Disco Sucks is enshrined at #10 on Dr. Demento's TOP 25 FUNNY
SONGS OF 1979... Click on banner below and have a look!
See DISCO SUCKS at #61 on the TOP 100 BEST
NOVELTY SONGS OF ALL TIME (at DIGITAL DREAM DOOR song research center).... Click on the banner
below and have a look!
|DISCO SUCKS Album cover photo shoot .... Photographer Eileen Warner (center)
| It was mid-1978. We had our first record
album out, and we thought we were doing good because a dozen or so radio stations were playing "My Girl
Passed Out In Her Food." We we're booked months in advance, six nights a week, mostly between Phoenix and Tucson;
with a bi-monthly mini-tour in the San Francisco Bay Area on the strength of KFAT Radio http://kfat.com airplay.
We were feeling the stirings of the anti-Disco attitude in those
days, but were to fully realize how strong it was when we were playing one night at THE STUMBLE INN in Tucson. We'd finished
a song, when a disco-styled dude stood up and yelled loudly, "Play Some Disco!" He knew we didn't play
disco, he was just heckling. So I called to the band to gimme a disco-beat-music-groove, which they did. We then
started chanting, "Disco sucks... Disco sucks...Disco sucks." Well, the crowd, which was maybe 250 to
300 people, erupted into cheers of approval. We all knew instantly that we needed to do something with this powder
keg of potential. The next week, we were in Flagstaff, doing a week stand at the Museum Club. We had spare time
in the daytime, so I suggested to the four songwriters in the band that we all write an anti-disco song, and all judge which was best.
Scott's version was voted the best. So we worked it up and started playing it nightly to the same reaction every time we played
it, vociferous approval. It helped that we were playing
'country rock' venues near colleges and universities.
We became anxious and determined to record and
distribute this dynamite. As we were entertaining album title ideas, a bumper sticker was noticed that
read DISCO SUCKS/COUNTRY SWINGS. That seemed like a good title. I argued against having the word "Sucks" as part
of an album title, because it might hurt our career; whereupon Scott pointed out that we didn't have much of a career, so
what the hell? So, the title agreed upon was COUNTRY SWINGS, DISCO SUCKS. Into the recording studio! Full speed ahead...
Recording the two parts of the song was alot of fun. We used lots of sound effects, including
the toilet flush where you can even hear the stopper in the reservoir drop to commence refill. It was a nervous moment
when a thousand dollar Sennheiser microphone was placed inside the toilet bowl. You hope it does'nt fall off
the stand and into the water; and if it does, who gets to use it next?
All went well with
the entire second album process. We recorded some good supporting songs, like "Carolinda" and "Home
Where The Heart Is." The cover art was looking good, thanks to photographer, Eileen Worner. The cover
photo was shot at the Farmer John's meat packing plant at Grant & I-10 in Tucson that has a wonderful mural
that wraps around the whole building.
Everything came together; promo packages were assembled and addressed.
Each band member picked up eighty packages and headed for the post office. A new release was out on Wagon Tracks
One method I had of finding out who was playing us, or not, was including a stamped,
self addressed, postcard in the package. Each card had five little boxes the radio folks could choose from
to check off.The choices to check off were: Will play a lot... Will play some... Thinkin' about it... Won't play...and,
Hell No, Won't Play. I only got a few Hell No, Won't Plays.
Anyway, within a week of
the mass mailing, the cards started coming in. Lots of cards! Like all of them! I was getting letters from radio stations
I'd never heard of. And lots of phone calls. Mostly from AOR stations (Album Oriented Rock). Monster 50,000 watt Stations,
in mega-markets like L.A., Chicago, and New York. Armed Forces Radio got hold of our record; they are syndicated world
wide! Stations behind the Iron Curtin were airing it! The King Of Nepal sent a jacket with the Wheels logo and some
squiggly Nepalese writing embroidered on it! British Airways made it available to the first class passengers in their
I even got a call from Ken Burkhart (mean anything to you? Well,
me neither... at the time). He stated he needed me to "service" all of his 200 AOR subscribers immediately!
"Not Tommorrow... Now!" I had no clue who he was, what he was talking about, or what he really wanted. I
ask him if he wanted me to send him 200 records? He said, "NO!" And I could tell he wanted to say, "No, you
stupid bastard!" He said, "No, I want you to send them to all the AOR stations that subscribe to our programming
service." Then he asked, "Who owns the record label?" I answered, "Well, me and uhh, the bass
player." He then asked, "Well then, who is your manager?" I answered, "That would be me, I
guess." The last thing I heard, before the phone line went dead, was him grumbling out the name of GOD's only
son, including his middle name, that I think was incorrect.
I was puzzled by
the grumpy guy's call. What the hell did he mean by "subscribers" and "programming service?" I
thought, to hell with 'em. Probably just some jerk trying to score some free records. And besides, I had leave for our
first gig in Denver in a couple hours.
