Let me tell you about Red Hot Riplets. They are potato chips that are made of condensed potato particles instead of slices of spud. Chips that have an alarming amount of chemicals on the back panel. They are hot: throat-burning, eye-watering hot. And they are without a doubt the best potato chips made in St. Louis. They're probably the reason St. Louis leads the nation in Kool-Aid consumption (a fact I learned from a candy wrapper). They will burn you up.
Don't believe me? Ask Murphy Lee, who heralded the fiery chips on his gold album Murphy's Law. "I need some Kool-Aid/ with my Red Hot Riplets," Lee raps on the chip-named song.
"It's our favorite chip," Lee confirmed when we sat down last week. He agrees it's an odd thing to immortalize. "We're silly, man. We're just sitting on the tour bus thinking of crazy stuff. [The song 'Red Hot Riplets'] goes along with songs like 'Air Force Ones.'"
I talked with Murph right as his third single was dropping. Unfortunately, his third single (following "Shake Ya Tailfeather" and the recently overplayed "What da Hook Gon Be") is not "Red Hot Riplets." It's the jumpy, catchy "Luv Me Baby," which ought to move a lot of dance floors and maybe even enough units to make Murphy's Law go platinum. Which is good for Murph but won't sell as many potato chips (I mean it, they're really good.)
Okay, enough about the chips. Murphy Lee was looking tired when we met up, and it wasn't entirely because of the midget hanging from his necklace. Moving to the spotlight can add a lot of stress. "I was used to being in the background," Murph says, "just chilling, not having to answer a lot of questions. Now I'm up front."
He doesn't seem really comfortable in a star's clothing yet, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Lots of people, mostly publicists, will tell you one musician or another is down to earth and friendly (actually, I guess all publicists will tell you that about their clients. I've never had an agent admit a lead singer was a self-absorbed asshole, no matter what the truth is). But Murphy Lee truly seems to be a nice guy who knows just how lucky he is. When he was running late for the interview (a musician showing up on time is one of the signs of the Apocalypse), he called to apologize. Hell, it's not like he was driving the tour bus (I don't think he was driving). He seems awed that he's sold so many records: "Five hundred thousand is a lot of people." When asked if there was anything he wanted to say, it was, "Tell everybody 'hi.'"
Murph is back out on the road after last Saturday's show at the Pageant, which turned from the very exciting double bill of Chingy and Murph to an all-Derrty showcase after the Ching-a-Ling pulled out (get your mind out of the gutter). Once you're on the fame train, it doesn't stop. What kind of lessons does it teach?
"Get enough sleep," Murph says sleepily.
Some people look to a groundhog to tell if winter is over. Others just put on shorts sometime in March no matter what is going on outside. Me, I look at the upcoming concert schedule. And folks, I am glad to report that once again the glorious cycle of life is being renewed, and death is releasing its icy grip on the world. Yes, the flowers are in bloom, and birds are building their nests. Just look at this week. Aside from everything up there in the table of contents, there are a couple of chances to get your whiskey-fed country groove going with Bobby Bare Jr. (Thursday, January 29, at Off Broadway) and the Drive-By Truckers (Wednesday, February 4, in the Duck Room). Both acts are country-fried and whiskey-bound, which probably explains why they're both so beloved by RFT writers (we've written about both in the past few months). But if you didn't listen to Mike Seely and Matthew Everett, respectively, before, then listen to me now: This is a one-two punch of a set of shows, with just enough time to recover from your Bobby Bare bender to ruin your liver again with the Truckers. You never liked your liver much anyway, right? I mean, besides the filtration of your blood, what did it ever do for you?