Our guest this week on Transmissions is Jerry Williams Jr., but if you know your musical cult heroes, you probably know him by the name Swamp Dogg. Since the early ’50s, he’s lived as a true record man—writing songs, producing artists, self-releasing music, and putting out major label flops that have gone on to achieve lost classic status. He’s always walked the line between R&B and country, making a joke of the music industry’s intentional segregating of white and black audiences. He managed Dr. Dre early on, and he’s been sampled by Kid Rock and Talib Kweli, and he’s assembled a gallery of some of the most outrageous album covers you could ever hope to gawk at. He’s brushed the mainstream too: The country pop classic, Don’t Take Her (She’s All I’ve Got)?” He co-wrote it.
The line where Jerry ends and Swamp Dogg begins is transitory. In the early ’70s, after a career of singing under his own name, Jerry needed Swamp Dogg to serve as an outlandish avatar who could satirically tackle societal mores. His provocative jokes about civil rights and politics earned him hangs with Jane Fonda and the anti-war crowd and put him afoul of J. Edgar Hoover and the Nixon administration.
These days he puts out records on Joyful Noise. His latest is called Sorry You Couldn’t Make It, and it pairs him with producer Ryan Olson, Bon Iver, Jenny Lewis, and the late John Prine, who sings “Memories” and the beautiful “Please Let Me Go Round Again.” Over the many years, Swamp Dogg has embraced auto-tune, twang, and ambient flourishes. He’s a world class adapter, a weirdo hero who refuses to yield to expectations, sometimes at the expense of good taste, but remember: it’s never Jerry doing the offending, that’s Swamp Dogg. Let that be your content warning: this episode contains language some listeners might find objectionable.Transmissions :: Swamp Dogg
Episode Playlist: Swamp Dogg, “Sleeping Without You Is Such a Dragg,” “A Good Song”
Need more Swamp? Check out his 2013 Aquarium Drunkard interview.
This week’s episode was written and produced by Jason P. Woodbury and Michael Krassner at the 7 Track Shack, Andrew Horton edited and engineered. Video production by Jonathan Mark Walls. Justin Gage, executive producer. Imagery by D. Norsen.
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