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Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys

Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys – Sing and Play the Songs of Freddy Fender

Baldemar Records BR-201 & BR-202 [2020]
Before the Next Teardrop Falls – I Can’t Remember When I Didn’t Love You
Wasted Days and Wasted Nights – Holy One

Freddy Fender, born Baldemar Huerta hence the name of the label, was a versatile singer and songwriter. It’s no surprise to find Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys paying tribute to the man on this superb double 45 set. Like him, the band played Rock’n’roll, Rockabilly, Doo-Wop, and so on, and Fender’s influence can clearly be heard in some of Big Sandy’s intonations.
Each disc contains a hit and a lesser-known gem from the Fender’s early days.
Side A of disc one is Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Fender’s best-known song. It’s a tough job to sing it after Fender, not only because he sings it perfectly (an understatement if there is one) but also because this song is so much associated with him. Despite all that, the result is one of Big Sandy’s best vocal performance, perfectly supported by Ashley Kingman on Spanish guitar.
On side B, I Can’t Remember When I Didn’t Love You sees the band returning to its Rockabilly roots. It’s also the perfect vehicle to hear the skills of Kevin Stewart on bass and Kip Dabbs on drums.
The second 45 features the swamp pop Wasted Days and Wasted Nights. If the vocal is flawless, this is Kingman who steals the show on this one with a fantastic scorching guitar solo.
On the flip, the Doo-Wop Holy One, featuring Uncle Ernie Vargas, Alex Vargas, and Lil’ Ernie Vargas on backing vocals, evokes the best moments of Dedicated to You.
It’s a limited edition of 1000 copies, but it also exists on CD, and Sleazy records licensed it with a different cover.
Whatever the format, grab a copy here!

Big Sandy vs. Deke Dickerson – Jesus & Gravy

Sleazy Records SR142 [2018]
Make A Little Time For Jesus / Get The Gravy Hot

This release is a split single between Big Sandy (side A) and Deke Dickerson (side B).
Fellow Fly Right Boys Ashley Kingman and Kevin Stewart back Big Sandy, helped by Chris Sprague on drums and Ernie Vargas on tambourine. Make A Little Time For Jesus finds him, with no surprise, in full-gospel mode. The man who penned songs like Between Darkness and Dawn, Thru Dreamin’, and many others, has been more inspired in the past.
You’ll find the same musicians backing Deke Dickerson, but Kingman switched to 6-string bass, and Stewart plays electric-bass. The song, a cover of Shotgun Red, is an excellent country rocker that suits Deke’s voice and style to a T.

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Fine, Fine, Superfine
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Fine, Fine, Superfine

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Fine, Fine, Superfine / Everytime

Ruby records {2016}
It’s the first release of a brand new label, Ruby records, launched by Ruby Ann and Tom Ingram and it comes in a beautifully designed sleeve. And what a better choice to lauch a label than Big Sandy? Even though it’s only a single and we desperately need a brand new album, it’s always good to have a new release by today’s finest purveyor of Rock’n’roll, the man with the velvet voice himself, Mister Big Sandy. Not to forget the Fly-Rite Boys who are Ashley Kingman on guitar (23 years or so of service), Kevin Stewart and newcomer Ricky McCann on drums.
It was a very good surprise to see that Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys had recorded this two sides at Wallyphonic studios with Wally Hersom at the console, like they did for their debut album.
The A side is “Fine, Fine, Superfine” a good rocking’ song with a solid beat. This is not Robert Williams’ most original song but it completely fulfills its goal: make you dance, shake your head and tape your feet. The flip is far more original and is pure Big Sandy. It’s got the same highly melodic hook than song like “How did you love someone like me”, it’s smooth but rocking in the same time. This is a kind of tune that shows why Robert Williams has no equivalent in term of songwriting today. And with a first rate band like the Fly-Rite Boys, it’s a killer.

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – What A Dream it’s Been

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys -What A Dream It’s Been

Cow Island CIM022 [2013]
Baby Baby Me – This Ain’t a Good Time – Missouri Gal – Don’t Desert Me – Nothing To Lose – Glad When I’m Gone – Parts Unknown – You Mean Too Much To Me – I Know I’ve Loved You Before – Three Years Blind – If I Knew Now What I Knew Then – What a Dream It’s Been.

