Band has unique format, roots

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 6, 2003

HANGING ROCK - The story on Hayseed Dixie's Web site about its beginnings,

lead singer and fiddle player John Wheeler said, is for "media purposes."

Wheeler, a native of Jackson County, Tenn., began playing guitar at age 9, learning the rhythm parts from both Hank Williams Jr.'s "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." He realized that both songs were about the same subjects.

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"They're singing the same stuff," he said. "AC/DC is a bunch of Australian rednecks - and that's a badge of pride."

Wheeler later began playing at fraternity parties and bars during his college years. He kept going to college, he said, because a philosophy professor told him he needed to go to graduate school. Some of his favorite reading material, he said, was written by "German dudes." Wheeler later received his Ph.D. in philosophy.

Eventually, Wheeler met other musicians while doing studio work in Nashville. The group recorded original material, but recorded the Bluegrass version of AC/DC songs just for fun. Wheeler said he never thought it would be released. A flood of phone calls from Nashville changed that.

"If we're making fun of anything, it's people's perceptions of genre," he said. "People try to put music in boxes. No one has one type of music in their CD collection. Let's just lump them all together and drink some beer."

For banjo player Don Wayne Reno and mandolin and guitar player Dale Reno, music is a family business. Not only are the two brothers, their father is Don Reno, half of the Bluegrass duo Reno and Smiley. Amongst hundreds of songs their father penned, one of them was "Dueling Banjos."

Don Wayne Reno, a.k.a. "Talcum Younger" said his father did not discourage him and his brother from following in his footsteps, but did not force them to, either.

"He saw it coming when I was very young," he said.

The band is ready to release the first CD of their alter egos, the Kerosene Brothers. The CD, titled "Choose Your Own Title," features original recordings of the group, some done before they recorded their first CD, "A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC" in 2001. The CD still features Don Wayne Reno's banjo and Dale Reno's mandolin, but adds Wheeler's Gibson Les Paul electric guitar and a drummer.