Behind the Apology and Meaning of the Band Name: Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers have a complicated relationship with their band name.

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Perhaps that is to be expected from a southern rock band that often decries parts of the complicated history of the south. Truly, Drive-By Truckers are multi-faceted.

Let’s dive into the history of the band and the meaning and more recent history of the band’s name.

The Band

The group was formed in Athens, Georgia. Though two of the band’s principal members—Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley—are from the Shoals area of Alabama.

Hood, who is the son of bassist David Hood, who rose to popularity thanks to his work at the Muscle Shoals recording studio as part of its rhythm section, founded the Drive-By Truckers with Cooley in 1996. At the time, the two had long been friends and collaborators, playing in the band Adam’s House Cat in the 1980s. (ATO Records later released the Adam’s House Cat album, Town Burned, in 2018).

Hood and Cooley also played in the bands Virgil Kane and Horsepussy. When neither of those worked out, the duo split up and went their separate ways. Hood moved to Athens and began what would become Drive-By Truckers with, he said, “the intent” of getting Cooley back in the group.

The Name, The Apology

At the height of the pandemic and the summer protests, NPR published a story written by Hood on June 17, 2020. In it, he apologized for the band’s name, something he called a “drunken joke” that he thought of when he was broke and working two jobs. He said it “never intended to be in rotation and reckoned with two-and-a-half decades later.”

In the piece, Hood wrote, “What kind of a*****e would name his band Drive-By Truckers? A valid question, if you ask me. I’m the person responsible for it.”

Of his band’s name, he wrote, “I was 31, broke, and working two jobs. I had been living in Athens, Georgia for a little over a year at that point, and was immersed in its wonderful local music scene, which had first drawn me from my home state of Alabama to the otherwise sleepy college town.

“Drive-By Truckers was officially formed on Monday, June 10, 1996. I lured the musicians I was wanting to play with into the studio for a day of recording. I had just enough money saved up for studio time, a couple of cases of cheap beer, and some pizza. We recorded five songs that day, two of which we released the following spring.

“The band name was intended as a tribute to two forms of music that I loved and revered. 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. From the start, the band was fun and rowdy, and loud as hell. Our name had an irreverence that befits our style and sense of humor. It was such an absurd band name that I didn’t have to worry about a blues performer in Seattle having the same (Referencing country group, Lady A’s name change). I had the privilege of being blissfully unaware.”

Final Thoughts

Hood came up with the band name, which is catchy on the face of it, when he was rebellious, listening to, at times, aggressive music, and when he didn’t think he’d ever be a success. In the end, the name highlights violence and, in a way, caricatures a severe problem: gang shootings and drive-by shootings. Micro-aggressions are real in their own ways. But it’s also not the worst name in the world. It’s easy to think of way worse.

“I’ve never really given much of a s*** about the band name,” wrote Hood, via NPR. “We have spent most of the last two-and-a-half decades on the road, playing over 2,500 shows on three continents. We recently released our twelfth studio record. We’ve had numerous personnel changes (although none in the last eight years) and our sound and songs have morphed and changed as we’ve all grown older, and hopefully, wiser.”

Photo Credit: Brantley Guitierrez / Big Hassle Media

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