n’ roll band that you’ve never heard of”, is the subtitle of Tommy Womack’s book “Cheese Chronicles”.  The band you’ve never heard of is Kentucky rock group Government Cheese which Womack co-founded in 1985.  It’s an apt subtitle, because I’d ever heard of them until Let’s Not and Say We Did mentioned them in a recent interview. I  knew of Womack from his work with another musician I follow, Will Kimbrough, but I had no idea he’d been in Government Cheese.  Having now read “Cheese Chronicles” it’s an oversight I aim to correct.

“Cheese Chronicles” is a brutally honest and funny look at what it’s like to be in an indie rock band from it’s inception to its untimely end.  Sure there’s the typical rock bio mentions of sex and drugs, but unlike many other rock memoirs it’s never gratuitous, and in the case of Government Cheese seems more a by-product of years on the road than any formal band credo or ethos.  Womack’s writing is full of wit and sarcastic humor, but it’s abundantly clear from the opening page of the book that he and his band mates were serious about pursuing their dreams.

“In 1985, three other guys and I – in Kentucky, of all places – formed a band, hitched our sled to the rock and roll dream, and screamed mush from the pits of our souls.  We had nothing going for us save a vehement, greasy, turbo-psychotic vision of how things might turn out, and we went for it.  It is good to pursue an outlandish dream.  Latch on to the wild dogs.  Grab that whip and yee-hell-hah!  Eventually the sled comes out from under you, and from that point on, you either run like hell or you get your face dragged all over God’s creation, scraping on rocks and bouncing off the sides of trees.  There will be great incidence of contusions, highway motel dog breath and bottle-ringed cocktail napkin blitherscribble.  Things move faster and faster.  Everything you packed for the trip – relationships, standards, your future – gets tossed or bounced off somewhere, and all the while you know you can stop at any time, just by letting go of the dream.  Under no circumstances whatsoever do you let go of the dream.”

If that’s not the best preface to a book, I don’t know what is.  “Cheese Chronicles” is an unvarnished look at what it’s like to be in a working band.  From the highs of a perfect gig to the lows of a bad contract that left the band feeling like indentured slaves, Womack serves the truth straight up, no chaser.  In fact, he seems hell bent on owning up to the fact that the band was often their own worst enemy.  Regardless, I came away a fan, because it’s clear these guys not only enjoyed making music together, but also went after their dream with no regrets, and that’s admirable.

In the end it’s too bad Government Cheese never made it big, but then maybe that’s the point.

2 Responses to “Music Lit 101: “Cheese Chronicles””

  1. poppinfresh Says:

    Such a great band!

  2. frizbee Says:

    I’m gonna have to check this book out. It sounds awesome!

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