Honky Tonkitis

Here's where you talk to the band


For those members of the media interested in getting copies of Honky Tonkitis CD's for review or play, contact us at honkytonkitis@yahoo.com and we'll arrange to get you a copy or make mp3's available to you.

Three albums by what may be the definitive honky tonk group in the very big sub-category of “drinking songs”. And they are great at what they do. They remind a little of the Cornell Hurd Group and in Yesterday & Today speak that means about as good as you can get. All feature classic album covers, which will leave no one guessing as far as content is concerned.  Like the Cornell Hurd Band there is plenty of humour. Not the dopey Nashville embarrassing “you think my tractor’s sexy” cringe thing but the good natured banter that we all love. They may not be Australian but their humour will appeal. They are no shy in including country royalty in their songs, for example “What Would George Jones Do”, “Praying in the House of Hank” and Johnny Cash Would Kick Your Ass” are from “Alcohol & Heartbreak. They are also able to use the witty play on words to great effect, eg “Shotgun Divorce” & “Alimony Is a Four Letter Word”....And for Quakers Hill Red Pete be known they are great value with heaps of tracks...17, 15 & 16 respectively. They have some great instrumental subtlety too & kudos must go to accordion player Don Turner.

Honky Tonkitis wails and twangs hardcore country

Aug. 10 2012

Honky Tonkitis is a Milwaukee-based band playing original country music in the style of Johnny Cash, Faron Young and Hank Williams.

Honky Tonkitis formed in 2008 with Johnny Maplewood on upright bass and vocals, Chris Conrad on guitars, Kurt Weber on drums and fiddle player Tom Hansen. They've released three albums, including "You Drink and Drive Me Crazy" (2009) and "Deep End of the Bottle" (2010), which garnered air play on FM106.1.

"In 2011 we picked up Don Turner on accordion. He's an awesome addition to the band," says Maplewood.

Honky Tonkitis' third album, the 17-song "Alcohol and Heartbreak," was released earlier this year.

Honky Tonkitis' songwriter Maplewood took some musical cues from a radio show called "Honky Tonk Saturday Night" hosted by Country Dave and Sidekick Nick at WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Reserve, Wis.

"I found those shows to be an inspiration of 1940s-1970s country music. Whenever I was in northern Wisconsin I'd tape Dave's Saturday night shows," says Maplewood.

Maplewood also listened to an Internet show by Jim Loessberg on LegendRadio.com.

"He'd play Texas country and honky tonk. Listening to these shows gave me an even wider view of classic country artists and I discovered that the stuff I really liked was the more hardcore – or honky tonk – stuff," says Maplewood.

It's the stuff that dreams are made of – at least, the kind of dreams you might have while your face is resting on a barroom floor – and the band usually tells people at shows that they write songs about three subjects, namely, fighting, drinking and divorce.

"We get a good reaction in the bars and nobody's shot us yet. When you're in a bar setting, all of the songs we sing about drinking and divorce make sense. Other settings, well, sometimes we mystify people. When you're playing a church festival, people are probably thinking, 'Why are these guys playing all these songs I've never heard before about drinking and divorce?'" says Maplewood.

Honky Tonkitis also has songs that celebrate Wisconsin, like a version of "I've Been Everywhere," which they usually play to open their shows.

Maplewood says it was a lot of work to write a Wisconsin version of the Geoff Mack classic, originally about Australian places that was adapted to North America by Hank Snow in the early '60s.

A perhaps under-appreciated Honky Tonkitis song from their current album, more-or-less about Wisconsin, is "I Wanna Marry a Bartender," in which a line about serving up Brandy Old Fashioneds is repeatedly sung.

"Every line of 'I'm Leaving Wisconsin" (another original tune) references something about Wisconsin from Pabst, the Milwaukee Braves, Lawrencia Bembenek, General Motors, Cryptosporidium, FIBs on Sunday, etc. The list goes on and on," says Maplewood.

