"We probably would have all died if we'd had kept living like we were living," guitarist Mark Patrick (stage name M.P. Nelson) says with a laugh, speaking by phone.
Thankfully, everyone in the band did survive. Now, Inlaws fans will be treated to a night they've been hoping would arrive when the band plays a reunion gig at Rogue Tavern on Saturday, August 27. Joining Patrick onstage will be his band mate and brother Shawn Patrick, Tommy Terrell and Jack Massey (stage names Shun Jennings, Tommy T. Coe and Jerry Jack Paycheck, respectively).
Though it played a brand of music revered by the masses, both Patrick and Terrell admit that The Inlaws filled a need that wasn't being addressed by other bands.
"We were playing a party one night and started playing a bunch of Waylon songs," Patrick says, recounting the original idea for the band. "That was around the time of Billy Ray Cyrus and that type of Country. It was more about how you looked. We said, 'Nobody does any of this Outlaw stuff anymore."
"I was initially approached in the summer of '93 by (former member) Allen Ford," Terrell recalls, speaking by phone. "He said that he, the Patrick Brothers and Jack Massey were starting up an 'Outlaw' Country band. For a frame of reference, this was before Alt-Country and Americana, before the time Country became cool again. This was right in the middle of Grunge. My first reaction was, 'What are you thinking? Who's going to listen to this?' The main reason I agreed to do it was the opportunity to play in a band with three of the four Storm Orphans (the Patricks and Massey's former band), who had been my idols in high school and college. The thought of playing any type of music with them was alluring to me."
Once the foundation was laid, the band selected its songs and created alter egos for its members.
"Over the course of the next several months, we came up with a list of songs, mostly Willie, Waylon, Johnny Cash, George Jones and David Allan Coe," Terrell says. "We came up with the concept, the stage names - the premise being that we all had the same mama, but different daddies, the daddies being these Country music legends. It was all tongue-in-cheek."
But while the band was musically prepared when it took the stage for its 1994 debut gig at The Booth in Tuscaloosa, the final - and equally noteworthy - piece of the puzzle didn't appear until the show was underway. That piece, the band's between-song dialogue, took its live show to another level and became a staple item at all subsequent Inlaws gigs.
"There had never been a discussion about who the leader was or about any banter on stage," Terrell recalls. "We stepped onto the stage of The Booth and I hear this booming voice over the microphone, which was Shawn. That's how the stage banter was born."
That night set a course in motion that would carry the band across the South for the next several years.
"We all kind of jumped in and, lo and behold, there was a strong reaction to it," Terrell says. "The first year or so we'd play sporadic gigs, but around 1995 or so we started getting booked and built up a following, mostly on college campuses in the Southeast. Much to my pleasant surprise, it caught on."
In addition to releasing three CDs - Six Pack, Lethal Injection and 12 Pack - The Inlaws employed a crude-but-effective form of marketing that proved fruitful as well.
"We made a stencil and just spray-painted 'The Inlaws' on a bunch of T-shirts," Patrick says. "The first time we did that, we sold every one we had. Then, Jack came across a deal in Atlanta where he could buy old work shirts for a nickel each and we would lay them out on the sidewalk, start spray-painting them and sell $300 worth of shirts."
By 2000, the traveling lifestyle had taken its toll on the band and the decision was made to call it a day.
"A couple of things happened," Terrell recalls. "One, we just got burned out. Jack was living in Atlanta and he was driving over every weekend and it was just wearing on him. That, combined with the fact that Jack and Mark were both married and wanting to start families and had that tugging on them, too."
An impromptu set at Terrell's wedding reception earlier this year proved to be the catalyst for the band's upcoming reunion show. Though he is the first to admit that he never took to Country music prior to his inclusion in The Inlaws, Terrell is glad he was recruited to a band that opened his eyes musically.
"Shawn and Mark grew up with this music," he says. "My grandfather liked it, but I didn't care for it. I was listening to KISS, Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, the stuff my parents listened to. Over the course of the band's history, Jack and I both immersed ourselves in the music of these artists and that branched out to Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers. We developed an appreciation for that music and came to love it."
Tickets to the August 27 show can be purchased at www.roguetavern.com