Aug. 25--Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part series.
In terms of popularity, and word-of-mouth concerning a 1981 concert with Alabama, the sky seemed the limit for Lubbock's Maines Brothers Band
Yet no one spotted egos or big heads. Jane Prince Jones, with KLLL Radio, recalled band members would continue preparing a radio show that aired every Sunday, like clockwork.
"It was always a treat to see which band members would drop by the KLLL studio," said Jones.
"They also recorded some segments ahead of time. And then our Monday morning radio show immediately was filled with requests to play The Maines Brothers' new songs that they had heard the day before."
Joe Ely said, "They recorded their own records, which got the attention of major record labels. ... With their unique ensemble parts, brotherly harmonies and freight train solos, no other Lubbock band better reflected the sound of West Texas.
"Then when (singer-songwriter) Terry Allen entered the scene, The Maines Brothers recorded his songs and that ol' 'Amarillo Highway' was left in ruins.
"And then Natalie (Maines, lead singer with the Dixie Chicks) entered the scene -- and the Maines' family history just soared to new dimensions," said Ely.
Allen was not interested in answering questions about Maines popularity and potential. To him, they had become, almost overnight, more than musicians. He regarded them as brothers, as family.
Allen on the Maines
"How big? How popular?
"This totally misses the point.
"The Maines are a great family, true friends and, for generations, extraordinary musicians.
"They are as important to West Texas music as flatland, blue sky and the wind.
"They are as important to me as blood."
-- Terry Allen, 8/13/13
Bad corporate timing
Andy Wilkinson, an award-winning singer-songwriter and West Texas music historian, said The Maines Brothers Band found popularity early "because they understood that, in Texas, music is first-and-foremost for dancing.
"They were signed to Mercury Records by a fine A&R guy, Jerry Kennedy. But Kennedy ended up leaving the label before he could shepherd them through the politics and (BS) that drives Nashville," he said.
"As a result, The Maines Brothers never got the corporate support that made far bigger stars out of far lesser talents," he said.
According to Wilkinson, members of The Maines Brothers Band are among the "most influential musicians in all of acoustic American music."
They "added to the careers of Joe Ely, Terry Allen and the Dixie Chicks. Lloyd Maines remains a Grammy Award-winning producer. (Fiddle player) Richard Bowden is in constant demand," he said.
And the rest, said Wilkinson, would still be in the limelight if they had not chosen other paths.
"We love Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings and Mac Davis, but none of them shone so brightly as the Maines family," he said.
Too rock, too country
Multi-instrumentalist Cary Banks, the last to join the band, recalled when a Mercury Records executive told him, "Radio stations and promoters say they can't promote you guys because you're too country for rock, and too rock for country."
Banks added that, 20 years later, the Texas music scene had its roots in The Maines Brothers and Joe Ely, "mixing rock, country and blues and calling it Americana."
Many new artists like Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Cory Morrow had been listening to, and being inspired by, Maines Brothers Band music.
Lubbock-based artist Paul Milosevich, who has since relocated to Santa Fe, N.M., had become a supporter and friend of West Texas musicians while providing portraits of national stars for the Nashville Songwriters Association, International.
"My feeling is that The Maines Brothers had the talent and material to make a big noise on the national level," said Milosevich. "Maybe what they lacked was the big ego and insatiable drive to go on the road for 10 years or more.
"There's no doubt they loved making music. They still do. But they don't like living out of a tour bus as much as some artists do.
"I just couldn't believe one family could have all that musical talent. When you think also of sister LaTronda, and then the next generation...
"The Maines Brothers Band gave Lubbock its money's worth for a good long time," he said.
Band's influence grows
Considering the band's eventual influence on West Texas music, Scott Harris, retired KLLL Radio general manager, thought back and concluded, "For much of the '80s and early '90s, The Maines Brothers did not just influence West Texas music. They were West Texas music.
"They influenced the entire regional movement, and that means such artists as Joey Allen, Jay Boy Adams, Mike Pritchard's band, Larry Johnson, Maverick and so many more," he said.
The band recorded two albums for Mercury, scoring one Top 25 hit with "Everybody Needs Love on a Saturday Night."
Hoping they would click, Mercury had The Maines Brothers opening for such varied acts as Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Dr. Hook, The Judds, Brooks & Dunn, Steve Wariner and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Needing right song
Kenny Maines reflected, "No matter how hard you work or sacrifice, you are still subject to the luck of the draw. Having the right song out there, at the right time.
"One can always second guess marketing strategies. One thing for sure: We were always below par at being controversial. We just enjoyed playing music," he said.
Harris would rise in influence at KLLL, and wished he had more influence with the band. "From a radio standpoint," he said, "their singles were not songs that made them stand out. 'Everybody Needs Love on a Saturday Night' came close, but was not Top 10 material.
"Personally, I heard them do a couple covers at Fat Dawg's that blew me away. I told them they should release one of the following as a single: either 'Dance with Me' by Orleans or Sammy Johns' 'Chevy Van.' They thought not enough time had passed since those songs were first released in the 1970s.
"Songs like 'Amarillo Highway' were popular in Texas, but would not make it with a national audience. I also thought they should have released Jerry Brownlow's 'Break the Fall."
Even so, Harris recalled, "Before the mid-'80s, no band in Texas could touch them, and that includes bands in Austin."
Don Caldwell said, "The band's influence is widespread through the national music community. You could say that anyone influenced by the Dixie Chicks also is getting a strong dose of Maines Brothers."
Fiddle player Richard Bowden has played with respected artists in a number of countries, but said, "Everything I am doing in my music career is based on what I learned by working with The Maines Brothers. Not just how to play like a pro, but also how to act like one.
" ... There is no way to measure the effect they have had on Lubbock and beyond, but things would not be the same without their positive influence."
Lloyd Maines does not appear to have changed his answer when asked why the band gave up on Nashville, touring and possible stardom after only three years.
He e-mailed: "First and foremost, it was family. We felt a need to raise our kids. We didn't want that once-in-a-lifetime experience to get devoured by riding down the road in a tour bus. We were chasing a small-picture dream, and the big picture won out."
But Ely may have nailed it when he said, "It is hard to say what would have happened had The Maines Brothers stayed out on the road all their lives, because each of their families played such a large part in their lives. Their families shaped their music, not the other way around."
"Their sound was created around the dinner table," said Ely, "and their spirit was shaped by the closeness of their friends. None of this could have happened anywhere else but Lubbock.
"There was a lot of emptiness to fill up in the place where they grew up, and no one filled it any better than The Maines Brothers."
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