My Hometown: JD Wilkes and The Dirt Daubers

JD Wilkes and The Dirt Daubers

At NUVO, we write, talk and think about Indianapolis every day. It's our home, after all. What about the hometowns of musicians that tour through Indianapolis? When did they fall in love with their own local scene? We'll ask the same questions of each musician that participates in this feature. This time, we're featuring JD Wilkes and The Dirt Daubers, the bluesy, boozy Kentucky band led by harmonica player, Legendary Shack Shakers member and Kentucky Colonel Wilkes.

NUVO: Where did you grow up? 

JD Wilkes: Most of my life was spent in western Kentucky around Paducah. I was born in Texas, though. My dad's line of work took us to Louisiana too. I went to school in Mississippi for a while in the '80s.

NUVO: What was the music scene there like? 

Wilkes: My musical formative years were in Louisiana. I still remember the juke joint across from my school on Highway 61. I saw delta bluesman and former sharecropper Scott Dunbar play at the yearly Pilgrimage in St. Francisville. When I was about 13, I saw a rockin' zydeco band in Catfish Town and couldn't stop dancing. I knew there was something in this bluesy kind of music that was calling to me.

NUVO: What's the first local band that you fell in love with?

Wilkes: Once I was settled back in Kentucky, it was more or less my high school and college years, that time of your life when you get into your local scene. The Paducah bands I ended up gravitating towards were in the local punk scene. I was drawn more to their stage presence and humor than the music itself. Those bands would be the Playful 8 and any group that local genius Wheeler Underwood was in at the time. Later, I would discover bluesman Snooky Pryor and rockabilly legend Stanley Walker, both from my area.

NUVO: What's the all-ages scene like there?

Wilkes: Paducah has always had a great local scene. Groups like Teenage Rehab, Wheelhouse Rousters, Gideon's Rifle, Solid Rock'It Boosters, The Union Suit and Oh Yeah Dakota represent a wide, diverse range of music, from bluegrass to punk. I, myself, have played many a hall show at Elks Lodges and Civic Centers too, slipping my weird version of blues and rockabilly into a scene that's always been oriented more towards venting small town angst. It's a great scene and is fast becoming a real stopping point for traveling bands, thanks to local promoter/hero Landee Bryant.

NUVO: When did you move? Why?

Wilkes: I moved to Nashville to make music more of a profession for myself. I stayed ten years and it eventually worked, but "Nash Vegas" can be phony and incestuous, so I moved back to Paducah. I've been back for about eight years and I'm enjoying the small town pace more. I'm also keenly interested in helping restore the Downtown to its former glory. The Columbia Theatre, an art deco/Depression-era bijou, is currently being restored. Once complete, it will definitely put Paducah on the nationally touring musician's map. Again, thanks to Mrs. Bryant