Cross Canadian Ragweed

It’s an honor to be asked to perform the National Anthem on baseball’s Opening Day anywhere, but no more so than in Texas, especially when the Rangers are saluting the military unit that pulled Saddam Hussein out of his Iraqi worm hole.

When Cross Canadian Ragweed was asked to do its patriotic duty for the Texas Rangers in Arlington, nobody was more thrilled than lead singer and guitarist Cody Canada.

But that was tempered a bit when Canada spied a gentleman speaking to the wife of co-manager Greg Henry and looking not a bit pleased with the game’s opening act.

“He looked like he was all pissed off about something,” Canada told Pollstar. “So she asked him, ‘How are you doing today?’ and he said something like, ‘I’d be doing a hell of a lot better if we didn’t have a bunch of Canucks singing our National Anthem.’

“She explained it to him.”

What she explained is that Cross Canadian Ragweed is not from Canada at all. And Cody Canada is the frontman’s real name. The closest the four-man outfit comes to the Great White North is their hometown of Yukon, Okla., where the group got its start playing living rooms and backyards before moving on to the clubs of Stillwater and, eventually, Arlington Stadium.

The guys in CCR have known each other since they were in kindergarten.

“I’ve been playing since I was about 7 years old or so. Randy (Ragsdale), our drummer, his dad played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Reba McEntire, people like that,” Canada said. “Randy was born into the music business. Grady (Cross, rhythm guitar) wanted to play guitar, and I taught him what I knew. Jeremy (Plato, bass) is the real musician; the rest of us are just players. He’s the guy that was ready for the road when he was 13 years old.”

The idea to go out and play professionally was born in the backyard of the foursome’s high school ag teacher.

“We played the same bar for like six months,” Canada explained. “We were all underage; Randy was still in high school. We played that bar quietly and just kind of told people on the underground so we didn’t get in trouble. We played the 50 Yard Line in Yukon, Okla., till we got enough money to buy our own PA and then started doing stuff in Oklahoma City and Stillwater, Okla., which was the golden ring to us.”

It was also the home base of some pretty influential artists, but not necessarily of the traditional Nashville stripe. People like Jimmy LaFave, The Great Divide, Jason Boland, and the Medicine Show. Americana stars Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Steve Earle are also cited as huge influences on the fledgling band.

A show at a joint called Lucy’s Retired Surfers Club broke the band in Austin, Texas.

“Live music capital of the world. Great club,” Canada said, still sounding a bit awed. “We played there the first time ever and there were 14 people there when we started. By the time it was over, it seemed like 14,000! That was a great way to pop the Austin cherry.”

Cross Canadian Ragweed

Cross Canadian Ragweed found itself square in the Texas Music Scene, or the Red Dirt Movement, depending on who’s talking.

“It ain’t that typical Nashville shit!” Canada enthusiastically explained.

Even though the band sounds more Southern rock than country, the Nashville labels still came calling. Canada diplomatically forgot the label that sent one particularly clueless rep out to try to sign the fiercely independent new band.

“We had MCA and DreamWorks … one guy from a label I don’t remember said, ‘I really want to get to know you guys and get you signed because you would make a great opening act for Tim McGraw.’

“I said, ‘Dude, have you even heard our music?’ He said he’d heard a little bit of it and I said, ‘Dude, you ain’t heard enough, because, no. Hell, no!'”

Canada’s wife, Shannon, first booked the band into a bar she managed in Stillwater

where she met and married Cody. She still manages much of the business of Cross Canadian Ragweed.

“Signing with a national booking agency was the first big dose of reality for us,” Shannon told Pollstar. “When I was doing the booking, all the money went to the band. There wasn’t anybody on the outside wanting commissions. We were like, ‘What are they really doing to earn this? How hard are they working? Do they really deserve this?’ But we learned. They helped us a lot. We were in over our heads.

“Enzo DeVincenzo used to be with MCA and he really held our hand when we had to talk to big-time lawyers. It’s changed a lot from when we started. But we’ve been blessed with who we’ve worked with and managed to avoid any big turmoil,” she said.

The biggest turmoil seems to be over the band’s name, which really isn’t that hard to figure out with band member surnames like Cross, Canada and Ragsdale.

“The weed part you’ll have to figure out for yourself,” Cody Canada said, laughing.

“We want to do T-shirts that say we’re not from Canada. We don’t have anything against Canada; we’re not gonna say, ‘Hell, no we’re not from Canada,’ or anything like that.” But Yukon is as close as it gets.