Jesse James Dupree can still rock it. It’s nuts around the Full Throttle Saloon when his band Jackyl hits the stage Thursday night in Sturgis. Jesse, Angie and Michael have their hands full as they oversee 30 acres of Sturgis craziness known as the Full Throttle Saloon. Season 3 of the popular truTV show airs Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
Michael Ballard’s business partner at the popular Sturgis bar. Not only is Dupree one of the “hardest working frontmen in rock (he set a Guiness World Record for playing 21 shows in one day),” he’s one of the hardest working people around, period. When he’s not belting out tunes for Jackyl or helping oversee the day-to-day operations at the Full Throttle Saloon, Dupree can be found heading his multimedia empire, Mighty Loud Entertainment, or is in the studio producing several bands. He’s also into spirits. No, not the otherworldly kind, but beer and bourbon. He’s got his own beer appropriately called Jesse James American Outlaw Beer and is launching a Kentucky bourbon this week. This coincides with the debut of Full Throttle Saloon Season 3, which airs Wednesday night Nov. 30th at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on truTV, and was shot this summer during the 71st annual Sturgis rally. Dupree also has a couple of gigs with Jackyl this week, so it’s going to be a busy one. Something tells me he wouldn’t have it any other way.
MotoUSA: How long have you and Michael been friends and how’d that all come about?
Dupree: Mike and I have worked together since 2000, I guess, 1999-2000, somewhere in there. He opened the Full Throttle up and I was there doing a solo tour. My agent called and said there was a new venue in Sturgis which wanted me to come and play. I went and had a blast, but I really just fell in love with Mike’s (Ballard) passion as far as the whole concept of the Full Throttle Saloon was concerned being the destination point for people who bust their knuckles 40-50 hours a week or more. They make that trek all the way to Sturgis, their annual pilgrimage to the Black Hills of South Dakota for the rally, and the Full Throttle is the perfect home base for everybody.
What’s your relationship now – business partners, friends, riding buddies?
All of the above. It kind of grew from there. We became fast friends. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been blessed to have all my dreams come true ten-fold as far as the success of the band and being able to tour and the big productions, all the lights and the sound systems with the big amplifiers turned up to 11 and everything. And I’ve been able to hang some plaques on the wall after the success of different records. For me, that was so much of my single focus forever and it’s been really rewarding and cool to wrap up around Mike and help him have his dreams come true. He had this vision for the bar and we just kind of collectively jumped in there and made it happen.
How well do you and Angie really get along?
Angie is Michael Ballard’s confidant and is a force to be reckoned with. She and Jesse frequently butt heads on the show.
Well, that depends on which way the wind is blowing. We can get along. We’re around each other and talk good and we can enjoy going out to dinner or something, it’s not like we’re just sitting there fighting all the time, as long as I don’t dig into some of the things she’s proprietary about. She can be a force to be reckoned with whenever you push her hot buttons but sometimes it’s just fun to watch her little head pop off.
How you doing since your accident? (Dupree was involved in a motorcycle accident in Georgia at the beginning of October where he suffered a broken ankle, broken foot and fractured right arm).
It’s been a slow recovery. I’ve never had a broken bone before so it was a bit of a different experience for me to have something like that which took six weeks to heal. I just went to the doctor yesterday and they said that all the bones were gonna heal back great. I’ve still got a bit of rehab to do as far as getting back. It’s still bruised and purple. I got hit from the side pretty hard so I broke my foot and my leg in two places and hurt my knee. Where the handlebars kicked back fractured my right arm. I’ve got a contusion and torn ligaments and it bruised my back, because when he hit me I flew about 20 feet through the air and when I hit the grass with my back, they thought I was bleeding internally at first because I was so busted up. More than anything it hurt my feelings because I sure did love that motorcycle.
What the hell happened?
I was strolling down a back country road up here in north Georgia with nothing but cotton tails to the right of me and a couple of sporadic driveways to the left and I was going to t urn into one of those driveways. There was nothing coming toward me, nothing in front of me at all and I threw my left
Jesse James Dupree on his recent motorcycle accident: ‘More than anything it hurt my feelings because I sure did love that motorcycle!’
arm out. I wasn’t worried about the guy behind me because he was behind me. So I threw my left arm out, I used my arm instead of my turn signal because it was the during the day and I just wanted to make sure he could see my arm as opposed to taking the chance of him seeing my little flasher, you know? I kind of threw my arm out to make my left turn and got turned almost completely sideways into the oncoming lane going into that driveway and he thought I was pointing to tell him to go around me so he had moved his car over and hit me right in the side. It was not good. It made me madder than hell. I jumped up and was ready to woop his ass. I was straight-up cussing and tried to get up and my leg said “Oh no, you’re not” and I turned into that one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
No riding since, I assume?