When an artist and a fine songwriter like Big Sandy breaks a silence of nearly seven years to release an album of “acoustic and newly arranged versions of old songs” one can reasonably have some fears. But fear not my friends; although it borrows a song from each of his records, -with the exception of the Jake’s Barbershop ep- “What a Dream It’s Been” is not just a quick re-recording of old favourites like it’s too often the case with that kind of project. The reason lies, in part, in the choice of the songs. Big Sandy has dug deep in his discography to select lesser known songs than the one available on the two best-of released by Hightone and Rockbeat for example. And musically it’s an adventurous thing which is more a prolongation of the recent albums than the summary of a career. Thus it sees the band expanding the range of its styles to bring early ska and rocksteady (Baby Baby Me, I know I loved you Before) to the mix as well as bluegrass (This Ain’t A Good Time, Will You Be Glad) with Ashley playing mandolin and Jeff West providing harmonies, Country Soul (Parts Unknown), Mexican tinged stuff ala Marty Robbins (Nothing To Loose) and a jazz duet with guest vocalist Grey Delisle (What A Dream It’s Been). Big Sandy’s voice has never sounded so good and deep, particularly when he’s only backed by a double bass (“Don’t Desert Me”) or a guitar (You Mean Too Much to Me) and the acoustic format reveals the beauty of his song writing. It also puts a new light on Kingman’s skills. His talent shines throughout the album and is in large part responsible of the success of that record.
In the end, what was supposed to be just a celebration of a 25 year career turns out to be a pivotal album in the band history as were “Jumpin’ from 6 to 6” in 1994 or “Night Tide” in 2000.

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Turntable Matinee

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Turntable Matinee
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Turntable Matinee

Yep Roc – Yep 2121 [2006]
Power Of The 45 – Love That Man – The Great State Of Misery – Haunted Heels – Ruby Jane – Spanish Dagger – Mad – The Ones You Say You Love – You Don’t Know Me At All – Yes (I Feel Sorry For You) – Lonesome Dollar – Slippin’ Away – I Know I’ve Loved You Before – Power Of The 45 Pt. 2.

I became a Big Sandy fan from the moment the needle of my platter played Hot Water the opening song of Fly Rite With, their first album back in 1990.
In 2000, the dark mood of Nightide marked a turning point in Big Sandy’s recording journey and his songwriting. Having used the rockabilly and the western swing terminology and grammar for years, he freed his writing and went to a new level with no restrictions, creating more than re-creating.
After It’s Time in 2002, Turntable Matinee is a deeper step in that direction. Still built around western swing type of songs like Yes (I Feel Sorry For You) with Lee Jeffriess back behind the double neck steel guitar, it takes that genre further and brings on some of these songs a late 60’s feel (The Great State Of Misery). Straight rockin’ songs make a welcome return in Big Sandy’s set with Ruby Jane and the two parts of Power Of The 45 at the beginning and the end of the record, an ode to the band’s influences (Glen Glenn, Link Wray, Chuck Berry, Janis Martin, Etta James…). Between those two solid anchors you’ll find some latin / bossa nova (Spanish Dagger), a bluegrass inspired tune (Lonesome Dollar) and probably the biggest surprise: a Stax / Memphis soul masterpiece called Slippin’ Away with Cad Kadison on sax. And just when I was thinking Hey this is the first Fly-Rite Boys’ album without an instrumental tune came the hidden track, an instro version of Spanish Dagger. Finally it’s more than logical that after being produced by Dave Alvin for their first two albums as Fly-Rite Boys they now fit perfectly with the Blasters’ definition of American Music.
Since the Fly-Rite Trio days the line-up has seen some changed but that didn’t weaken the band and brought new blood and forced it to be more creative every time. The best example is bassist Jeff West who is now a key member of the band : he wrote three songs (and one of the most beautiful song ever sung by Big Sandy You Don’t Know Me At All) and sings two. The musicianship is, as usual, faultless from Ashley Kingman’s inventive guitar licks and his questions/answers with Lee Jeffriess (especially on Yes(I Feel Sorry For You) to Bobby Trimble subtle drumming (listen to I Know I’ve Loved You Before and pay attention to his brushwork). This album is going to be hard to top but I’ve already said that about It’s Time so I don’t worry that much.

 Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – It’s Time

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - It's Time
Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – It’s Time

Yep Roc, [2003]

”It’s time” follows the beautiful but dark and sad “NighTide”. The line remains unchanged except for Jimmie Roy (Ray Condo’s Ricochets) who replaces Lee Jeffriess on steel.
Entirely recorded live in the studio to capture the freshness of their first recordings, it’s also a much more varied album. You can find classic Rock’n’roll ala Elvis (Chalk It up To the Blues), followed by the Cajun inspired “Bayou Blue” with Chris Gaffney on accordion and there’s even a surfin’ instrumental written by Ashley Kingman (Strollin’ With Mary-Jane). Of course their usual brand of hillbilly bop/rockabilly is still present with songs like I Hate Loving You on which Jeff West voice blends perfectly with Big Sandy’s. He also takes lead on the jazzy Money Tree which makes you regret he doesn’t sing more. But Big Sandy remains the “real” singer of the band and the excellent “Night Is For the Dreamers” with its doo-wop atmosphere concludes the album in beauty.

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Night Tide

Hightone Records HCD 8123 [2000]
Night Tide – Between Darkness And Dawn – Tequila Calling – When Sleep Won’t Come (Blues For Spade) – If You Only Knew – Give Your Loving To Me – In The Steel Of The Night – A Man Like Me – Hey Lowdown! – My Time Will Come Someday – I Think Of You – Nothing To Lose – South Bay Stomp – Let Her Know

Released in 2000, Night Tide marked a turn in Big Sandy’s musical evolution.
Wally Hersom, former bass player of the band and the last remaining member of the Fly-Rite trio days, had left the group to be replaced by Jeff West (the Sun Demons.) West not only brought his bass, but he also came with his singing abilities, giving Big Sandy a second voice to play with, like a new instrument, hence the presence of harmony vocals on many of the songs.
It was also a change of mood. While previous albums featured dancing tunes and lighthearted lyrics (My Sinful days are over, The Loser’s Blues), Night Tide featured Robert Williams’ more introspective and dark songs. Songs like “When Sleep Won’t Come” written from the pint of view of Spade Cooley in jail, or “Nothing to Lose,” one of Williams’ saddest tune, are perfect examples of that direction. With these songs and others like the title track and Between Darkness And Dawn, Williams seems to throw off the limits of roots music and write songs without restraining himself.
And behind the Latin beat of” Tequila Calling,” one can hear the story of a man fighting with his demons. Even Lee Jeffriess, instrumental, which is usually danceable, is a slow and reflective number.
By comparison, ditties like “I Think of You” or “Give Your Loving” (penned by West) seem out of place and almost break the charm.
But the Fly-Rite Boys also stay true to their roots with rockin’ numbers like their cover of Cliff Bruner’s My Time Will Come Someday featuring Ashley Kingman in full Grady Martin mode as well as Hey Lowdown ( a stage favorite) and Let Her Know.

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Down at Jake’s Barbershop

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Down at Jake's Barbershop
Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – Down at Jake’s Barbershop

No-Hit records ‎– EP5
Down at Jake’s Barbershop – You’re No Fun – Fallin’ for You – Snake Dance Boogie

In 1992, steel player Lee Jeffriess joined Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Trio (Big Sandy, TK Smith, Wally Hersom and Bobby Trimble) that became Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys. Shortly after that, Smith left the band. The toured Europe with Malcolm Chapman (Carlos and the Bandidos) on guitar before Ashley Kingman (Red Hot’n’Blue) officially joined the band in early 1993.
In July of that year the new line-up recorded these four tracks at Wally’s studio for No-Hit Records.
These four songs are the missing link between the “On the Go” and “Jumpin’ From 6 to 6“. They show the transformation of a tight rockabilly combo into a western swing machine that will culminate with “Swingin’ West” and “Feelin’ Kinda Lucky.” Here the mood of the day is more hillbilly bop with two originals on side A and two covers, Link Davis’ Fallin for You that features Carl Sonny Leyland on piano and Roy Hogsed’s Snake Dance Boogie.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Kim Lenz

Kim LenzKim Lenz

20th Century Rockabilly Meets 21st Century Woman

Take the warm, honeyed tones of a Wanda Jackson ballad. Combine them with the lusty power of Barbara Pittman. Add a liberal helping of Janis Martin’s gritty vocal, and sprinkle generously with the raw, rebellious sounds of rockabilly poster boys Gene Vincent and Billy Lee Riley. The result? A cocktail of rockabilly royalty named Kim Lenz.

by Denise Daliege-Pierce


Music has always been a part of Kim Lenz’s life. The offspring of a father who tuned into Wolfman Jack’s radio show and a mother who enjoyed listening to classic country crooners, Kim Lenz was exposed to an eclectic mix of music styles. During her formative years, she sang in choirs and played some guitar and piano, but a lack of support from her family dampened any hopes Kim had of performing.

