Fred Labour

The trick to doing live shows at the Grand Ole Opry is the same as anywhere: go in with guns blazing, communicate with the folks, keep it loose and have a ball.

The nickname “Too Slim” came about when we were touring in the late 1970s. The soup was extremely thin, and I got down to the 120s, weight-wise. People would say, “You’re slim. Too slim.” Since then, of course, the soup has thickened considerably, and I’ve evolved into “Just Right.”

The greatest bass player in the world should be the sonic and rhythmic foundation of the band, keep his or her ears and brain wide open, flow wherever the changes go and keep the diva soloists from killing each other.

When I’m on the road, one thing that always makes me laugh is Woody in his huge orange lumberjack’s hat, gnawing on Vienna sausages, driving with his knees and spouting stock market advice or endless theories on why Einstein is wrong.

The smallest crowd we’ve ever performed in front of was two people, back in ’78. Ken Irwin from Rounder Records came to Nashville to check out our weekly club gig and see if we were for real. That particular Tuesday, a blizzard hit and the show was cancelled. Our friend Anne Romaine invited us to her living room to play for her and Ken. We did, and after 45 minutes, he said, “That’s your first album. Just record that.”  He signed us that night. It was a huge step.

When you record 35 albums, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what song is on what album.

A Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Management has given me insight into the nocturnal behavior, migration patterns and mating rituals of the fiddle player. In a terribly over-educated musical group, I’m the only one currently using his degree.

I created the “Paul Is Dead” rumor as a satirical piece for The Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan because I wanted to poke fun at over-zealous critics who try to find endless meaning in every nuance of an art project. I postulated that Paul had been killed in a car wreck and replaced in The Beatles, and that this information was released to the world via “clues” hidden on album covers and within the songs themselves. I thought then, and in fact still do, that this was funny. Almost everybody else took it seriously, and I had my 15 minutes of fame—which I’ve since managed to stretch into 17 minutes.

Have I met a Beatle? Well, sadly, it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve always hoped they’d send me a fruit basket or something in honor of the millions of albums which I helped them sell to crazed college kids and weeping girls who played them backwards to decipher my made-up malarkey.

I’m a sucker for a killer live band of any kind, from the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, which we’ve appeared with twice, to the E Street Band to the Time Jumpers.

The worst advice an agent has ever told us is “When you guys hit f***in’ Vegas, it’s all over.”


Fred Labour, Too Slim, of Riders in the Sky

is the bass player who is often billed as “The Man of a Thousand Hats” in the Western music and comedy group based in Nashville, Tennessee, that is currently on its 30th anniversary tour. His pards are Ranger Doug (Douglas B. Green), Woody Paul (Paul Woodrow Chrisman) and Joey the Cowpolka King (Joey Miskulin). Favorite Introduction: Doyle Wilburn’s “And here they are…The Boys from the Sky.” Grammy Awards: 2. Live Performances: 5,440. Grand Ole Opry Appearances: 1,700+. White House Appearances: 3. Yodels Per Performance: 7.6. Favorite Disney World Ride: Midway Mania, with Mr. Potatohead crooning Riders tunes.

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