Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Dry Spell

Rex Caliber will be quick to tell you how dismal the 80's and 90's were, with groups that either were pleated pant crooners, or effeminate hair bands. One of those he signed was Formacion, a band that worked the Mexican clubs.

They were arrested after being searched by police and finding 8 pounds of marijuana. He was in his 60's and thinking about hanging it up when he was approached by Bret Austin who ran Old Bisbee Music in Arizona.

Bret wanted an investor to go in half with his recording/promotions business. He already had a good base clientele that included Pinetop Perkins as well as Gatemouth Brown. He wanted, however, to expand his brand to included country music. This was the break Rex needed, and asked where to sign. He and Bret wanted to put together a tour that would feature 4 bands and Rex already had signed Toru Takemitsu, a Japanese country and western singing phenomena.

They also did benefits for organizations like the Verhelst House, which is halfway house for men, to help them make the transition from the jail to the street. When they got on tour they were making their way across the Texas Panhandle and when they were playing Wink Texas, they saw a musician that made an impression that would not be soon forgotten. That person was Dan Simonis and the West Texas Millionaires.

The band met while wildcatting oil pumps in Amarillo. Their sound was very unique, not your run of the mill Garth Brooks or Allan Jackson; no, their sound could have come out of the distant past, the product cow hands around the turn of the century. But the year was 1998, and Rex and Bret signed them to a record deal that would continue to this day. They joined the tour and recorded as they went along. Since then Dan has made the pages of the New York Times and the L.A. times to the praises of music critics. 45 caliber records collaboration with Old Bisbee music has proven to be a success, taking the Bisbee Blues fest to a new level. However Bret Austin was under a extensive audit by the I.R.S. and had to abscond to an Arabian country to protect what assets he had left. No longer is the Blues Fest the small gathering in the Gulch, now it brings in top names and up to 3000 attendees. And 45 caliber records continue to look for the next Dan Simonis and the West
Texas Millionaires.

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