Vinylux records, an interview with Wendy and Lance Lebeau
Here’s an old interview conducted years ago with Lance and Wendy LeBeau, known for their work with Go Cat Go, Flea Bops, Wendy and Her Beaus and Vinylux, their excellent Rockabilly label.
At first, could you introduce yourselves, where do you come from etc.?
Lance: I’m a native of the Washington, DC area and reside in the state of Maryland.
Wendy: I’m originally from Texas, but after having traveled about the world with my military family, we finally settled in Maryland where I met Lance.
What is you musical background? How did you discover rockabilly?
Lance: Rockabilly came to my attention via a very convoluted path. My parents had a mixture of old records around the house, including the likes of Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, the Ventures, Elvis, and the Beatles. My father enjoyed the guitar records and this is probably what I was exposed to the most. So given this mix of music, as one can imagine, I was lured down several different paths when researching the history behind this music. Much to my surprise I found all paths ultimately leading back to the same places; early 50’s hillbilly and blues. From here I was scouring the record stores for anything that had the evidence of the background for this music, and rockabilly was one.
Wendy: I grew up listening to my parents’ Elvis records, so that sound has always been close to my heart. Lance introduced me to rockabilly, or gave a name to music I’d liked all along but didn’t know what to call it.
Lance’s interest in digging deeper into the musical history sparked my interest too, so I kind of went along for the ride and really liked what we found.
Wendy, there’s not so much girls in rockabilly, fewer who plays doublebass. How did you come playing it?
Wendy: I had never played an instrument before in my life, but the first time I saw a double bass played in person, I fell in love with the sound and the physicality of playing the instrument. I decided on the spot that I’d have to learn how to do that. Lance and my father bought my bass for my 21st birthday after I went through a six-month stint with an electric bass. The electric was a good learning tool, but not the direction I wanted to go. I was privileged to have many opportunities to watch Brian Freeman of Go Cat Go and Kevin Smith of High Noon in action. I think I learned quite a bit just from seeing them play – and asking them a lot of questions. On a visit to Memphis, Lance and I met Stan Kessler. I introduced myself to him as an aspiring upright bass player. He told me I was too small to play the bass, and that I ought to put it away for good and learn how to play electric. I think that encounter steeled my decision to try even harder. I guess reverse psychology works almost every time! Besides, I’m taller than he is.
Lance, did you play in other bands before Go Cat Go?
Lance: I had played a bit with friends who were into different types of music but nothing organized. I mostly spent time just banging around on the drums in my parents’ basement.
You’ve recorded some songs with Go Cat Go at the legendary Sun studio.
How was it?
Lance: Sun studio is an amazing place, the vibe in that room is chilling?; there’s a definite air to that place. To me the room felt alive of energy. From a recording studio standpoint it is of course not the studio it used to be. The room sounds great acoustically speaking and is very inviting but without Sam Phillips there to work his magic it’s just a decent room in which to record. During the heyday of Sun there was so much happenstance that went into the sound.
Let’s talk about Vinylux, when was it created?
Lance: Vinylux was born out of my desire to have a record label and studio in the fashion of Sun, King, Chess and Starday records; everything done in-house. A sound and a look with a distinct identity created with simplicity. Initially Darren and I were to partner on this venture but as the tide turned, the partnership became Wendy, Ronnie Joyner (Flea Bops singer) and me. This partnership is actually very efficient and logical because we cover all the bases of operation; Ronnie does the artwork, Wendy the legwork and I do the technical recording related work.
When you started Vinylux, was it to launch a label with new artists, or the main purpose was «Go Cat Go»?
Lance: I’m sure that Vinylux appears at first glance to be born a vanity label, but this was the logical way for us to begin. Go Cat Go had established somewhat of a following and needed an avenue to release music without all the hassles of negotiating terms, so why not do it ourselves?
From this small start our objective was to startup with an initial monetary offering from each partner and let the money snowball from that point forward. And fortunately we’ve been able to do just that and today find ourselves able to expand and open Vinylux up to other bands, which was a goal we were aiming for from the beginning.
Is there any unreleased stuff from «Go Cat Go»?
Lance: Yes, mostly live recorded material that would require very tedious selection and editing. We will actually be releasing some material I had recorded of Darren solo and with a trio setting, no drums.
What about the Flea Bops? It looks like a family affair.
Lance: Very much so. Wendy my lovely, multitalented wife on bass and my younger brother Preston on lead guitar, as well as a close friend we consider family, Ronnie Joyner, on lead vocals and acoustic guitar. Having such a close knit combo as we do affords a unique synergy so essential to creating music.
