Dallas City Limits


Don ’ t feel too unhip. We were brainwashed, too. We believed Austin’s story when it claimed to be the music capital of Texas. We believed it until we found a soon-to-explode hip hop scene in Deep Ellum, a world-class classical guitarist in East Dallas, and a Grammy-award winning trumpeter from Oak Cliff. We believed it until we learned the Crystal Ballroom is the birthplace of Western swing. We believed it until we listened to musicians reminiscing about walking out of their Deep Ellum apartments and picking up an impromptu jam session with New Bohemian Edie Brickell. We believed it until we spent time poking through history books, hanging out at places like the Curtain Club, and interviewing the people who make the music. The facts lead to only one conclusion: Somewhere down the line, Austin stole our birthright. Don’t believe it? The years of conditioning are to blame, not to mention a decade’s worth of propaganda on PBS. Ask yourself this one simple question: How many Austin acts have you seen on The Late Show? (OK, we ’11 give them Willie since we ’ve taken back Sara Hickman. But name one more.) They may have Sixth Street down there, but that was only hobbled together in the last decade or so: We have Deep Ellum– with more than J20years of history, includingsome of the greatest names in American music. ‧ So how did Austin grab the spotlight? To start, it didn ’t hurt to have a captive audience of 50,000 twenty-somethings with disposable income and looking for a good time. And Austin cultivates a laid-back image that seems more in tune with a music scene. Then there was that TV show. Put together, an image formed of Austin as some sort of center of Texas music. Surprise: It’s not. Bigger surprise: We are. ‧ Dallas music fans are more sophisticated and discriminating, and that’s because they have more to choose from. There is no “Dallas Sound,” and we ’re glad for it. Who wants a simple label that squeezes talented people into tight little boxes? In Dallas our diversity is our glory. ‧ Dallas can claim successes like Lisa Loeb. Erykah Badu, LeAnn Rimes, Deep Blue Something, Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs-we could go on forever here. But the fact remains, the Dallas music scene stands on a national and international level, and the people who were born here, or moved here to make their music, have won over more audiences than any Sixth Street denizen could dream about. ‧ But don’t take our word for it. Be your own judge. Bear in mind, the following pages offer only a sliver of the true Dallas music scene, which only strengthens our argument: To cover the scene totally, to revel in its past and a describe its present, would take more than one issue of our magazine. But read on. See for yourself why this isn ’t sour grapes. When it comes to respect in the music world, Dallas should stand up and shout, “We’ve been robbed.”


Hardcore Dancehtall

Burleson went to college on a rodeo scholarship, was a professional saddlebronc rider for two years, and lives in a trailer. So when this guy says cowboy, he means cowboy. No Billy Ray Cyrus, he may be too country for Nashville, which didn’t exactly embrace his true dancehall style. Burleson doesn’t seem to care: He just wants to play music. If he keeps winning local awards like the Star-Telegram’s “Favorite Country Act.” he ought to get his wish.


Light Rock

As far as Pierce is concerned, the end of Jackopierce in early 1997 was the best thing that ever happened to him. “I was miserable at the time-overweight, smoking, drinking,” says the leaner, heallhier. and more spiritually grounded Cary. “1 just felt like I was on a path that wasn’t helping me get anywhere.” Two years after walking away from one of the most successful college bands ever. Pierce finally feels he has found the right path. The result? His emotionally charged first solo project, You Are Here. “I’m putting my family and relationships above else,” says Pierce. “And I am very grateful to be doing what I do.”


The Dulfilho Creation

If anyone could be termed the “’Hardest Working Man in Dallas Show Biz,” it would be John Dufilho. According to our sources, he was once scheduled on a showbill with four different bands and played with every one of them. He started Deathray Davies as a recording project, and he played all of the instruments. Now his band Deathray Davies is on the road with the Old 97s and getting tons of positive feedback on its first CD, Drink With the Grown Ups and Listen to the Jazz. It’s about to sign a deal with Idol Records for the next CD. We’ll be waiting to see what the former member of Bedwetter has up his sleeve this time.