As soon as it gets back into place, you know, I’ll get back onto riding again. That’s what I do.
Let’s talk bikes a minute. Tell us a little about motorcycles and your past. How’d you get into biking?
Where I grew up, my whole life my Dad had a Harley sitting in the garage. He used to let all four of us, him and my brother and my mom and I, he used to load all of us up on that bike and we’d make runs from Georgia over to Alabama and back. He’s an avid motorcyclist and we grew up on them so it was just natural for me. We had dirt bikes and such as a kid so we used to go ride out in the woods. I never had the means or the money to buy me my own Harley until the first album was a success. That was probably the first thing of any substance that I went and bought with my own money, was putting my money down on a brand new Harley. That was my reward.
What you got in the garage right now?
Well, I’ve got a ’94 Heritage Softail. It’s actually the bike that I had my wreck on. There were looking at totaling it out, which is kind of a bummer because I sure took care of that thing. I wish I still had my Kendall Johnson custom, which I had for a while. It went to a charity event up in Wisconsin about a year and a half ago. It was Kendall Johnson-built horsepower and I couldn’t get it out of second gear without hitting “Oh, shit!” For me, it was pushing it because my life insurance policy probably would have been collected a lot quicker if I’d kept that bike.
(L) The Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis gears up for its third season on truTV. (M) Michael Ballard has brought the Full Throttle Saloon into the limelight since he became owner in 1999. (R) The Flaunt girls and their burlesque show are a popular FTS attraction.
Back in the day when you were a young head-banging rock and roller, did you ever think you’d be a celebrity on a reality TV show?
Well, you know, I had produced the reality TV show Two-A-Days which was about that fanatical high school football program over in Hoover, Alabama, and I was the executive producer on that show. We were actually nominated for an Emmy for that show, which was really cool. But I came real close, being around the cameras all the time and seeing how intrusive they can be in your everyday life. After doing that show, I could just imagine what it’d be like to have the cameras on me like this because it is so intrusive. But Sturgis is a bit of an anomaly all the way around because you’re going non-stop, you don’t have time to sleep, you don’t have private time anyways because on those 30 acres there’s always a 100 different things pulling at ya. So to have four guys and a camera crew following you around you quickly forget about them just because it’s non-stop, 24-hours-a-day. It’s a far distance from having them in your house when things are back to somewhat normal. Sturgis is anything but normal for anybody that goes out there.
With your media background, did you have a hand in turning the Full Throttle Saloon into a TV show?
Yes, I executive produce that show as well.
You do the booking for the Full Throttle, right?
Yes, that’s something that we do year-round. We try to stay unique in what we put in over there. The competition around us, they’ve been doing their thing and finding their niche for a while, and while they’re trying to carve out which acts they’d like to have, we like to get a little more edgier, something that appeals to a little bit different crowd. A broader group of people and not necessarily an older group. The future of these motorcycle events are going to be contingent on introducing younger people to it as well. There for a while, there was a big boom with all the biker build-off shows and everything, but it kind of waned in interest with
Jesse James Dupree is a man of many talents. Not only does he help run the Full Throttle Saloon, he still fronts the band Jackyl, heads up a multimedia empire, and has his hands in the distilled spirits game.
the younger crowd. But I think with the Full Throttle Saloon it’s kind of broadened that whole group again.
With the Broken Spoke, the Buffalo Chip, and Glencoe all in the same area, the FTS is in a very competitive location. What’s the key to making the FTS experience unlike any other at Sturgis?
I think one of the unique things about the Full Throttle is it pops all day. It’s not just a night-time venue. The way the Full Throttle is layed out, it offers a couple of layers of debauchery. You’ll see families during the day because there’s nothing to keep them from coming onto the property and visiting the Full Throttle Saloon store or the restaurant that’s up front and the bands that are performing on the inside stage in there. There are a lot of families with the success of the TV show which are swinging by to check it out so there are a lot of attractions that are up front, be it the Wall of Death or the bungee swing or different things like that. And then as you get on back into the property, it becomes a little more party-oriented, and of course once night comes into the courtyard it’s something that’s just dead-on.
How stressful are those ten days for you?