What about Wendy LeBeau and her Beaus? It shares a lot with the Flea Bops but the lead vocal is held by Wendy. Do you try to sound different?
Lance: We don’t make a conscientious effort to sound different. Having a female singer with a different song selection makes it different, but we still like to play straight-ahead rockabilly.
Who writes the material for Wendy LeBeau and her Beaus?
Lance: Wendy has written some songs. We have a song from Darren Spears that Go Cat Go was never had an opportunity to record. We also use material written by our acoustic guitar player, Dave Moore, who’s got some great original songs.
Do you do more songwriting Lance? Your song «Hey Little Honey» was very good!
Lance: Thank you for the compliment. There’s actually an interesting story behind this song. The song was originally written for a recording session we had planned with Arthur Lee May. Ronnie, who is a historical baseball enthusiast, had contact with Arthur for his baseball career and eventually talked music with Arthur as well. One thing led to another and we found ourselves entertaining the prospect of getting together for a session here at Vinylux studio with Arthur. Well the date didn’t work out and soon thereafter Arthur passed away. So Flea Bops then included it, along with a song Ronnie wrote for Arthur’s session, «Believe in Me» on the first CD.
On the liner notes of the Go cat Go CD, it says you had a band called The Twillite Ramblers. Did they release anything? Does this band still exist?
Lance: Twilite Ramblers became Wendy LeBeau and Her Beaus. We were doing a lot more hillbilly-influenced material in that band, which again were Lance, Preston and Wendy with various acoustic guitar players. We felt that the name restricted our song selection, so we dropped some of the slower tunes, added more rockabilly and became Wendy LeBeau and her Beaus. We never released anything as Twilite Ramblers except for one track («The Coffee Addict») on a Vinylux Sampler cassette that Wendy passed out to attendees at a Viva Las Vegas weekender a few years ago.
Lance, you made a session with «Roc» La Rue Can you tell us more about that?
Lance: This session was organized by our friend Dave Moore at his studio New Hope Recording in West Virginia. Dave is very good at contacting original artists from the 50’s; it’s quite the passion for him. He tracked down Roc somehow and arranged a recording session, which resulted in a four song EP on Dave’s label Wild Hare records. The session included Thommy Burns (of Atomics and Saddle Pals fame) on bass, Dave on lead guitar, Roc on acoustic guitar, me on drums, and a co-conspirator Chris Filbert (also of Atomics and Saddle Pals) at the recording controls. We had such a great time and wound up with some very good performances. Roc sounds great! And is a great person as well.
Do you work alot as a session drummer?
Lance: I occasionally do sit-in work for other bands in the studio and for live performance.
Can you describe your drumkit, your influences...
Lance: I play an old set of Ludwigs, nice open, woody sound. Pretty Spartan approach, I mostly only play with a bass drum, snare, rack tom, hi hat, 8» splash, and a 20» crash/ride cymbal. I prefer the old style thin, dark sounding cymbals without much crisp edge. To me the dark, swooshing sound really swings.Influences for me mostly are the old school be bop drummers like Kenny Clark, Sid Catlett, and Max Roach, Dave Tough and Gene Krupa are favorites as well. Small combo jazz is very appealing to me. With the right gathering of musicians this is the most exciting.
My personal approach to playing drums is to be supportive of the musical situation while adding color and texture without over-playing. So much can be done with just even a snare drum!
You also toured with Dave Stuckey…
Lance: Dave was organizing his first tour to support his new CD on Hightone, «Get a Load of This», and needed a drummer. His normal roundup was not available so he gave me a call and I was able to work my schedule to support him. We had such a great lineup that included Billy Horton on bass, Jeremy Wakefield on steel, and Dave Biller on lead guitar. We toured through the Midwest, Austin, Texas up through Chicago, Illinois. I actually recorded every night we performed. Who knows, maybe it’ll make a nice CD someday.
What are the plans for Vinylux?? I guess there’s a album with Dave Biller and Billy Horton in the near future (Of course it is now released and it’s great – Virgil)
Lance: Vinylux continues to grow and we have many plans in place for new CD releases, including a compilation. This comp will bring together various singers we work with as the Vinylux Variety Show. The Biller and Horton release is available now, entitled «Texotica.» This is a great instrumental CD with everything from the stylings of Jimmy Bryant/Speedy West to Les Paul and even a bit of Martin Denny.
To finish a word about this «Go Cat Go» reunion and Eddie Clendening?
Lance: For now Go Cat Go is only getting together to perform at two festivals. Eddie is a young, exciting new talent that I feel will help us, as Go Cat Go, capture the spirit of the music we made with Darren.
Vinylux on the web : http://www.vinylux.com/