Years later, music would once again seductively weave its way into Kim’s life—and this time, she would heed its siren call. At the age of 20, Kim Lenz moved to Los Angeles, where she worked in music copyright and publishing. California was ground zero for the burgeoning West Coast rockabilly scene, and Kim attended shows at The Palomino and King King, immersing herself in the music of Big Sandy, Dave & Deke and The Paladins. The rockabilly bug had bitten—hard—but it would take a marriage and a move to Texas before the musician inside of Kim Lenz would emerge.

The University of North Texas would be the catalyst to Kim Lenz’s rockabilly coming out party. Renowned for its jazz program, UNT was where Kim—who was working towards a degree in psychology—recruited members for her first band, Rocket Rocket. “I guess I was 26 or 27. There was seven of us and, I think, only five people showed up,” Kim reminisced during a recent telephone interview, describing the group’s first gig at a local coffeehouse. “I think I sang ‘Cool Love’ and ‘The KGB (Made a Man Out of Me)’.

Despite the meager turnout, Kim was euphoric. “I couldn’t sleep that night—for a couple of nights—like I had been given heroin or something, and was really addicted to it,” she confided.

Although Rocket Rocket disbanded after a handful of shows, Kim was not dissuaded from performing. “All I wanted to do was get a gig at Bar of Soap,” she laughed, referring to a combination laundry mat/bar that featured live music. Her goal achieved, Kim—after some trial and error—had a new backing band, The Jaguars, and the quartet began performing in earnest. “I started writing music, and I liked that,” she remarked. “A lot of the joy that I felt on stage is I can’t believe people are letting me do this. I do it for the love of the music. Money, I think, can be a hindrance to creativity.

Kim Lenz and the Jaguars
Kim Lenz and the Jaguars (Nick Curran, guitar – Shawn Supra, upright bass – Scotty Tecce, drums), circa 1999.

In 1997, the group, with an assist from roots music mainstay Deke Dickerson, released an EP on the tiny Wormtone Records label. It wasn’t long before Larry Sloven, co-founder of Hightone Records, came calling—literally—and Kim Lenz and The Jaguars were on their way to becoming flag bearers of rockabilly music’s revival. Wally Hersom, then bassist for Big Sandy’s Fly-Rite Boys, took to the producer’s chair for Kim’s first Hightone release, 1998’s Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars; The One and Only quickly followed in 1999. The albums were a tribute to Kim’s ability as a songstress—“[On] all of my records, I write most of the songs,” she told me—but they also placed a firm spotlight on some obscure rockabilly gems, such as The Miller Sisters’ “Ten Cats Down”. “I think it was on a Sun Records compilation I had,” Kim replied when asked how she discovered the oft-forgotten tune.

Kim’s sophomore effort continued her tradition of combining fresh rockabilly songs with homages to her music mentors. The album would also provide a unique link to Gene Vincent—more so than any reworking of “Be-Bop-a-Lula” or “Dance to the Bop” ever could—courtesy of Don Carter.
Don Carter’s name may be unfamiliar to some, but his body of work certainly isn’t. The man behind Ronnie Dawson’s “Rockin’ Bones” also penned a pair of songs that Gene Vincent intended to record; one was “B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Go”, the instantly recognizable classic. The other, “If You Don’t Like My Peaches (Don’t Shake My Tree)”, for reasons unclear, never received the studio treatment… until some forty-plus years later, when Carter offered the neglected number to Kim Lenz. “Don Carter lived in Dallas,” Kim recalled. “I got into contact with him through a mutual friend. I met him, and he was such a sweetheart. We were just kinda, like, ‘Try it’. [It was] such a cool honor to do a song written for Gene.

