Those Damn Quails are back…

The Damn Quails By September 23, 2017 Tags: , No Comments

It’s a Saturday afternoon in early September, sound check time at Whiskey Girl Saloon in good ‘ole Cowtown. I enter the back door to an empty bar, save a handful of small tables, chairs, and a serviceable dance floor in front of the stage. On said stage is Bryon White, the gregarious mouthpiece of The Damn Quails and Red Dirt legend Mike McClure. Both rocking out, garage band style minus the flannel shirts and long hair. Actually, between these two veterans, I don’t think there was any hair involved at all.

They finish up, Bryon steps off, lights a cigarette and smiles as he extends his hand to shake mine.

“Good to see you finally, I feel like we already know each other.”

Indeed it feels that way, he and I have been interacting online for a couple of years; especially on Twitter which seems to be his preferred social media platform for spreading unfiltered red dirt truth to those souls who wish to be enlightened (or entertained).

Bryon and his buddies are also a fan of bits, most involving sharp objects and Bryon enthusiastically rattling off some memeable poetic nonsense. It’s my kind of humor – uncomfortable, goofy, and usually irreverent.

Bryon: “So, should I be in my uniform for this?”

Me: “Uniform?”

“My Skinner jersey…”

Me: “Of course.”

He heads to the back and I start looking for Gabe Marshall, the other half of The Damn Quails. No surprise, the guy is nowhere to be found. If you’re assigning roles, Gabe is the Ray Teller of this Penn and Teller duo. You won’t find him frequenting any social media so getting a feel for the guy has been a bit more challenging. He’s no mute but compared Bryon you might mistake him for one.

A minute later Mr. Red Dirt Success comes back in a red button up Rawlings jersey. It’s sans logos or number on the back.

Me: “So what makes this a Skinner jersey?”

Bryon: “It belonged to him, got his body fluids on it and everything!”

I didn’t ask if he’s ever washed it, my guess is no. I’m sure to Bryon, the funkier the better and if it’s stained with Tom Skinner DNA then he considers it a religious relic on par with Shroud of Turin.

Uniformed and ready, we head out back and plop down at a picnic table with the entire band, including the once missing Gabriel Marshall. Bryon and Gabe front the group, splitting both songwriting, singing duties, and guitar. Kevin “Haystack” Foster (fiddle, steel guitar), Adam “Biggie” Rittenberry (harp), Dillon Sampson (bass), and Thomas Young (drums) complete the covey of The Damn Quails.

The band has been through quite a bit since Gabe and Bryon assembled the group in 2011 and put out “Down the Hatch”, getting rave reviews and good radio play on Americana stations across the country. But legal issues with the record label soon plagued The Damn Quails and until resolved, hamstrung their ability to put out a follow-up. It took four years for the drama to subside and The Damn Quails found themselves loaded with new songs but no money, so they turned to their fanbase and did a month-long Kickstarter campaign, raising an impressive $54,000.

“It was the most kick-ass and the most terrifying month in my life,” Bryon matter of factly claims.

The fruits of that fundraiser yielded “Out of The Birdcage” in 2015 with Reckless Kelly’s Dave Abeyta at the production helm. Well received in it’s own right, it yielded the title track “Out of the Birdcage” and two of my personal favorites, the bluesy “Tightrope Walker” and the more rockin’ “Tough Luck and Cryin’ Shame”.

Not doing much to market themselves, The Damn Quails toured relentlessly, building their fan base via their live shows. But as many in this scene can attest, being on the road so much takes its toll on all involved and The Quails were no exception. After a show in Houston in May 2016, The Damn Quails tour manager went missing. The band put the call out to all social media and a few days later they found him in Colorado. It was soon after that straw that the band decided to call it quits indefinitely.

Fortunately, “indefinite hiatus” doesn’t always mean “forever” and during the summer of 2017, Bryon White made the joyful announcement:

So now that you’re caught up, here’s what they had to say on the night of their first show back in Texas.

You all have endured your “break” and with everything you’ve been through have proven to be pretty resilient. Can I come crash with you guys when North Korea decides to nuke us?

Bryon: Sure, we can crash with Mac (Mike McClure). He’s got a lot of space, a water supply, several weapons, goats, costumes… all that we need to really survive!

What did you do during the hiatus? 

Gabe: I played some shows and festivals here and there but mainly just wrangled new babies. We had twins back in September last year and we have a three-year-old, so my hands were full.

Dillon (bass):  I went back to did a six-month run with Dolly Shine and then played with Jamie Lin Wilson.

Adam (harp): I was a cook.

Bryon: We just kind of needed a break. It had been nuts and we had been doing it night after night for a really long time and it really wears you out. Just the number of miles we traveled once you think about, was quite harrowing.

