Jesse James Dupree: Manager Of Expectations
By Mike Bacon
Jesse James Dupree is a man of the people and a man of Rock. He wears many hats. He’s rocked many faces off. He’s even taken the life of talk show host Tom Green’s desk with a chainsaw live on national television. His journey to become a full-fledged entertainment entrepreneur began when his band Jackyl emerged during the Grunge-crazy early 90’s and carved out – quite literally – a nice chunk of the Rock tree for themselves. And they did it by being real – and real fun.
“We came out at the same time as Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. We were label mates with Nirvana. Kurt Cobain and the guys in Nirvana and Courtney Love were backstage at our show once inSeattle. Kurt’s sitting there with Courtney and they were drinking draft beer out of gallon milk jugs. During the show, when we broke into “I Stand Alone” they got kicked out for slam dancin’! I’m on stage yelling at the stage manager to get them back in the side door.”
Jackyl remains an infectious Rock machine that doesn’t pick sides and welcomes everyone in. Fueled by Dupree’s boundless energy and a sound described by the man himself as “AC/DC with a mouthful of Georgia dirt. It’s straight-up Rock: guitar, bass and drums, chainsaw if you will, whatever it takes to get the job done. We’ve never made any bones about that.”
Over the years they’ve maintained a loyal following by being consistent and not buckling to trends or taking themselves or their craft too seriously. There’s zero Rock star arrogance or frontman pretentiousness. They deliver as billed and often leave a wake of happy, hard-working Rock fans floating back to their lives after the curtain comes down.
“We’ve maintained our focus and we haven’t veered off, trying to be something we’re not or trying to chase some sound or trend,” Dupree explains. “We’ve found ourselves, especially with the state of the economy, always having been a band that connects with people who bust their knuckles for forty or more hours a week, whether they are 18 or 40 years-old.” And that’s exactly the demo you will see show up to a Jackyl show and leave exhausted.
This week Jackyl released their sixth studio album (and tenth release overall), When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide. It rocks exactly the way you’d expect and offers no apologies, nor a tender shoulder to cry on. The long player’s first single, “She’s Not A Drug” is generating a nice buzz out of the gate at stations such as WJJO/Madison, WIIL/Chicago, KQRC/Kansas City, WIYY/Baltimore and WTFK/Cincinnati to name a few. A litany of festivals, bike rallies and charity events are in the offing through the summer, with the band playing its largest annual gig at the monstrous Sturgis Bike Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota this August.
It’s there that the story of one Jesse James Dupree gets a little more interesting. Dupree is looked upon as the unofficial “mayor” of the country’s biggest motorcycle rally and slays crowds young and old with his boot stomping brand of Rock & Roll. Through his relationship with Mike Ballard, owner of the rally’s nexus point, the Full Throttle Saloon, Dupree came up with the concept of a reality show focusing on the Sturgis Rally and the events surrounding the madcap dash to the finish line at the Full Throttle.
Each year the world’s largest biker bar is only open during the rally, and the pressure to turn a profit in the weeklong marathon can be as entertaining as it is intense. As Executive Producer of the show, Dupree helped TruTv pull in its highest ratings to date, good enough for a top 5 cable program. No small feat in the avalanche of reality programming available in just about every medium. It was the second straight score for Dupree who previously acted as creator and Executive Producer of the Emmy-nominated MTV series Two-a-Days, and numerous pay-per-view specials including Sturgis Exposed and Mardi Gras Exposed, and the Dirt Poor Comedy Show.
As if that wasn’t enough, Dupree is also the head of his own multi-faceted entertainment company, Mighty Loud, who’s marketing division works regularly with Crunk Energy Drink, Zippo Lighters and Budweiser. In 2006, Mighty Loud
started its own record division in partnership with Universal/Fontana.
Additionally, JJD is the General Manager for Jude Cole and Kiefer Sutherland’s entertainment company, Ironworks, label home to such acts as Rocco DeLuca and the Burden and Billy Boy On Poison. He also, consults New West Records, home to artists like Dwight Yoakum and Kris Kristofferson, as well as the Austin City Limits live music series.
Being on stage is clearly where Dupree is most at home. The life of a Road Warrior – that’s the phrase that pays and draws the most inspiration. Dupree pays homage to fellow road dogs like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, KISS and Iron Maiden, “the guys who stayed on the road, constantly out there playing and connecting with the people, and that’s what we’ve been so fortunate to do.”
2009 saw the band touring aplenty, and sparked a creative output that culminated in the creation of their latest album. “Last year was a phenomenal year for us with touring and playing festivals across the country, which we do every year, but there was just something that clicked last year…something felt right about it and that influenced the writing that went into this record.”
