Book Review: “Beaumonster” by Jesse Dayton


Beaumonster by Jesse Dayton (Hachette Books)

Jesse Dayton – along with being a musical chameleon – just may be the Forrest Gump of Americana (though I expect he might bristle at that genre classification). In his fantastic memoir, Beaumonster, the Beaumont, TX-born musician, actor, director, jack of all trades shares stories of growing up in the Lone Star State, learning guitar at an early age and quickly becoming “the kid” in various clubs and studios for the next few decades. His prowess at Country, Rockabilly, Blues and just straight-ahead Rock has earned him effusive praise and work alongside everyone from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to The Supersuckers and Social Distortion – among a slew of others across genres.

The book, written in Dayton’s familiar laid back, but honest style is a refreshing addition to the seemingly endless rock star bio book genre. Dayton is not exactly a household name on a global scale (which is definitely a shame), but his story is more compelling than most who are. There are remarkable anecdotes about working in the studio with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Jennings and Cash (completing The Highwaymen bingo card), as well as the long running friendship he developed with Jennings’ son, Shooter. Some of the best stories though involve the fish out of water tours that found Dayton and his band playing in front of rooms of punk rockers opening for The Supersuckers and well as Mike Ness and Social Distortion.

Dayton also segued into horror movies when he was initially hired to write music for Rob Zombie’s slasher films, first writing and performing music for the fictional Banjo & Sullivan duo in The Devil’s Rejects, eventually being cast as the psychobilly bandleader Captain Clegg in Zombie’s Halloween II, leading to tours playing the music he created as that character. Those opportunities eventually led to Dayton writing and directing his own zombie movie, Zombex, starring Malcolm McDowell and Corey Feldman.

Far from being just a scrap book of his run ins with famous folks, Dayton is also refreshingly open about his politics in the book. As Gen X Texas kid who could have just as easily turned out to be just another redneck who rails against Democrats, he is politically progressive. There is a great chapter toward the end of the book where he discusses his politics and what shaped them, including his opinions on the Federal Reserve, the IRS, Land Rights and Gun Ownership (he still a Texan). “Besides those four points, I’m pretty dang progressive,” he writes. “While my accent can set off a few alarms in a more liberal-minded brain that I’m a card carrying KKK member, it takes only a small amount of time with me to stumble onto the fact that I’ve read a few books and I’ve traveled to a few places, and I have an open mind when it comes to really dissecting politics.”

Beaumonster is as fascinating a memoir as Dayton is a musician. His story telling is compelling and his self-confessional writing style is simply refreshing. Even if you’ve never heard his music before (and you really should hear his music – he’s great), the book is as wildly entertaining a read for those who have never heard of Dayton as it is for longtime fans.
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