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Telecaster twang master Bill Kirchen eschews the 9-to-5 office life in favor of a troubadour's existence.

Taking Care of Business

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Bill Kirchen and Too Much Fun
Poe's Pub
9 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 11
$5
648-2120 Bill Kirchen isn't exactly bragging when he says he hasn't had a day job in a quarter of a century. With an estimated 60,000 miles of touring annually, Kirchen is quite aware that his version of the music game is tougher than many 9-to-5 gigs. "That's right. We're crazy," Kirchen says from his Maryland home after returning from a recent Texas stint where he played 17 jobs in 17 days. Kirchen says he and his Too Much Fun bandmates Johnny Castle and Jack O'Dell often reach a point of clarity while tooling down the road when the music life seems a trifle nutty. "We know that we can't work harder [and] we've got to work smarter," he says. "You have to peel off the bottom gigs." Of course, at this stage of the trip Kirchen knows he's not about to get off the road anytime soon. But "it beats the alternative," he says. The Telecaster twang master began playing the banjo in the early '60s before switching to a six-string guitar during the folk revival. "I kind of backed in [to music] through the folk scare," he explains. He received an early music education at the '64 and '65 Newport folk festivals where he saw "Doc Watson, Son House, Muddy (Waters), Little Walter and that stuff…all manner of music." Living in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1967 and playing in a psychedelic band, Kirchen hooked up with the players who became Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. After they were turned on to Bob Wills and the Bakersfield country sounds of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, the band started playing country and honky-tonk music around town. Kirchen, however, soon moved to San Francisco being ambitious "in a downstream kind of way." After he saw the free-wheeling Bay Area music scene he convinced the Planet guys to join him. "I realized there was room for what we were doing [honky-tonk music]," he says. As the '60s melted into the '70s, the band found success turning longhairs on to its ozone version of country boogie. The group cut 10 albums, became popular adds to hippie disc jockeys' play lists on underground FM radio and even had a Top 10 hit on mainstream radio in 1972 with "Hot Rod Lincoln." The band had a national following but eventually parted ways, reuniting for the occasional tour into the '80s. Wanting to raise a child "outside the hub and the bub" of the Bay Area, Kirchen and his wife Louise moved to her family's Maryland farm in 1986. He eventually hooked up with Castle and O'Dell and the result is a load of Washington Area Music Awards, his current record deal with well-respected roots label Hightone Records, a national and international touring schedule and not enough hours in the day. "Anytime anyone asks me if they should make a living in the music business I say, 'No,'" Kirchen says. "If you have to ask, get out of the way and let those of us who can't help ourselves through. I can't help

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