After two successful albums, in 2000, Kim stepped off of the stage to undertake an entirely new project: motherhood. Was trading her microphone for a diaper bag a difficult decision to make? “You know, the timing was right,” she responded. “I just spent three-and-a-half to four years on the road; did 200 shows a year—pretty much did everything I could do. I didn’t have a goal of making mainstream music; I didn’t have a goal of breaking out. My goal was to make rockabilly music. I was just burned out. “I think I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll have a kid. I’ll just strap it to my back and I’ll live my life’,” Kim divulged. “Well, it didn’t happen that way. [During the pregnancy] I got really sick—had to cancel my last two tours. I just laid around.

As her son grew, so did Kim’s free time—and with that, her re-emergence into the rockabilly scene. Hightone released a greatest hits collection, Up to My Old Tricks Again, in 2005, and Kim Lenz made the occasional compilation album contribution. “I recorded for Bloodshot [Records]; I did ‘Cool Love’ [for the album Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson] and ‘Down on the Farm’ for the kids record [The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides].” Kim also resumed performing on a limited basis, appearing at a Spanish rockabilly festival in alternating years and making one-off performances in the States. “I never really gave it up,” Kim acknowledged. “Now, the challenge for me is, I’ve never been very good at balance. I go one way or the other way.

Balancing motherhood and music wasn’t a success for some of her predecessors. Sparkle Moore had recorded a handful of tracks for Fraternity Records in the mid-1950s before walking away from the music business to raise a family. The budding career of one of Kim’s musical influences, Janis Martin, suffered a similar fate. “Janis got pregnant, and then she was never really able to come back,” Kim remarked. “I think that’s definitely a hindrance unless you can balance.

Rockabilly’s renaissance during the 1980s and 1990s encouraged some of the genre’s pioneers to return to the stage. Janis was one of them. “The Female Elvis”, prior to her death in 2007, had returned to performing on the rockabilly festival circuit, and was planning to record a new album. According to Kim, Janis, despite her years, hadn’t lost a step. “[Janis had] such an amazing, strong voice,” she enthused. “Seeing original artist from the fifties can be hit and miss. Her voice was amazing. She just has [sic] such an amazingly true, warm voice. She never lost it.

Kim remembers performing with Janis at 1999’s Viva Las Vegas event. “The promoter put a band together for her—amazing musicians; all the best,” she recollected. “They want the band to learn the song exactly on the record. She wanted to get up there and rock.” Janis, disappointed that the musicians were not tearing up the stage in true rockabilly spirit, admonished the group. “You guys aren’t rockin’,” she told them. “She had that wild streak in her,” laughed Kim.

Kim Lenz

Hightone Records had folded. With her son now in school, Kim, having re-relocated to Los Angeles some years earlier, decided to return to doing what she loved best: making music. She formed Open Ranch Studios in her home, with the intention of recording music for television and film scores. What soon emerged was a new album, 2009’s It’s All True!. The disc, released on Kim’s newly formed Riley Records label, features the singer’s distinctive voice and usual mix of material both old and new; it’s also the first album that Kim herself has produced.
Kim described the reasons for the change. “So many costs with a label…you have so many costs; not really have any control, either. I talked to a few people at some smaller labels. Labels are, pretty much, dinosaurs—they’re really not necessary. I wanted to have total control. [With previous albums] there was too much time pressure. There are some songs I’m really proud of; other songs, I didn’t get to finesse them as much as I wanted to.
As a producer, Kim Lenz dedicated herself to crafting the perfect album, much as she did to penning the ultimate toe-tapping rockabilly number. She took a year to record the vocals, and received a helping hand from a few friends: Fly-Rite Boy Carl Sonny Leyland played piano on the disc, while respected roots musician Billy Horton mixed the record.
Another colleague to lend his talents to the project was Kim’s longtime friend, the versatile Big Sandy. Known for his distinctive mellow voice and ability to perform a variety of music styles—from western swing to rhythm and blues to rockabilly—Big Sandy had provided songs for and produced The One and Only, and played several roles in the completion of It’s All True!. He was session guitarist for the majority of the album, and contributed the song, “He’s All Mine”, a duet to which he also supplied his vocal skills.
Kim Lenz has the utmost respect for Big Sandy. “He is just a consummate musician; professional—such an amazing songwriter,” she marveled. The pair seemed to share a certain synergy, too. While living in Dallas, Kim, armed with a songbook containing a few partially written tunes, joined Big Sandy at a diner. In quick order, he turned the works in progress into completed songs. The finished products received Kim’s approval.
He’s such an inspiration,” praised Kim. “He lives and breathes it [music]. He lives it. He’s on the road all the time. I think, more than anything, he’s an inspiration to me. If I have a problem….He’s my mentor. There’s nobody else like him. He’s kept it up all these years.
Each song is such a great work of art,” she continued. “A lot of bands that people think are rockabilly aren’t. It’s all about bowling, flames and cherries—really boring stuff. Big Sandy brings real songwriting to his stuff….He can do anything, rootswise. Thank God for Big Sandy.”