Blow That Thing

Winton Marsalis was giving a clinic at the Booker T. Washington School of Performing Arts when he heard a young trumpeter so good that he invited him to sit in with his band later in the evening. Taking the stage, head bowed and trumpet raised, Roy Hargrove made his musical debut that night 13 years ago. His Grammy award-winning album Havana came 1.0 years later, but even now he doesn’t consider himself a star. When asked if he’ll one day be ranked with the likes of Miles Davis or Clifford Brown, he looks a little perplexed. He’s never thought about it. “I just want to make music that makes people feel good, that touches people in some way, and changes them,” he says. Roy Hargrove doesn’t blow his own horn. When you’re a thirty-year-old world-class trumpeter, you don’t have to.


Classic Swingsters

Infuse Bill Wills and his Boys with a jazz-driven horn section, and you”d get the Rounders. This eight-piece band knows how to swing. They take arrangements of classics and make them fresh, and that’s what makes their sound vibrant. Bandleader Gary Sweet has a talent for putting together a good mix: from Randy Irwin (vocals) and James Falcon (sax), who are a fulltime performers, to Bob Penick (trumpet), a retired TI exec, to Dennis Howard, a graphic artist by day and drummer by night. Sometimes even Buddy Ray-a 78-year-old fiddle player who once shared the stage with Bob Wills himself-sits in. But this mixed group has a common thread-the heritage and tradition of Texas music that makes you move.


In Your Face

Here’s the hipness test: What kind of music do The Nixons play? If you answer “loud,” please proceed to early retirement. If you answer “guitar-dri-ven rock’n’roll,” read on.

After opening for Tripping Daisy and the Toadies, the big signing happened. The almost inevitable struggle to retain artistic control of the music ensued, and now they’re back on an independent label. Founder Zac Maloy was as surprised as anyone by the success of “Sister,” the third single released from Foma. “I still get letters from people that have lost a brother or sister, and they tell me how that song help them deal with it.” A new release, The Lares! Thing, is due out this spring. “I may not ever be Bono.” says Zac, “but I can use what I have-and that’s music-to speak to people and touch them.”


Melal Maniacs

You’ll probably hate them, And you’ll particularly hate them when your kids start dressing like them. In 1988 guitarist Diamond “Dimebag” Darrell rejected an offer to join Megadeth and decided to concentrate on Pantera. Far Beyond Driven debuted at # I, solidifying their stranglehold on the heavy metal world. They are the poster boys for rip-your-hair-out metal-and make no apologies for it. So get your lighters out, and don’t act like you’ve never been to a KISS concert. Reinventing the Steel, Pantera’s new CD, will be out this spring.


The Cowboy Thing

He wrapped his Triumph Spitfire around a tree and broke Mb neck 17years ago, and the only cnduring aftereffect, miraculously, was that he lost his stage fright. The singer whose vocal prowess has received raves from USA Today was once afraid to walk out in front of an audience. Now. Randy performs weekly at the Balcony Club and, during the day, plays elementary schools and libraries as a cowboy, complete with rope tricks.

What does he think of the music scene in the city he chose to make his home? “Dallas is a commercially driven city, and that applies to the music industry. So in Dallas a musician has to be aware that financial success is the gauge by which he will be measured.” By that stan-dard is Randy Erwin suc-cessful?”I have a quote at home on my wardrobe by Emerson, ’To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.’ And musicians do that all the time-they make it easier for people to breath. It’s adamn drab place without music.”


New Age All-Rock

It’s Friday night at Fort Worth’s Wreck Room, and the natives are rest-less-openly jeering the evening’s opening act. Then Edgewater takes the stage and, almost instantaneously, the whole vibe of the place changes. Named as a finalist in Musician’s Best Unsigned Band Competition in 1998, Edgewater’s brand of alternative rock sets them apart from the rest of the Dallas rock ’n’ roll scene. “Yeah, we’re doing really well,” Woolf says, “Really well.”


