Last year, the Full Throttle Saloon, part of the annual bike rally at Sturgis, S.D., was barraged by the bad economy and a hail storm that caused tens of thousands in damages. That one-two punch might have meant curtains for Michael Ballard’s operation.
But thank goodness for reality TV. The show last year averaged 1.3 million viewers for Atlanta-based TruTV, good enough for a second season. And that popularity certainly spurred attendance to the bike rally, which runs for nine days in August every year.
Atlanta rock star Jesse James Dupree, lead singer of Jackyl and head of entertainment for Full Throttle, said rally attendance nearly doubled this year from 2009 to 700,000. To even open his doors this year, Ballard had to take out a second mortgage and found some “creative financing” to keep things open this year, Dupree said. And the show’s presence on TruTV certainly helped him get that financing.
“Television changes a lot of dynamics and builds awareness,” Dupree said in an interview last week during a brief respite from heavy Jackyl touring before he hits the road again with DMC of Run DMC.
For years, Dupree tried to sell a reality show featuring Full Throttle Saloon but said TV executives just didn’t get it – until TruTV picked it up. Now it’s back for a second season. The weather this year, Dupree said, was perfect. But he said “a whole new set of issues pop up.”
The first episode references one of them: more competition. A rival built a big concert venue across from Full Throttle, which could either help attendance or divert it. Dupree tried to stack up his own acts, including Bret Michaels, the Marshall Tucker Band and, of course, Jackyl. “Bret’s on fire right now,” Dupree said.
That episode also showcases Dupree’s new talent as a… dentist? “I practice dentistry, ministry and rock and roll,” he said. “I’ve married people. I’ve been shot out of a cannon. Now I can say I’ve pulled a tooth.” A Full Throttle employee had a rotted tooth but no health insurance. Dupree volunteered to pull it, using14 shots of tequila to dull the pain. “What dentist is cool enough to prescribe you tequila?” Dupree said.
And the TruTV cameras captured it. It’s almost as painful to watch.
“Full Throttle Saloon,” second season begins tonight at 10 p.m. and will air every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on TruTV