“A lot of it had to do with the fact that I was riding my motorcycle across the country on tour,” Dupree explains. “Roman Glick, the bass player, and I ride about 20,000 miles a year on tour. We tie-in with a lot of radio stations across the country and do charity drives and such. We’re for real about it.”
“I’ve found it gives me the best time to write,” he continues. “`She’s Not A Drug’ actually came from sittin’ my ass on that motorcycle. The whole record is just…real. If you’re over analyzing it you’re missing out! And thank God the people out there in real America don’t over analyze stuff. They connect it to whether or not it’s real.”
Throughout his career, Jesse has made many friends and connected a lot of dots that have turned into win-win situations for both himself and his business partners in some very outside-of-the-box ways. “There’s so much of what we do that’s not on that radar; events that we created equity in that are annual events, partnering with radio stations and stuff.
“Jackyl will play in Kansas City the first weekend in June. We’ll have no less than 15,000 people in front of us. We’ll go in and we’ll do stuff with Johnny Dare in Kansas City. His audience knows that he don’t bullshit ’em. His audience knows that he’s sincere and that he’s very, very real about everything he does. We have a great connection with his brands, and so when we get together and we have an event like we’ll have in June, it’s going to be a family reunion.”
Jackyl also revs up the engine at Milwaukee’s Summerfest celebration and at shows in Cincinnati, North Carolina and Green Bay, to name a few. “To somebody that doesn’t take the time to check it out firsthand,” he urges, “they’re just missin’ out on a really cool thing and a really cool connection that this band has made with people out there that want to do it loud, proud, hard and often.”
The non-traditional means in which they do business and how Dupree in particular embraces and utilizes the power of brands and sponsorship opportunities has kept Jackyl and all of his interests powering forward and growing exponentially. As for the traditional radio-promoter-artist triangle, Dupree bypasses that enduring formula, opting for a more sidelong approach that makes a lasting impression. “We’ve never based our relationship with radio on whether or not they’re playing our song,” he clarifies. “In other words, we’ll go in and do stuff with stations and maybe they’re not playing us in a heavy rotation, but because of the brand and the brand of the event that they want to create, it works for everyone. I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt my feelings sometimes, when radio may not play our record, but we’ve never based working with stations strictly on that and have always made it a win-win.”
“We’ve been able to find a lot of cool, creative ways where we’ve managed to leave a stain. We’ve done it in ways such as heading out and doing 100 shows in 50 days. We set a Guinness Book World Record for doing 100 shows in 50 days, and every single one of them was tied in with stations across the country. You’d be hard pressed to find a station out there that doesn’t have a 100 shows in 50 days story.
One such story saw WAPL/Appleton’s (now WJJO/Madison PD) Randy Hawke bringing the band in for one of the 100 shows in 50 days, right outside the Green Bay Packers stadium. “When the game let out,” Dupree remembers, “Jackyl was on a tractor trailer rig and we pulled the tarp back and had our PA system up, and had like 50,000 people in front of us.” Jackyl ended their marathon trek in Tampa doing a show for WXTB.
His involvement with the massive Sturgis event and the TruTV reality show (recently greenlit for a second season), remains a huge priority and draws millions of eyes and ears. His partnership with radio at the event has grown substantially over the last ten years. After a costly initial investment to run ISDN lines out to the remote Black Hills of South Dakota, more and more Rock stations have set up shop at the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis broadcasting live back to their listeners.
“They literally had to channel those ISDN lines around Mt. Rushmore, through Crazy Horse, through the Badlands, underneath the casinos of Dead Wood out to Devil’s Tower where they filmed Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, then back into Sturgis,” Dupree recalls.
Today stations such as WJJO, WTUE/Dayton, KQRC/K.C., KBER/Salt Lake City, 93X/Minneapolis, KUFO/Portland and many more make up the radio row, reporting back on the rally’s activities and many concert performances with artist and celebrity interviews.
Sturgis itself has become a huge concert destination, with performances this year (the 70th anniversary of the rally) from artists such as Disturbed, ZZ Top, Godsmack, Stone Temple Pilots, Creed, Three Doors Down,Skillet, Jackyl and many more.
Dupree has his hands in many endeavors, whether it be Jackyl albums, collaborations with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, Sturgis, his television shows, touring, label duties with Ironworks or releasing records from Powerman 5000 through his own Mighty Loud imprint, lord knows he keeps the plates spinning.
“People ask, what title do you have with this company or executive producing a television show or producing a record or managing something or whatever,” Dupree adds. “At the end of the day, there’s one common denominator, if anybody asks me what my title is, I say that I’m a Manager of Expectations. If you can manage yours and other people’s expectations, and facilitate opportunities that makes everyone a winner, then that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
For more info, visit:
Jacky’ “When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide” (MLE1001 / 044003783249 / C13)