The success of country-rock band Little Texas reflects the changing demographics of country music. The group’s contemporary, rock-and-pop-influ-enced sound is meant to appeal to the fans of “young country” and the disc jockeys at big-market, urban radio stations. Young and handsome, the members of Little Texas have capitalized on music videos and frequent live appearances to bolster their popularity. The formula has worked: six of the group’s first seven singles reached the country Top Ten, and two of those—“God Blessed Texas” and “What Might Have Been”—crested at Number One. “We’re appealing to a young, new generation that probably didn’t listen to country music before,” vocalist Tim Rushlow told Country Music magazine. “And that’s something we’re real proud of.”
Despite their relatively tender ages, the artists in Little Texas are seasoned professionals who spent years together developing their signature harmonies, writing songs, and practicing their stage presence. At the urging of Warner Bros, executives, the group travelled the country in a beat-up van, playing small clubs six or
Members include Del Gray (born May 5, 1968, in Ohio), drums; Porter Howell (born June 21, 1964, in Longview, TX), guitar; Dwayne O’Brien (born July 30, 1963, in Ada, OK), guitar; Duane Propes (born December 17, 1966, in Longview, TX), bass; Tim Rushlow (born October 6, 1966, in Arlington, TX), lead vocals; Brady Seals (born March 29, 1969, in Ohio), keyboards.
Band formed in Nashville, TN, when members were signed to a development deal by Warner Bros. Records, 1988; released first single with Warner Bros., “Some Guys Have All the Love,” 1991; released debut album First Time for Everything, 1992.
Addresses: Management —Square West Entertainment, P.O. Box 120053, Nashville, TN 37212.
seven days a week. This forced camaraderie has served the members well now that they have established themselves in Nashville. “You put six guys in an unair-conditioned van in the middle of July, and you find out real quick if they’re really a band,” Rushlow said in the Chicago Tribune. “We became six brothers instead of just six people who wanted to make money together.”
The earliest hints of Little Texas began in 1984. That year, in Arlington, Texas, Rushlow and acoustic guitarist Dwayne O’Brien started playing together. In the meantime, lead guitarist Porter Howell and bassist Duane Propes—both natives of Longview, Texas—were attending college together in Nashville. The four musicians got together in Nashville in 1986 and began earning pocket money by playing “golden oldies” in a hotel lounge. In those days they called themselves the Varsitys.
In 1988 the four-man group took a tour of the Northern states, playing at fairs and clubs. On one stop they met Del Gray and Brady Seals, who were at the time touring with Sandy Powell. “We hit it off and they asked us to be in the band, but we were committed to the rest of Sandy’s tour,” Gray told Country Music. “We kept in touch, and about two months later, they called and said that a guy from Warner Bros, had seen them and liked everyone except the drummer and the keyboard player. So we went down and met with them, and two weeks later we were in the band.” Gray was 20 at the time; Seals 19.
Warner Bros, did indeed express interest in the group in 1988, but what the company offered was hardly ideal. The group was basically given the opportunity to record some demonstration tapes. When the tapes were completed, the executives were not particularly impressed. “They demanded that we be a country act and hit the road rather than hang around Nashville playing motel lounges,” Rushlow told the Fort Wayne, Indiana, News Sentinel.
The band scraped up enough money to buy a well-used van, hooked on a homemade trailer, and hit the road. “We’d do a week at a time in each city, five sets a night, six to seven nights a week,” Rushlow recalled. “We’d write a song, put it in our show, and see how people liked it. It gave us a chance to experiment and see just what our little niche was.”
That “niche” was the same one occupied by soft-rock bands like the Eagles and Restless Heart—a country-flavored pop sound with emphasis on vocal harmonies and rock rhythms. Finally, after three years of almost nonstop road work, the group’s sound suited both Warner Bros, and the artists themselves. Little Texas’s first album, First Time for Everything, was released in 1992, and the debut single, “Some Guys Have All the Love,” hit the country Top Ten.
The name Little Texas derived from the name of the street on which Warner Bros, producer Doug Grau lived in Nashville. The band members discovered that the street was named after a community south of Nashville that was famous for moonshine activity. Grau agreed that “Little Texas” would be a far better name than another the group was considering—Possum Flat.
With their long, flowing hairstyles and rock stylings, Little Texas had to fight stereotyping as a “hair act.” O’Brien told Billboard that the longhair image “almost killed us…. Nobody took us seriously. They thought we were all thrown together and that we didn’t play our instruments or write our own songs.” With the budding popularity of pop-oriented “young country,” the group soon found an audience, proving particularly popular with country radio stations in larger markets. Within two years Little Texas had produced two gold albums and a string of hit singles, including “What Might Have Been.”
“We want to bring something new to country music—it’s not the same chord structure, the same lyrics, the same situations,” Seals told Country Music. “Nowadays, country is opening up so much, and you can see so many different influences in it. And a lot of people out there won’t even admit that they listened to [pop icons] Prince or Michael Jackson or [rock group] Kiss when they were growing up, but you know they did.”
The long years of struggle have brought maturity and drive to the members of Little Texas. Members collaborate on songs, and each album contains numbers written by the band. Their touring schedule still keeps them on the road almost 300 days a year. Rushlow summed up the group’s strengths in Country Music: “We’re a real band. We’re self-contained: We play our own stuff, write our own stuff and sing our own stuff. People will come up to us after a show and say, ’Man, you sound just like the record! ’ And we just kind of smile, ’cause it is—it’s us in the studio and it’s us live. So that’s the best compliment in the world.”
On Warner Bros.
First Time for Everything, 1992.
Big Time, 1993.
Kick a Little, 1994.
Akron Beacon Journal, October 14, 1993.
Billboard, February 19, 1994.
Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1992; November 19, 1993.
Country Music, March/April, 1994.
News Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN), October 7, 1993.
—Anne Janette Johnson
"Little Texas." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/little-texas
"Little Texas." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/little-texas