The term “renaissance man” is one that isn’t utilized a whole lot these days. In the case of Colonel J.D. Wilkes, the term fits like a glove. A bonafide Kentucky Colonel, Wilkes has been the enigmatic frontman for the Legendary Shack Shakers, a high-energy amalgam of blues, gypsy, twang, and just about anything else that they can fit in, for going on twenty years now. More recently, he partnered up with his wife Jessica in the Dirt Daubers, a more back-to-basics blues and rockabilly unit.
These two bands that Wilkes is most well-known for only scratch the surface of the man himself. Artist. Author. Musician. Filmmaker. He is doing it all in the name of preserving artistic elements of the South and keeping musical traditions alive and well. This is a man who is deeply proud of where he is from, and rather than yell “Yeehaw!” and rant about the War of Northern Aggression, he demonstrates the rich beauty and time-honored heritage of the unsung musicians who helped shape country and bluegrass music of today. Wilkes was a pleasure to speak with, and he could barely contain his passion for the music that is in his heart and soul.
How did the Shack Shakers decide to start back up again?
Well, our drummer had some heart issues that he got squared away. He got a pacemaker put in. I think it just came down to, the material was there, the desire was there, the health was there…the financial need was there. It was just a lot of things coming together at the same time, all those elements coming together. There’s also been offers for festivals and things. Europe’s come’a callin’. The demand is there. Timing, supply and demand, that’s what it’s all about. It’s a band, it’s a brand, it’s a product, and sometimes you have to go away before people can appreciate you.
Oh, yeah. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and all of that.
That is exactly right.