01/12/2009 4:23 PM ET
Country rockers 'Load Up the Bases'
Whiskey Falls hit it big with summertime ode to baseball
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Damon Johnson plays guitar and sings for the up-and-coming country music band known as Whiskey Falls, and he doesn't have a problem getting up on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans.
But stepping into a batter's box? That's an entirely different story.
"I got pegged in the nose by a pitch one time and I never recovered from it psychologically," Johnson says.
"Once I got into Major League of Little League, in fifth or sixth grade, I just couldn't stay in the batter's box. I was a really good defensive catcher and my coach insisted that if I could catch that ball coming at me then I could hit, but it didn't work. I never could recover. So now I'm living out my childhood fantasies through my son."
He's also living out his rock-star fantasies with his band, which has gained plenty of acclaim with a song about the Grand Old Game.
Whiskey Falls, which also includes lead singer Seven Williams, guitarist and vocalist Wally Brandt and multi-instrumentalist and singer Buck Johnson (no relation to Damon), is a band made up of baseball fans.
Williams grew up in New Jersey and loves the Yankees, Brandt roots for the Mets, and the Johnsons, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., are big-time Atlanta Braves supporters.
Their song, "Load Up The Bases (The Baseball Song)," chronicles the story of a baseball player, following him from modest sandlot roots all the way to the big leagues in classic country fashion.
"Load up the bases, fire up the crowd," the band sings in the chorus. "Let's clear out the dugout, we're gonna get real loud. Just throw me a fastball, smoke from the mound/We're gonna end this thing with just one swing/I'm gonna knock one out."
The rollicking song carries the message that no matter how far one goes in baseball, the pure love of the game is always there.
"It's the timeless dream," Damon Johnson says. "To grow up and be a big sports star. So it's not a cheesy song. There's a cool factor to it. It's not like some of those sappy, heartstring-pulling country songs you hear.
"It was that sentiment that went into the lyric, and for us as a band, it was really a lot of fun."
And that was before the song took on a life of its own.
The band members knew they had a fun song that audiences liked, but they never guessed how much of a hit it would become. In fact, "Load Up The Bases," appeared on the country music charts after receiving unsolicited radio airplay during the 2007 World Series.
Soon enough, the song was being featured in advertisements for Braves and Colorado Rockies telecasts on the FSN networks in those markets, and the song hit the charts again, unsolicited, during the 2008 World Series.
For a band that already had two Top 40 singles -- "Last Train Running" and "Falling Into You" -- from its 2007 self-titled debut album, it was just another rung on the ladder to stardom.
"To see the song react all on its own was amazing," Damon Johnson says. "Even though we knew the song was cool and it went over great, we were really surprised that it went over like wildfire.
"To hear people say, 'We didn't know you guys were working that song at radio,' and to be able to say, 'Well, we're not,' and the way it spread to Fox Sports South and the Braves, well, you can imagine what that was like for Buck and me.
"It just doesn't get any better than that."
But for Damon Johnson, it does.
From growing up going to school and showing off Ralph Garr's autograph to tearing up as he watches his own son pitch in high school, the guitarist can't escape baseball.
"Henry Aaron really had a profound effect on me," Damon Johnson says. "I thought, 'If he can come from Mobile, Alabama, and break Babe Ruth's home run record, I can grow up and be a rock star, no problem.
"That's what it did for me."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.