Of course, beer references in a honky tonk band should abound, and with songs like "Pabst in the Can and Schlitz in the Bottle" and "I Am the Ghost of Miller Lite," it's clear where the references originally hailed from. Honky Tonkitis also has a song called, "I'm Gonna Drink Milwaukee Dry."

"I've tried writing other tunes about Wisconsin, but I have to wait 'til they come to me. I can't force 'em," says Maplewood.

The band takes its name from a classic song title by Carl Butler, and its memorable line, "If you don't change your way of living, you'll get honky tonk-itis in your soul." But they go by other names, like when at Bastille Days they were introduced as "Honky Tonk It Is."

"We've also been called 'Honky Tonk T*ts' by people who misread the name," says Maplewood. "But the best was when we played a show with the Whiskey Belles, an all-girl band. We decided to announce ourselves as the all-boy band offshoot of their group. Before I could announce us as the Whiskey Bellies, some guy shouted out, 'You're the Whiskey D*cks!' You gotta love crowd participation," says Maplewood.

Honky Tonkitis started with Maplewood exploring the "hardcore" country genre, honky tonk, that intrigued him so much.

"I decided to take a shot at writing honky tonk songs and they just poured out of me like beer from a pitcher," says Maplewood.

Maplewood began demo-ing music on his home-recording system and inviting musicians to come in and add their instruments to it.

"One guy would suggest another guy who'd suggest another guy and within six months I had the core members of the band," says Maplewood, who is now focusing on getting their recorded music more widely distributed.

Honky tonk, while many call it "original country," is still considered a sub-genre within the pop-country and country-rock music scenes, which makes Honky Tonkitis' music as much about education in matters of taste as it is about having a rollicking good time.

"The crowd that listens to new country probably could care less what we do, but we don't really give a crap about them," says Maplewood.

"The second album by the Milwaukee band Honky Tonkitis continues to mix equal parts snark and twang into something resembling a Bizarro World set at the Grand Ole Opry. Singer John Steffes' twisted sense of humor about matters of inebriation and fornication fits to the pedal-steel template of Webb Pierce and Ray Price serenades of heartbreak and drunkenness. However, Honky Tonkitis isn't all cheek at the expense of substance. It's not too far of a stretch to imagine big-time traditionalists in today's commercial country like Alan Jackson and George Strait covering "If It's Paradise." On the other hand, tunes such as "Which Are You First: Drunk or Stupid" and "Jukebox, You Suck" seem destined to remain in the band's own domain—but that's all the more reason to appreciate their unique take on how to make country alt."

Translated from Google Translate-

It should be clear to everyone - starting with the title, cover and band name - the witty and easygoing nature of this sextet of Wisconsin, who hold a country-rock to dance hall where vintage honky tonk, western swing, memories of Bob Wills, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash first mix with minor heroes and cult figures of the American tradition.

It's hard to convince, however, of good quality music of Honky Tonkitis, unless you are strictly dedicated to attend this kind of bluster from the American bar: I realize, but I still think that songs such as "C'mon, Baby, Get It Off Your Chest, You Will Find Me In The Deep End of the Bottle (an instant classic, to judge from the title), I Need More Make-Up, Which Are You First: Drunk or Stupid, Beer Drinking Leads to Harder Things and so on are sometimes good for not taking itself too seriously, even in roots music. That said, it is clear that it would be better to watch a show of Honky Tonkitis (have fun, I'm sure) and do not go through strict observance of sixteen tracks, with immaculate outline of pedal steel, fiddle, twangy guitars and an accordion to polka time.
(Davide Albini)

As best we could deduce via Google translate from Finnish:

After their fine debut "You Drink and Drive Me Crazy," Honky Tonkitis are back with "Deep End of the Bottle," a generous 16-song serving of paeans to Pabst and more songs about brews, babes and bars, all served up with a wry wink and a nod to classic C & W roadhouse tunes. It's worth spending a few minutes just savoring the hilarious titles alone, which give you a clue as to what you're in for.

