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An offbeat Nashville zine takes Friday the 13th back from Jason

An offbeat Nashville zine takes Friday the 13th back from Jason

The dead will rise from their graves and devour the residents of Antioch. A freak accident will send anvils raining from the skies over downtown. Thousands of black cats will cross in front of pedestrians, causing them to clutch their chests and fall to the ground babbling in Esperanto. Contrary to popular superstition, these things will not happen today on Friday the 13th. The only guy who needs to be afraid is Glen Campbell.

It was on the previous Friday the 13th, June of last year, that a madman approached the deck stage outside the Boardroom with a portrait of the “Rhinestone Cowboy” hitmaker. Before the eyes of the assembled crowd, he picked up a poker and bashed a hole in the picture. When he got through disconnecting the Wichita Lineman, he turned the poker to reveal a curious emblem on its side—the mysterious letters “RR.”

Rock 'n’ roll? Rump roast? Roto-Rooter? “There was a red recliner in my parents’ home, and I used to think maybe that was it,” says Jeff Meltesen. “Other people thought it had some kind of alternative-country connotation—’Rodeo Round-up’ or something. But it doesn’t really stand for anything.”

Anything, that is, except the name of Meltesen’s zine RR. Since 1998, when he was still living at home with his parents in Atlanta, Meltesen has published commemorative issues full of song lyrics, cut-up graphics, and pop-culture odds and ends. He then celebrates their release with a huge party and live show, a cycle he’s continued since moving to Nashville in 1999.

What makes RR doubly unusual is its printing schedule. Meltesen publishes exactly 50 copies on Friday the 13th, whenever it happens to land. That day is today.

The superstition surrounding Friday the 13th is so commonplace that there’s even a name for fear of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Meltesen, who works as marketing director for Nashville Songwriters Association International, has no such fear. But he’s not a paraskevidekatriaphile either. “The date doesn’t really mean anything special to me, other than it’s Friday and fun,” Meltesen explains. “That’s just the day the first one came out, and the tradition stuck.”

Thus, while the rest of the world is busy avoiding ladders and manholes, Meltesen is preparing his issue and the accompanying show. Each issue has its own size, shape and theme. Last June’s edition, about the size of a folded Jack Chick comic-book screed, came out on tiny sheets of folded, stapled yellow construction paper. Inside were a photo of Tammy Wynette (with finger-holes for her legs), backyard-wrestling snapshots, a rambling account of autograph-hounding at a CMT taping, and a first-person odyssey scavenging for drinks on Lower Broad in a T-shirt reading, “I’ll Take Your Photo for a Beer.”

And then there’s Glen Campbell. Seems Meltesen didn’t take too kindly to some of Campbell’s published comments about ex-wife Tanya Tucker. “He’s quite a self-righteous guy,” Meltesen said, “and self-righteous people frustrate me.” RR’s publisher settles the score in a ballad that rhymes “criticize Ms. Tucker” with “Glen Campbell you fucker.”

The song lyrics aren’t there just for padding. The songs in each RR issue are performed live at the release party by Meltesen and his makeshift band D.Striker. His longtime friend Mason Vickrey will be in tonight’s lineup at the Boardroom, along with members of Ole Mossy Face and the Carter Administration. They’ll be joined by The Clutters and On Command, with the show starting about 10 p.m. To give the zine even more of a freak-occurrence feel, the only way to get a copy of RR is if you show up for the party.

What can we expect from the show and the issue? Of the latter, Meltesen will say only that he found some stylin’ old record jackets that will somehow make their way into print. Of the former, he says that the Boardroom’s TV set will play some kind of role. Uh-oh. Does that mean there might be more of the destructive antics at last June’s show?

“I’ll just say I’m going to be busting through two things,” Jeff Meltesen allows, with all the mystery and foreboding he can muster for Friday the 13th. “And Glen Campbell might be one of them.”

—Jim Ridley

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