Sailor Jerry 100th Birthday Bash – with The Snowdroppers!
Recently the Lo-Fi Bar in Sydney played host to a celebration in honour of the 100 year legacy of the great man, Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins. The event paid tribute to the life and times of the legendary tattooist who has become famous for revolutionizing American tattoo culture. What better way to celebrate the legend than with flowing Sailor Jerry spiced rum and the bluesy roots stylings of Lanie Lane, Pat Capocci and The Snowdroppers. BLUNT sat down with Johnny Wishbone of The Snowdroppers to find out a bit more about the event and ask what it was like to get inked at the gig.
So The Snowdroppers recently played the Sailor Jerry 100th birthday bash… Can you give the BLUNT readers some background info on Sailor Jerry?
The night was mainly to celebrate 100 years of Sailor Jerry’s very remarkable influence on the realm of tattooing, though it was also about the launch of Sailor Jerry rum and getting as much free booze as I possibly could…
Were you guys chosen for this gig? Or did you put your hand up for it…
I actually don’t know how it all panned out,. They generally just point me towards the stage and I kind of walk towards it. But in all honesty, we had met the organizer that looks after Sailor Jerry rum here and he mentioned that he wanted to put on a bit of a night, a bit of a shindig, and we were more than down to do it.
The rum was flowing and there was tattooing happening on-site… Did anything crazy end up happening?
Not that I saw, although I was told that the police rocked up and we got turned down… I don’t think we were shut off, but we did get turned down. I didn’t actually see any of them, but I was told they came. It was really just a bunch of hipsters getting pissed for free. Oh, and I got a free tattoo out of it.
Yeah I heard that part of the deal was that the bands got to choose some Sailor Jerry flash to get tattooed… What did you end up going with?
I got an eager beaver. Not much reason behind it, which can be said for a lot of my tattoos really, I just thought it’d be cool.
I’ve seen pictures of you… you seem to have a lot of tattoos.
People seem to think so, but I don’t think I have as many as other people to be honest. But yeah, there’s always more to get and when someone’s offering to tattoo an eager beaver on you, why not. It was an actual piece of Sailor Jerry flash, so that was pretty cool. A lot of my stuff is kind of based on Sailor Jerry, either actual Sailor Jerry flash or influenced by it in some way. To quote the man [Norman Collins], his work really speaks for itself.
The last we heard from The Snowdroppers was your tour diary from the States just before you headed to New Caledonia. How did that go?
New Caledonia was cool, It was just like a working holiday almost. They just sort of paid for us to stay there and play there really. We were put up in a hotel next to the ocean and it was great.
It’s the French-speaking tropical island, right?
Yes, it’s French-Polynesian. The one drawback of New Caledonia is that it is full of French people, but you know, you can’t have everything I suppose [laughs].
Now that you’re done globetrotting for a while, what’s next on the cards for you guys?
We kind of came back and we’re just on a bit of a well-deserved break at the moment while we write our second album, so we’re just kind of seeing how that’s gonna turn out.
How long would you guys normally spend working on an album?
Well see, we never thought that we would make it this far as a band, so we don’t know to be honest. We just kind of take it as it comes and we’ll wait and see what happens. It’s all a bit up in the air at the moment. We’re so used to just touring, touring, touring, and now all of a sudden we’re not, so it’s a nervous time but an exciting time nonetheless.
Out of curiosity, how come you go by the alias Johnny Wishbone instead of your real name, Jeremy Davidson…
That was a joke that everyone just kind of took seriously and now everyone calls me Johnny and I don’t really understand why. When we first started the band, we were very influenced by a lot of early blues artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie McTell – there were all these blind people – and Muddy Waters as well. They had all these cool nicknames, so we thought, “We’ve gotta have nicknames”, so I was watching Beverly Hills Cop II and in it he pretends to be this guy Johnny Wishbone from the Isle of St. Croix and I thought, “That’s a pretty fucking cool sounding nickname” and I just kind of did it to take the piss a bit and it just kind of stuck. I didn’t really expect anyone to use it or for it to catch on. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with the second album… I was talking to my manager and I was like “I really wanna use my real name, can I use my real name next time?” and he was like, “No, no, no, you can’t, shut up” [laughs]. It was just a bit of a joke that stuck, but I don’t mind, it’s pretty cool.
Just finally, you’re rooming with our art director… Got anything juicy to spill that he wouldn’t want us to know about?
He’s a very secretive kind of guy, but he does have a massive wang.
I’m not going to ask how you know that…
I’ve known Glen for a long time, I’ve known him for 15 years, so, you know. Oh and a penchant for midgets, midget clowns. He’s got a big wang and he likes midget clowns. He likes to smear them with peanut butter and curry sauce and then pay local cats to lick it off the midgets, and then he beats the cats off with his big wang.
Check out the Sailor Jerry website for more info on the rum and tattoo flash of Norman Collins.