Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers recently wrote an OP-Ed apologizing for the “drunken joke” of the band’s name, which originated out of Athens, Georgia in the mid-1990s. This OP-Ed also addresses the recent name change of the popular country group Lady Antebellum, who changed their name to Lady A without first consulting a blues singer who had been using that same name for over two decades.
He explained that this name was inspired by both his love of 1990s era hip hop and the outlaw country of artists such as Johnny Cash, which he states were linked by similar subject matter and inspiration from “narcocorridos,” a popular ballad-like Latin American genre discussing the exploits of drug traffickers. Hood explained that he could not rap, however he was able to explore the themes present in both genres by recalling the nostalgia of outlaw country with modern day themes.
“The band name was intended as a tribute to two forms of music that I loved and revered,” Hood explained in the letter. “Hip-hop in the mid-’90s was filled with crime sagas, not necessarily far removed from the content of old Johnny Cash songs — which, of course, I also loved — and a direct descendant of the narcocorrido. I would not (and regardless, could not) rap, but I could approach my subject matter in a lyrical way, set to this old music that was a new passion of mine.”
The performer also discusses how the band has discussed more political themes throughout the last decade, which were present on their last two studio albums The Unraveling and American Band. Both of these albums also discussed America’s tenuous history with racism and racial violence.
“Many of our band’s songs have attempted to examine our country’s fatal flaw of racism, from its origins in slavery and religion to our current systematic failure to advance beyond this quagmire of hate and mis-opportunity,” he elaborated. “It’s an ongoing conversation that can be at times painful, but necessary. Our name was a drunken joke that was never intended to be in rotation and reckoned with two-and-a-half decades later, and I sincerely apologize for its stupidity and any negative stereotypes it has propagated.”
The artist closed out the letter stating it may be too late to change the name, however he is open to suggestions from fans. He then went on to make a joke about Lady Antebellum’s name, stating “In the meantime, you’re welcome to just call us Lady DBT.”