Aftermath: The Swingfield Playboys' Goofy "Martini And Western" And A Lap-Steel Legend At The Mucky Duck
Photos by Brittanie Shey
Ron Crick, rhythm guitarist for the Swingfield Playboys, calls the band martini country -- "Martini and Western music for the refined redneck." The septet, who performed Sunday night as part of their semi-regular gig at Mucky Duck, incorporates influences from Bob Wills to vaudeville and the Andrews Sisters to Django Reinhardt. If that makes their music sound highbrow, Crick takes the tenor down a notch with his tacky stage banter and performance goofs - pretending to forget the words to a song, poking fun at his bandmates, and getting into friendly tiffs with members of the audience. Sunday night, he told a woman "You got a nice smile. Are those your real teeth?" But the goofiness belies the fact that the Swingfield Playboys, who released a CD in 2007, is a collection of spectacular musicians playing music so diverse it could appeal to anyone. The age range of the band spans 50 years - fiddle player Jeff Duncan, 30, has played classical violin since the age of 4, and legendary lap-steel player Herb Remington, 84, was a member of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. The band's pedigree runs deep. Upright bassist David Craig, who alternates between picking and bowing his bass, attended the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, and guitarist Wayne Wilkerson hosts the Duck's Monday Open Mic Night.
But it's singer Lonnie Pettit who really exemplifies the band's look and feel. He takes the stage looking every bit the stereotypical shrimp boat captain - perpetually clad in a Guy Harvey fish shirt and beat-up baseball cap, with a double goatee like horns sprouting from his chin that twitch wildly when he sings. But when he kicked into the baritone on standards like "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and "Paris," snapping frenetically on the fast parts, Aftermath found it hard to imagine we were in Texas instead of Tin Pan Alley.
Then the band moves effortlessly into Herb Remington's trademark steel song "Remington Ride" followed by the original "Heart Full of Texas," a song about coming home after a long road trip, and we're back in the Western mood again. Because Duncan's parents are in the audience tonight he gets a bit more of the spotlight, singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" and showing off on the fiddle more than usual. The band started played regular shows at Cosmos Cafe when they first formed, but when the restaurant closed down they moved to Mucky Duck, where a typical show includes three hours of music with a half-hour intermission. The second half of the show is where things really devolve. Pettit rolls when singing "Shine," a 1910 jazz song about blackface stereotypes, and Crick starts in on a crowd favorite, "Ambidextrous Lover," whose chorus line "To thine own self be true" draws hoots from the audience. People by the stage holler random song names, and if the band knows it, or can figure it out, they'll play it. When a woman gets up to use the restroom, the band ad libs a song - "She had to piss. She had to piss, She didn't care/ What she missed." The tune itself is silly, but it exemplifies the band's skill and easy ability to collaborate on the fly. Check The Swingfield Playboys' Web site for information on their next gig.
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