Kim’s approach to It’s All True! was different from the one she perceived Hightone Records had taken with her previous albums. “What I wanted it to be was not what I thought was good enough, but good,”, she commented. “If you’re gonna make something good or something you’re proud of, you need that tenacity….When I’m done, I want to be able to listen to and enjoy it.

The music industry continues to evolve. The days of popping into the local record store to snare the latest vinyl album or cassette or CD are rapidly dwindling. The advent of the internet and digital media have made music of all categories and cultures more accessible—and more economical. It’s a change that hasn’t been lost to Kim. “There’s a new paradigm happening in the music industry,” she stated. “You buy one or two songs off of iTunes. It’s different selling. Nobody really knows what the new paradigm is.

Kim Lenz appears prepared to tackle the challenge of marketing her own work in such a tumultuous environment. “There wasn’t a record label that I would give up ownership of the record [to]. I got a really good U.S. distributor.
The rockabilly crowd is amazing,” she raved. “Once they like you, they like you forever.
I learned a lot of lessons,” the singer admitted. “I really do appreciate now a lot of what Hightone did…I really love owning it [the record] and having all the control to myself. Nowadays, if you’re a subgenre musician, you really have to write, play your own instrument; do your own P.R.

With inexpensive marketing tools such as YouTube and Facebook readily available—and the increased costs of fuel and other assorted travel expenses—the once necessary task of touring in support of an album has become less than profitable. “People don’t realize what it takes to get there for that one-hour performance,” Kim lamented.

kim1Recording a new album may not have been Kim’s initial intention for her studio digs, but it achieved the desired result: the use of her music on television. True Blood, the popular vampire-themed HBO show, has utilized Kim’s material before. “The first time they used one of my songs in True Blood was Season One on the first show,” she related. “I didn’t know anything about the show at that point, and didn’t even have HBO. Since Hightone Records had sold to Shout Factory and nobody there seemed to have my contact info, I was never notified of the use. So, it started playing back east earlier than where I live, in L.A., and I started getting e-mail messages, phone calls and MySpace messages. I called up the cable company, had them turn on HBO and watched Sookie listening to ‘Dang Good Stuff’ out of her iPod. That was cool. The second time they used one of my songs was in the season finale of Season Two. This time, they used a song off my new record, ‘Zombie For Your Love’, which I own, so they contacted me directly for licensing. This was also very exciting, because I didn’t have another label or publishing company deciding about my music.
Recording for one’s own label can be a costly investment. Even with the distinction of having her music featured in a television series, Kim Lenz has not fully recouped the costs associated with the making of It’s All True!. Nonetheless, making the album has not caused any regrets. “All those recording costs—it costs money to do it right. We’re not living the high life—we’re doing what we love to do. I don’t get wrapped up in the moneymaking part of it. If they wanna have subgenre music, the fans have to be part of it.
I think,” continued Kim, “what I’m gonna do next is start working on one song at a time; really start crafting one song at a time. I’m really, really proud of the record. I really don’t have any sour grapes.

Although Wanda Jackson’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 cemented her status as “The Queen of Rockabilly”, women rockabilly artists are, in general, an unknown commodity. Connoisseurs of the genre can rattle off a nearly endless list of male rockabilly performers, but most would be hard-pressed to name even a smattering of their female counterparts. It’s a conundrum that I’ve never quite understood. I asked Kim if she felt that women’s contributions to rockabilly music have been overlooked. “That’s a complicated question. Back in the fifties, few women were given the chance. Women were supposed to stay home and have babies. A few women were brave enough; brazen enough. That’s just how it was. It’s so titillating—they [the fans] would love it. I don’t understand why there aren’t more women doing it.