You’ll see how stressful things get here in just a little bit. (The first show of Season 3 airs on TruTV Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. ET/PT). Our whole goal this year was to take things to the next level and so we each had a tremendous amount of pressure on us and different responsibilities to do just that. And the other thing was that started us off right off the bat was, you’ll have to check the first episode out because it was pretty intense, but we knew that rally attendance was going to be down because any year you come off an anniversary year (last year was Sturgis’ 70th anniversary), it’s going to be down. We were surprised that the crowds the week before the rally officially started were huge. They came in so strong and so quick, we couldn’t even contain everybody. They were flowing out into the courtyard whenever it wasn’t even officially open yet because we had construction going on and it was dangerous. So, you’ll have to check out to see what happens as it was a totally unexpected thing.
It’s really turning into a two-week deal now because there’s a lot of people that show up the week before and they’ll stay until the middle of the rally, that way they kind of beat the crowds, get their riding and partying in and then they leave. And a lot of people will come right in the middle of things and stay over a few days so it’s definitely spread out to be a 14-plus day event.
What can Full Throttle Saloon fans expect from the new season?
You’re looking at the razor’s edge. Obviously, it’s going to be what it is because they’re out filming on 30 acres where there’s Mike, Angie and myself doing what we do. You’re going to get that, which you expect with a lot of the same dynamic, but at the same time I think you’ll see some new people develop. There’s some new personalities that came out there this year that got us through the rally – some of them made it, some of them didn’t. You’ll have to check it out.
Jackyl performs every year on Thursday at the FTS. What’s that like?
We basically adopted that day from the get-go and we felt we would just be consistent and every year Jackyl would play on Thursday of the rally and make it something everybody knew would be going on, make it so that’s where they wanted to be on that Thursday night. It’s grown to be the biggest night in Sturgis. Jackyl night at the Full Throttle Saloon, I don’t think there’s anything that touches it. I mean, that’s the biggest night of the rally. Just like Dick Clark owns New Year’s Eve the way that it seems like he does just because he’s been doing something consistently for so long, we don’t
own Sturgis but on that Thursday night, everybody gets down with us and on that one night, we all own it. Every year we try to do something special.
Share with us one or two of the craziest things you’ve seen go down at the FTS.
There’s too many to mention. There’s not a day goes by you don’t see some crazy stuff go on. That’s the great thing about the TV show. People can dial in and check out the insanity, whether it’s some guy whose six-foot-six and all steroided out wearing Viking horns and thong or whether it’s our midget making out with a six-foot Amazon woman, you can never tell what type of craziness can go on.
When it’s time to get away from it all, do you have a favorite ride at Sturgis?
I like riding up to Deadwood and on past it heading up to Lead. It’s a great ride and is my favorite direction to head in. I also like to get off the beaten path if you’re with someone who knows that area and you get back up in some of the old gold mine trails. I was on one of those back roads a couple of years ago and we saw a beautiful, beautiful grey wolf. Afterwards we were telling some people we saw a grey wolf out there and they said “There’s no wolves here, there’s no wolves here” and then in a couple of weeks there was a story in the newspaper where they’d found there were all these grey wolves living on that pass. We came around the bend and he was sitting out in the middle of the road and just looked at us like, “I’ll move in a minute, ya’ll just wait.”
How’s your beer (Jesse James American Outlaw Beer)? I’ve never tried it, but am curious.
Aww, it’s good. It’s a whole wheat, non-filtered beer and actually within the next week I’ve got the Jesse James Bourbon coming out. You can go on jessejamesspirits.com or Jesse James Spirits Facebook page and you’ll see the new Jesse James Bourbon. Just hit that “Like” button and you’ll see – We’re in Kentucky, Georgia, we’re in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, I mean we’re coming out in about 12 states. I’m very proud of that so you’ll have to be on the lookout for it, but it’s a Kentucky Bourbon and I’m excited about it.
How do you stay grounded being a man who wears so many hats? (Mighty Loud Entertainment, Jackyl, Full Throttle Saloon, solo music career, music producer, Jesse James Spirits)
You know, that’s a good question. I don’t know how it’s managed to play out like it has. Somehow or another everything that I do, one thing complements the other. Just like we were talking about the Full Throttle, and I could tell you about the Jackyl shows coming up where we’re going to be in Chicago this coming Friday and Ft. Wayne on Saturday and I could tell you that I’ve got the bourbon coming out. You know, it all kind of synergistically works and I’m fortunate to be able to have great people around me and great relationships.