Uncle Kracker Recalls First Encounters With Nashville Pals
Uncle Kracker garnered a crop of new fans when he sang the No.1 duet, 'When the Sun Goes Down,' with Kenny Chesney in 2004. Still making music in his hometown of Detroit, the singer/rapper/DJ says he will always remain part of the country scene.
"I love Nashville," he tells CMT. "I do. It's not home, like Detroit is obviously home for me, but stuff I like to do, I can't do around my home. This place is one big music anything. You can go into any bar and see live music any night of the week. That is awesome and not something I can get at home. It would be sweet to live down here and be able to do that."
The song that put him on the country-music map almost didn't happen, Kracker admits. Meeting for the first time at Kenny's first stadium show in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., Uncle Kracker says Kenny quickly invited him to sing 'Drift Away' during the concert.
"Of course, I [said], 'Yeah!' After I met him, he said, 'Man, I've got this song I want you to get on.' But he didn't play it for me, so a couple of months went by. When he was playing in Detroit, I went and asked him, 'Whatever happened to that song you wanted me to get on?' He's like, 'Ah, man, I forgot to play it for you!' So I busted his chops about it. Probably to the point where he was like, 'Alright, I'll let you on this song!'"
Close pals with another Detroit superstar -- and frequent Nashville visitor -- Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker says he has nothing but praise for his close friend. "I think what sets him aside the most is that he's like a jack of all trades, master of none. He can do just about anything there is to do with music. He's a great songwriter, and I think what sets him aside the most is that he's an excellent performer. He's an entertainer. You just don't see many people like him. His determination and his commitment and his passion set him aside from really anybody."
Uncle Kracker may be from a city known more for rap and soul than country, but he says he has always been a fan of country music. Listening to artists like George Jones and Patsy Cline while growing up, it was an encounter with legend Hank Williams Jr., of whom he became a fan when he was only 16 years old, that stands out.
"It was like meeting Elvis," he recalls. "He's gotta be the closest living Elvis-type figure. It scared me, but he was everything I thought he would be. He was having a Fourth of July party, and we were on tour with Metallica at the time. We were in Baltimore or something. Hank sent the private jet to fly us from Baltimore to Tennessee, where his house was."
Drinking heavily that night after meeting his hero, he was extremely hungover and disoriented when he woke up in his hotel the next morning, so he called Hank Jr'.s manager, the late Merle Kilgore. "Merle [said], 'Cousin Kracker, hold on a second. Hank's gonna come pick you up out front,'" he remembers. "I'm thinking to myself, 'How is he awake right now?' Hank comes and picks me up in a Navigator, and we rode from this little hotel back to his lake house. And he cooked me crappie ... It might have been the best-tasting fish I've ever eaten in my entire life. I don't know if it's because crappie tastes good or if it's because Hank Jr. cooked it. But I'm going to go with because Hank Jr. cooked it. It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had."
Uncle Kracker's single, 'Smile,' from his latest CD 'Happy Hour,' made it into the top 40 on the country charts. He's currently spending time on the road promoting his new music.