Breaking up is actually kinda easy... when you've got another gig. Houston's much-venerated rockabilly outfit the Road Kings are soon to be no more. Songwriter, guitarist and frontman Jessie Dayton called an official halt to the project almost a month ago, and back-to-back gigs at the Satellite on February 18 and 19 are billed as farewell shows. So why, after releasing a well-received debut CD this very year, are the boys calling it quits?
It seems that Dayton's plate is full to overflowing these days, and as far as career prospects go, the Road Kings didn't make the cut. Dayton has spent the past year or so writing material that steers away from the rockabilly that was the Road Kings' specialty and toward country, and that led him to a publishing deal with Equity in Los Angeles. Says Dayton: "They asked me to put together some musicians and make a tape, and I did." The musicians Dayton put together are a well-pedigreed bunch. Craig Pettigrew, formerly with Monte Warden's Wagoneers and more recently (apparently he just quit two weeks ago) of Mary Cutrufello's Havoline Supremes, is on board playing electric and standup bass. Tom Lewis, who can be heard beating the skins on Austin guit-slinger Jr. Brown's records, and also a Wagoneer alum, holds down the rest of the rhythm. Brian Thomas, pedal steel player for Clint Black and Doug Supernaw, among others, rounds out the new band, dubbed the Alamo Jets after a WWII-era pinup of a woman riding a rocket over an Alamo skyline. The retro sensibility, apparently, if not the Road Kings, lives on.
"It's just a time in my life when I don't need the restraints of a trio," Dayton told me over the phone, and he's not wasting any time taking advantage of new opportunities. The Jets, according to Dayton, already have a repertoire of 30 Dayton originals, an appointment with execs from BMG, MCA, Justice and Margaritaville at their upcoming SXSW showcase, and a steady gig every Thursday in March at the Fabulous Satellite.
As for Road Kings Eric Tucker and Jason Burns, they're developing a roots-rock Texas Swing-oriented project with some Dallas players, according to manager John Huff, and Tucker has been hired on to back Miss Molly for the next couple of months on the road.
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By the way, if you can't make the final Road Kings shows at the Satellite, you might try to catch them the week prior, when the band will be reprising last year's successful appearance at the Rock and Roll Jamboree in Helsinki, Finland. And did I mention? The Alamo Jets will be calling Austin, not Houston, home.
Release Me... No local product being celebrated this week, but Dallas' Little Sister is driving down I-45 for a CD release party at the (here comes this club again) Satellite Lounge on the night of Saturday, February 12. The disk, on EMI subsidiary SBK, is called Free Love and Nickel Beer. Now I don't intend to cast any as-persions on the feel-good groove music parading under that name, but free love and nickel beer are two things that always remind me that you get what you pay for.
Meanwhile, Houston's own Sad Pygmy, who released their debut Tomato Halo (Lazy Squid No. 004) some weeks back, are leaving town on the 10th for a mini-tour of the Southwest circuit that'll take them through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and back.
And speaking of the Southwest, nobody seems to know just what the hell is going down with Houston bands playing (or, more likely, not playing) Austin's SXSW Music Conference (South by Southwest, for you outer-loopers). The Press, under the auspices of our new ownership, will participate in a New Times showcase with sister papers from Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Miami this year, and some of you (those with bands) have called me to find out if I can get you a slot in the conference (I can't, but thanks for asking). And I'm not the only one who can't get a Houston band arrested, much less a gig, at this year's shindig. (Says Dorothy Dean of Double Nought Records: "If it was in Houston, I could guarantee it would be all Houston bands, and that's the way it ought to be. But they maybe ought to change the name to 'Austin by Austin.'") When I called the conference's Austin headquarters to find out which of the 35-plus applicants had been accepted, a measly eight names came back: Miss Molly and the Whips, Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys (anyone else want to see those two bands duke it out with overlapping showcases?), Hadden Sayers Band, dead horse, Dive, Timz Tu, K-Otix and Poetic Souls. The names (some of them, at least) may be new, but the SXSW song and dance remains the same.