Originally created 09/20/96

Confederate Railroad rolling into town



Among its many claims to fame, Confederate Railroad can now count itself as a cultural ambassador.

The band, which once labored in Augusta clubs, has introduced Europeans to Andy Griffith.

In 1995, Confederate Railroad played a show in Stuttgart, Germany. As lead singer Danny Shirley sang the hit Elvis and Andy, he was surprised to notice how many people were mouthing along the words. The band has been successful in Europe, but he figured for that song you needed to know where Mayberry was in order to get it.

Mr. Shirley was right. After the show, the journalists and backstage visitors all wanted to know, "Who's this Andy guy?"

Having returned to the land of people who know all too well who Andy Griffith is, Confederate Railroad will perform tonight with John Anderson at Fort Gordon's Barton Field. Mr. Anderson, who has been around since the 1970s, is known for such hits as Swingin', Wild and Blue and Straight Tequila Night. Confederate Railroad will open the show.

When Mr. Shirley called for a phone interview from his home in Chattanooga, Tenn., Celine Dion was playing in the background - a selection made by his girlfriend, he said, although he gave Celine respect for her singing ability.

The Railroad has made its name on good-time country. Mr. Shirley said the main target in the Railroad's humorous songs is usually itself. Elvis and Andy, which redefined the ideal woman as one who likes Elvis Presley and Andy Griffith, is Mr. Shirley's way of making fun of himself for "what the rest of the world would perceive as some out-of-date Southern values." In the hit Trashy Women, he's looking for "a woman just as trashy as me."

The band has its serious side as well. Its single Jesus and Mama was nominated for song of the year by the American Christian Music Association. Its most recent studio album, When and Where, was its most serious to date.

Since its self-titled debut in 1991, which sold more than 2 million copies, the band's sales have slowly tapered.

Mr. Shirley said the band hurt itself in trying to become more mainstream. He promises a return to a mix of good Southern rock, humor, and hell-raising.

"They're pretty much just turning me loose on this next album," Mr. Shirley said.

At the Fort Gordon show, Mr. Shirley said he won't be dancing around the stage or anything, but the band will enjoy itself.

"We'll cut up a little bit with each other and have a good time," he said.

On stage

Who: John Anderson and Confederate Railroad
When: 8 tonight. Gates open at 6 p.m.
Where: Barton Field at Fort Gordon
How much: $10 at gate, $8 in advance.
Phone: 793-8552 or 791-6779