THERE WERE 75 PEOPLE WAITING OUTSIDE THE Columbia, South Carolina club, their patience dwindling. A few ventured in every few minutes, only to leave laughing before a song could finish. The promoter was holding his face in his hands and apologizing profusely to us and to himself. He told us over and over how he had been pressured into it, how he didn't really have any choice. Inside, one woman--a 40-year-old bleach blonde in strategically ripped jeans with "Blow Me" and "Boy Toy" spread tightly across her left ass cheek--gyrated on the dance floor with butt-rock moves that had been put to bed a decade ago. The cause? Buck Cherry. Welcome to the world of the residency tour--the first step in making a semi-someone out of a total no one.When we caught up with Buck Cherry they were on the third week of the tour, trying to drill the name of their otherwise forgettable band deep into the American psyche before their April 6 record release. How do they pull it off? The label, in this case Dreamworks, rents them an apartment or two, buys them transportation, a rack of guitars, a case of fancy make-up, two guitar techs and a tour manager, takes care of all food and drink, and sends them packing. Every weekday for six weeks they play the same night in the same club in the same town, no matter who the headliner is, no matter how many people couldn't give a damn. After the six weeks are over, they move on to another part of the unenlightened world and start all over again.

Building a fake fan base takes time, but sometimes it works. Not all that long ago, a couple of unknown songbirds, named Alanis and Jewel, were constantly in Seattle hoping to one day make it big. Round and round goes the carousel, and you always notice the ugliest horse.Tim, the Columbia promoter, referred to Buck Cherry as Guns 'n' Crowses. Maybe they were trying too hard to make a Southern crowd care. When they wailed, "I love the coke-kaine," they weren't just trying to impress an over-age groupie, they were snorting some proverbial Columbian Gold for those 20,000 who would worship them one day. And when someone cheered right back, they seemed to hear the roar of the thousands (or maybe it was the complaints of malcontents outside).

Despite all the down-to-earth flash, Buck Cherry is rumored to be on the same well-traveled road as the Monkees and the Spice Girls. Supposedly, they didn't form; they were put together, the offspring of market research and the imminent rebirth of drug-addled rockandfuckinroll. "We were living and breathing rock and roll when it wasn't in style, and 10 years from now we'll still be doing it," says guitarist Keith Nelson in their press kit. Asking around L.A., the only people who seem to have heard of them were those who worked at their label--and BY GOD, they love 'em!

When I get back to Seattle, nearly a month after that night in Columbia, I see Buck Cherry frontman Joshua Todd's version of Steven Tyler leering out from the centerfold of Rolling Stone, part of the magazine's spread on 1999's hot musical commodities. Can you hear the cash machine warming up? Wait until you hear about how they met through a tattoo artist, about the hard times, the four-track demos, and the punk background. Bonanza! There it is: PUNK, the million-dollar word. Just add a dash of streetwise attitude and rowdy fun, and we'll be in business.Inside the club, a Dreamworks intern, getting no rewards but plenty of "life lessons," worked the room throughout the night. Cassingles of Buck Cherry's soon-to-be first hit, "Lit Up," and posters and postcards made especially for the club, were passed out liberally among the thin crowd. There was even a cassingle in the urinal. On the back cover of the tape you can make out that Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols produced the album. And so one band's tape goes the way of another man's career. It could be months before "Lit Up" turns up on The End or KISW, or it could be next week. It all depends on how well Step Two works.

Buck Cherry, who love "all those naughty pleasures nobody likes to talk about," may or may not be the Creed or Days of the New of 1999. In a few months you might hear nothing of them, or you might hear too much. In the meantime, though: Ladies and boy-toys the world over, come hither.

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