Pirates of the Mississippi
Pirates of the Mississippi
Promotional picture of Pirates of the Mississippi, early 1990s.
From left: Dean Townson, Bill McCorvey, Jimmy Lowe, Pat Severs, Rich Alves
|Origin||Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.|
|Years active||1987–1996, 2000–2007|
|Associated acts||Buffalo Rome|
Pirates of the Mississippi were an American country music band founded in 1987 by Bill McCorvey (lead vocals), Rich Alves (lead guitar), Jimmy Lowe (drums), Pat Severs (steel guitar), and Dean Townson (bass guitar). The group recorded for Capitol Records Nashville from 1990 to 1991, Liberty Records between 1992 and 1994, and Giant Records in 1995, by which point Greg Trostle had replaced Severs. The band also charted nine singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in the first half of the 1990s, the most successful being "Feed Jake", which went to number 15 in 1991. After disbanding in 1996, both Alves and McCorvey went on to write songs for other artists. In 2000, the two reunited under the Pirates of the Mississippi name, releasing an additional album titled Heaven and a Dixie Night before disbanding again.
Pirates of the Mississippi was formed in 1987, when Nashville session musicians Bill McCorvey (lead vocals), Rich Alves (lead guitar), Dean Townson (bass guitar), Jimmy Lowe (drums), and Pat Severs (steel guitar) started performing together. Originally, they identified themselves as the We Don't Want a Freaking Record Deal Band, but upon witnessing a group of fans wearing clogs, the group changed its name to The Cloggers.
The Cloggers began playing various clubs around Nashville. Eventually, they attracted the attention of an artists and repertoire (A&R) at Universal Records, a label then owned by record producer Jimmy Bowen. Executives at the label disliked the band's name, and suggested that they change it. The band then chose the name Pirates of the Mississippi because they thought that Lowe resembled a pirate. The band's debut album was finished by 1988, but its release was delayed until 1990 due to Universal being bought out by Capitol Records. In the meantime, Alves co-wrote the singles "Time In" by The Oak Ridge Boys and "Southern Star" by Alabama, the latter of which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in early 1990. He and McCorvey also co-wrote "Karma Road" for the group Trader-Price (who were also signed to Capitol by way of the Universal merger) on their 1990 debut album.
In June 1990, the band released its self-titled debut album via Capitol. This album produced four chart singles on the Hot Country Songs charts. First was a cover of Hank Williams's "Honky Tonk Blues", which the band took to number 26 on the country charts. Although "Rollin' Home" peaked outside the top 40, the album's third single, "Feed Jake", became the band's biggest hit at number 15. The song, about a man who reminisces about a childhood friend, a dog named Jake, while discussing societal stereotypes towards homeless people and homosexuals, was interpreted by some fans as having a pro-gay theme. "Speak of the Devil", the last single from Pirates of the Mississippi, also made the country top 40. Alves produced the album with James Stroud. In 1991, the band received the Top New Vocal Group award from the Academy of Country Music. Brian Mansfield wrote in Allmusic that the album "is a cross between Alabama country and Southern rock...There are a few twists, though, namely a Guy Clark song...and a surf-country instrumental." Pirates of the Mississippi was certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (now known as Music Canada) in 1993.
1991's Walk the Plank, their second album for Capitol, was co-produced by Alves and Jimmy Bowen. It included three singles: "Fighting for You", "'Til I'm Holding You Again", and "Too Much" the last of which was written by Clark and Lee Roy Parnell. Respectively, these peaked at 41, 22, and 36 on the country charts. Between the band's first two albums, the members performed all instruments themselves, except for the synthesizer strings on "Feed Jake" and "Fighting for You", which were performed by John Kelton, also the sound engineer on those albums. Mansfield said of this album that the "Allman Brothers cops are more exciting than their stone-country material, although that's certainly competent enough. The white-country-soul "Till I'm Holding You Again" -- which tries to rock out when you're not looking -- is probably the best of all."
