The Ballad of the Laid Back Country Picker and “Go West”
Welcome to the world of the country music underground and general audio oddities, eastern Kentucky edition. Making your way to Louisa, Kentucky and Lawrence County on the West Virginia border, you enter the habitat of the one and only Laid Back Country Picker. Those who’ve spent ample time sniffing around the Tyler Childers universe beyond listening to “Whitehouse Road” on repeat may already be familiar with this character to some extent, if they haven’t dove head first into the Laid Back Country Picker experience, which is definitely a deep dive.
For those who are perfectly unfamiliar with this man though, the release of his latest album Go West might be a good on ramp. With his pronounced mutton chops, cowboy hat, embroidered pearl snaps, origin story in rural Kentucky, and wife Honey’s muumuu and curlers, you may be quick to assume this some sort backwoods version of throwback hillbilly music. But that’s not exactly what’s going on here. In fact in some respects, the music is secondary to the story, or at least equally as important and intriguing.
One quick way to describe the Laid Back Country Picker and the new album Go West is to say it’s like a cross between Unknown Hinson and the Flat Duo Jets. Similar to Unknown Hinson, the Laid Back Country Picker can shred on guitar, and has never released his music to streaming or download services, until Go West that is, which makes its way onto the dirty internet via Tyler Childers’ Hickman Holler record label. Previously, the only way to procure the Picker’s music was through a personal PayPal transaction, or out of the back of his trunk.
So how did some old mutton-chopped Kentucky guy end up on Tyler’s record label? It all started when Tyler Childers walked into his 9th Grade government class at Lawrence County High School, and was introduced to his teacher Mr. David Prince, who happens to be the civilian version of the Laid Back Country Picker. Legendary in eastern Kentucky as a 20-year social studies teacher, in 2010 Mr. Prince was the Kentucky Council’s Social Studies Teacher of the Year.
Oh, and to add yet another nickname into the mix if you already aren’t confused enough, many of David Price’s students, friends, family, and fellow faculty members don’t call him Mr. Prince or Laid Back Country Picker. They call him “Chico,” probably due to ’70s actor Freddy Prinz who starred in the sitcom Chico and The Man. Chico is one of those teachers every student (and their parents) wants to have, because he’s cool, and actually cares about teaching kids.
Understanding the long history now with Tyler Childers going all the way back to the 9th Grade, it may make a little more sense why you saw the Laid Back Country Picker and Honey in a recent unboxing video for Tyler’s recent album Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven, or opening for him at select shows, or how Tyler was cast as slick record executive Shadrack Boggs in Act 1 and Act 2 of the straight-to-Youtube movie Laid Back Makes a Deal from 2019.
But the story goes even deeper than that. David Prince grew up just outside of Louisa, Kentucky, learning to play banjo and other acoustic instruments at an early age. Country music was likely the way his life was heading when a neighbor friend who’d moved from Ohio introduced young David Prince to AC/DC and rock n’ roll, and his musical world made an abrupt 180-degree turn.
The rock n’ roll career of David Prince got pretty serious at one point while he was a member of the group Night Train. They got big enough to make some noise across the United States and toured in Europe. Night Train eventually dissolved though, yet Prince still kept on going in various projects. It was during a semi drunk night on the 4th of July in Texas while on tour when his wife snapped what at the time seemed to be a pretty innocuous photo of Prince in a cowboy hat.
The inside joke became that the photo personified the “Laid Back Country Picker,” lifted from a Waylon Jennings track cut during the Lonesome, Onry, and Mean sessions in the early ’70s, but only released on the deluxe edition of the album in 2003. David Prince put the image on a T-shirt and wore it to a Tyler Childers show. It was such a hit, he made 20 more. All of a sudden the legend of the Laid Back Country Picker was born, and yes, it began as an inside joke on a T-shirt that predated the music.
The sound of the Laid Back Country Picker grew out of what David Prince envisioned the guy on the T-shirt would play, which was a mix of Prince’s country roots and his rock n’ roll disposition. Though the genre wasn’t specific, the era of the 1970s was. His wife “Honey” (aka Teresa Prince of the Luna and the Mountain Jets) acquired a wardrobe of flowery house coats and out-of-date sunglasses, and she joined the band as well, first playing bass and acoustic guitar when it was a 4-piece, but today playing drums in what has been slimmed down to a 2-piece power duo.
Early Laid Back Country Picker music was much more country in its sound. The new album Go West is probably best described as a guitar-and-drum project (though bass is in there too), with David Prince showing off his strong rock guitar skills with fills and grooves acquired from decades of playing, with some twang and country slide blues sounds stealing in and out upon occasion. The lyrics often feel a bit like placeholders or pedestrian, though a little wit is shown in the title track and in other spurts.
But the music isn’t the only reason you’re paying attention to the Laid Back Country Picker. It’s not that it’s superfulous either, but it’s not the reason he’s become iconic in certain circles. It’s everything else that comes with it. It’s the Vaudeville of it all, and the reminder to not take everything so damn serious. He’s the social studies teacher that shreds, and also can play pedal steel guitar.
