On The Road With The Rock Bottom Remainders Melissa Block talks to writers Dave Barry, Scott Turow and Roy Blount Jr. about their band, the Rock Bottom Remainders. The group is raising money for Haiti on its current tour — playing Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston in the next few days.
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On The Road With The Rock Bottom Remainders

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On The Road With The Rock Bottom Remainders

On The Road With The Rock Bottom Remainders

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Im Robert Siegel.


And Im Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: The musical stylings of The Rock Bottom Remainders, best-selling authors by day, rock stars by night, at least once a year. Among the Remainders are such literary lights as Stephen King, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, James McBride, Mitch Albom not to mention three more Remainders who are here with me in the studio: Dave Barry, Scott Turow and Roy Blount Jr.

Welcome to all of you.

Mr. DAVE BARRY (Lead Guitarist, The Rock Bottom Remainders): Thank you.

Mr. SCOTT TUROW (Member, The Rock Bottom Remainders): Thank you.

Mr. ROY BLOUNT JR. (Member, The Rock Bottom Remainders): Good to be here.

BLOCK: We've got you in the middle of a little, mini East Coast tour, your Wordstock tour. Youre raising money for good causes, but you've also come by here to play and chat with us.

Mr. BLOUNT: I always love little mini.

BLOCK: Little mini, yeah. Were both tiny (unintelligible).

Mr. TUROW: Plus, its major.

Mr. BLOUNT: Were already very tired, and we have another show here. So...

Mr. TUROW: And its a world tour, as far as were concerned.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, were thinking of just, you know, ending it and calling it a huge success without ever actually getting on a stage with instruments.

Mr. BLOCK: Thats all kinds of problems, isnt it?

Mr. TUROW: In that kind of a tour.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. And theres a lot of interest in it, you know?

BLOCK: Well...

Mr. BLOUNT: I stayed almost up to midnight last night. This is (unintelligible).

BLOCK: In true rock star mode.

Mr. BLOUNT: Yeah, right.

BLOCK: Were there...

Mr. BARRY: And then now we have to go back and trash the hotel room, you know, there's no fun.

Mr. BLOUNT: Yeah. It takes a lot of energy, you know? You just have to do it.

Mr. BARRY: I actually paid the maid to come and do it for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: And then she cleans up, so I feel like...

BLOCK: Just to keep up the reputation. Were there groupies banging on your door?


BLOCK: Dave Barry?

Mr. BARRY: We dont get...

Mr. BLOUNT: They were banging on the inside doors (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: We dont get your standard groupies. We do occasionally get underwear thrown on the stage, but its really huge underwear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: When you get a pair of panties and it lands on your head and you take it off and it says you wish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK And you know youre in The Rock Bottom Remainders.

Mr. TUROW: Maximum occupancy, 30 people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Dave Barry, lead guitarist in the band.

Mr. BARRY: Well, let us correct that.


Mr. BARRY: Only if I'm the only guitarist.

BLOCK: I see.

Mr. BARRY: Am I the lead (unintelligible) another guitarist arrives, I move down one level. So on this tour, we have Greg Iles with us, who really is the (unintelligible).

BLOCK: All right. So youre lead guitarist by default.

Mr. BARRY: Im like the second lead guitar...

BLOCK: Okay, okay.

Mr. BARRY: ...player at this time.

BLOCK: And so Dave Barry on guitar. Roy Blount, what do you play?

Mr. BLOUNT: I'm (unintelligible) less musical than anybody else in the band. I introduce the band. Sometimes I play and I - (unintelligible) what I did my tie, but we forgot to bring a tie this year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: And then I saw...

BLOCK: Cant bring him anything?

Mr. BLOUNT: I come on the wild thing, you know? You move me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: Thats my solo.

Mr. BARRY: It is, but what - we had a...

Mr. BLOUNT: Now hes going to tell you I dont do it right. But...

Mr. BARRY: No, he doesnt. We had you know, all he has to do is go, you move me, but you do have to sort of do that in rhythm of the song.

BLOCK: Oh, that helps?

Mr. BARRY: And Roy was still nervous at the beginning. Remember, this is a big moment on stage.

Mr. BLOUNT: (Unintelligible), I would think.

Mr. BARRY: And Roy was usually he would just say (unintelligible) you move me, you move me. So as soon as there was an opening, he goes you move me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: We go, Roy, (unintelligible) so then you could see Roy kind of weighing and we wait like five minutes and finally he realized he was his time had passed, he goes - and so we one night, we finally it was always too early or too late, and so one night, we had we put together a pool, and the people were betting whether Roy will be over or under that.

Mr. BLOUNT: Right.

Mr. BARRY: Early or late on, you move me. And literally like $150 on Roy here.

BLOCK: Oh, okay.

Mr. BARRY: And that was the first night Roy ever did it exactly right.

Mr. BLOUNT: Really. Really.

Mr. BARRY: And the whole band the audience didnt quite know why, but the whole band stopped playing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: And Roy was looking around, what?

Mr. BLOUNT: Sometimes, I do it the wrong song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Just keep them guessing.

Mr. BARRY: Sometimes, he says it to the TSA personnel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: You say it every now and then, and you barely get it right.

