Most of the time, an article like this would start off with a few sentences about how the author was deep in some sort of YouTube hole when they came upon a song they hadn’t heard in years, and became obsessed with it all over again. I’m not going to lie to you: that’s not what happened here.
The truth is, my interest in Swedish one-hit wonders Rednex stems solely from the fact that ‘Cotton-Eye Joe‘ is a dead-set goddamn banger. It slaps as hard and probably harder than any pop song from the mid-90s, and I listen to it way more than I’d care to admit.
Recently, though, the question occurred to me: what the hell actually happened to these mad Swedish bastards, who shot to fame on the crest of some kind of bizarre, techno-hillbilly hybrid wave, then seemingly faded away?
Where did they come from? And more to the point, where did they go? These questions consumed me, and I knew I desperately needed answers.
After a little research into Rednex, I was surprised – nay, delighted – to discover that not only are they still going strong in 2018 they have swelled in numbers into some kind of 17-member super group, and they perform with multiple line-ups in multiple places at the same time.
Somehow, in 2018, Rednex are not only surviving – they are THRIVING. How did they get here? 17 members? In THIS economy? Clearly there’s good money in fiddles and techno beats.
Rednex formed in Sweden in 1994, dreamed up by a trio of producers who wanted to try mixing traditional American folk and country with modern pop. The original five-member lineup consisted of the colourfully-named Mary Joe, Bobby Sue, Ken Tacky, Billy Ray and Mup, and they had their first – and as far as I was aware, only – mainstream hit with ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ in 1995.
Rednex, of course, did not actually pen ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ themselves. The song itself dates back to the early 1800s, and it’s so old that nobody even knows who the fuck wrote it or what it means, although there are accounts of it originating as an African-American folk song, and some people think it may be about a man who has “cotton eyes” from drinking moonshine, or has gone blind from syphilis.
Whoever wrote the song, though, these guys sure as hell made it their own. (I sometimes like to watch the video and imagine that it’s actually set in some kind of dystopian future where the world has gone totally to shit and we all live in some kind of permanent Mad Max-esque hillbilly rave nightmare, but that’s neither here nor there).
ANYWAY. A few years on from the success of ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and its accompanying album Sex & Violins, founding producer Patrick Edenberg decided he wanted to transform Rednex from a humble band into an all-encompassing entertainment experience. He ruled with an iron fist, and fired everyone who wasn’t on board with his plan – which, sadly, turned out to be all of them. Sorry, guys.
After a complete line-up change, Rednex then began a period of unchecked expansion, taking on new members, shedding others, and splitting off into splinter groups and tribute acts to the point where several original members were actually sued for performing as ‘The Cotton Eye Joe Show presented by the Rednex Band Ltd‘.
In 2012, Rednex announced that they were effectively dissolving as a permanent band, and would instead tour with varying lineups of one female and three male performers – there was even a franchised version of the group specifically created to perform in Australia and New Zealand.
That brings us to 2018, where the line-up of Rednex consists of a varying ‘pool’ of 17 performers, featuring several of the original lineup along with wild new additions with names like Moe Lester The Limp, Jiggie McClagganahan and Pervis the Palergator.
Their newest single ‘Manly Man‘ came out earlier this year, complete with a generous package of remixes including the ‘Dog Ain’t Dead Yet Remix‘, the ‘Stand On Your Own Face, Smoo-oosh! Remix‘ and the somewhat less colourfully-titled ‘For Canadian Radio Only Mix‘.
That last one really has me stumped. Do the good people north of the 49th Parallel have a particular thirst for novelty folk song techno? Is there a deeper in-joke about Canadians that I’m just not getting? Oh my god, this band.
The group’s official website is even wilder, and the online shop section allows fans to buy into the Rednex experience at various tiers, from a free membership giving you access to their songs and videos to a €30/year ‘Bronc Buster’ membership that gives you limited access to the band itself.
But wait, there’s more! €666/year will get you a tonne of sweet merch and backstage access, €11,111/year gets you a private show anywhere in the world – “you just name the date” – and for a whopping €2,000,000, you get to have …. THE BAND ITSELF.
That’s right, if you’re willing to lay down two million Euros, then the whole band is yours, to do with whatever you please:
“Put your grandma’s dog in the band, release 87 different remixes of ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and call the next album “When I went fishing with Stephen Hawking and he just went on and on about gluons and morons… BAH!” (OR do something serious and profitable with it), it is totally up to you! Anything goes cause you are the boss! Make world history and become the first one ever to buy your own No.1 pop band!”
It appears that the band has been on sale for a while, with no takers as yet, but hey, if we all chuck in a few bucks, we could actually make this dream come true, and who doesn’t want their own Swedish techno-country ensemble? I mean, I didn’t until like ten minutes ago, but now it’s all I want in the world. Who’s going in with me? Guys?Image: Getty Images / Ullstein Bild