Over time, the Laid Back Country Picker has become iconic in Kentucky, with documentaries made about him, The Bitter Southerner profiling him, and the character becoming the de facto mascot of the Tyler Childers universe. The Laid Back Country Picker is a piece living Kentucky folklore and roadside Americana.
In the current era we’re living through in country music, the Kentucky roots music insurgency is very much driving the story. The Laid Back Country Picker is an unusual, but in many respects, essential part of that story.
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Purchase Go West form the Laid Back Country Picker
February 27, 2023 @ 11:04 am
I love these two! They show up everywhere. Most recently, they were the MC’s (at least day 2 we attended) of Healing Appalachia entertaining between evening sets. I’ve (accidentally) seen them at least a dozen times over the past 5 years opening up concerts or performing at various events. At least around these parts, familiarity breeds fondness and they have themselves a nice little following (and a great story).
“Go West” is a wild trip that I’m reserving judgement until that summer day/ evening I can listen to it while on shrooms in a field on Mt Davis (maybe just some Wille Reserve).
February 28, 2023 @ 6:56 am
I saw them at Healing Appalachia too! They were amazing live. I need to pick up the new record on vinyl…
February 27, 2023 @ 11:41 am
This is flipping hilarious.
Bet they have a blast together!
Hoping they blow up in a way that has them scrambling to keep up with the demand for CD’s, etc.
February 27, 2023 @ 11:51 am
Glad to see a little coverage of them here. In addition to being an absolute blast live, they’re also some of the best folks you’re ever likely to run across and are pretty universally beloved figures on the Eastern KY music scene. You’ve heard David’s guitar on Tyler Childers records, Rob McNurlin records, and Theresa can be heard singing on Tyler’s latest album. Don’t sleep on their other band, Luna & The Mountain Jets either!
February 27, 2023 @ 1:19 pm
Never heard of these two but they look like they would be a blast to see live. I love the picture on the kick/bass drum. I’ve never seen a woman look so badass in curlers. Actually scratch that, I’ve been afraid of quite a few curler wearing ladies growing up.
February 27, 2023 @ 2:15 pm
Gimmicky schtick along the lines of Southern Culture on The Skids. It’s OK for what it is and I’m sure these two have a ball doing it, but it’s novelty.
Southern Culture IMO has better vocals.
That said, dude can play some bluesy rock and roll guitar.
February 27, 2023 @ 4:28 pm
I commented above that I thought they would be fun to see live, but also thought it was a little gimmicky to spend money on their cd. I’ve got several records/cds with that same vibe already and didn’t think it would get much play, but after getting to the end of their first video, I have to buy a cd after his shout out to his local humane society. I went to the 3 Sheets to the Wind website to try to donate, and the link is gone. If they happen to stumble on this comment and can post a new link, I’d be happy to donate. I already volunteer and donate to a local rescue (which I’ve also fostered and adopted two dogs from, so yes I know there are other shelters to donate, just wanted to help them out if I could).
February 27, 2023 @ 5:33 pm
If you want less gimmicky, here they are as Luna and the Mountain Jets (with members of The Foodstamps or El Dorodo).
King Honky Of Crackershire, an alarmingly far-right, middle-aged, White man
February 27, 2023 @ 5:38 pm
Can’t somebody just sing a dadblamed C(c)ountry song? I’m so sick of everybody trying to put their silly, stupid spin on it. Just play C(c)ountry Music. Why is that so difficult?
February 28, 2023 @ 3:26 am
playing country music ain’t so easy.
February 28, 2023 @ 6:32 am
“A truth truer than true” as Machiavelli suggests somewhere. I’ve been in bands and making records for 20+ years, and I can write stuff in a lot of different genres, but I have never, *ever*, managed to write anything approaching a minimally competent country song. It’s a lot harder than it looks. The best make it look easy. It isn’t.
February 28, 2023 @ 7:47 pm
It’s crazy how some songs can paint a vivid picture, take you on a journey, and tell a full story in 3-4 minutes. I can’t write like that either.
February 28, 2023 @ 7:54 am
It’s been a ton of fun watching LBCP become a staple of Kentucky culture and frequently playing Lexington. Honey is an absolute hoot, her stone-cold serious nature really drives the whole thing home. David Prince also used to play in Giant Rooster Sideshow, the full band of eastern KY treasure Brett Ratliff, whose bad ass country-punk version of Merle Travis’ Harlan County Boys still rattles my bones on memory alone.
March 2, 2023 @ 8:36 pm
Well, gimmicky it may be, but I think it’s cool.
Is this Country Music’s answer to the White Stripes, perhaps?
March 3, 2023 @ 5:29 pm
Seen them at healing Appalachia! Hope to see them again this coming summer. Definitely a crowd pleaser!!!
March 8, 2023 @ 12:28 pm
Can we take the “Jeremy Pinnell rips” energy and devote it to getting these guys to Ameripolitan 2024 please?
March 9, 2023 @ 10:14 am
LB & Honey – positively, tRIP!!!
March 16, 2023 @ 4:27 pm
I saw the LBCP band open for none other than Senora May Childers at a little tiny bar in Wichita a few years ago. He even brought that dad-burn megaphone.