Any changes to the band? I hear you have a new keys player starting tonight.

Bryon: Yeah we have Sevans (Henderson) sitting in with us. The kid is really good.

Gabe: Other than that we pretty much have the same lineup as before.

Did you talk to each other and write during the break?

Gabe: We don’t really have any songs that Bryon and I co-wrote but we both have a bunch of new material. Problem is that the band hasn’t been playing together again long enough to work them into the sets.

Can we expect a new record soon and are you going to go the Kickstarter route again?

Bryon: I don’t think any of us know right now, eventually yes, but we’re really just interested in playing shows at the moment. The stage is it, it’s the godliness of it all. The two or three hours up there every night is where the magic happens.

“Down The Hatch” was more Red Dirt compared to “Out of the Birdcage” which leaned more rock and blues. Where do you think you guys sit?

Bryon: I don’t know. I think it really just depends on where we are at the time we sit down to record. That’s the cool part. You get into that studio with five people playing at the same time, get those rhythm tracks down, and it’s like catching a wave.

Adam: Even every night things can change. I know, at least with my playing, about every fifth time we play a song, it’s going to change.

Bryon: Yeah, setlists suck. We’ll get bored and go with the raw movement of the show.

Tom (drums): It’s fairly unbridled.

Let’s talk lessons learned. I’m sure there isn’t a day that goes by without you thinking about Tom Skinner. What was the best lesson you’ve learned from him?

Bryon (laughing): Getting good hotel breakfasts. I’ll never ever go hungry because of that. You go in like you own the place and if you need a key you’ve got a hundred of them.

Gabe: Skinner was staying with us at a hotel that didn’t serve breakfast so he walked to the hotel across street and decided to eat there.”

Bryon: It was a great lesson. I’ll never starve. (laughs) We had a cool moment when we were playing in Ardmore, Oklahoma and it was storming outside. We got to this break and there was a big crackle in the speakers and the whole system goes out. I yelled out ‘Thanks Tom!” and then it popped right back on. Mac and I started laughing. Skinner is always around dancing and casting lightning bolts.

What about Mike McClure? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from him?

Gabe: Stop caring… stop giving a shit about what people think of you.

Bryon: Songs are king. It doesn’t matter what else is happening as long as the song is there. His songs are spectacular, he never stops writing. He sits there in his basement with a mechanic’s uniform on and a notebook. He’ll mess around on a keyboard for twenty minutes, stoking the fire and you think he’s been screwing around all day. Then all of a sudden you realize he’s got something worked out and done, brilliant and beautiful in its own way.

Tom: He’s a lifer in every way.

Regardless of whether The Damn Quails survive or go on permanent hiatus, it’s pretty clear all of these guys are lifers. Bryon’s stage presence is manic, his head tilting and bobbing spastically, beating the strings of his guitar into submission. His voice has a bit of an Irish timbre and full of rhythmic inflections that match his body language. Gabe’s approach is quite the opposite. It’s straightforward and chill; managing to squeeze in drags of his cigarette without missing a cue.

That night the whole band was in their element and clearly glad to be back. They were playing for a few hundred but enthused like it was ten thousand. Lots of hugs and drinks flowing after the show.

If you want to hear more from The Damn Quails, you can watch other parts (the less serious parts) of the interview here, otherwise find them in all the appropriate places.



Twitter: @thedamnquails


River (Jam) Reflections

River Jam By August 17, 2017 No Comments

Now that River Jam is over, it’s time to start writing again. It’s been about two weeks since attending my first River Jam so I’ve had a chance to soak it all in. I pretty much went straight from the hundred degrees heat of New Braunfels to the 60-degree beauty of Breckenridge, Colorado. The river is ice cold and rushing at a much faster clip compared to the Guadalupe, which was more of a river walk this go round. Colorado is a good place to write and process. The weather is cool and when the wind blows, it’s downright chilly. Nature is in abundance and like NB, there are afternoon thunderstorms, but more on that in a minute…

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I headed down to San Marcos on Friday. I’ll admit I got into this music thing back-asswards. I’ve been a fan, watching this scene (and Galleywinter) from the outside since the late 90’s. At the time that was enough for me, but six years ago I was inspired by my Texas music heroes to pick up a guitar and learn a few songs. Now I can campfire about as bad as the next guy. I can play “Like It Used To Be” but the Cub Scout parents only sing along if I play “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Tequila Sunrise”. Still, it nudged me closer to the music and satiated me up until about two years ago. I then started with no goal in mind other than to write about the music and artists I love and maybe have an excuse to chat with a few of them. In January Brad Beheler brought me onboard to Galleywinter and it’s been exciting, especially knowing the history and music family it has fostered over the years.

Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect and I hadn’t met any of the Galleywinter “family” in person which didn’t sit well with me. Tweets, Facebook posts, and IMs only do so much. I’m a GenXer and prefer face to face communication. I need reality. Nobody’s ever written a song worth a damn about Insta friends.

I showed up to Cheatham Street just after the doors open. It’s easy to hang there because the place oozes ambiance and history. I chat with Red Shahan, talking about the new record coming in 2018 and about my grandfather’s liquor store, where Red had pictures taken for Men and Coyotes. Soon after I overhear people discussing Galleywinter and how “Brad and some other guy” were the primary folks writing these days. I took that cue to turn around and introduce myself as “the other guy”. Turns out it was Chris Austin (afternoon drive for 92.1 Shooter FM in Waco) and a few of his friends. Minutes later Brad and a few others join us and before you know it there’s a healthy Galleywinter contingent to get to know. That’s better.

Red comes on and was great as usual. He gave us a sampling of the new stuff coming in 2018. You’re gonna like it, check a little bit of it here:

It’s cool seeing your favorites in a listening room atmosphere where you aren’t squeezed in like sardines and girls aren’t training by you constantly making beer runs.

The show ends and I proceed to meet a few more folks, including Jennifer Allen from 92.1. I finally found a crew to float the river with the next day. Saturday comes, it’s hot as hell, the river was low and we had to get out of our tubes and do some walking. Two hours of that was enough. It was one of those days where you drink two gallons of water and never have to piss because your body is struggling to stay hydrated. We recoup, regroup and head to River Road Icehouse for the Saturday night lineup of Haley Cole, K Phillips, and Prophets & Outlaws.

And of course headlining was Josh Weathers. This dude is unreal. If you haven’t seen the video that went viral several years back, go YouTube it. But Josh has more than a kick ass voice, the guy has Jedi musical instincts and the charisma to have audiences eating out of his hand. I was familiar with his work but had never seen him live. Go see him, for the love of God and orphans around the world…

Sunday at River Jam was acoustic/songwriter day. Over a dozen artists doing what they love and playing for tips. People spread all over the patio and in the river, baking in the sun at the Lone Star Float House. John Dempsy and Mike Stanley were up and had just started “Falling Rain” when the sky completely dumped. Toads floating, 50 mph winds that bent trees and threw campsites into complete disarray. Within 60 seconds we had a packed house on the patio as people took cover. The power flickered, the amps went dead but the people went electric. Mike and John proceeded to make that lemonade.

This guy had it figured out…

That set the mood for the rest of the day and everyone was into it. The river or getting boozed up took a back seat to all the music. Johnny Chops played “Shotgun” and dedicated it to my kiddos who have latched onto that song as one of their favorites. That was cool. It’s played almost daily in my house, with my daughter doing ballerina choreography while belting out lines like “Wickedness and whiskey were my fuel”. I’ll claim that as a parenting victory.

Josh Grider and John Baumann capped off the end of an awesome weekend of music and new friends. I’m thankful that I got to extend my music family and I’m ready for next year.


  • Thanks to “The Mayor of Funville” and Darby for letting me crash overnight when I was too tired to drive. It’s cool how music can be the thread that brings people together so quickly that you suddenly make friends and feel comfortable sleeping in the same cramped camper with folks you met less than 24 hours earlier.
  • Haley Cole had a Joplin thing going on that was hip, hip, hip.
  • Steve Guckenheimer and CJ Thompson of PAO can burn it up with their instruments and Matt Boggs is a kind soul who can absolutely bring the soul.
  • Loved talking to John Dempsy about guitars and how the personality of each one you play brings out a different part of you. It got pretty ethereal.
  • Keep an eye out for Mike Stanley.
  • Next time I’m in Padre, I’m going to see Mark Allan Atwood. If you see him, ask him about what happened to his guitar case.
  • Mike Ethan Messick has a new album you should check out.
  • Got to see how The Co-Write podcast sausage was made.
  • Brad and I exchanged a head nod of “hell yes, this is what it’s about” when Seth James and family took us to church with the guitar solos and gospel music on Sunday afternoon.
  • Loved watching Tim Murphy do his thing.
  • There was one notable exception to it being “all about the music”. A chap who remain nameless showed up for John Baumann and within a stretch of 30 minutes got completely schnockered and passed out, nose first onto a picnic table. Baumann made sure we all knew about it and did some impromptu stand up to bust the guy’s balls. Rock on.
  • I did manage to stick my feet in the river and bust out the guitar for some tunes with Darby and The Mayor. Didn’t have the courage to play in front of anybody else, especially when you are around professional musicians all weekend. Baby steps, but still fun.