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MAINES BROTHERS BAND

MAINES BROTHERS BAND. The history of the Maines Brothers Band is more properly the history of the Maines family of musicians and is in many ways a microcosm of the music history of West Texas, a place where strong ties of kinship and friendship have forged the area’s seemingly inexhaustible talent into a remarkable musical legacy. Raymond (Sonny), James, and Wayne Maines were brothers who lived in northeastern Lubbock County, near Acuff. In the mid-1950s the trio began playing at family get-togethers and other impromptu settings, with Sonny on vocals and James and Wayne on guitar and vocals. They were as likely to sing gospel songs as country hits and as often as not were joined by friends such as fiddlers Wayne Hill and Weldon Turpin.

Pick-up gigs soon became regular work as this first Maines Brothers Band became a popular draw at local and regional dance venues. Over the next dozen years the ensemble featured many of the area’s finest musicians: steel guitarists Frank Carter and Wally Moyers, Sr.; fiddler Curly Lawler; bassist Fernie Reed; and drummer Gerald Braddock. By the mid-1960s James Maines’s three oldest sons—Lloyd (born June 28, 1951), Steve (born November 24, 1952), and Kenny (born July 26, 1954)—were soon performing too and were often invited up to the bandstand by the grown-ups to sing a number or two. By 1967 the boys formed their own group, the Little Maines Brothers Band, and were performing the matinées at Lubbock’s legendary Cotton Club before the elder Maines Brothers played the evening dances.

The Little Maines Boys—as they were known—had Lloyd on guitar, Steve on guitar and vocals, Kenny on bass and vocals, Joe Stephenson on fiddle, Ronnie Middleton on guitar, and with drums handled at one time or another by Steve Braddock (Gerald’s cousin) or John Dwyer. The younger Maines brothers continued to develop both their skills and their following with a full-grown performance schedule. Lloyd, just graduated from Roosevelt High School, began playing steel guitar, and by the end of the 1960s they were ready to drop the “Little” moniker and take over the tradition begun by their father and uncles, becoming the nucleus of the second generation Maines Brothers Band.

In May of 1973, a year that would prove to be a turning point for the group, Steve graduated from South Plains College and left the band to continue his college education at what was then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now Texas State University). The band was down to a four-piece with just two remaining Maines brothers, Lloyd and Kenny, along with Bruce Guinn on drums and Wendy Klepack on guitar and fiddle. Nevertheless, that summer they recorded a fledgling album, The Maines Brothers and Company, at Lubbock’s Don Caldwell Studios, where Lloyd had been doing studio work for a couple of years. The album, on the Phone Records label, featured a photograph of the band at Rim Rock City, a short-lived amusement park outside of Lubbock on the edge of Yellow House Canyon that featured miniature golf and a very sparsely-populated zoo.

Late that same year, Lloyd was offered a touring job in a new band being put together by his friend and fellow West Texan, Joe Ely. He was also approached by Kenny Vernon, a veteran performer who worked the show rooms of Las Vegas. Lloyd and brother Kenny were having lunch with Vernon when the offer was made; when Lloyd declined, Vernon turned to Kenny Maines, asked what he played, then made him an offer on the spot to come to Nevada to play bass. By January of 1974 Kenny was on the job in Las Vegas, and before the year was out Lloyd was full-time with Ely.

For the next two and a half years, from early 1974 to the summer of 1976, the Maines Brothers Band was comprised of both generations. Steve had returned from San Marcos to re-join the outfit, now including his youngest brother, Donnie (born August 2, 1958) on drums, their uncle Sonny Maines on vocals, Fernie Reed on bass, and Curly Lawler on fiddle. When this mixed-generation version of the band wasn’t playing its sit-down gig at the Palomino Club—later the Ace of Spades—in Lubbock, both Steve and Donnie picked up work at other area night spots, places like the Palm Room, playing with local favorites the Blakelys and Tommy Lee.

The best-known version of the band began to take shape in mid-1976. Donnie graduated from Roosevelt High School and Kenny, having grown weary of the Las Vegas scene, returned home. Along with Steve, they added two key members, brothers Randy and Jerry Brownlow (on keyboards and bass, respectively), both contemporaries in age and talent with the Maines brothers. Richard Bowden brought his high-energy fiddle playing to the band in 1978. At regular gigs at the Carriage House and later the Red Raider Club, both in Lubbock, the band began to develop its own distinctive style of music: a mix of rock-and-roll energy, superb musicianship, and country-flavored melodies with strong harmony vocals, the whole born out of the West Texas love for dancing. People called it “aggressive country.”

