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The Rocks Off 100: Miss Leslie, Queen of the Honky-Tonks

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

Who? Miss Leslie if you're country, Leslie Anne Sloane has played fiddle/violin in both the classical and country/bluegrass styles since age 5. In 2004, she started Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers, which can usually be found once or twice a month at finer roadhouses and honky-tonks in the greater Houston area.

"We initially started out as a 1950s country cover band, but we found a pedal steel guitar player instead of non-pedal steel, so we went more in the 1960s vein," she says. "We did a lot of obscure covers -- George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Ray Price, Faron Young, Lefty Frizzell, etc."

Leslie began writing her own originals in 2006, and released Between the Whiskey and the Wine in 2008. Wrong Is What I Do Best followed in 2010, and two of her originals were chosen for the soundtrack of Richard Linklater's 2012 East Texas crime comedy Bernie, co-starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine. She says she's about halfway done writing her next album, and that several of the new songs pull in some jazz influences.

Home Base: "I play twice a month at a cool little dive in Spring called the Track Shack, called that because it's located about 500 feet from the railroad tracks. The Wednesday show is primarily a cover western swing band show. The Sunday show is an acoustic show with a mix of covers and originals. Both shows tend to turn into musician jams, since pickers in the area like to hang there."

She also plays Blanco's every month or two, and enjoys being in the audience, listing Troubador Tuesdays at Natachee's, Wednesdays at Under the Volcano, McGonigel's Mucky Duck (where she plays tonight), and Dosey Doe in The Woodlands as some of her favorite places to catch a show. "If it's a good artist, I'll go anywhere," Leslie vows.

Why Do You Stay In Houston? Besides her extended family ("a huge support system"), Leslie says she stays put because she equates moving to Austin or Nashville with "climbing the corporate musical ladder.

"The reality is that it doesn't mean anything," she says. "Both cities are filled with artists that play only a handful of shows a year and haven't recorded half the songs that I have. I have to admit that I have a slight chip on my shoulder - I LIKE being an artist from Houston and NOT from Austin. I need to order one of those 'I'm Not Moving to Austin' T-shirts like Craig Kinsey wears every once in awhile."

Good War Story: "Fronting a regional country band in Texas as a female is always an issue," Leslie says. "Until you can get a break or [a] hit, the doors are notoriously more closed than they are for men. I've had a club say that their club didn't like girl singers, and refused to even play a CD during a break at another show to see how it would go over.

"Another club told me that "female singers don't go over well in this county,'" she adds. "County???" On the other hand, she adds, "Sometimes there's just no response."

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Musicians that complain about how little money they make," says Leslie. "Just because you are talented does not mean that you are going to be successful - in ANY business. And the reality is that it IS a business and has to be treated as such. And there's no guarantee that you will be financially successful."

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Aretha Franklin, Greatest Hits
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator
  • Merle Haggard, Untamed Hawk: The Early Recordings of Merle Haggard
  • Any Led Zeppelin album
  • Johnny Paycheck, The Real Mr Heartache

Best Concert You Ever Saw? "Tough one," Leslie admits. "But I would say David Ball at Dosey Doe about a year ago. Phenomenal band - great pickers, great songs and beautiful harmonies. I didn't miss the lack of steel guitar. For me, that is HUGE."

First Song You Ever Fell In Love With? When she was a girl in Louisville, Ky., Leslie remembers, "I went to sleep many nights listening to my parents jamming with friends in the basement below me. [Merle Haggard's] 'I'll Break Out Again Tonight' was one I always wanted to hear."

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Miss Leslie plays the "Noise for Toys" fundraiser for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program tonight at McGonigel's Mucky Duck with Lisa Morales, Leslie Krafka, Jennifer James, Kimberly McCarver, Texas Johnny Boy and the Men of Moores, tonight at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, www.mcgonigels.com. Show starts at 7 p.m.

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