Long after Bob Wills played Texas and way before Willie Nelson moved there, Alvin Crow and The Pleasant Valley Boys were kindling the fire of what is known today as progreessive country. They moved from Amarillo to Austin in 1971 "cause we-liked the town" and now they are one of the most liked in the entire Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana area.
"This is the first time we've ever been out of our cradle," said Crow, who opens tonight at the Childe Harold. "I don't really give a damn whether they like us here or not cause they like us in Texas."
That spirit is not belligerence and Crow, 26, with wire-rim glasses and a white hat, hardly looks the part of the bad cowboy. Cll it a Texas attitude. And it's the same freewheeling confidence which characterizes Crow's phenomenal quick-draw fiddling and the country-swing sound of his eight backup members. It was impressive enough in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago to draw inquires from promoters Bill Graham and Jim Halsey. It is impressive enough to see tonight.
"Basically we play western music with a lot of Bob Wills swing overtones," said Joe Gracey, the 26-year-old rhythm guitarist and former program director for an Austin country music station. "Because we mix the old and the new our audiences are all ages."
Former Waylon Jennings harp player Roger Crabtree and saxophoneist Ed Vizzaed, combined with Herb Steiner's steel guiter and Crow's fiding, give this band an element of country swing which Bobs wills once played in places like Cain's ballroom in Tulsa. But Crow covers the idioms like a good country jukebox: ballads, waltzes, rock-a-billy, and honky-tonk.
"In Austin you've got to be good live or you've no good at all," said bass guitarist Bobby Earl Smith. "Those people come to dance."
The nucleus of the band is Crow, Crabtree, and guitarist Gary Roller. The other five, including drummer Billy Nado from Boston, ended up in Texas just to be near "the music."
Two albums are out - the latest one being High Riding on the Polydor label. A few of their singles, including the old Milton Brown song "Yes You Do" and the Bob Wills-Johnnie Gimble tune "All Night Long" have done well in Texas, and become regional hits. But if ever a Texas swing band was to make it big, Alvin Crow's present journey from the hinterland (with bookings up the East coast) will be the time.
"Crow has got the kind of rapport and charisma I like," said Jim Halsey, who manages Roy Clark, Mel Tills, Donna Fargo, and others. "I think that kid is headed for some serious stardom."
Alvin Crow doesn't seem excited by these comments. He doesn't care about playing for "yankees." He just cares about playing.
"If Zour day coems, then it comes," said Crow, a reminder that in Texas, nothing is too big.