the unofficial uncle tupelo archives 

Brian Henneman

Brian Henneman is best known as the lead guitarist, principal singer/songwriter, main guy in the Bottle Rockets. He and his bands, who hail from Festus, MO, have a long history with Uncle Tupelo, going back to the mid-1980s. Some time in late 1985, Henneman's band The Blue Moons played on a triple bill in Millstadt, IL that included The Primatives. A few years later, Jeff Tweedy was instrumental in getting Henneman's next band, Chicken Truck, an opening slot for Uncle Tupelo at Cicero's. Chicken Truck released several cassettes in the 1980s, including The 90 Minute Tape in 1986 that had so many great songs that Brian's bands were still using songs from it for their albums over a dozen years later. Some of the best of those songs were written by or with Scott Taylor, a friend from Festus who still collaborates with Brian. Chicken Truck and Uncle Tupelo remained good friends and a frequent double bill until Chicken Truck broke up in 1990.

CHICKEN TRUCK (1986 - 1990)

Brian Henneman -- Guitar, Vocals
Bob Parr -- Bass, Vocals
Tom Parr -- Rhythm guitar
Mark Ortmann -- Drums

Scott Taylor -- songwriting

After breaking up Chicken Truck, Henneman played occasional shows as a solo acoustic act, and sometime in late 1990 he began working as a roadie for UT, occasionally playing extra guitar or mandolin with them. He became a staple during their encores, coming out to play searing lead guitar on "Cortez the Killer," "Moonshiner," and many other covers. He played on Still Feel Gone, extensively on March 16-20, 1992, and also on a couple of the UT tracks that ended up on various compilations ("Blue Eyes," "Movin' On"). In 1992 he recorded a solo single "Indianapolis," backed by Jeff and Jay, that was released on Rockville Records. He was also a member of Coffee Creek, UT's cover band / side project / alter ego.

Somewhere along the line, Brian signed on with UT's manager, Tony Margherita, who helped secure him a contract with East Side Digital. He reformed his old band -- with the addition of new bass player Tom Ray -- and in 1993 the Bottle Rockets released their self titled debut, which featured some backing vocals by Jeff and Jay. The Bottle Rockets opened many UT shows, including the last one on May 1, 1994. That final show ended with all the members of both bands playing together. Brian also played lead guitar on Wilco's debut album AM, because they had not yet found a permanent guitarist.

THE BOTTLE ROCKETS #1 (1993 - 1998)

Brian Henneman -- Guitar, Vocals
Tom Parr -- Rhythm guitar, Vocals
Mark Ortmann -- Drums
Tom Ray -- Bass

The Bottle Rockets released their second album, The Brooklyn Side, also on East Side Digital, in the fall of 1994. They were then signed by Atlantic Records, who re-released The Brooklyn Side in September, 1995. The situation with Atlantic Records turned out to be less than ideal, with Atlantic holding up the release of their next record, 24 Hours a Day, until late 1997. Atlantic didn't promote the record at all which meant it didn't sell, and Atlantic dropped them early in 1998. They then signed to Doolittle Records, which has since morphed into New West Records. Doolittle released an EP of outtakes from 24 Hours a Day called Leftovers in the November of 1998.

Around this time, Tom Ray was replaced on bass by Robert Kearns. The Bottle Rockets fourth full length record, Brand New Year, was released on Doolittle in August of 1999. The band again had problems with their record label, and did not release anything else until Songs of Sahm, a collection of songs by Doug Sahm, which came out on Bloodshot Records in early 2002.

Shortly after completing this record, Tom Parr left the band, ending a 15+ year stint playing with Brian and Mark. The band toured as a three-piece for awhile after this before adding multi-instrumentalist John Horton to the line-up. The Bottle Rocket's fifth full-length record Blue Skies was released in October, 2003 on the Sanctuary label.

While there is quite a bit of overlap in the fans of The Bottle Rockets and UT/Wilco/SV, their music is quite different than any of those bands. They play a mixture of hard driving, Neil Young w/Crazy Horse/Lynyrd Skynyrd-ish rock-n-roll and twangy country shuffles and ballads, all of which are highlighted by Henneman's amazing guitar work.

Thanks to Barry Kelley for helping with this section

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