Anchored by the sonorous and dulcet baritone of the Bard of Budweiser, songwriter John Steffes, Honky-Tonkitis comes across as a twisted modern version of the Texas Playboys, with Steffes calling out encouragement, Bob Wills-style, as his able bandmates –Chris Conrad on guitars, Gabriel Stutz on pedal steel and Tom Hanson on fiddle – step out for one excellent solo turn after another throughout the disc. (Except Bob Wills probably never called out to Leon McAuliffe with an off-the-wall exhortation like “Tofu Bok Choy!”)

There are lots of standouts, including the swinging “C'Mon Baby Get It Off Your Chest,” the clever “I Need More Makeup,” and the classic country weeper “Jukebox, You Suck.” “But Not Me” features guest Tom Brusky on accordion, creating a rousing norteño-polka fusion, and the record's droll closer, “I'm Leaving Wisconsin,” name-checks many of the Badger State's famous (and infamous) native sons and daughters (including Harry Houdini, Wendy O. Williams and Lawrencia Bembenek).

Here's the link: http://www.huuto.net/kohteet/honky-tonkitis-deep-end-of-the-bottle-cd-2010/162468930

Google translated from German:

The CD name sounds like a disease. Like an epidemic. And for those who like Honky Tonk, presented here could actually trigger a pandemic record. At the theater involved: Chris Conrad (electric and baritone guitar), Jason Ploetz (double bass), Tom Hanson (fiddle), Kurt Weber (drums), John Steffes on baritone (vocal). The newest member is Gabriel Stutz. Well. Wisconsin holds many pleasant surprises. For me now the Honky Tonkitis, which - wonder who's - the Honky Tonk have dedicated entirely.

Since salvia is away - that draws attention to one of the Honky Tonk. And although by express. And forever.

A review from the e-zine Ctrl Alt Country (passed through Google Translate from Dutch to


Second CD by the quintet from Wisconsin Active

listening to a contagious disease sounding nickname

Honky Tonkitis. And-half years after they almost

unanimously praised debut "You Drink And Drive Me

Crazy" target "bari tenor John Steffes and his thus

again resolutely to a public grown up with the music

of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, Hank

Williams and relatives. They immerse themselves in

"Deep End Of The Bottle" with tongue planted deeply

in cheek again in their favorite subjects drinking and

heartbreak. And a new anthem for the AA will not find

here. Titles like "You Will Find Me In The Deep End Of

The Bottle", "Which Are You First: Drunk Or Stupid?",

"Beans And Beer For Breakfast", "Six Pack Lovers" or

"Beer Drinking Leads To Harder Things" speak for

themselves for that matter.And so does the music! The

premise here is "Who nach vor" the honky-tonk genre,

but within the limits of what appears to be pretty. 

Terms of a clear rhythm to "The Man in Black 'tribute

opdondertje (" I'll Be Seeing the Floor Pretty Soon ") to

elegant, loaded with twang country rock (" C'mon, Baby,

Get It Off Your Chest ") from rockabilly ("Half-Ass

Heartache") to gracefully every corner of the hardwood

dance floor exploratory stuff ("You Will Find Me In The

Deep End Of The Bottle"), from a comic conceived careful

Western swing flirtatiously trifle ( "I Need More Makeup")

to us plenty to Ned Miller "From A Jack To A King"

recalling guide ("If It's Paradise"), a rete-catchy Tex-Mex-

trip ("But Not Me") toright-to-earth to honky-tonk ("I'm A

Maker") and other, the sixteen songs on their "difficult

second" deliver Steffes, Chris Conrad guitarist, bassist

Jason Ploetz, fiddler and drummer Tom Hanson Kurt Weber 

the kind of stuff off, and the necessary quantities of beer

and feestgrage customers near guaranteed to give rise to

a great party game. Urgent but try so ...

**** = Very good indeed!

WMSE DJ Picks of 2009: You Drink and Drive Me Crazy

"Sucker for a good smartass country song?  Here’s an albums’ worth."