by Dan Moray
In 1986 "Rocky," then manager of the Blind Pig, was going to ditch its Friday afternoon happy hour. "Pontiac" Pete Ferguson told him, "Give us fifty bucks and let us pass the pitcher a couple of times, and we'll pack the place." "We" was Ferguson's honky-tonk band, Drivin' Sideways.
Rocky called him on his offer, and the band moved over to the Pig from Mr. Flood's Party with Chris Goerke on bass, Brophy Dale on guitar, Steve "Dixboro" Cummings on pedal steel, and Dave Stockwell on drums. That first happy hour was so successful that not only were people squeezed to the rafters but the Jim Beam ran out. By 1988 former Blackfoot and Southern Rock All-Star Jakson Spires was on drums, either Chris Casello or Bob Schetter on guitars, Mark "Shamus" O'Boyle on pedal steel, and Goerke still on bass and backup vocals. The happy hour, Pete says, became a "launching pad for the weekend's festivities. Everybody seemed to know each other, and the place was always packed with dancers."
In the driver's seat with his strong vocals and ripping commentary, Pontiac Pete covered the themes we love so well: alcoholism, lust, obsession, insanity, and the misery of heartache. Such crowds were packing happy hour that the pitcher got passed a couple of times and the band split a third of the bar receipts, which paid $50-$75 apiece. When Sleepy LaBeef came to town, he used Drivin'
Sideways to back him up. In 1998 the band opened for Merle Haggard and John Anderson. Pete says his best night was when "six different people came up to me and said, 'Great show you made me cry.'" Drivin' Sideways sang for people who'd had their hearts tossed into the tree chipper of life. "I learned to love country music at gunpoint at a bonfire in Lodi," says Ferguson. The songs he sings are full of movement as well as emotion: belly rubbers, honky-tonk, rockers, and weepers,
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