The Randy Rogers Band is in it for the Long Haul.
Back in the day when headed out on the road for the first time, the five members of Randy Rogers Band crammed themselves and all their instruments and equipment into an aging Chevy Suburban they affectionately called Peaches. From their home base just south of Austin, they ventured out from one honky-tonk to another to share their heartfelt, rocking country music.
The beloved Chevy gave up the ghost long ago, and the band wore out a couple of vans before moving up to the relative luxury of a tour bus. With the recent release of their eighth studio album, Hellbent, which was produced by hotshot Nashville producer Dave Cobb, these older and wiser road veterans pay visual tribute to their old road companion. The album cover is a painting by artist Morgan Avary that shows the blue-and-silver Suburban blazing a trail through the Southwest. “Her name was ‘Peaches,’ and she died on I-35 after hauling us around for a year and a half,” says Rogers. “She was our first vehicle, and now we are in our 19th year of touring. We decided to honor her a little bit.”
Rogers, approaching the age of 38, seems absolutely secure with his place in life and music. In fact, he feels like he’s in peak form career-wise, which is what he told Cobb when he met with him and asked him to produce the new record. Cobb, known for his recent high-profile and award-winning work with contemporary country and Americana artists such as Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Brandi Carlile, is one of today’s most sought-after producers. “I told him I’m in the prime of my career, and I want to make a record, and you sure don’t want to miss this moment,” says Rogers.
The band’s musical influences are a mixed bag that includes traditional country for Rogers but also classic rock, grunge, and alternative music for the other guys, and that’s part of what gives them their unique sound.
For Hellbent, , the band recorded 11 songs at the historic RCA Studio A, which Cobb now co-owns. It is truly a musical landmark where countless classic recordings were made by the likes of Waylon Jennings, George Strait, Shania Twain and many more starting in the 1960s. “Just being able to record at Studio A was an unbelievable milestone,” says Rogers. “It was certainly inspiring. Every day we went to work looking to do something badass.”
A Baptist preacher’s kid from Cleburne, Texas, just south of Fort Worth, Rogers started playing music and writing songs at an early age but began pursuing it for real when he was in college at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) in San Marcos. Not far from campus was a bar called Cheatham Street Warehouse, which held a weekly Open Mic Night. The club’s owner, the late Kent Finlay, had an ear for talent and an encouraging manner. Soon the fledgling Randy Rogers Band was holding down Tuesday nights on the same stage where such notables as George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan had played regularly.
Finlay’s belief in him was something that Rogers has never forgotten. He has paid tribute to him repeatedly during his career, and today Rogers is part-owner of Finlay’s old club and lives nearby with his family in New Braunfels.
Though Rogers and his agreeable tenor are clearly the band’s focal point, he would be the first to tell you he wouldn’t be where he is without his talented and cohesive band. They are Geoffrey Hill (lead guitar and vocals), Jon “Chops” Richardson (bass guitar and vocals), Brady Black (violin), and Les Lawless (drums), plus additional touring member Todd Stewart (keyboards, mandolin, violin, and vocals). Together they assemble a rich and powerful sonic platform for Rogers’ tales of heartbreak and heartache.
I said, ‘Either you’re with me or you’re against me. I’m gonna quit my job, and I’m going to play five nights a week. Who’s with me?’” They were all in. “That was the turning point.” – Randy Rogers
The band’s musical influences are a mixed bag that includes traditional country for Rogers but also classic rock, grunge, and alternative music for the other guys, and that’s part of what gives them their unique sound. Everyone in the band contributes musically, and several of them write songs for the group, but Rogers, the lead singer, acoustic rhythm guitarist, and principal songwriter, was the natural leader from the start.
He recalls recruiting his bandmates for what has become a fulltime life in music way back in the early part of this century, when he made the leap from working days at a retail shop called Mail Box Etc. “I had everybody over at my house one night, and I drew a line in the proverbial sand. I said, ‘Either you’re with me or you’re against me. I’m gonna quit my job, and I’m going to play five nights a week. Who’s with me?’” They were all in. “That was the turning point.”
During the interview back in early April, Rogers had a few days off at home with his wife and three young daughters before heading out for more shows around the Lone Star State and far-flung destinations including Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and Delaware. They do a little over 100 shows a year now, which is roughly half of what they did for many years. Nowadays the guys are rolling along a lot more smoothly and spaciously in their bus, not having to worry about Peaches blowing a gasket or stalling out for good on a busy freeway. “It’s a little different now,” Rogers says. “We’re doing fewer shows than we used to. We just want to make more time for ourselves and our families.”
Though none of the guys in the band is what you would call an avid sportsman, they do like spending time outdoors when they can. The scenic Guadalupe River is popular for rafting, tubing, and canoeing as well as fishing. And because of a stocking program that goes back to the 1960s, the waterway offers a unique opportunity to catch trophy-size rainbow trout. A small number of the fish live year-round in the colder waters just below the Canyon Lake Dam, and the area is restocked in winter months. “When we are out on tour and somebody wants to put us on a lake and go fishing, we’ll take that opportunity,” says Rogers. “And the fly fishing here in New Braunfels is some of the best.”