Mr. BARRY: But it was all the migrant fortune, because, you know, eventually they said well, somebody can maybe comment on you move me at the right moment, and thats how I got into the band.

BLOCK: Scott Turow, now, you have gone from, you know, a celebrated literary career, I presumed, (unintelligible) and everything else. Youre an illustrious lawyer in Chicago. Now, youre prancing around on stage in a clown wig, I think.

Mr. TUROW: Absolutely.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. TUROW: But one of many wigs. Yeah.

BLOCK: Okay. Thats just one wig.

Mr. TUROW: What I bring to the band is shamelessness.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You think youre the only one?

Mr. TUROW: Well, I take them to new levels of shame.

BLOCK: And whats your specialty do you think?

Mr. TUROW: I sing supposedly. So I ruin a number of songs, but by then they bring me on late and by then the audience sort has gotten the point that this may not be perfection up there.

Mr. BARRY: We think Scott is kind of the pit bull of music. We can just aim in any direction we want and they seek them. And you know what? And you go (unintelligible).

Mr. TUROW: Oh, thats right. I'll tear apart any song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TUROW: There is no danger, here. There's no bottom threshold on musical ability. Theyre all Beethoven compared to me, so.

BLOCK: How do you feel about that, Scott?

Mr. TUROW: I feel completely fine about it. Im - you know, I love these people, and, you know, we all have a lot of fun.

BLOCK: But you do have Roger McGuinn...

Mr. TUROW: Yes.

BLOCK: ...of the Byrds sitting in with you on this tour. You guys are really pluming it now if you let him in.

Mr. TUROW: Can I tell you a true Roger McGuinn anecdote?

BLOCK: Please.

Mr. TUROW: The other night, we were Amy Tan brought a karaoke machine on this. Shes the gadget person. And its a little (unintelligible) karaoke, you can hook it up to a TV, and we hooked it up to the TV in the hotel. And were all passing around the microphone and doing songs. We gave Roger the microphone and sing Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds. Now, it happens that Roger sang Turn, Turn, Turn in the original Byrds recording, so you would think he'd be good at it. And it rates you, you know, from zero to a hundred, and he only got a 96 on his own song.

Mr. BLOUNT: Ninety-four.

Mr. TUROW: Was it 94? But we told him that, you know, he'd better get that up or hes never going to realize his dream of being a professional singer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Im sure he was scared about that. The name of the group, The Rock Bottom Remainders, is, of course, a reference to, you know, the graveyard of books. Books that have no life...

Mr. BLOUNT: Right.

BLOCK: ...which probably none of you...

Mr. TUROW: Oh, (unintelligible).

BLOCK: ...have ever been actually remainders.

Mr. BLOUNT: Oh, I would not say.

Mr. TUROW: Oh. I would say everybody in the band, including Stephen King, has had (unintelligible).

BLOCK: You think?

Mr. TUROW: Yeah, it happened.

Mr. BARRY: Well, you find him, just - go to one of the major bookstore chains and those books that are sitting out on the table which are now being offered for 2.99 are remainders, you know?

Mr. BLOUNT: Yeah, and its really exciting to see your book on the table.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: I was signing books in Nashville, Tennessee, a while back, and a guy came up through the line. And he had this old-ruddy looking copy of my 1974 book, and he said I got this for 10 cents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: I was like, oh, great. I am happy for you. And so I signed it and everything. And he said, you know, you notice it doesn't have a cover.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: Would you have actually a cover back home that you can send to me? I will give you my address here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Well, it had to be the name of the band, dont you think?

Mr. BLOUNT: Yeah.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. TUROW: Roy came up with that name, I believe.

Mr. BLOUNT: The Remainders? I dont think so.

Mr. TUROW: Yeah. Roy also came up with the definition of our - our description of our genre.

BLOCK: Uh-huh. Which is?

Mr. TUROW: Hard listening music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You have had do you have a signature song, Dave?

Mr. BARRY: You mean me, personally?

BLOCK: No, the band?

Mr. BARRY: I wrote a song that we do called Proofreading Woman. I think its probably the only love song ever written to a proofreading woman and talked about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Scott Turow?

Mr. TUROW: Well, you know, I have a vast repertoire...

BLOCK: Im sure.

Mr. TUROW: ...but this tour we're adding I Fought the Law and the Law Won.

BLOCK: Perfect song for you to sing.

Mr. TUROW: Absolutely.

BLOCK: You must bring a little extra something to it.

Mr. TUROW: Like Dave said to me, trust me, this will be funny. And when Dave Barry tells you, trust me, this will be funny, you know, you better trust him.

BLOCK: Roy, do you have a favorite Rock Bottom Remainders song in the repertoire?

Mr. BLOUNT: You move me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLOUNT: Did I come in right? I wasnt listening. Well, you know, I guess since thats my solo song thats my favorite.

(Soundbite of song, "Wild Thing")


BLOCK: Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr. and Scott Turow, thanks so much.

Mr. BARRY: Melissa, thanks.

Mr. BLOUNT: Thank you, Melissa.

Mr. TUROW: Thank you.

BLOCK: The three members of the writers turned rock band entourage The Rock Bottom Remainders. They play here in Washington tonight then head to Philadelphia, New York and Boston raising money for Haitian earthquake relief and other causes.

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