When he wasn’t on the road with Joe Ely, Lloyd sat in with his brothers and continued to play sessions at Caldwell Studios. But he returned to the Maines Brothers Band early in 1980; he left the road partly in response to their father James’s death in an automobile accident a few months before.

The newly-reconstituted band recorded their first album, The Maines Brothers and Friends, in 1978 at Lubbock’s Don Caldwell Studios and released it on Texas Soul Records, a local label affiliated with the studio. Three other albums followed in short order on the same label and recorded in the same studio: Route 1, Acuff (1980); Hub City Moan (1981); and Panhandle Dancer (1982). The last album caught the attention of Nashville producer Jerry Kennedy, who brought the band to the attention of Mercury-Polygram Records, which signed them to the label in 1983. There the band recorded two albums, High Rollin’ (1984) and The Boys Are Back in Town (1985), and released four singles (“Everybody Needs Love On a Saturday Night,” “Louisiana Anna,” “Amarillo Highway,” and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”). But artistic differences between the band and the label led to the band’s asking for, and getting, a release in 1986. After that, the band recorded two more albums, again on Texas Soul Records, Red, Hot, and Blue (1987) and Wind Storm (1990).

The band’s lineup remained remarkably stable, largely because they took their name to heart, treating each member like family. Everyone pitched in for every job; they never had roadies to help with setting up or packing in and out but did the work themselves. More importantly, they always split the pay evenly, with each—from lead singer to sound engineer—receiving the same cut. There was no definitive bandleader; decisions were made by the group as a whole, down to such things as the set list for live shows or what tunes were to be included on a recording project.

Even so, the group changed personnel over the years. Cary C. Banks took over keyboards from Randy Brownlow in 1983. The brothers’ sister, La Tronda Maines Moyers, sang on studio sessions with the band from the beginning and made frequent appearances at performances as well. Mark Gillespie filled in on drums when Donnie Maines took leave from the band between 1987 and 1989. In the early 1980s the band also added Joe Piland as their sound engineer.

By the end of the 1980s a confluence of changes began to affect the dance venues that were the backbone of the band’s livelihood. The drinking age went back up from eighteen to twenty-one, causing a big decline in dance hall gate revenues. Almost as important, the oil industry suffered another of its periodic crashes, further reducing the number of gigs that paid well enough to support a large, talented outfit like the Maines Brothers Band. Plus, with the separation from Mercury-Polygram, the band was back to financing its own recordings at the same time that there were still payments to be made on the group’s tour bus. Band members began taking day jobs, and by 1993 the Maines Brothers Band was no longer doing regular performances. They did, however, still make occasional rare appearances as a family band into the 2010s.

Most of the group remained in the music business in the early twenty-first century. Lloyd, always in demand in the studio as producer and session player, had built an international reputation in both and practiced out of Austin, Texas. Kenny, after several terms as a commissioner in Lubbock County, resumed an active career as a solo performer and stage actor. Cary Banks joined the faculty of the commercial music program at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, in 1993 and took over as its chair ten years later. Jerry Brownlow established a career in radio, and Richard Bowden became one of Austin’s most popular fiddle players. Joe Piland served as the factory representative for a commercial sound equipment manufacturer.

In the 2000s the family’s musical story continued. Kenny’s and Donnie’s sons—Brian and Jeremy, Chad and Casey, respectively—all played in popular Lubbock area bands as they pursued their educations. Cary Banks’s son Cody worked out of Austin as the drummer and road manager for the Ryan James band. Most famously, Lloyd’s daughter Natalie joined the Dixie Chicks as their lead singer in 1995 and was instrumental in that group’s astounding success. She subsequently also established herself as a successful solo artist. Moreover in the early 2000s, Natalie was already a mother, and La Tronda and her husband Wally Moyers, Jr. (who operated a recording studio), were parents as well, thereby providing good reason to think that the Maines family’s musical history had chapters left to write. The Maines Brothers are honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. Lloyd Maines was an inaugural inductee into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2014.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“Chris Oglesby Interviews Lloyd Maines,” virtualubbock—Interview (http://www.virtualubbock.com/intLloydMaines.html), accessed October 15, 2009. Lubbock Avalanche–Journal, December 11, 2004. The Maines Brothers Band (http://www.mainesbrothersband.com), accessed July 16, 2015. 

Andy Wilkinson

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Handbook of Texas Online, Andy Wilkinson, "Maines Brothers Band," accessed October 21, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgm06.

Uploaded on June 1, 2015. Modified on September 17, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.