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About Summer Wages

An entire set list could be constructed around songs that might be appropriate for a band named Summer Wages to perform: "Summertime Blues," "Get a Job," "Take This Job and Shove It," and so on. Of course the Summer Wages, a bluegrass outfit that recorded three albums for the Rebel label in the '80s, was named after a song in the first place. That ditty was "Summer Wages," by the Canadian cowboy songwriter Ian Tyson, and in the competition of who's more famous, the song or the band named after it, the song would be the obvious choice in this case.

Other examples of the song vs. band-named-after-song phenomenon include the mildly obscure such as "Talk Talk" and Talk Talk, as well as the world famous, "Rollin' Stone" and the Rolling Stones.

There are also a few examples of the reverse, songs named after bands, such as Margo Guryan's "Spanky and Our Gang" and Neil Young's "Buffalo Springfield." The Tyson "Summer Wages" is one of several particularly moving and true-to-life lyrics this fine artist came up with, leading to extensive cover versions by artists such as Nanci Griffith and Bobby Bare, the latter performer sometimes credited with the best version of all. Hotshot banjoist J.D. Crowe cut the progressive bluegrass arrangement of the tune that put it on the road map for this genre. Normally, once a tune that is out of the bluegrass style gets covered by a bluegrass band, than it is usually up for grabs for any and all pickers to grapple with, the exception being "Every Breath You Take" by Sting.

The Summer Wages band showed up with a self-titled debut album on Rebel in 1983 and there were two more releases after that.

The band's final album in 1987 was unfortunately titled Can't Stop Now, but the band did. The band was formed by some fairly young pickers from North Carolina and Georgia, although it is sometimes incorrectly reported that Summer Wages was founded by mandolinist Jim Mills, later a member of the Ricky Skaggs Band and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Actually, Mills joined the pre-existing band when he was straight out of high school and continued collecting the Summer Wages for about two-and-a-half years. Another bandmember was Steve "Big Man" Dilling, a banjoist and guitarist who was born on an Air Force base in Puerto Rico. Dilling also played in bands such as Stoney Run String Band, the Bass Mountain Boys, and the Lonesome River Band.

Rebel has let the group's material go out of print, except for the tracks reissued as part of the Rebel Records: 35 Years of the Best of Bluegrass box set. ~ Eugene Chadbourne