College Rack

To call Fool’s Cap a struggling college band is still an understatement, despite the success of their self-titled, self-produced first album and growing core of devoted fans, These guys love to play anywhere: frat parties, dank college bars, rec rooms. (A gig at the Curtain Club earns each member a little over $10.) “Until last year when we started playing in Deep Ellum, all our gigs were horrible,” admits David Daniels, the band’s unofficial spokesman, “but it’s looking up.” With the release of their second homespun album, While You Were Out, Fool’s Cap hopes to finally climb up from their college-band roots into a recording contract. But until that happens, you’ll still find them in drummer Jay Henderson’s attic, waiting for his mom to leave so they can practice their hybrid of jazz, rock, funk, and rap.


The Next Big Thing

Until a few years ago, Steve Holy was just another guy singing in the shower. That is until his parents urged him to dry off and try out for a spot in the renowned Johnnie High Country Review in Fort Worth. After all, the influential contest had been the springboard for Larry Gatlin, and Steve’s good friend LeAnn Rimes was already on the show and getting her share of attention. Holy beat out 500 competitors to win the contest and was named the show’s Entertainer of the Year. And the rest, they say, is history. Holy’s first single “Don’t Make Me Beg” was released last October, and his buddy LeAnn invited him to open for her December dates in Las Vegas. Keep an eye on Steve; he is Dallas’ next big country star.


Intellectual Rock

An acclaimed songwriter, a violinist, a producer, and a philosopher add up to more than your average rock band. The award-winning group that has already produced three critically acclaimed CDs is in no hurry to leave Denton. Why Denton? “It’s a very easy town to be creative in, There’s a high tolerance for failure and creativity, and an appreciation for good musicians,” says songwriter Will Johnson When asked about being compared in the Met to a “young William Faulkner,’ Johnson looks almost embarrassed. “It was very flattering,” he says.

Will Johnson, Matt Pence, Mark Hedman. and Scott Durhan seem more interested in controlling their music and its quality than in pressing hard for maximum exposure. They’re in no hurry, as long as they get to do what they want to do.


Hip Weimar

Steve Carter saw a photograph of Kurt Weil’s German cabaret quintet, and inspiration struck. Timid at first about the idea, he mentioned it to Carl Finch of Brave Combo-no stranger to weird inspirations-and got the encouragement he needed. With three band members behind him and sporting a tux, Steve as Little Jack melds jazz, lounge, and 1920 ’s German expressionism into something that is artistic, musical, interesting and, above all, enjoyable. From suburban parodies about Barbie and Ken to circus odes about gypsies coming to town to audience sing-a-longs of Beethoven’s German lyrics, Little Jack and his first-rate musicians are low-key and detached, a kind of Twenties’ cool. This is music for Liza Minnelli to fall in love to.


Soundman Extraordinaire

He’s created his own art form. Listening to some of his favorite bands play live, he couldn’t understand why they sounded so awful. Finally, he realized the problem wasn’t the sound or the space, it was the sound engineer. So he got a book and studied up. Ten years later, musicians (with the exception of the occasional errant guitarist) idolize his ability to conquer crowd noise and room acoustics. This is the man you want behind your band. Your fans will think you’re a musical genius, and he’ll just sit in the wings and smile.


Music Man

Say what you will about crusty old record-retailer Bill Wisener. His legendarily unfriendly brand of customer service, his indecipherable CD filing system, and his cutthroat bargaining style are just part of the charm. Thanks to Wisener, Dallas has Bill’s Records and Tapes, one of the country’s largest independently owned music stores. He never sold out (unlike former patron Robbie Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice) or allowed the labels to push him around. He’s still the same guy who started selling music 27 years ago at area flea markets. “I plan on going on until the very last day,” Wisener says, which is good news to local acts who need a place to spread their sound and aficionados who want to find that elusive track. At Bill’s, music is not a business; it’s a way of life.


