Aug. 24--The Maines Brothers Band recorded only two major label releases with Mercury Records over three years, then left Tennessee of its own accord.
The band, on the whole, remains one of the most beloved stars to ever have emerged from a Lubbock firmament of major musical talent.
Fans who sell out its concerts can attest to the band's ongoing popularity. In fact, many who know these musicians well believe that band members gave up potential national superstardom after having tasted the water from the so-called sacred well in Nashville.
These musicians evidently quickly realized they had enjoyed more nourishment, while recording superior albums at Caldwell Studios in Lubbock -- and this way, never had to leave their families behind in the process.
The Maines Brothers Band, with guests, will perform at 7 p.m. today, Aug. 24, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre, 1501 Mac Davis Lane.
Band members made a pledge decades ago to never perform as The Maines Brothers Band unless all members could be present -- and today's concert finds the musicians bonding as an eight-piece.
Little Maines boys
The original version of this Maines Brothers Band included the four Maines brothers -- Lloyd, 62; Steve, 60; Kenny, 59; and Donnie, 55 -- linked with two Brownlow brothers, Jerry and Randy, and fiddle player extraordinaire Richard Bowden.
However, when the band signed with Mercury Records in 1983, Cary Banks replaced an ailing Randy Brownlow on keyboards.
Both are still considered members; both are listed with The Maines Brothers Band inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame in the spring of 1993, and both will be on stage today.
In the eyes of family members, however, they are considered the second Maines Brothers Band, begun by children who had learned much from their dad, James Maines, and uncles Wayne and Raymond "Son" Maines,
Those three began playing in the 1950s.
Lubbock's Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holly learned some of his first guitar chords from Wayne Maines while together on the school bus, according to the late Holly's brothers, Larry and Travis.
Lloyd, Kenny, Steve and Donnie first dressed up as the Little Maines Boys and, as youngsters, played Sunday afternoon dances at Lubbock's Cotton Club.
Hancock on Maines bands
However, Tommy X. Hancock, respected by musicians in past decades as the Godfather of West Texas Music, recalled, "I first met the older Maines Brothers. We were all good friends. I got to know the younger boys from my acquaintances with their father and uncles.
"... But the first Maines Brothers group could never accurately be called a band, because they mostly sat in with other musicians.
"It was the younger band that could have found ongoing success and fame due to there being four handsome, charming young men who played terrific, commercial music."
The band has lost none of its regional popularity. Tonight's show arrives more than 30 years after the Lubbock concert that commanded national attention, opening eyes and doors.
Former Civic Center Director Vicki Key looked through records to confirm it was on Sunday, April 26, 1981, that superstars Alabama headlined at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum. That also was the night Alabama's Randy Owen, Ted Gentry and Jeff Cook exited their dressing room -- which simply was not done -- to find out why the crowd already was so loud.
What they discovered was The Maines Brothers Band, and an Avalanche-Journal review suggested the opening band outplayed the headliner that night.
Nashville noted that The Maines Brothers Band:
--Recorded high-quality albums in Lubbock.
--Sales and support were solid.
--And local radio already paid attention.
Famous 1981 concert
Scott Harris, retired KLLL Radio general manager, was the station's program director in the 1980s. He recalled the 1981 concert.
"For much of the 1980s, The Maines Brothers were as popular as any national artist or group," said Harris. Alabama was lighting up the charts with "My Home's in Alabama," "Tennessee River" and "Feels So Right." Then the band appeared in Lubbock for the first time. "The promoter contacted the radio station, asking us to suggest a good local act to go on before Alabama.
"We were already playing Maines Brothers songs and sponsoring their club appearances.
"I don't know if the Lubbock Coliseum show was sold out," continued Harris. "But the crowd was loving the Maines Brothers, and I remember seeing members of Alabama come out to listen. From the looks on their faces, you could tell they were blown away. It would be safe to say that The Maines Brothers outperformed Alabama, especially considering crowd reaction."
Harris said, "Lubbock was blessed with many talented artists."
The only two being played by Lubbock's top country radio station were The Maines Brothers Band and, to a lesser extent, Joe Ely.
However, Harris said, "Our listeners requested The Maines Brothers as much, if not more, than Alabama, George Strait and, later, Garth Brooks into the early-to-mid-'90s."
The Maines Brothers Band's first albums arrived in 1978 (self-titled) and 1980 ("Route 1, Acuff"). Earlier in the 1970s, Kenny Maines sang with a Las Vegas-based show band. Steel guitarist Lloyd Maines worked for music producer Don Caldwell until, from 1975 to 1979, he toured with The Joe Ely Band, helping to shape a whole new sound.
Ely has fond memories of Maines' music.
Ely also influenced
"It was impossible to be a musician in Lubbock without being influenced by the Maines family," said Ely. "That would be true going back several generations to the present."
In the 1960s, said Ely, he listened "to James, Wayne and Son playing the dance halls and rodeos around Lubbock.
"There was a tradition that had been passed down from the Bob Wills era, that was continued in the honky tonks of West Texas -- and it was when I met Lloyd about 1971 that that tradition directly influenced my life."
Ely recalled, "For the next few years, I began writing songs and playing at places that would shape my life from then until now. We recorded records for MCA in Nashville, and Lloyd traveled with my band from coast to coast and ocean to ocean for the next few years."
But Ely was just borrowing Lloyd.
Kenny eventually left Las Vegas, having learned how to channel his charisma as a charming and talented front man. When he returned home to Lubbock, it was with a burning desire to reunite with all three of his brothers.
Ely said, "In the late '70s and early '80s, Lloyd began producing records that had a sound that came directly from that era of West Texas music. It was rowdy and dusty, born from the heart and easy to dance to."
Continuing in the family tradition, they called themselves The Maines Brothers Band.
(Tomorrow: Label executive asks whether Maines Brothers Band is too rock for country, and too country for rock.)
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