The Unknown Hinson
w/ The Defilers
Fri. June 23
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
He's "every womern's dream and every husband's nightmare." He did 30 years in prison (on trumped-up charges, mind you). He's Unknown Hinson. And, oh yeah, he's the king of country and western troubadours, in case you didn't catch it the first time.
Such outlandish claims and never-ending exaggeration are the lifeblood of the lanky, snaggle-fanged singer from Charlotte, N.C. Exact black-and-white biographical details for the man known as Unknown Hinson are sketchy at best, but a few things are certain. The ominous vampire honky-tonker with the crooked sideburns is the alter-ego of one Danny Baker, who introduced the character on the Charlotte area cable show Wild, Wild South. Soon, he had a program of his own — The Unknown Hinson Show, natch — and a new outlet for all the solid gold chart toppers he'd been hiding away for some time.
A few years, a major label one-off, and many, many bottles of "party liquor" later, Unknown Hinson is experiencing a creative upswing of sorts. Most recently, his glorious, consonant-dropping accent was tapped for the new Cartoon Network Adult Swim half-half hour program Squidbillies. Hinson portrays Early Kyler, the patriarch of a family of wasted, crazy and most likely inbred squids residing, for reasons unknown, in the mountains of North Georgia.
City Paper caught up with The Unknown One via telephone recently and found him to be a more reserved and thoughtful presence than one might first expect. Hinson even apologized for being "dog damn tarred" on this occasion, having already fulfilled several road engagements the previous week.
"I had done an EP for Capitol Records [Rock n' Roll Is Straight From Hell] in about 2002," he says. "Somehow or another, the people from the Cartoon Network got a hold of it and contacted me. I went down and read and they gave me the part. They're some great, creative people, and it's been a lot of fun so far. They let me run with the lines and say it how I'd say it with some of that improvised ad-lib and whatnot. I guess you'd say they give me a lot of rope.
"The character of Early Kyler does shoot a gun and he does drink a lot," he adds. "He does use colorful language from time to time, which ain't really the thing to do in a cartoon. Most people thank of cartoons as entertainment for young 'uns, but these Adult Swim cartoons are obviously for the more maturely minded people."
Hinson also has a new album out called Target Practice, on which he extols the virtues of the English tongue ("Talk American") and pre-wedding DNA tests ("Live In Sin").
At least one myth was dispelled during the interview process. For those wondering if Hinson's stage voice is the snide work of a blue collar-obsessed Method actor, well, apparently, "hit ain't." Some of the songs on the new album rock a little harder than most of your fans might be accustomed to, but it's still in line with his twangy repertoire.
"It's still country and western," he says. "Now, when I say 'country and western,' I don't mean country like you hear on the radio. Pretty boys on steroids wearin' cowboy hats; that ain't country. Barbie dolls with big boobs dancin' around like ol' Madonna with all that mess; that ain't country. All the pyrotechnics up on stage, that ain't country. Country and western music is the only genre that remains what it is and that's music from the heart. From the heart and the mind. It combines the two. It's a lonesome cowboy type of thing for me, even though I don't ride no horse. I don't wear no cowboy hat, that's for sure. Can't have it coverin' up my hair. I gotta let the womerns in the crowd see mah hair!"