The Rejuvenation of Soul

1 The buzz surround ing Dallas’ newest soul diva is only grow ing. Glamour, Vibe, Ebony, and Billboard have all featured the woman behind the sonorous voice and the soulful sound. Explaining why she wrote her critically acclaimed first album, Little Girl Lost Blues, N’Dambi says, “I just wanted to do the music I wanted to do.” Undaunted by the lack of interest from major record compa nies, she created her own Dallas-based label, Cheeky-I. Now, she says, “I had to work a little harder, but the ball is rolling down the hill faster and faster.” Listen to a few tracks on Little Girl Lost Blues, and you’ll under stand why. Since first released in 1998, over 40,000 copies have been sold-without the benefit of a major distribution deal.


The do To Man

Dallas’ premier music impresario has seen a few things since he started booking bands for fraternity parties in the early ’60s. It didn’t take long for Wynne to discover that there was money to be made in the booming music scene, Turning his passion for music into profit, he started putting on all-night jam parties at Market Hall with conglomerations of “little known” bands like Ike and Tina Turner and the Hot Nuts, Stevie Wonder, and Steppenwolf. In 1965 Wynne joined forces with Jack Calmes to start Showco. a multi-level music company that booked concerts (Bob Dylan was their first), operated a couple record labels, and ran the infamous Soul City club on Greenville Avenue. In 1969 the duo brought over 30 of the biggest acts in rock ’n’ roll and put Dallas on the American music map by pulling off The Texas International Pop Festival-three days of non-stop entertainment that drew over 120,000 to see headliners like Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, and Santana. When Wynne wasn’t on the phone, he was hanging with his soon-to-be famous buddy (Boz Scaggs) and checking out undiscovered talent (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) at the gone, but not forgotten, showcase club Gerties. Presently, Wynne is still “puttin’on the ritz” for corporate clients and charitable events.


North Texas Jazz Masters

Susan Lucci had an easier time winning an Emmy than UNT students have of winning a spot in the One O’clock Lab Band. The band is generally acknowledged as the best in the nation. UNT’s graduate program in jazz is ranked #1 every year in US News and World Report. The band tours internationally in such countries as Portugal, Japan, and Russia, and even has a recording contract-it produces a CD every semester. Craig Marshall, the One O’clock’s manager for 13 years and a former member himself, says, “We perpetuate our legacy. Students of the One O’CIock move on to performing and teaching, and inevitably create a new pool of talent that wants to be a part of our program.”


Real Latino

Before you even step through the doors of Sipango’s on a Wednesday night, the rhythms reach you- the sound of the congas, the blare of the horns, the plunk of the piano keys, and the crowd’s shouts of exhilaration. The Havana Boys are playing. Fronted by the Antonelli family (don’t let the Italian-sounding name fool you; they are just as Cubano as the music), the eight-piece band is emerging as one of the muy caliente Latin acts in Dallas. “When people talk about the Latin sound, what they’re really talking about is Cuban music,” says Armando, who doubles as the band’s manager. “Most of the basic rhythms and sounds in Latin music today have their roots in Cuban music.” Word is spreading, the fan base is building, and a soon-to-be released album should only heighten both local and national interest. “We know something good is going to happen,” says Armando. “There’s a sense of good karma around this band.” Did he say karma? Call it Cubano modemo.


Folk Darling

“Call me Sarakah Badu,” says Sara Hickman laughingly as her new CD, Spiritual Appliances, blares through the speakers. Wrapped around the folksinger’s head is a red scarf a la Badu, which adds a little color to the photo shoot (as if Hickman’s animated personality weren’t enough). Houston-bom. she came upstate to UNT for her training, then made her name downtown in Deep Ellum with an upbeat, poignant style. Although she now lives on the Guadelupe River, she says that “Dallas is the birthplace of my music,” and insists on calling it her musical home. And we don’t mind at all.


