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Uncle Tupelo: The Voice of Missouri

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When I first heard that a Wilco song ("War on War") was featured in a new commercial for Illinois tourism, I was so pissed that I shotgunned a can of Stag and kicked my dog. After all, even though lead singer Jeff Tweedy is from Belleville, everybody knows that Tweedy became a man -- and, perhaps, a pain pill addict -- in the hardscrabble bars of St. Louis. So, really, he should be doing spots for the Missouri Division of Tourism, no?

But then, after shotgunning another can of Stag and kicking my dog again, I relaxed. After all, there's no reason Tweedy should have to donate any of his Wilco material toward Missouri tourism. He lives in Chicago these days, and besides, he already made plenty of suitable material for our state when he was a member of Uncle Tupelo. And further, former bandmate Jay Farrar lives here. Uncle Tupelo's got a whole catalogue of Missouri-appropriate tunes just raring to be slipped into an ad.

I was so excited that I shotgunned another can of Stag, kicked my dog a third time and got the Missouri Division of Tourism on the phone.

BW: You're the liaison between the tourism division and the state's advertising agency? I have some suggestions for some Uncle Tupelo songs for your commercials.

Jeff Wohlt, domestic marketing manager: Great.

There's a song called "Whisky Bottle," and one of its lyrics is: "Persuaded, paraded, inebriated and down," and I thought that was indicative of some of Missouri's more blue-collar towns. Another song's called "Looking for a Way Out," which I thought was appropriate, because a lot of people are trying to get out of Missouri.

[Dubiously] Yeah....The only thing we have to be careful is from the state side, we have to watch any time we're talking about drunkenness, getting crazy, stuff like that. Because then people start going, "Damn, why is the tax money going to talk about drugs, sex and rock & roll?" We project a really pretty clean image. We watch the words; we don't want to offend anybody.

How about this one? It's called "Gun," and a lyric is, "Don't tell me which way I oughta run,' cause my heart, it was a gun." It's kind of a rocking tune; it kind of makes you want to jump out of your seat, or maybe jump out the window.

[Laughs] See, that's the thing. We even questioned a Sheryl Crow song one time because she mentions California. But the rest of the song is really cool. We're talking to her now; it's one of her best songs.

Maybe "Life Worth Living," which goes: "Looks like we're all looking for a life worth living. That's why we drink ourselves to sleep. Looks like we're all looking for a life worth living. That's why we pray for our souls to keep." This is good, I think, because Missourians are big on praying and drinking.

Good Catholics! Get drunk Saturday night and pray we didn't do anything stupid Sunday morning. Thanks for the suggestions.

About The Author

Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff is the author of the books Original Gangstas, Fentanyl, Inc., and Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and My Search For the Truth.
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