O.K. ...We did the six night stand in Denver,
and I came home to a stack of phone messages and mail a foot high. Of course, my girlfreind, on the phone, mentioned
all the mail/messages/cards piling up, but I'd be home soon, and deal with it then. Do you realize how
hard it is to perform high energy music for four hours a night, while drinking like a fish, social smoking in the parking
lot, and having to deal with your pounding head all morning?. Not to mention, you're in a new city with a brewery
tour, Elitch Gardens amusement park, music stores, museums, etc. Who the hell had time for business?! And besides,
a major label would be calling soon and take care of everything. And they did call.
So, we got back from the Denver gig. I was examining the mail, messages, and 'Will Play' cards. A message
from Alan Browning caught my attention because he was the program director for the, then very popular, local Tucson
AOR station, KWFM. It was a "call-me-urgent" message. I called, he came to the phone and asked, "Did
you know that Burkhart/Abrams in Atlanta sent out a special directive to add "Disco Sucks", if you can get it, in
heavy rotation to all their subscriber stations?" KWFM was such a station and had "Disco Sucks" in
Heavy rotation. "Huh.. What the... Atlanta?" I thought. Then I remembered and asked, "Oh yeah,
Burkhart. I talked to that grump last week. Who is that guy?" It was a good thing Alan layed it out for me
so even a six year old could understand. Alan told me Burkhart/Abrams was probably the most powerful radio programing
service in the world. I'd been handed a platinum record on a silver platter! ...So now what?
Well... the first thing I did was return a call from Jimi Fox of Mercury Records. I knew Jimi from his
Tucson days as a DJ. He kinda hung with the Stinky Felix band I was in some years back. Stinky Felix gave him producer
credit on the 45rpm single we did; to at least assure local airplay. I didn't know he was an A&R (arranging and recording) guy
with Mercury, but I was glad. After talking with Jimi, I got the idea that we had a record deal. Just
a few details needed "tweaking" with the Mercury brass, including Jerry Kennedy.
Amongst the other messages was Capitol Records wanting me to sign with them, because we had, "worked so well together
in the past" (see discography: "Hells Angels 69"), and the "success" of our local rivals, The
Dusty Chaps, was cited. The Chaps success in Tucson was why Scott and I started the WHEELS, as a joke, on Monday nights at
the Stumble Inn, where the Chaps were the house band, and on Capitol Records. Also, there was a message from Mel Taylor, the
drummer for The Ventures. www.theventures.com Mel had managed the band I was in during the Hells Angels '69 album period. Management Problem Solved.
A letter from Dr. Demento http://drdemento.com said he had included "Disco Sucks" on his syndicated show (200+ stations nationwide) to be broadcast
this Saturday! "Disco Sucks" is still enshrined at #10 on Dementos's Top 25 Funny Songs of 1979. Things were lined
up and rocketing so fast that my next big decision was, what color should my Corvette be?
JULY 12, 1979
COMISKY PARK, CHICAGO
The "Disco Demolition"
is what happened! And caused the Chuck Wagon And The Wheels sky rocket to flame out and crash down much faster than it went
You see... WLUP in Chicago
was playing the song in heavy rotation. Wacky DJ, Steve Dahl, was really working it as the centerpiece of his Disco
Sucks crusade! WLUP and Dahl came up with a stunt they promoted as a "Disco Demolition." The
plan was: everybody bring disco records to Comisky Park. Between games of the double-header, between the White Sox and
the Tigers, the disco records were to be blown-up out on the playing field while everybody chants, Disco Sucks...
Disco Sucks. Yeah, big fun! The only problem was, it was "50 cent Beer Night" too. Can you see
the problem already? Everybody knows explosions, alcohol, and disco don't mix.
Fifty thousand drunken disco haters were in the stands, twenty thousand more
trying to get into the ball park, flags were flying, banners were proudly displayed. Then Dahl lit the fuse to the charge
that blew up the disco records piled up on the field. The drunken mob began to riot! They poured onto the playing field,
stole the bases, and ruined the grass. Securityforces were badly out-numbered and totally ineffective. The
media swarmed in to cover the riot. And, to top it all off, they cancelled the second game of the double
header! That was totally shocking, and downright un-American! The very first time in history, a second game was cancelled
for a reason besides weather! A riot cancellation! Well, of course it made the national news... big time! The
national media villified the disco haters, making comparisons to the Nazi book burners, and lynch mobs. When I saw
the news broadcasts the next day, I thought, Yes! More fuel for the rocket! But I was dead wrong. Disco Sucks disappeared
from the airwaves quicker than you can say, "Bye-Bye Vette!" The FCC didn't have to tell anyone to
do anything, and they were ready to. All, but a handful of radio stations pulled "Disco Sucks" off the
to say, all deals were off. We spent the next five years trying to relight the fuse to that rocket again. But, you know,
the ripples from that few weeks can still be seen, if you really look. Our career did pick up, and continued for years
after. It was all a great hoot! And, truth be told, I would have killed myself in that damn jet-black Corvette. After
all, drunk driving back then was considered a sport.
That's my story and it's stickin to me...
Chuck "Wagon" Maultsby Aug. 2006
chuck wagon and the wheels