may 2009

Hey Billy Bob: This 'Spud''s For You

By Billy Altman

Billy Bob Thornton (center) with the Boxmasters: Say this about his country music: for a guy who smokes onstage, Billy Bob doesn't cough much...

A few weeks ago we caught Don't-you-dare-call-me-an actor-when-I'm-singing "recording artist" Billy Bob Thornton and his band the Boxmasters in concert at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas, where perhaps the most gracious thing that could be said about his country music act is that for a guy who smokes onstage, he doesn't cough much.

Still, whether it's all the bad reviews he's been getting or all that tar and nicotine he's been inhaling that's made him go off the deep end, Thornton's attack on Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi for having the temerity to ask him about his film career was bizarre enough. But then Thornton took things to a whole other level by knocking the entire Great White North, comparing Canadian audiences to potatoes.

"We tend to play places where people throw things at each other, but here they just sort of sit there," Thornton told Ghomeshi. "And it doesn't matter what you say to 'em. It's mashed potatoes but no gravy."

Regarding that part about throwing things: well, we know that most big time celebs like Thornton have plenty of yes men hanging around. So it's entirely possible that when people have reacted to his music by throwing things at the stage, he's been told that he wasn't the intended target, just the result of bad aim amongst overly stimulated audience members.

As for the reactions to his music by our Canadian neighbors, it probably never occurred to Thornton that, as the famously well-mannered folks they are, the Canadians were simply being politely indifferent rather than abusive. Still, you can push good people only so far. And so on Thursday night in Toronto, when Thornton's Boxmasters opened for Willie Nelson, they were soundly booed and met with catcalls of "Here comes the gravy." And, bad sport that he seems to be, Billy Bob has now cancelled the rest of his Canadian tour.

Of course, if Willie Nelson (a singer who also acts, and does both pretty well, it should be noted) needs another musician to open for him, we have just the right guy: Canada's very own country music legend, Stompin' Tom Connors. And on behalf of all good Canadians, we have just the right song that Tom can dedicate to Billy Bob Thornton. It's his great old hit—"Bud The Spud."

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And then Stompin' Tom can throw this one in for good measure, so Billy Bob won't forget just who he's offended:

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Stompin' Tom Connors: "Cross Canada"

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