Uncle Kracker: Gary Ashley
May 23, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Uncle Kracker has just confessed a secret so dark and repugnant, it could derail his suddenly thriving solo career if fans found out. It’s a quiet Thursday morning at a deserted Tower Records on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and Kracker — whose good natured rap – rock debut album, ”Double Wide,” has just hit the top 10 of Billboard’s album chart on the strength of his single ”Follow Me” — is combing the CD racks.

”You know who I’m a fan of?” asks the burly singer / DJ, whose day job is with Kid Rock’s backing band, Twisted Brown Trucker. ”Richard Marx. Don’t laugh at me. Some of those songs…he wrote some good songs. I hate to hold his hairdo against him, you know what I’m saying?” Kracker picks up Marx’s ”Greatest Hits,” smiling appreciatively at the track listing. ”Remember that song [‘Hazard’]?” He starts singing, then suddenly stops and looks around. ”I can’t believe I just said that. I can’t buy that.”

Sheepishly, he shelves the Marx disc and heads for edgier fare: Guns N’ Roses’ ”Appetite for Destruction” (”Classic!” he says. ”I’ve probably had five or six copies. I don’t know what happens to them”) and Bad Company’s greatest hits (”I love that ‘I Feel Like Makin’ Love’ stuff”). But then he spots something that he’s really stoked about. ”Elton John!” he says. ”Look at how big his f—ing section is, dude! I don’t know which one to get. He has all kinds of greatest hits. Volume 1, volume 2, volume 3…maybe I should just buy them all. We used to cover ‘Saturday [Night’s Alright for Fighting]’ with Kid Rock. He loves Elton John for some reason. And I want [sings] ‘Hold me closer, tiny dancer.”’

It turns out Kracker (whose real name is Matt Shafer) is a man of unexpectedly broad tastes, a fan of everything from ’60s pop to old school soul to classic Nashville. ”Growing up I listened to George Jones and Patsy Cline because my dad pumped it through the house,” he says, steering toward the country section. ”I always hated it, but after I graduated from high school I was like, well, maybe I’m supposed to be listening to George Jones and Hank Williams. You know what? George Jones can sing his d— off.”

He grasps a three disc set titled, appropriately enough, ”Trucker’s Jukebox.” ”Joe Stampley’s ‘Roll On Big Mama,’ Lefty Frizzell’s ‘Cigarettes and Coffee Blues,’ Charlie Walker’s ‘Truck Drivin’ Cat With Nine Wives,”’ he reads. ”I bet this is dope. I want it just to hear ‘Roll On Big Mama.’ That’s hot.” He picks up a Hank Ballard greatest hits for ”this song ‘Finger Poppin’ Time.’ You know that? [Sings] ‘Hey now, hey now, hey now…”’ He grabs the Beach Boys’ ”Pet Sounds” because ”they did that TV movie on Brian Wilson, and this guy seems like he did some cool s—.”

Cradling a stack of nine CDs, Kracker wanders toward the register, but first he spots one final treasure. ”You’re gonna make fun of me,” he says.

C’mon, man, it can’t be worse than Richard Marx. ”All right, I’m gonna get this Counting Crows live record. I gotta admit, I feel funny buying a Counting Crows record because he’s got them dreadlocks. But I like that ‘Long December’ song. I think it’s one of the best songs ever written. I totally do.” But what about ”Hold On to the Nights”?

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