Being a musician of the female gender presents another unique set of problems. “There’s benefits, and there’s a good side and bad side,” Kim disclosed. While the band welcomes publicity, a becoming photo of Kim appearing in a magazine would raise a rare complaint. There’s also the occasional misconception to deal with. “Sometime, sound guys don’t think I know what I’m talking about, and I do,” the singer bemoaned.
Our discussion returned to rockabilly’s founding mothers. “Most roots music, the women were pretty tame. There was Rose Maddox and someone here and there, but women weren’t allowed to get in your face,” Kim added.

Women’s roles in rockabilly—in all styles of music—have grown. The days of record companies shunning a pregnant Janis Martin or reducing Barbara Pittman’s recordings to little more than a wallflower, hovering on the edges of the Elvis Presley/Carl Perkins crowd, are gone. Society’s standards may have changed, but thank goodness the raw sound and so-dirty-you-need-a-shower emotion evoked by rockabilly music haven’t. Kim Lenz is living proof of rockabilly’s continued ability to connect one generation of performers and fans to another. “I feel so appreciative of all the great people I’ve gotten to perform with, and the fan base,” she shared. “I feel about the luckiest person in the world to do what I love. I’m really glad that you and others are keeping roots music alive.

And Kim Lenz is one of them.




Dave Stuckey & the Rhythm Gang


Dave Stuckey - Get A Load of This - HMG
Dave Stuckey – Get A Load of This – HMG

Dave Stuckey & the Rhythm Gang – Get a Load of This!

HMG 3010 [2000]
Brand New Love ~ You Better Wake Up Baby ~ They Did The Boogie ~ Nobody’s Sweetheart ~ I’ll Take My Old Guitar ~ Pick-A-Rib ~ Whose Honey Are You ~ Coyote Blues ~ You Shoulda Thought Of That ~ Lookin’ Around ~ Kansas City Kitty ~ Hitch My Wagon ~ Some Of These Days ~ Beauty Is As Beauty Does

This album is as close to any Western swing band from the golden era as you can get today. As a true lover and connoisseur, Dave Stuckey (formerly of the Dave and Deke Combo) gathered an impressive ten-piece band featuring Jeremy Wakefield on steel, Whit Smith and Dave Biller on guitars, T. Bonta on piano, Elana Fremerman and Eamon McLoughlin on twin fiddles, Stanley Smith on clarinet, Bob Stafford on trombone, Lisa Pankratz on drums and either Kevin Smith or Jake Erwin on bass. Together or separately, this fine aggregation have played with Wayne Hancock, Dale Watson, the Lucky Stars, Kim Lenz, the Hot Club Of Cowtown, the Asylum Street Spankers, High Noon, andRonnie Dawson (and more). Impressive, isn’t it? Needless to say, they swing like hell. This is the perfect vehicle for Dave Stuckey’s effortless and relaxed vocals (à la Jack Teagarden).

The set list displays the band’s ability to blend the old and the new. It features covers like Adolph Hofner’s I’ll Keep My Old Guitar, Benny Goodman’s Pick-A-Rib, Johnnie Lee Wills’ Coyotte Blues, and standards like Whose Honey Are You, Nobody’s Sweetheart and Some Of These Days, made popular in Western swing by Leon Selph, Bob Wills and Milton Brown. But it doesn’t stop there. The album also boasts five of Stuckey’s originals that are so good it’s hard to tell whether they’re from 1946 or 2000, showcasing the band’s unique sound and ability to keep the Western swing tradition alive.

Billy Horton’s flawless production is the cherry on top, adding to the confusion (there’s no need to say it’s been recorded live in the studio). His meticulous attention to detail and commitment to capturing the band’s energy and authenticity in the studio are evident in every track.

If you don’t dance to this record, you must be dead!

davestuckey_dinahDave Stuckey & the Rhythm Gang – Dinah ep

Goofin records GREP213
Woah Babe – Dinah – Twin Guitar Special – Did Anybody Mention My Name?

The songs of this ep were recorded during the same sessions that gave “Get A Load Of This”. Woah Babe! and Dinah are first rate western swing. Biller, Smith and Wakefield have plenty of room to express themselves on Bob Wills’ Twin Guitar Special. The last song is a swingin / rural bop version of Dave and Deke’s Did Anybody Mention My Name with superb twin fiddles reminiscent of Spade Cooley. Great.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read the interview with Dave Stuckey here.