How Y’all doing? These two traveling hillbilly troubadours hope for a TV variety show—because they’ve already recorded the soundtrack – music – country duo Y’all’s new CD – Brief Article

Margaret Coble

“The easiest way to describe it is a cross between Hee Haw and Sonny and Cher,” notes a chuckling James Dean Jay Byrd (that’s his real name), one half of the Nashville-based, have-trailer-will-travel country duo Y’all, about their new CD, titled The Hey Y’all Soundtrack.

Complete with a theme song, a trio of humorous jingles (“The County County Family Family Honey Farm Jingle,” “The Poetry Pocket Jingle,” and “The Country Cooking With Cousin Lizzy Jingle”), two classic country covers (Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” and Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind”), and a fistful of witty originals (“We’re Still Poor & We’re Still Happy” and “My Man, Our Horses, and Me” are standouts), the CD is a concept album that’s as tongue-in-cheek as it is sincere.

“It’s the soundtrack to our TV show, which we don’t actually have yet,” explains Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Byrd’s partner in life, love, and music for nearly 10 years, about their currently fictional variety show, which serves as the format for their live musical performances. “We’ve pitched the idea around a little bit. Comedy Central we got the furthest with–we had two meetings with them. People like our ideas, but they aren’t quite sure what to make of us.”

Indeed, you have to admit, the concept of two gay guys–one in overalls and a suit coat, and the other in a dress–hosting a TV variety show and playing old-time hillbilly country tunes is a little out there. But the determined couple firmly believe it is their fate and have pounded the pavements of Los Angeles in search of an interested producer. “It is kind of a stretch for TV these days to do a variety show with full songs, as opposed to 30-second bits,” Jay explains matter-of-factly, as if that’s the hardest part of their act to sell. “But we do believe that kind of thing is coming around again.”

The story of how Jay and Steven met and formed Y’all is a fascinating tale, one so colorful and involved that it took nearly 300 pages in their 2000 self-published autobiography, The Good Book, to tell it properly. It begins with Jay’s broom-closet birth in the Okey-Dokey, Tex., VFW hall and Steven’s farmhouse birth in Kornflake, Ind., and it involves a lucky green dress, a thunderstorm, a highway overpass, and … well, truth or fiction, it sure is a compelling read. “It tells our whole story, from birth up through our first performance in New York,” Jay summarizes.

Though the pair found some success in their six years in the Big Apple, they ultimately felt misunderstood, and they headed to Nashville in 1998. “Because of the lack of camp in our act, people just didn’t know how to take us in New York,” Jay says. “But in Nashville we immediately found our niche.”

“With the Grand Ole Opry, there’s the whole tradition of country music in combination with vaudeville-like performance,” Steven says. “So it seemed like everybody just got us there. We never felt so welcomed.”

Once settled in Nashville, Steven and Jay purchased a trailer to go on tour, which is what they did for much of 2001. But doesn’t living in such cramped quarters put a strain on their personal as well as professional life? “Our relationship and our performing career started virtually at the same time,” Steven says. “We’ve lived in really tight spaces the whole time we’ve lived together. We get on each other’s nerves once in a while, but for the most part we’re pretty compatible.”

“Yeah, we’re afraid to not work together,” Jay laughs. “There’s something really weird going on here, something we don’t even understand. Who knows what we’d be doing [if we weren’t doing this]? Probably selling trailer homes and wearing dresses in Okey-Dokey, Tex.!”

Coble edits Dance Music Authority magazine.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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