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Roundabout Way

Cornell Hurd finally finds his musical niche

But as Hurd stresses over lunch one day with longtime associate Skelton: "I can never overstate that if you don't enjoy doing this with the people you're doing it withŠ"

"You'd better stay home," interjects Skelton.

Yes, The Cornell Hurd Band does it for the original reason many people started playing rock and roll in the first place (or at least before it became a career choice rather than rebellion from convention): the sheer fun of it. Proof of that can be found in the fact that three of the current members -- Young, White and Gordon -- all started with the group by sitting in.

The players stay around because the experience is great. White, who has played with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, as well as with his wife, Jo Carol Pierce, says that The Cornell Hurd Band is by far his favorite of anything he has played in. "And by far the best. It's good music, and they play it well." But for him it's also "the humor and the wit and the mind of the band" that wins his loyalty.

He also asserts that being in the band keeps their inner child alive. "It also molds character, kind of like being in the Boy Scouts. I'm a better person for being in the band."

Says Hurd: "A lot of this stuff is who you like playing with." Hurd spent time leading his previous bands on the California scene in the '70s, as well as touring the country. After a hiatus from music in the early '80s, he landed in Florida, and he put The Cornell Hurd Band back together when he found himself living near his childhood pal and longtime bassist Frank Roeber (who returned to Florida a few years back but is still a member in absentia).

Eventually Hurd knew he needed to relocate from the Sunshine State to make the music he wanted to. "I was at that age in my late thirties, and I said, 'Man, if I am going to do showbiz, I am going to do the thing that I want to do. I am no longer going to worry about anything other than playing the kind of music I want to do.' There was only one place to do it, as far as I was concerned. We talked about Nashville, Los Angeles, New York City and Austin, and it was never really a contest."

Since hitting Austin in the early '90s, The Cornell Hurd Band has released five excellent CDs, which of late have not gotten the local media attention enjoyed by lesser Austin acts.

So in the end, it all comes down to the music and the pleasure the band members have in making it and sharing one another's company. "I consider myself fortunate that I don't have to depend on music for a living," says Hurd.

Says Skelton: "I don't know if I'd want to. I don't know what I'd do if I did music for a living. What would I do all day if I didn't have a job. Sit around all day? Mow my lawn? I don't think so. I need something to do."

Hurd cites an observation he once heard by Cyndi Lauper to justify his motivation. "She said, 'Do not ever do this for the money. If you do this for the money, you will be so unhappy. You have to do it because you want to more than anything.' "

Skelton agrees that fame and fortune are, in the end, not the goal. "I can't understand that motive. If music is your primary purpose, you just do that, even if you are playing for your dogs."

It can still sometimes rankle Hurd to be making such quality music while not enjoying the bigger buzz that often surrounds so many other acts in Austin, bands that haven't anywhere near the heritage Hurd has developed and might someday be long gone while Hurd and his group are still at it. But then there are those small, special moments of recognition, such as when he and Skelton are handed Sharpies during a recent meal at Hoody's and are asked to add their autographs to the restaurant's wall of fame.

"People say music is your hobby, and I bristle at that," Hurd says. "It's a part of your personality, your psyche, your identity. It's a personality disorder. I like playing with good musicians. I like playing for people."

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