Authentic Funk

1 The word around town is a party isn’t a party unless Emerald City is in the house. Ask the thousands of Mavs and Stars fans who groove to the band at Reunion Arena. Or the buffs who gather each weekend at the Broadway Grill to hear one of the U.S.’s best unsigned bands, applauding the group’s jazz-infused sound and innovative use of live instrumentation. A deal with music giant EMI seemed imminent, and a video was in the works. For Ty Macklin (XL7), his cousin John Dangerrield (Fatz), and their high school running partner, Bobby May (Bobby Dee), the years spent toiling away in the precarious Dallas rap game finally seemed about to pay off- until MTV News delivered the crushing blow. “We were sitting around one weekend when MTV reported that EMI was closing several divisions.” Fatz explains. “The next week, we’re right back at our old jobs.”

Disillusioned with the “business,” the three members of Shabazz 3 continue to perfect their craft, drawing from influences as diverse as Beck’s Midnight Vultures to old school hip hop tracks, striving to add more depth and dimension. “Nothing is promised,” says Ty. “Atrue artist does it for the love anyway.”


Sax Wan

I He was a hep cal way before anyone thought it was coot He was doing the swing thing before the dabsters started rushing to vintage clothing stores to get “the look.” And lung alter swing is dead (again), he’ll be right on top of the next big thing. I te “s played with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Joe Ely. and Chris Isaak. He’s appealed in several movies, written film scores, and even direeted. That’s just the tip of this oh-so-cool iceberg.


Polka Passion

Carl Finch had a crazy idea in tbemid-70s. He decided to put together a rock bund that played polka music and Latin-influenced tunes. Based in Denton, this band has, enjoyed operating on the fringe. “I think that there’s something about living in Denton that allows.you to think more freely. It’s a very comfortable, loose environment.” says Carl. Well. the fringe days are over: Brave Combo well-deserved Grammy this year.

They tour regularly in Scandinavia, Holland and Tokyo. And they’re nut resting on their Grammy laurels. A new album called The Process is due out this spring and-surprise-it’s pop. But long-time fans don’t have to worry-it’s pop with an accordion.


Dressed for Success

Take five guys and one baffle of peroxide, add in Ziggy Stardust-like glum, sprinkle with charm–and here’s Sugaibomb. Their only GO. Justes Like Sugar. has been culled psychedelic pop circus. They say. “If Smash Mouth took a bite of Queen then you’d have Sugarbomb.” Whater the music is infectious, and their performance is pure adrenaline ’They just signed a deal with RCA Records so we’ll he seeing a lot more of them.


King of Strings

From all appear {Bices, Carrington’s home is typically -subur ban-complete with rambunctious boys run ning around and an over-friendly. over-size< dog. But once you enter his garage, you’re in an entirely different world, one in which Carrington creates the classical guitars that have been heralded as the future of the instru-ment. "I never really intended to do this." explains Carrington from his workiable where he sits fashioning the body of one of his special-order guitars, the smell of fresh varnish mingling with the scent of fresh tonewood in the air. But frustration in the guitars on the market and a desire to create a quality instrument led Carrington into the world of luthiering. In I9S7 he crafted his first instrument-a concert grade "electrical classical" guitar. Thirteen years later, the orders come in from as far away as Alaska.


Psychedelic Swamp Opera

When T-Richard tugged his accordion around as a kid, he probably never thought the day would come when star-struck females would throw themselves ;ii him Bui every dog has his day. and thiss Cajun bund’s upbeat mix of swamp opera and down-home zydeco funk has to be experienced to he appreciated. Look for their new CD, su far untitled, this spring. If you’ve never seen .someone headbanging while playing the washboard, maybe it’s time.


Rocking Country

Only seven years ago Phillip. Ken, Rhett. and Murry were play-ing anywhere they could sometimes lor free-just to bee In play. Last year, their Letterman and reader poll honorable mentions in Rolling Stone. Playboy, and Billboard. When asked d the latest CD is a depariure in Style, the hair on the back of Ken’s neck stands up. “We’re accepted as an alt-country band right now but we don’t limit ourselves.” When asked what he would do if he weren’t à musician, Murry’s face clouds with confusion. Which is all the answer one needs.


