Published 1995, The Aquarian Weekly
NYC - It was an emotional, tear-stained, hug-filled evening of sadness, pain, lingering disbelief, bursts of laughter, wild stories, fond remembrances, mysterious power outages and the shared heartbreak of friends brought together to say good-bye to the late Dan McLain (aka Country Dick Montana) of The Beat Farmers.
Born May 11, 1955, the drummer/vocalist/songwriter died Wednesday, Nov. 8, of an apparent heart attack during a performance before a sold-out crowd at The Long Horn, a bar in British Columbia, Canada.
Best known for officiating at occasional songwriting partner Mojo Nixon's 1989 wedding (which included a high-speed go-kart race), his long-time association with Blasters Dave and Phil Alvin, a misguided reverence for Tom Jones and such joyously single-minded tunes as: "Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus," "Happy Boy," "Gettin' Drunk" and "Beer Ain't Drinkin'"; Montana, who underwent an operation for thyroid cancer in 1990 and survived a recent throat cancer scare, was negotiating a distribution contract for an already recorded solo album when he died.
The mischievous spirit of Montana made itself felt early-on as odd, unexplainable electrical problems plagued an appropriately-casual opening set from Beat Farmer tour-mates, The Health and Happiness Show.
During the brief set-change and a shoulder-shrugging search for the never-located electrical malfunction; Country Dick videos and songs from Montana's pending solo effort enthralled a crowd that included: Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken and guitarist Jim Babjak, staff members of Bar/None and Sector 2 Records, Tramp's owner Steve Weitzman (who donated his club for the event) and 150-or-so folks who'd never met before, but who'd seen each other at Beat Farmer shows over the years.
As the Connecticut-based Big Bad Johns wailed-out a fiery set that included original tunes and, with Beat Farmer Joey Harris on guitar and vocals, a rousing version of "Death Train" and Country Dick signature tune, "Baby's Liquor'd Up"; audience members passed-around fuzzy photos of Montana and shared hazy stories about their encounters with the man.
"He really was one hell of a guy," exclaimed Diken. "We were lucky and got to tour with the Beat Farmers a couple of times," the drummer reminisced, "and I just never got over being amazed at the warmth and love in the man and at the brilliance of his showmanship and drumming."
The World Famous Blue Jays took over on stage and slammed-out something called "Do It For Dick!" that went well with the loose, sloppy mood in the club. In the mens room, Harris and Babjak laughed and traded road stories and Montana memories.
"He (Montana) was an entity entirely unto himself," laughed Babjak as he recalled several tours the two bands had done together. "Dick showed us how to scam beer, pot and food from fraternity houses. He was a master actor (laughs) and a hell of a lot of fun to be around."
Joining the 'Blue Jays for a version of Neil Young's "Powderfinger" and a Diken-howled rendition of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom"; Harris cleared the stage and soloed on the Farmer-favorites, "Girl I Almost Married" and "What I Mean To Say"; and broke down during a tear-choked version of the poignant, and oddly prescient ballad, "Texas Heat," he wrote and sang with Montana on the band's final album.
After another hour-or-so of music, drinks, stories, hugs, tales and tears, it was time for the remaining faithful to say their good-byes and wander-off into the night with a nagging, unnamed emptiness deep inside.
As I walked to my car, a sudden gust of wind blew, from God knows where, a flyer advertising the Beat Farmer's October 7 show at Tramp's up against my leg. As I bent to grab it, I swear I heard a deep, guttural voice laugh and say, "Ha! Gotcha', ya' Maggot!" before another gust blew the handbill off into the night.