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Little Texas

Little Texas... Takes Country to Heart

Contrary to popular opinion, the long-locked sextet known as Little Texas is not a rock band gone awry. Nor is it one which sold out, content to jump on the hotter-than-ever country music bandwagon.

Nope, that's not it at all. In fact, if the truth be known, as it should be, the chart-topping, hard-playing, dues-paying act is country to the core. And country by choice.

"The greatest misconception about our band is that were not reformed rockers who've just turned country, we've always been country," said drummer Del Gray in a recent interview at Billy Bob's Texas, where the band - which also includes lead singer-guitarist Tim Rushlow, keyboardist-vocalist Brady Seals, bassist Duane Propes, lead guitarist Porter Howell and acoustic guitarist‑ vocalist Dwayne O'Brien-packed the world's largest honky-tonk to the rafters.

"A lot of people come up and say, 'You guys used to be a rock band, right? But you couldn't make it in the rock field so you just went country.'" added Gray. "But, no. Country has always been our hearts and always been what we wanted to do."

That said, the group has also managed to score on the country charts with its debut LP for Warner Bros. titled First Time For Everything and its top-10 title track "Some Guys Have All The Love," the disc's first single.

"Ironically enough, "Some Guys Have All The Love" used to be one of those songs that, when we played it, that'd be when everybody'd go get a beer at the bar real quick," admitted Rushlow, a native of Arlington. "But when we played George Strait's 'You Look So Good In Love,' they'd pack the (dance) floor!"

Needless to say, the melodic "Some Guys" single wound up being the breakthrough tune that Little Texas craved. Yet the bandmates tenure on the road was time well spent, they concede.

"I think everybody has become very focused," said Rushlow, whose lineup managed to pen all of the disc's material the first time out. "We're like six brothers out on the road ... (and) we've been very focused."

"Everybody is working on their songwriting, we're constantly working on our vocals, all the time. And we're the same six guys as we were four years ago, it's just that - knock on wood over here - it's starting to happen. And it's not gonna happen out of nowhere."

"You know, we put 'Some Guys Have All The Love' out there with minimal promotion, minimal video, just to see what happened and, kabooml It took off, so it's just been unbelievable the success that has happened in a very short time. But rather that let it go to our heads, we really have taken that and run with it and tried to excel, tried to become a better band. It makes you become a better group," he said. "You have to do a good show, you have to sound good."

"We're very honest as a band," remarked Gray. "I mean, there's a lot of bands that you can just look at and just tell. But we are. We're six guys in a band. This is a band. This is a very honest thing, you know."

"We put the band together to do what we would like. I mean, take a look at us, and we do what we would like to see if we were gonna go see a country band, so it comes as a surprise, I think, to a lot of other musicians who might have preconceived notions. But it's so geared toward them... and we hope we can appeal to younger, older and middle-aged people. So far, everyone has taken us with open arms, so we're real pleased with that."

With strong Texas ties - namely, Arlington and Longview ­ Little Texas first found its inception in 1984 when Rushlow and acoustic guitarist Dwayne O'Brien met and began performing together in Arlington. In '86, however, Rushlow headed to Nashville to sing and pick at the Opryland theme park while O'Brien opted to finish his bachelor's degree in chemistry from East Central State University in Ada, Oklahoma.

The duo kept in touch, however, and two years later - with both residing in Music City ­ they hooked up with Longview natives Duane Propes, bass, and Porter Howell, electric guitar. From there, the group found its completion with the addition of Ohio natives Del Gray, drums, and keyboardist Brady Seals, nephew of famed country songsmith Troy Seals and cousin to label mate Dan Seals, both of whom were performing in singer Josh Logan's band.

The offer to join Little Texas, according to Seals, was "abetter deal," to say the least, so pianist and drummer, then in the midst of forming a country band in Cincinatti, abonded their current plans to hook up with Little Texas. And with all the pieces in place, Little Texas attracted the attention of manager-producer DiNapoli who, in turn, introduced Warner Bros.' Doug Grau to the act's music. Soon thereafter, the sextet scored a speculation deal with the label. But the real work had just begun.

"We hit the road and went coast to coast three times in two­and-a-half years," said Rushlow of the group's self-imposed do-or-die touring schedule. "We played every bar in between here and there. I mean, you name it, we played it. If they'd pay us, we were there, and sometimes they didn't pay.

"We'd come into (Nashville) and record our little demos every four or five months or so, and the only way to make money was to play on the road, so we'd do cover material mixed with in with our own material. We'd do any kind of music we could just to pay the bills, and we tried to mix in a lot of originals between those."

Influenced by the country-rock sounds of the Eagles, Poco, and Pure Prairie League, the Little Texas members, with their longer-than-usual locks and often flashy stage apparel, realized they might have caught the average country-music fan by surprise. But don't let their pompadoured looks fool you.

"If you take a step back and look at the band, you'd think, 'Man, it's a heavy-metal band.' But if you walked over and talked to us at Denny's, one of the first things we say is, 'Hey, guy! How ya'll doing?,"' Rushlow explained. "We are not a rock band, were about as country as it gets. We are six long-haired country boys who happen to use a little mousse in our hair."

"I think the biggest (drawback to fame) is going home and having privacy," remarked Seals, whose 'organ solos' on the piano are earning him a sex-symbol reputation. "I mean, you dream all your life that you want people to notice you ... and that somebody will see you and want your autograph and this and that."

"But we spend a whole lot of time, more than the average working band staying on the road, and when we come home we like to relax, watch the tube, watch The Simpson." he continued. "When I go home, I visit my parents and the phone rings off the wall. And, yes, it's great and I love to hear from people that I haven't heard from since high school, but it seems that they've called more here lately that ever before. I mean, it's been five years, you know, and it seems I have a whole lot more friends."

Still, success is new enough to the players to leave them a bit awestruck by their own good fortune.

"I think that once in awhile we have to scratch our heads and go, 'God, we're in a bus, man!' You know, our van and our trailer, somewhere along the line, just evaporated and became a tour bus," exclaimed Rushlow of the act's newfound commercial appeal. "And now we're doing gigs with people who we've been fans of for years. That's the thing that's kind of hard - and it's a real thrill."

"We opened up for (country artist) T. Graham Brown in Lubbock here awhile back," added Rushlow, "and he goes, 'Guys, I'm real proud of ya'll. I remember ya'll playing clubs way back, but you stuck it out. Welcome to the party.' And, man, that was cool!"

Fame, unquestionably, can be cool. But it's always nice to know one has a place to hang one's hat, admits Rushlow, who's pondering a return to his roots. After all, the single singer ­although he declines to name names - does have "someone special" in these parts. But "Nashville is home right now," he said, although he's contemplating a return to Arlington.

As for the bassist Propes, he's ready to relocate from Music City to Nashville, provided he can find the time to do so. "I just miss it," said Propes of Bid D. "I've been in Nashville for seven years and I like a live music scene.

"I like to hear other bands and in Nashville there are just, like, four places you can go to hear rock bands," he added in praise of the Metroplex scene. "I love going out and just hearing different people every night."

O'Brien, on the other hand, would like to take a trek down the aisle of matrimony, and soon. "It's a great thing," he said of the pending nuptials. "But for the time being, there's too much stuff still happening (career-wise). I'd love to get married and move ... somewhere in between D/FW and Austin. Right now there's still a lot of stuff happening in Nashville. It's hard enough trying to find time for me.

Nonethieless, the bandmates are content, even if they are short on time.

"These are the best times of our lives, and we realize that, and we're just having a great time," said Rushlow, thoughtfully. "But as far as changing, we're the same guys that we always were. We're very thankful to be where we're at."