Uncle Tupelo Biography

Formed in Belleville, Illinois, USA in 1987, Uncle Tupelo revolved around childhood friends and songwriters Jeff Tweedy (25 August 1967, Belleville, Illinois, USA) and Jay Farrar (b. 26 December 1966, Belleville, Illinois, USA). Primarily influenced by punk, then the blue-collar folk and country of Gram Parsons and John Prine, they specialized in grizzled bar-room laments to unforgiving or unforgiven lovers at a time when the grunge rock of Nirvana and Pearl Jam dominated the alternative music scene. They released three strong independent albums before a Sire Records contract arrived in 1993. Peter Buck of R.E.M. produced the last of these, March 16-20, 1992, which reinforced the good impressions critics held of their earlier material, and sustained Tweedy’s belief that ‘You can find the same things in punk records as in Hank Williams records. There’s no difference, it’s the communication factor.’ Their major label debut Anodyne was a further classic example of country rock, with cranked-up rock blow-outs alternating with Gram Parsons-styled laments. Sadly, the band broke up in 1994 just as their marriage of bluegrass and pop was beginning to be recognized as a touchstone in the re-emergence of roots rock, with their first album giving its name to the alternative country movement (and its attendant magazine) of the late 90s. Tweedy teamed up with his fellow Uncle Tupelo travellers John Stirratt, Ken Coomer and Max Johnson to form Wilco. Another veteran of Uncle Tupelo, drummer Mike Heidorn (he played on their first three albums), teamed with Farrar to become Son Volt. Their debut album, like that of Wilco, was produced by Brian Paulson, who had worked on Anodyne. Meanwhile, the band’s roadie and occasional guitarist Brian Henneman formed Bottle Rockets, who secured a contract with East Side Digital Records when both Farrar and Tweedy backed him on a demo tape of original songs.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.