After a restructuring of Capitol Nashville, the band was transferred to Liberty Records, where they would release their third and fourth albums: A Street Man Named Desire (1992) and Dream You (1993). Each album's title track was the only charting single from it: "A Street Man Named Desire" peaked at number 56 and "Dream You" at number 63, their last single to make the charts. By 1994, a compilation album entitled The Best of Pirates of the Mississippi was issued. This compilation included several tracks from their first four albums, and newly recorded remixes. In 1995, the band signed to Warner Bros. Records subsidiary Giant Records, releasing the non-charting singles "You Could Do Better" and "Sure Sign", which were to have been included on an album also titled Sure Sign. Also at this point, Pat Severs left the group and was replaced by Greg Trostle, who had previously played steel guitar on Lionel Cartwright's Chasin' the Sun.
Later in 1995, the band released Paradise, its only physical album for Giant. By this point, Trostle had left the band as well, and several session musicians performed on the album, including guitarist Dann Huff, pianist Johnny Neel, and backing vocalists John Wesley Ryles and Curtis Wright. David Malloy produced the album, collaborating with Stroud on seven of the ten tracks. Despite producing no chart singles, this album's title track would later be a Top 40 hit for John Anderson that year, from an album which was also titled Paradise and produced by Stroud. Pirates of the Mississippi disbanded in 1996, after their last concert at the county fair in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. After the band broke up, McCorvey co-wrote "Lonely and Gone", a Top 5 hit for Montgomery Gentry in 1999, and "I'm Not Gonna Do Anything Without You", a duet between Mark Wills and Jamie O'Neal in 2001, while Alves wrote album cuts for Chad Brock, Rascal Flatts, Guy Clark, and The Oak Ridge Boys.
Reunion and statuses of former members
In 2000, Rich Alves and Bill McCorvey decided to reunite as a duo, again assuming the name Pirates of the Mississippi. Three years later, in 2003, original steel guitarist Pat Severs joined the house band on Nashville Star, a talent show which originally aired on the USA Networks before transferring to NBC in 2008. Alves and McCorvey were signed to CBuJ Entertainment/Evergreen Records in 2006, releasing the album Heaven and a Dixie Night that year. McCorvey founded an acoustic trio called Buffalo Rome, with which he performed from 2005 to 2010, before retiring from music to open a liquor store in Brentwood, Tennessee. Original bass guitarist Dean Townson died of unknown causes on March 25, 2010, at the age of 50. Original drummer Jimmy Lowe returned to civilian life as a software engineer in 1996, and has also been a member of longtime Nashville band The Chessmen since 2012.
- Rich Alves – background vocals, guitars, keyboards (1987–1996, 2000–2007)
- Jimmy Lowe – drums (1987–1996)
- Bill McCorvey – lead vocals, guitars (1987–1996, 2000–2007)
- Pat Severs – steel guitar (1987–1994)
- Dean Townson – bass guitar (1987–1996)
- Greg Trostle – steel guitar (1994–1996)
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Pirates of the Mississippi||
|Walk the Plank||
|A Street Man Named Desire||
|The Best of Pirates of the Mississippi||
|Heaven and a Dixie Night||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1990||"Honky Tonk Blues"||26||12||Pirates of the Mississippi|
|"Speak of the Devil"||29||20|
|"Fighting for You"||41||51||Walk the Plank|
|1992||"Til I'm Holding You Again"||22||28|
|"A Street Man Named Desire"||56||53||A Street Man Named Desire|
|1993||"Don't Quit Your Day Job"||—||—|
|"Dream You"||63||66||Dream You|
|1994||"Save The Wild Life"||—||—|
|"Pop from the Top"||—||—|
|1995||"You Could Do Better"||—||—||Sure Sign (unreleased)|
|1996||"Let the Joneses Win"||—||—|
|2006||"Drinkin' Money (T.G.I. Party Time)"||—||—||Heaven and a Dixie Night|
|"Kickin' Up Dust"||—||—|
|"Heaven and a Dixie Night"||—||—|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1990||"Honky Tonk Blues"|
|1991||"Rollin' Home"||Michael Salomon|
|"Feed Jake"||Deaton Flanigen|
|"Fighting for You"||Marius Penczner|
|1992||"Too Much"||Sherman Halsey|
|"A Street Man Named Desire"||Joanne Gardner|
|1993||"Dream You"||Roger Pistole|
|1995||"You Could Do Better"|
|2006||"Kickin' Up Dust"|
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- "CMT : Videos : Pirates of the Mississippi : Feed Jake". Retrieved 2009-08-21.
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- "CMT : Videos : Pirates of the Mississippi : Too Much". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
- ""A Street Man Named Desire" video". CMT. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
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