Rockabilly Bash: When was your band formed?
Bobby: Billy and I moved to Austin in the summer of 1996 and put together the first incarnation with Derek Peterson on rhythm guitar and Alberto Telo on drums.
RB: Did you know then what style you were going to play?
Bobby: We were playing blues and rockabilly when we were living in Beaumont. But when we met Shaun Young he really encouraged us to do harmony stuff. So we decided to go in that direction.
RB: How did you achieve that authentic sound? Was it natural or you worked hard for it?
Bobby: A lot of people ask us that question and it’s kind of a hard one to answer. I just think that we’re influenced by a lot of the older stuff and that’s how we try to play. As far as my guitar playing goes, I just try to keep it simple.
RB: Could you name some of your major influences as musicians?
Bobby: For me, my guitar influences are Grady Martin, Jimmy Lee Fautheree, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Jimmie Vaughan, and Dave LeRoy Biller. As far as singin’ goes, we’re really into Jimmy & Johnny, The York Brothers, Rusty and Doug Kershaw, The Everly Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, and the Sparkletones.
RB: Have you and your music changed since your first lp was released?
Bobby: I think so. Our first record was recorded at the end of our time in Beaumont. So it was a transitional period for us. I think the main difference is that we’ve improved as musicians.
RB: What was the push point for your moving to Austin?
Bobby: Well, I wrote a fan letter to Shaun Young of High Noon. And he was kind enough to call me on the phone. I found out that his wife is from the Beaumont area so I had a chance to meet them when they visited the area. Before we said goodbye he said “let me know if you guys ever want to record at Jet-Tone Studios”. So we drove up a few months later and recorded a bunch of songs with Shaun drumming for us. (Our version of Joe Clay’s “Did You Mean Jelly Bean?” was released on a Crazy Love compilation). After another visit to Austin we decided to move here.
RB: It seems, Shaun Young became almost an essential member of your band, one of Horton Brothers. Is it so?
Bobby: Shaun definitely played a pivotal role in our careers. He’s a fantastic songwriter and singer and we’re still fortunate enough to pick with him.
RB: What are advantages and disadvantages about living in Austin?
Bobby: The advantages would be that Austin is open to hearing original material. You can play whatever you want and you’re not shackled down to just playing covers. And there are so many talented musicians in this town that it keeps you on your toes. Seeing all of these great players is inspiring and it forces you to become a better player. The disadvantages would be that it’s getting way too expensive to live here. Developers are trying to turn Austin into another Houston or Dallas. Luckily, there’s still live music in this town but it seems like it’s being threatened more and more lately. If it gets too bad, maybe we’ll all move out to some small town in west Texas or out to New Mexico and start our own little musician’s town.
RB: Are there many bands playing authentic rockabilly in Austin nowadays?
Bobby: There’s never been a huge rockabilly scene here. But that’s okay—all we’re lookin’ for is an audience that likes what we’re playing.
RB: Do you think if there is any future for that music? Many bands bring something new to it. So can it happen that one day there is going to be only a shadow of traditional rockabilly music of 50s?
Bobby: I’ve always felt that rockabilly is a valid genre just like jazz, rock and roll, blues, punk, etc. I think that it will continue just because there’s always a younger generation that clues into this kind of music.
RB: Do you have permanent linup for your shows?
Bobby: We try to work with our core unit—myself on guitar, Billy on upright bass, and Buck Johnson on drums. But there are times when Buck can’t play the gig so we usually hire Bobby Trimble on drums. We also hire an extra soloist when we can, too. We’ve worked with Dave LeRoy Biller a lot. We’ve also done a couple of shows with TK Smith on guitar.
RB: Does T Jarrod Bonta play with you at live performances, or we have chance to hear his piano playing only on your recordings?
Bobby: T’s fantastic and we try to hire him as much as we can. He’s definitely in demand so we can’t always use him. But we’ve done a couple of tours with him and he plays with us a couple of times a month on our Roots Tuesday show.
RB: You are backing up other singers at Roots Tuesday Night every week. Whose idea was it to set up that kind of show?
Bobby: Dale Watson approached us and asked if we’d be interested in putting together a weekly show. He told us that we could hire whoever we wanted to. So we’ve been fortunate enough to back up a lot of talented musicians and singers here in Austin. We’ve worked with Nick Curran, Bear, Miss Lauren Marie, Shaun Young, Mike Barfield, Jim Stringer, Roger Wallace, Benny Peters, Joey Simeone, Derek Bossanova, and Jimmie Vaughan.
RB: You've made a great album with Dave Leroy Biller! How long do you know each other? Are any more materials coming in the future?
Bobby: Thank you! I met Dave around 1997. He’s such a great guitar picker. He can play many different styles and do them all extremely well. We’re planning on recording another Biller & Horton CD very soon.
RB: You had five years break between your recordings as Horton Brothers. Was it because you were not ready for it or just lack of time?
Bobby: We don’t feel the need to release CD’s just for the heck of it. We’re not a touring band so it doesn’t really make sense to release something every year. But now that we’re playing a weekly gig we might try to put something together.
RB: Have you other interests besides the music?
Bobby: I enjoy long walks in the park, boating, etc. (Just kidding.) I’m into animation—I tried to animate a couple of things. I’m not that good at it but it was fun to give it a shot. I also like graphic design. I’m thinking about designing the next Biller & Horton cover. And I’m fascinated with technology. Billy calls me “gadget boy”. I’m impressed with all kinds of electronics and computer stuff.
RB: You have played in Europe several times at the biggest festivals. Can you see the difference between European and American hillbilly/rockabilly scene?
Bobby: Festivals are always a blast just because there are so many people. And they’re always there to have a good time and check you out.
RB: Do you have any plans to play in Europe again?
Bobby: I’m waiting for the phone to ring! Or they can send me an email.
RB: Thanks for your time and keeping the rockabilly music alive!
Bobby: Thanks for asking us to do this interview!