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Southern Culture on The Skids to roll into Harrisburg

The outlandish rock and roll trio from Chapel Hill, North-Carolina will play the Abbey Bar Friday, May 27.

Better put in an advance order on a bucket of fried chicken: Southern Culture on The Skids is coming to Harrisburg.

The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based trio, known for raucous live shows full of banana pudding, fried chicken and crowd-sourced go-go dancers, will play Appalachian Brewing Company's Abbey Bar Friday, May 27.

Recently the band's frontman, Rick Miller, stepped out of his studio to talk about guitar music, the band's most well-known song, and what it's like to keep a band going for 30 years.

Learning to walk

Even casual music fans are likely to recognize Southern Culture on The Skids' 1996 breakthrough "Camel Walk," which yanked the band into the limelight with its stomp-rock riff and offbeat lyrics about Oatmeal Creme Pies and pointy boots.

The band had been recording and touring for about 10 years when the song, a b-side from a previous album, got a second life after the band signed to Geffen Records, Miller said.

“It was the best thing that happened to us and the worst," he said.The band's fanbase exploded overnight, and though some of those fans were just there for that one song, Miller saw an opportunity for long-term success.  He said he realized, “If we can keep 15 percent of those fans, we’ll have a career."

That guitar sound

At the spine of the band's songs lies a distinct guitar sound, a mix of rockabilly, blues and surf guitar.

Miller said that, when he was learning to play, there was often no way of previewing an album, so basically if the record looked like it was guitar music, he'd buy it.

That led to some interesting discoveries, which he melded into his own sound. Blues pioneer Pops Staples, genre-spanning virtuoso Mickey Baker and session guitarist Steve Cropper, who co-wrote "Sittin' On The Dock of The Bay" with Otis Redding, were among the greats who influenced his style, he said.

Still, Miller's favorite story might be his discovery of someone named "Dean Hightower."

"There's this album called 'Twangy With a Beat,' and it's just this guy posing there with his back against a tree," Miller said. "Turns out it was actually this great guitarist, George Barnes, but they must have decided he wasn't good-looking enough, so they renamed him and put someone else on the cover."

In it for life

The band has put out 15 albums in its 30-year life, and will release a new album within the next year.

A lot has changed, Miller said, from the music industry to his personal life. He has a family now, like many of his original fans.

"It always amazes me that we'll have like three generations of a family at a show," he said.

Though the amps have gotten lighter and the band gets to stay in hotels now instead of sleeping on floors, touring still takes him back to those early days, Miller said.

“It was never a struggle," Miller said. "It was always fun. It was always adventure."

If you go

What: Southern Culture on The Skids 

When: Friday, May 27. Doors at 8 p.m. Band at 9 p.m.  

Where: The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg 

Tickets: $15 in advance. $18 at the door. 

Rick Miller spins the greats

As if there weren't already enough videos in this story, here are a few of the vintage cuts that made Miller a lifelong guitar maniac.

"Green Onions," Booker T & The MG's

"Rumble," Link Wray

"Third Man Theme," Mickey Baker 

"Somebody Was Watching," Pops Staples

"The Purple Monster," Dean Hightower