San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by HAP MANSFIELD

At the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, what a band really wants, if it cannot get that much-fantasized lucrative major label deal and land on the cover of Rolling Stone, is buzz. Everyone wants to be anticipated, talked about and given the nod by the musical gurus of the day.

 If you go…

The Derailers will be at Riley’s Tavern, 8894 FM 1102, on Jan. 7. Tickets are $15 and the music starts up at 9 p.m.

In 1995, some of the buzz was about the yodeling Alaskan, Jewel. Some buzz went to Better Than Ezra and You Am I. There was a swirl of interest, as always, around Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips. In amidst the buzz was a honky-tonk band called the Derailers. Founding members of the band Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt, had recently relocated from Portland, Ore. to Austin and  just released a live LP with Austin’s Freedom Records.

The Derailers had a patch of good luck, signing with Austin’s now defunct Watermelon Records home to some of the work of Don Walser, the Gourds, Brave Combo, Alejandro Escavedo, the Silos, Omar and the Howlers and many more. A successful release, “Jackpot”, led to a contract with Sire records, from there they signed with Curb Records and had more success. A Billboard Top 100 hit, “The Right Place,” gave them one of the most requested videos on Country Music Television in 2000. Through it all, the Derailers retained their genuine honky-tonk twang and swing, leading and promoting the resurgence of the Buck Owens “Bakersfield Sound,” (which is kind of a misnomer since Owens was born in Sherman, Texas.)

Buck Owens himself  performed with the Derailers on their Curb records release, “Full Western Dress,” on the tune “Play Me The Waltz of Angels” in 1999. The band was also  asked to perform at Owen’s 70th birthday party that year.

The Derailers then signed with the ironically named Sony imprint, Lucky Dog Records. Ironically named because their release, “Here Come The Derailers,” was released on Sept. 11, 2001. While the CD has gained critical acclaim, at the time it was largely ignored while the country reeled and recovered from the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Their producers at Sony tried to smooth the splinters out of the band’s rough and ready roadhouse sound, an anathema to both their fans and their music.

The band has always landed on its feet, however, in spite of a doomed release date and the amicable parting of founding member and lead singer, Tony Villanueva, to become a pastor. Brian Hofeldt took over the lead singing duties and the band continued to create their singular brand of honky-tonk mixed with a bit of 60’s pop and surf music. Their Buck Owens tribute album in 2007, “Under the Influence of Buck” both validated their honky-tonk roots and solidified their popularity with fans.

The Derailers have also been immortalized in popular fiction by world famous author, Stephen King. His short story, “Willa,” which deals with a couple caught in a train wreck, mentions the band as the musical entertainment at a roadhouse the couple visit. The band’s name is a prominent part of the point of the story, first published in Playboy in 2006.

The band continues to rack up success with the last four releases hitting the Billboard Top 100. In September 2011, they appeared on the popular NPR program “Prairie Home Companion.”

The band’s forte has always been live shows where the heart of true honky-tonk beats strong. There can be no better place to hear this than Riley’s Tavern, Texas’ first tavern licensed after prohibition, and a monument to what the roadhouse is all about.

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