Uncle Tupelo

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Uncle Tupelo was a popular music group formed in 1987 in Belleville, Illinois. The founding members were Jay Farrar (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Mike Heidorn (drums), and Jeff Tweedy (bass guitar, guitar, harmonica, vocals). Other members included Bill Belzer (drums), Ken Coomer (drums), Max Johnston (banjo, dobro, fiddle, mandolin, steel guitar), and John Stirratt (bass guitar). Initially Farrar was the group's creative force, and consequently did most of the singing as well, but towards the end of their run, Tweedy became more or less Farrar's equal when it came to songwriting and singing duties. The band broke up in May 1994, when Farrar left unexpectedly. Tweedy formed the band Wilco, while Farrar formed the band Son Volt. Wilco now eschews the Alt-country label, while Son Volt retains many of the original fans.

Recording Career

The group released four full-length albums during its four-year recording career. No Depression (1990), Still Feel Gone (1991), and March 16-20, 1992 (1992) were originally released on the (now defunct) independent record label Rockville Records (a sister label of Homestead Records). Their major label debut, Anodyne (1993), was released by Sire/Reprise. A remastered compilation of their work, 89/93: An Anthology (2002), was released by Sony, followed by the coordinated re-release of the entire Uncle Tupelo catalog in 2003 by Columbia/Legacy and Rhino.

Each album has a different aspect to it, one of the greatest qualities from four albums in four years. No Depression is a mix of covers of folk songs, and punk/folk originals. Still Feel Gone is their only album of all original tunes. March 16-20, 1992 was recorded and produced by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, and is an all acoustic album of half traditional folk songs, half original songs. Anodyne was recorded in live takes in the studio, with no overdubs.


  • 1990 No Depression, Rockville Records
  • 1991 Still Feel Gone, Rockville Records
  • 1992 March 16-20, 1992, Rockville Records
  • 1993 Anodyne, Sire/Reprise Records

7" Singles

  • 1990 I Got Drunk/Sin City, Rockville Records
  • 1990 Sauget Wind/Lookin' For A Way Out (acoustic)/Take My Word, Rockville Records
  • 1991 Gun/I Wanna Destroy You*, Rockville Records

* 'I Wanna Destroy You' is a Soft Boys cover.


  • 1991 A Matter Of Degrees OST, song - Won't Forget - Atlantic
  • 1993 No Alternative, song - Effigy* - Arista
  • 1993 Conmemmorativo: A Tribute To Gram Parsons, song - Blue Eyes - Rhino Records
  • 1993 Trademark Of Quality, song - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way w. Joe Ely - Warner Bros./Reprise


  • 2002 89/93: An Anthology, Sony Music

2003 Re-releases

  • No Depression Columbia/Legacy and Rhino Entertainment
  • Still Feel Gone Columbia/Legacy and Rhino Entertainment
  • March 16-20, 1992 Columbia/Legacy and Rhino Entertainment
  • Anodyne Columbia/Legacy and Rhino Entertainment


Often hailed as the fathers of alternative country--a term that Farrar has recently avoided--there is little doubt that their music has had a great impact on the evolution of both the country music and alternative rock genres. Blending styles as diverse as hardcore punk in the style of Black Flag or The Minutemen with country instrumentation and harmony in the spirit of the Carter Family, their sound was immediately considered by many to be the genesis of a new genre. Some even went so far as to call this genre "No Depression" after their first album's title track, a standout cover version of the Carter Family standard by the same name; the song also gave its name to the alt-country periodical No Depression. Another oft-cited influence on Uncle Tupelo is Neil Young, evidenced by Uncle Tupelo's frequent live performances of Neil Young standards like "Down By The River" and "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere".

Genres aside, the blend of working class themes, imagery from middle America, and traditional American music forms, was presented with a decidedly modern rock sensibility. Their instrumentation and production, particularly on the Peter Buck-produced March 16-20, 1992, are worthy of the daunting mountain of posthumous critical praise.

Related Artists

Uncle Tupelo evolved from an earlier punk rock incarnation called "The Primitives", which included Wade Farrar on vocals. Uncle Tupelo side-projects included Coffee Creek, a short-lived country cover band. The band The Bottle Rockets was formed by Uncle Tupelo's former roadie Brian Henneman. After Uncle Tupelo broke up in 1994 Jeff Tweedy formed the band Wilco and Jay Farrar founded Son Volt.

External Links


  • Goodman, David. "Uncle Tupelo". Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Guide and Directory. Dowling Press, 1999. ISBN 1-891847-03-1.
Uncle Tupelo
Jay Farrar · Jeff Tweedy · Mike Heidorn
Related Articles:
Son Volt · Wilco · Brian Henneman