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Americana Pioneers Wagoneers Reuniting, Playing Houston

Overnight, Lonesome Onry and Mean received word that the Wagoneers, one of Texas' earliest alt-country bands, are coming back from the dead. The hard-twanging roots band that was essentially a precursor to the Americana movement will perform for the first time in 22 years at the Austin Chronicle's Austin Music Awards on March 19.

The band will play the Continental Club in Houston April 15 and the Austin Continental the following night.

LOM recalls the band in its earliest days, a 1988 show at the tiny Montrose joint Chelsea 805, which was booked by the late consummate music maven Angela Mullan. Mullan phoned LOM and told us to get down to her club and see this new band that was like nothing else on the scene at the time.

The Wagoneers were the first anti-Nashville, anti-hat-act band LOM had ever encountered, and our musical tastes and understanding were forever altered by their performances.

"We got a call that we're being inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame at the next Music Awards show, and the organizers asked if we would regroup to play the event," says Wagoneers drummer and former Houstonian Tom Lewis, who went on to play with Jesse Dayton, Jim Lauderdale and Heybale!

"We thought if we were going to go to the trouble to do that, why not also do a showcase, so we did a couple of rehearsals," adds Lewis. "But the whole thing just felt right to all of us, and we found our old groove really quick, so we talked it over and decided to do some gigs and see what develops."

Lewis noted the band is in the process of reissuing both of its long out-of-print albums, Stout & High (1988) and Good Fortune (1989). Released on Herb Alpert's A&M Records, Stout & High received wide critical acclaim and logged decent sales, but Good Fortune went nowhere and the band disbanded not long after its release.

"We are also going to release a gospel album we recorded that never saw the light of day," says Lewis.

"Joe Ely is going to join us onstage at the Austin awards for a Buddy Holly song, so that ought to give us some nice buzz," he continues. "Anyway, we're all really excited to see what we can do with this thing after so many years."

Wagoneers front man Monte Warden went on to a solo career and deal with Elektra/WEA after the band called it quits. He released three albums of poppier material, but never struck commercial paydirt.

The other Wagoneers are lead guitarist Brent Wilson and bassist Craig Allen Pettigrew.

Lewis jokingly noted that Grammy-winning Nashville record producer (Miranda Lambert, Chris Knight) and former Houstonian Frank Liddell "was our informal roadie every time we played Austin back in the day."

"We called him and told him we were doing this and he seems totally behind us. So don't be surprised if he shows up and helps us carry our gear in at one of these gigs," Lewis laughs.

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William Michael Smith