The Toadies started in 1988 with only three guys, a girl, and a love of music. The quartet had to hold onto their day jobs at Sound Warehouse and Blockbuster to pay the bills. Their big break came in 1995 when a hit single, “I Come From The Water,1’ broke big in Florida. The Toadies embarked on a three-year national tour, but remain true to their roots. Every member of the band still has a permanent home in Dallas or Fort Worth. They make it a point to play in Dallas at least three times a year, usually at Trees in Deep Ellum, their ravorite haunt.


The Toadies started in 1988 with only three guys, a girl, and a love of music. The quartet had to hold onto their day jobs at Sound Warehouse and Blockbuster to pay the bills. Their big break came in 1995 when a hit single, “I Come From The Water,1’ broke big in Florida. The Toadies embarked on a three-year national tour, but remain true to their roots. Every member of the band still has a permanent home in Dallas or Fort Worth. They make it a point to play in Dallas at least three times a year, usually at Trees in Deep Ellum, their ravorite haunt.

Just a

Hometown Girl

By Sherri Daye

Searching for the Dallas Diva

“Please,” I begged unashamedly over the phone line to Erykah Badirs New York publicist. “We can’t do a major piece on the Dallas music scene and leave out the reigning diva.” “Of course,” said the publicist emphatically, “I totally agree.” Two months and 20 phone calls later, the publicist has not called me back.

Then, on a Sunday night I’m browsing in Blockbuster’s, and who do I see in the next aisle but the Queen of Soul! Big decision to make. I start to palpitate. I’ve got to do my job. I’ve got to get in front of her. I start to sweat. She looks so small and vulnerable standing there, without her famous headwrap and dressed in a pair of jeans. Oh, damn, I say to myself. I can’t do it.

Ten phone calls later I am regretting my good manners. Then it hit me. Erykah the Superstar may be virtually impossible to get in touch with, especially when recording a new album. But Erykah the Southern girl, the neighborhood girl from Oak Cliff, the Booker T. grad, probably isn’t. I tore up the publicist’s 212 number and began searching for Erykah again, this time at home.

I found her, with the help of former teacher Sharon Moddaberi. “She’s coming to the Lakewood Theater for a Showtime premiere, and I’ll make sure you have the chance to talk with her,” Sweeter words were never spoken.

The big night arrived, and I sat waiting with a group of other reporters for the diva. A dread-locked Roy Hargrove entered the room and sat beside me, but I wasn’t interested in him-Grammy award-winning album or not. I was there to talk with Erykah, to rap with Dallas’ reigning musical queen, to learn how she made it from the South Dallas Cultural Arts Center into the elite class of artists charged with saving the soul of R&B.

I got seven minutes.

I admit it. I was looking for a quote as memorable as the time she told the crowd at the Starplex, “Dallas, I put you on the map.” I didn’t get it.

What I got was, “Dallas is home. You have to go where your business takes you, but my home is in Dallas.”

And to give her credit (she is. after all, a Certifiably Big Deal), she is remarkably accessible-to young performers at Booker T. whom she calls by name and embraces in sincere gestures of affection, to the young poets who gather at spoken-word spots like Sankofa Café, and to long-time friends who have supported her dream.

Reporters are a different matter.

Radio Daze

By Kidd Kradick

Learning to Survive in the Nation’s Most Competitive Music Market

PERHAPS THE MOST SURREAL MOMENT OF my life happened in a town outside Dallas fifteen years ago. I was the screamin’ night-time deejay on KEGL (“The Eagle”), and 1 was offered an enormous fee (a hundred bucks, I think) to appear at Sulphur Springs’ hottest teen-spot. I showed up wearing my “appearance uniform”-skin-tight white Guess jeans, an Young Country’s seemingly accidental destruction of a public library after announcing that they’d hidden money in the books; Howard Stern’s celebrated arrival and even more celebrated departure; the demise of Q102, with its schizophrenic overnight format switch from “Sharp-Dressed Man” to “Disco Inferno.” But for me those screaming girls will always be at the top of the list.

