Jesse Dayton has a vivid memory of the first time he heard AC/DC. His brother brought home a copy of Highway to Hell, and seeing guitarist Angus Young on the cover sporting his trademark schoolboy uniform and devil horns made an instant impression.

“The first thing you thought in your young, superstitious redneck mind was, ‘These guys are definitely going to hell, and they don’t give a fuck,’” Dayton tells UCR.

In September 1979, just a couple months after Highway to Hell was released, the Texas-bred Dayton saw the band live for the first time at the Beaumont Convention Center. Once again his brother was the catalyst.

“When I saw AC/DC, I didn’t know what they were," he recalls. "I knew it was loud and it was bluesy with a great guitar player. But Bon Scott was out there in cutoff shorts, and he had tattoos when no one had tattoos. It was the single best performance I’ve ever seen by a rock 'n' roll singer.

"The thing that is so brilliant about that band is that it’s all based on the blues. It’s all based on Chuck Berry, the whole thing. It’s cranked up and it’s super loud. I’ve seen them live several times since then and they’re as loud as any metal band, but I don’t see them as a metal band. I see them as a super-loud blues band."

Dayton's latest release, Mixtape Volume 1, includes cover versions 10 of his favorite songs, including AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie," which first appeared on the band's 1977 album Let There Be Rock. You can hear the song, an exclusive premiere, below.

The singer-songwriter has released 10 albums since the mid-’90s while working steadily as a sideman. He's played guitar with legends ranging from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Rob Zombie and Duff McKagan.

On Mixtape Volume 1, he covers the Cars' "Just What I Needed,” Jackson Browne’s “Redneck Friend” and Elton John’s "Country Comfort." For “Whole Lotta Rosie,” Dayton says he wanted it to sound "kind of like a Slim Harpo song. Kind of the way the [Rolling] Stones did ‘Hip Shake.’"

You can hear Dayton's reverence for the material throughout the record. Much of that has to do with the way the singer-songwriter compiled a lifetime of memories into the record. "People don’t write shit like that anymore,” he says, pointing to the John song. “I remember hearing a full eight-bar pedal steel guitar ride and thinking, ‘This sounds like my grandparents’ records!’ And that was 1970!"

Mixtape Volume 1 is available in a variety of formats, including cassette. Pre-orders come with an instant download of the entire album in advance of its Aug. 9 release.

The restless Dayton will stay busy through the end of the year. He has tour dates booked until November, and he’s already working on his next album. “I’m trying to write even more songs than I usually do, so I’ve got more to choose from," he says.

"This next record is going to be pretty important. I’ve been making movies and basically did one every year for six years. My kid went off to college, and I was like, ‘Man, I just want to go on tour.’ We had to rebuild this thing from the ground up all over again. So I want to make sure that I’m not getting away from the thing that made those records stand out.”

 

 

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