With apologies to Alejandro Escovedo, David Childers has finally had enough of more miles than money.
After four solid years of hardcore troubadouring with the Modern Don Juans, the 56-year-old songwriter and front man for one of the Southeast's best roots-rock outfits says he's retiring from public performing after a handful of December dates.
Childers cites a desire to spend more time at home with his wife, the growing Social Security disability law firm they run together, other creative interests, poor pay, health concerns and the grind of touring as reasons for pulling the plug.
"I got real disillusioned with 'the road,'" he says. "I met a lot of great people and have been well-accepted in a number of places, including overseas. It's been very rewarding, but I just don't feel like there's any place else left for us to go. The reality is that we're playing traditional-based roots rock 'n' roll in a time when they're just isn't a lot of interest in that."
The irony, which Childers concedes, is that in recent years the band's career arc has been on a modest upswing: three No. 1 records on the Euro-Americana charts (2003's Room #23, 2006's Jailhouse Religion, and this year's Burning In Hell); opening slots on several tours with The Gourds; radio play on XM and Sirius; a 2005 Mountain Stage appearance; and successful festival appearances in Europe the last two years. But any further growth was probably handcuffed by the staid and stale Americana machine here, which ignored the band as though they were an effete disco act instead of honest-to-goodness country-hued rock 'n' rollers.
"At first it was hard for me to accept that there was no place for me in country or Americana music," he says. "But I really don't know if I would want that anyway. It's mostly a hard, bitter game out there. It's extremely competitive and there are a lot of people who'll do anything to get a leg up on you. That's just something I don't want to fuck with."
Bassist Mark Lynch says Childers informed the band several weeks ago that he was ready to quit performing live, and described the disbanding as amicable. Still, given the band's recent modest successes, the decision wasn't without its surprise factor.
"I don't completely understand it, but on another level I do," Lynch says. "We have loads of fun when we're playing, but we don't always get paid what we need to get paid, and a lot of times that falls to him to make up the shortfall -- or at least he feels that it does.
"But we've all been up-front with everything, and it is what it is; there are no hard feelings at all. I'd show up and play any time he asks."
It's not the last we'll hear from Childers or his band mates. He says he plans to continue writing songs and recording with the band's gifted guitarist, Randy Saxon, and there are plans to release a recording of DC&MDJ's live tent-revival/hoe-down gigs. Drummer Robert Childers, his son, is now playing with Charlotte bands 2013 Wolves and the Trouble Walkers (ex-Hot Rod Grease Lightning), where he joins Lynch.
But the end of an era doesn't pass without a bittersweet look back. Childers says he was moved to tears during a recent gig -- the band's last -- in Cleveland, a city that embraced them as their own. He cites their Mountain Stage appearance in Charleston, W.Va., as an obvious highlight, as well as all those nights when "you've got a whole room dancing and jumping and they don't want you to quit," he says. "At the same time, there's this thing in me that says, 'you know, I don't want to play this song again.'
"Who knows, in a few years I may go out and perform again, but it's going to have to be for what I think I'm worth, because I think I'm a worth a lot more than what I've gotten. If anybody disagrees with that, they certainly can, but they can kiss my ass, too, because they haven't put the work in and the time and made the sacrifices I have."
For long-time fans or recent converts, you've got a few more opportunities to catch some of the best old-school rock 'n' roll going: Friday, Dec. 14 at the Bohemian Café in Greenville, South Carolina; Thursday, Dec. 20, at the Americana in Pineville; Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Comet Grill; and Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Loft at Rodi in Gastonia.