Dallas has a reputation as a great place to be a personality. Even I’d heard about the legendary Ron Chapman years before I ever set foot in Dallas. Dozens of high-profile deejays have given up perfectly good jobs in other cities to take a crack at one of the nation’s toughest markets. Even “Maximum Hits 92.5 KAFM.” QI02 came on about that time to prove that “Texas’ Best Rock” meant continuons ZZ Top. And my station, “The Eagle,” shocked listeners awake in the morning with the scatological musings of Stevens and Pruett.

Despite the storms of change, a handful of stations and personalities have persevered. The first time I met Ron Chapman was, for me, akin to an altar boy meeting the Pope. (I did everything but kiss his ring.) I’d been in Dallas about a year and somehow finagled an invitation to the Hard Rock Cafe’s groundbreaking party. After nearly an hour of building up my courage, I introduced myself and prayed over-sized purple shirt, and a sport coat that looked like Peter Max got sick on it.

I was in the door no more than five seconds when 150 teenage girls on roller-skates attacked me, tearing away at my clothes and thrashing me to the floor. I didn’t exactly fit the teen idol profile. At 5’9″ and 135 pounds, I couldn’t compete with Leif Garrett on his worst day {and he’s had some bad days). That’s the moment I realized that Dallas-Fort Worth treats its radio personalities differently.

Over the years Dallas-Fort Worth radio has had lots of memorable moments: the well-known syndicated personalities like New York’s Don Imus have found the going tough in Dallas.

Most stations aren’t patient enough to invest the ten-plus years it takes for a personality to get a foothold. But when I first came here, Dallas was known as a city where distinctive styles flourished. Back then, Labella and Rhodie had every guy under 24 listening to ’The Zoo” (KZEW) while Andy Barber and Pete Thompson were kings of the teens on that my name might ring a bell. I was a nervous wreck. I asked how a haby-dee-jay like me might earn a small sliver of his success. He said, “Buy a house and learn the town.Then wait 20years.” I’m still wailing….

H o w

Western Swing

Was Born

IN 1930 A YOUNG AND DAPPER EX-cigar salesman named Milton Brown sat in with a fiddle band to help sing “St. Louis Blues” at a dance in Fort Worth. When the song was over, bandleader Bob Wills hired Milton and his teenage brother Durwood on the spot. The combination of Milton’s pop singing and Bob’s country fiddling was an immediate hit, and a local flour mill decided to sponsor a radio program for this popular new music. The Light Crust Doughboys were born.

Soon like-minded musicians all over the state began imitating the Doughboys and even ratcheting them up a few notches by blending dance hall string-band sound, Dixieland, blues, polkas, Czech waltzes, cowboy tunes, and accordion music with a big band beat. By 1936 Dallas and Fort Worth were jumping with western swing bands-the Light Crust Doughboys, Roy Newman’s Boys, the Musical Brownies, Bill Boyd’s Cowboy Ramblers, the Sons of the West, Dave Edwards1 Alabama Boys, Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers, and the Crystal Springs Ramblers, to name only a few

The music lives on today, even with some of the original performers. Milton Brown’s youngest brother, Roy Lee, has kept the Musical Brownies’ legacy alive, and the Light Crust Doughboys still showcase the talents of Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery, a member since 1935. Tom Morrell’s Time Warp Top Hands play a “mid-50s Bob Wills” sound and even showcase one of Bob’s best vocalists of that era, Leon Rausch. Cowboys and Indians represent the music’s logical evolution into the future by mixing in a little country and rock. The Rounders have put some jazz back in and tweaked it with a yodeling vocalist.

Western swing is here to stay.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.