More Than a Bar Band

The Wyatts hope the return of a lost brother and a successful new album will take them to the next level

Just call me Linda Ray Wyatt.

I admit I'm skeptical about the name thing. These guys are great players with good songs and a compelling act. For the second year in a row, they are the TAMMIES Readers' Choice Band/Musician of the Year. The stage names and goofy bios seem superfluous.

What on Earth do they have to hide?

"We like the idea of, 'Everybody is a Ramone'," says Wyatts co-founder Jimbo, "at the same time, building into, like, the Kiss army thing, where everybody who's a fan is part of the group also. Everybody wants to be part of something, so anybody can be a Wyatt. We have fans come up and tell us their Wyatt name."

Co-founder Roscoe Wyatt expands on the philosophy.

"It's about inclusion, and that was one of the first things we really wanted to do. But we didn't just want to be a band. I mean, we had the music, but we were all good friends, and it's just a great small town, so we wanted it to be bigger. And the way you make things bigger is to present yourself bigger. It's the basic part of doing business. So coming up with the idea of being brothers just leads to a great story. It leads to curiosity."

It also leads to a collection of fictitious band bios that are hard to keep straight. Recalling a recent show in Williams (west of Flagstaff), Roscoe recounts, "I slipped up and told one of the ladies that (the band resulted from) only five marriages, and she told me, 'Fake, you're a fake! Your dad had seven wives!' I was like 'Oh! Well we're mad at the other two right now.'

"So it is something that people really grab a hold of. I mean, in order to be successful, you have to be remembered for what you're doing."

Given the size of their fan base, the Wyatts are obviously being remembered for their performances as well. Their live act is all about entertainment; the energy and humor they project is infectious enough to keep the crowd moving. That translates into lots of beers sold, which makes them equally popular with club owners.

As a result, the Wyatts are, at the moment, barely skirting the dreaded "bar band" label. The redemption of a popular, national record release has thus far eluded them, but may be forthcoming in the wake of their new, seven-song The Continuing Saga of the Wyatts, Volume One, voted by readers as the TAMMIES Best New Release.

The band's eponymous 2005 debut seemed destined to impel their career beyond Tucson. It won airplay on 200 radio stations nationwide, but personnel issues prevented the Wyatts from capitalizing on it. Roscoe explains: "We released that CD. We got picked up by Shut Eye Records. We were on the radio the entire summer of 2005, and it was time to go to tour."

But a sudden family emergency left them without a bass player, and the tour evaporated during the efforts to find a replacement. "We just couldn't find anyone else who was willing to give 120 percent, whether it was desire, commitment or the ability within themselves to take their lives to that level."

What luck that a lost "brother," in the form of Marcus Wyatt, about that time relocated to the Tucson area from Seattle. A veteran bassist, Marcus has toured with Hank Williams III and performed for years with the legendary Bad Livers and Danny Barnes, that band's co-founder.

Marcus' bluegrass ethic, in both touring and musicianship, should have the Wyatts' fortunes turned around in short order. It doesn't hurt that he's also equipped with a touring van.

Says Marcus of the Wyatts, "(They're) really good players, really cool folks to work with. They have a goal, which is kinda nice. Rather than just getting drunk, they actually want to go and make something out of their songs. I quit two jobs to be in this band."

For the band's part, Roscoe says, "We're happy Marcus is here, because we're starting to go, 'Wow, this is somebody like us! This is the guy we've been waiting for, for three years.' That's what's been holding us back from touring, and we just released this new CD, and we should be out doing something with that."

The Continuing Saga of the Wyatts, Volume One, was, to some degree, a casualty of the continuing bass-player saga; its seven tracks were intended to be 12. But what remains should put the band back on a growth track. Apart from the improved production, courtesy of Wavelab Studio, Continuing Saga is an extension of the Wyatts' near-miss debut. Nearly every track is steeped in the blues, soul and R&B underpinnings of the traditional country sound that started with Jimmie Rodgers. None of the Wyatts are yodeling--yet--but the foundation of their music is clearly drawn from the pre-country-pop era.

For all of that, neither the Wyatts' sound nor their performance could have been anticipated before, say, The Ramones, or any of the other punk and metal icons of the band members' more tender years. To derive the Wyatts' blend, they've simply excised the generalized anger and alienation: The Wyatts aim for a good time. Even their love-'em-and-lose-'em songs are made for booty shakin' while tossing back some cold ones.

As for the future of the family Wyatt, Roscoe says, "We gotta make more records, so we played a bunch of money-type gigs, everything we could get our hands on. We either play 300 45-minute sets, or we could play 20 four-hour shows, get paid really good and--like we just did in Williams--have a great frickin' time."

Sometimes you just have to be a bar band to become the band you know you can be. Sometimes you even let a writer sit in. In fact, that's exactly how they won me over to the Wyatt name thing: They put a shaker in my hand and asked me to play along with an acoustic version of their song "The Pick Up."

It's about a hitchhiking heartbreaker, name of Linda.

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