Georgia based group Rehab has emerged on Universal Republic records with a bristling Mash-UP album, Grafitti The World, that deftly fuses frontman/ founder Danny Boone’s stone cold hip hop acumen – including spirited new tracks such as “Let ‘Em Know,” “1980,” and “Lawn Chair High,” – with southern rock flavorings that have caused even chart topping arbiters of rock and hip hop cuisine like Kid Rock and Cracker to inquire about covering Rehab’s eternal smash grassroots phenomenon “Bartender Song” aka “Sittin’ At A Bar.” The track has become the decade’s premier ‘Bar Song’ thanks to a keen viral marketing campaign by Rehab, and unprecedented digital jukebox sales, which saw the gritty lament reach near a million plays in bars and clubs across America in 2007 alone.
“Bartender Song” is hardly the only worthy selection on Rehab’s pounding resume of infectious rip-it-up Mash-Up sound. They’ve drawn comparisons to a blender of styles represented by artists including alternative hybrid outfits 311, Outkast, Sublime, Linkin Park and others. Rehab’s burgeoning relevance can mostly be traced to the wily headspace of the engaging Boone and the current multi-talented Rehab lineup, which includes noted Georgia music icons such as Mike Hartnett (guitarist and celebrated Atlanta music collaborator who has worked with Fergie, Shop Boys, Pink and Outkast among others, and recently won BMI’s 2008 Pop Award for songwriting), Foz (guitar), Hano Leather (bass), Chris Hood (drums), DJ Chris Crisis, and Steaknife (aka Denny Campbell), one of Rehab’s long-standing and indispensable creative cogs who re-upped with Danny in 2007. It was Steaknife along with Boone and ex-Rehabber Brooks Buford, who first scored with Rehab at the turn of the decade with their independent release “To Whom It may consume”. A few years after Steaknife’s departure, Boone and Buford were offered a recording contract at Sony/EPIC, which resurrected the 2000 Epic release of Southern Discomfort and the Top 20 Hit “It Don’t Matter”.
The second coming of Rehab, so to speak, was forged by Danny, minus Buford and Steaknife, and launched in 2004/2005, capped by the Rehab imprint Attica Sound Records 2005 indie release Graffiti The World. Danny had been carefully gathering his brigade of respected Atlanta rock and hip hop players for his second go-around, with he and the band perfecting a non-stop touring regimen which shored up support for not only the contagious “Bartender Song,” (which was originally included on Southern Discomfort, and had taken on a late-night life of its own thanks to the bars and jukebox play), but also showcased Boone’s talent for writing riveting musical missives, such as, “BUMP,” the regional radio staple, “Last Tattoo,” and the socially aware title cut, “Graffiti The World.”
But Danny and the crew began to notice that it wasn’t only hip hop fans who were turning up at their shows. ‘“Bartender Song,” was becoming almost this cult thing,” says Danny. “Fans knew the words at every show. It was becoming like Billy Joel’s ‘Piano man’ or something. People were using it to close bars. It became the song of choice for ‘Last Call,’ touching a nerve in almost everyone who heard it.” Danny’s aching voice perfectly captures the song’s sing-along-and-pour perspective from a bar-sitter who has just been kicked to the curb by his wife (and by the way, he proudly admits to trashing her car). The hit has struck a chord with revelers still re-living their own late night escapades, as well as any ex-rowdies well on their way to reform.
Others have even bestowed upon it Johnny Cash-like status, with the band receiving dozens of letters every week from prison inmates describing how the song mirrored their own plight. Spurred on by the rabid fan reaction, Rehab decided to re-record the song and add it to Graffiti The World as a bonus track, reclaiming the song as a badge of honor, and what Danny calls ‘the final piece to the Rehab puzzle’.
“I had always wanted to re-record it anyway,” says Danny. “Even when I went back to slinging hot wings (in his hometown of Warner Robins, GA, after the first incarnation of the group broke up in 2003), people would come up to me and say ‘you ever hear this song? They’d play ‘Bartender Song,’ and I’d nod and say: ‘Yeah, I believe I know that one.” Boone Says, “I guess it’s a unique situation when an artist has to cover his or her own song to finally make It a Hit. “
He re-recorded the track ala the reborn Rehab in 2006, changing the official name to “Bartender Song,” – which according to Danny is what the fans would call it anyway. Danny added a few harmonies but was diligent about retaining the song’s low-fi charm. His team began a clever myspace/viral campaign that directed fans to the new version now placed on Graffiti The World, instead of the track on the original release. The groundswell continued, with Rehab’s power-packed new lineup (and an extremely creative assembly, with Hartnett co-writing a handful of the songs on the new CD) selling out live shows across the country, and digital jukebox sales continuing to break records. By the end of 2007 the band was selling 1,000 units a week (including catalogue), with the “Bartender Song” selling 20,000 units on iTunes in a 3-month span alone, without any radio or marketing promotion, whatsoever.
Soon, Universal Republic entered the picture, as did a very anxious Sony Records. After all, it was Sony imprint Epic who originally dropped the band in 2003. After a half-hearted attempt to resign the group, Rehab decided to pull away from their old label, choosing Universal Republic as their new home for re-launching the group and the re-charged Graffiti The World.