It must have been a really bad fight. The kind that makes a big sister stop the car and tell her little brother he can walk the last three miles home from school. But looking back it was actually a pretty good fight. Because that day when Josh Graham was loping alongside Highway 155 outside of Bakersfield he got an idea. That idea turned out to be the first step toward a dream. A dream now known as Smokin' Armadillos. A band born by the side of the road, that never asked for directions, that just found its way, The Smokin' Armadillos broke Nashville's rules because they simply didn't know them. They never played clubs, they didn't cut demos. They put on concerts, and released their own independent CD,. Word of their raw talent and energy spread like wildfire through central California and soon crowds as big as 5,000 fans were infected with the "Armadillo Attitude". Those independent CD's flew out the door, over 100,000 of them. You could hear the party roaring as far as away as Music City. And record execs were listening and observing, especially MCG/CURB.
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What they found were six good looking, clean cut and courteous young men. The kind of men who make women swoon. A band whose energy drives crowds crazy. Musicians who make great music. And they're poised to leave country music singed and smokin' with their self-titled MCG/CURB debut album.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, when Josh finally arrived home he scribbled his idea onto a piece of notebook paper and gave birth to what eventually became the first Armadillo original 'I'm A Cowboy'(he really is). It was a stompin' romp of a song. Actually it was just the lyrics. Actually it was more of a rap that Cowboy Josh performed on request at banquets and talent shows. Friends kept telling him he ought to add some music and suggested he collaborate with a young fiddler in town. Enter quietly Jason Theiste(J.T), a nearly-silent young man with championship credentials and a bold and boisterous fiddle, Josh's friends were right. Music was a must.
A rap and a fiddle. This had some quirky potential.
All in all, Josh was a pretty lucky guy. He had rhythm, he had music and he had a girlfriend. And she had a brother and he had a bass guitar. Aaron Casida was the next to join in. He figured if Josh was good enough to date his sister he was good enough to hang around with and jam. The three started rehearsing at Aaron's place, practicing 'I'm A Cowboy' as well as other cover tunes. One night they got a little too loud practicing 'Devil Went Down To Georgia'. "The Sheriff showed up and told us to shut it down" said Aaron. "But he recognized the song we were playing and that made our night!". Josh and Aaron were thrilled. Jason was quiet. The potential had been officially recognized by the law.
Though Josh had been handling lead vocal duties soon everyone agreed (himself included)that they needed a serious vocalist. Luckily Aaron not only had a sister and bass guitar and a place to practice, he also had a strong kicking leg and used it punting for the Porterville Junior College football team.
Rick Russell was a teammate. A singing linebacker. Rick had long entertained friends and family with his elastic tenor solos but had never sung with a band. He'd made a one song demo tape of Keith Whitley's 'Love Ten Feet Away' that Aaron had heard and liked. He invited Rick to rehearsal. "As soon as I heard J.T. play fiddle, I said Oh yeah. We've got something here" said Rick. When the others heard Rick sing they agreed. They officially became "Smokin' Armadillos" and started to dream. The potential progressed.
Jason was still quiet. Scott Meeks was not. The loud and rowdy lead guitarist is the anti-Jason. But initially they had the most in common. At the first rehearsal together, Scott and Jason recognized each other from a performing arts tour they had been on together in Japan and China years earlier. Scott brought hooks, licks, riffs and attitude galore to the band. He became their songwriting and sarcasm anchor. The guys said "We need a drummer". Jason was quiet. Scott was not. "I know somebody".
Darrin Kirkindoll was the last Armadillo to smoke. And did he ever, on the drums. The oldest and most experienced musician, he initially planned for the gig to be temporary. But that was before he witnessed a crowd with the "Armadillo Attitude". Their fourth show ever was as the opening act for Steve Wariner. They got two standing ovations. "I saw something there I had never seen in a band or a crowd. I couldn't believe it. There was something magic about it". Every member is an individual. They have few things in common besides a love of sports and music. Yes, the whole is a lot bigger than the sum of its parts, but the spark to this band is the creative diversity each guy brings to the mix.
The "Armadillo Attitude" is strength in diversity. A little dab of this, a small touch of that. Some twang, some groove, some straight ahead power chords, some lightning fiddle licks. "We write music that we like. We're not lifetime musicians, we're listeners and fans" says Scott. "We didn't try to create a style. We just play music we'd like to go buy".
Their MCG/CURB album 'Smokin' Armadillos' reflects just that: a decisive indecisiveness. The twelve cuts include heel stompin anthems like 'Too Hot To Handle', 'Thump Factor' and 'Big Bad Beat Of my Broken Heart'. Open, airy tunes such as 'Let Your Heart Lead Your Mind', 'Brand New Partner' and 'Love Of A Lifetime'. 'Vivid story songs like "Miracle Man', 'The Legend Of Wooley's Swamp' and 'Could I have Made It Back Then'. And really clever tunes like 'When Will I Ever Learn', 'My Girlfriend Might' and the rap that started it all...'I'm A Cowboy'.
But if you really want to understand the Smokin' Armadillos, you've got to see their live show. It even wears out the audience.
DARRIN: "We try to make the crowd feel like they're onstage with us...that they're part of the band, part of the show, If we've done that then we've had the best times we can have".
JOSH: "We're wild on stage and we expect the audience to go right along with us. It's just a big party for us and for them".
AARON: "People said you just couldn't get a bunch of guys together, have fun and make it too. Well we did and we're going to".
RICK: "From the very first time we got together and practiced, we had dreams Big dreams. And they're all starting to come true".
SCOTT: "We all knew we had the heart and he drive and the raw talent to make this happen. That's all there is to it".
JASON: (He's still thinking.)
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