By COLLEEN CREAMER
For Nashville Lifestyles
The once favored son of Mooney’s Gap, Tennessee, Doyle Mayfield, is ruminating on the checkered fame of his hit country act, The Doyle and Debbie Show, returning to The Station Inn in March for an extended run.
In early January, the Nashville twosome made their national debut on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Mayfield said making “the big time” would cement years of hard work.
“It would secure our place in the parthenon of legendary Country duos,” says Mayfield.
Don’t you mean pantheon?
“We’d finally be allowed back on the Opry,” Mayfield says forging past the query. “I could pay off all my debts, and I’d never have to suck up to my brother-in-law again. We’d have a big bus, and we’d be sellin’ hundreds of thousands of CDs and tee shirts and caps and stuff. But mainly it’s all about the music.”
The Doyle and Debbie Show, a little bit country and a little bit As the Holler Turns, has been packing them in at whatever venue will have them. The show skewers country music — and much of its message — in a way that is not for the faint of heart, specifically those who don’t get deadpan satire. Ditties like “God Loves America Best,” “When You’re Screwin’ Other Women” or “Snow banks of Life” have a very distinct audience.
Lore has it (or more aptly the show) that “God Loves America Best” was scheduled to have been the theme song for George W. Bush’s first gubernatorial campaign until something happened that was so unmentionable the details are now sealed by federal court order.
In reality, Doyle and Debbie are Bruce Arntson and Jenny Littleton. The Doyle and Debbie Show was written and composed by Arntson and was originally performed at Bongo Java After Hours Theatre. It quickly found its stride — and its public. In October, a special performance with a live band sold out the Belcourt Theatre for Doyle and Debbie’s CD release party.
The rest, they say, is history. The made up one, however, the one that plays out onstage, is a convoluted white-trash epic littered not only with a number of previous Debbie’s but also of bad choices, ex’s, luck, and DNA.
“Technically, I’m still married to my second wife, which recently came as a big surprise to me and my three subsequent wives,” Mayfield muses.
Of his beginnings, he waxes tangential.
“I was born in the ladies room of the Mooney’s Gap Piggly Wiggly,” says Mayfield. “Years later they tore it down and put up a statue of me after my third top ten hit. Then after I got kicked off the Opry they tore my statue down. I think it’s a Red Lobster now.”
Doyle explains Debbie’s unexplained absence as if it was news of a common kind.
“She’s stuck over at the Tidy Wash with a dead battery and three kids,” he says. “Believe you me, you do not want them in here. They ‘bout tore the headliner out of my Monte Carlo.”
It’s not just that the songs and bits are funny, but that both players have great voices and can deliver the essence of the also ran with scary accuracy. Debbie, whose muscular vibrato is astounding, slides the mic cord through her other hand a second or so off the beat. Doyle often just steps hilariously back in honor of himself.
Spare time these days, he says, is taken up with a lot of community service “for at least another three and a half months.”
The big time indeed seems to be looming for the two, but it’s a little like watching a train on the horizon headed for a flock of sheep. What will they do with all that money? Certainly there will be even more divorces, paternity tests, tears, a few calls to 911, a trailer full of trouble.