Popular '80s band Texas Gold reunites for benefit concert
By ALLYSON REYNOLDS DIXON
Who: Jack Ingram and the Beat-Up Ford Band, with Texas Gold and The Swigs
concert for Hope House and CASA
When: Today. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.
Bill Aylor Sr. Memorial RiverStage
Tickets: $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Can be purchased at CD Warehouse,
Blair's Western Wear, the San Angelo Convention Center and by phone at (915) 653-6464.
With a couple of hit singles
and a recent songwriter of the year award to his credit, it may seem like only good things lie ahead for Steve Mandile.
But the Nashville songwriter says if it were not for his days with Texas Gold - a band popular in San Angelo in the early
'80s - any future good fortune, or even that he's enjoying today, probably would not be possible.
everything. It was the whole deal," Mandile, who penned Tim McGraw's No. 1 song "For A Little While," said
of playing with Texas Gold. "My experiences with Texas Gold, with how to be in a band like that, has shaped me to this
moment. That's just the way I want to be in business and in music. I want everybody to want to be really good. I want everybody
to be as serious as I am.
"When we would finish with a gig and come up, we wouldn't just leave our stuff in
the trailer. We would set up every single time, mike everything up and record our rehearsals and then listen to them. We were
real serious about what we were doing, and definitely, it's made a difference."
Mandile will team up with
his old buddies tonight for a reunion concert to benefit the Children's Advocacy Center, an umbrella organization for both
Hope House and CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates).
It will be one of the few times Texas Gold has reunited
since breaking up 15 years ago. The reunion will include most of the old members. Lead singer Ronna Reeves, who started with
Texas Gold at age 12 but left a few years before the group broke up, won't be able to make it back, and neither will guitarist
Chris Mickelson, who is an emergency room physician in Alaska.
But Mandile, 1999 SESAC songwriter of the year,
and keyboardist Jay Weatherby, a local attorney, will be there. So will bassist Kelly Wilson, an OB/GYN at Shannon Clinic,
and drummer Wade Spradley, a local upholsterer and member of The Strays. Daryl Cates of the Swigs will fill in for Mickelson.
"With the exception of Steve, who is an incredibly talented individual, I don't know that any of the rest of
us were incredible musicians," Weatherby said. "And I think we all aware that we were probably mediocre musicians
at best, but we played well together. We had a good feeling for what we needed to do, and that probably was our strength -
that we played well together as a band. I mean, we'd grown up playing together."
Texas Gold's beginnings came
in the late '70s, when some of its members were still in junior high. Essentially, Mandile joined up with Reeves, who lived
in Big Spring and performed with a group there. Weatherby soon came on board, and when Reeves moved to San Angelo, the three
began forming what would later become Texas Gold.
"The very infant stages of any band, that's where we were
- just kids trying to have fun playing music, and if we got a chance to work somewhere that was great," Mandile said.
"My first job as a professional musician was playing a private party at Lake Nasworthy, and I made $12, and I was a 'professional
Wilson joined the group in 1980, when he was a junior at (Lake View). Soon after, Reeves got a
record contract and moved to Nashville. The band members decided to continue on their own.
"A lot of people
don't realize it (because) Ronna has achieved a certain level of success in Nashville," Weatherby said. "But we
didn't really start touring and playing with (bigger) acts until she left. That's probably when we hit our highest level of
success, and we played until 1985."
The group opened for such acts as Ronnie Millsap, Reba McEntire and the
Bellamy Brothers and went on tour with George Strait and Steve Wariner.
"That was one of the best times of
my life," Wilson said. "It was fun to get up on stage and play in front of a lot of people, and to travel and meet
the people we met. It was a very exciting time for an 18-year-old kid."
Weatherby said Texas Gold tours weren't
anything like most bands experienced.
"I can't tell you what a unique makeup we had," he said.
The group's first soundman, Jack Morgan, insisted that the kids not be "typical" band kids.
most bands stay up all night and party and go to bed and then sleep till noon ... Jack was kind of our caretaker on the road,"
Weatherby said. "In any cities we'd stop in, he'd kick us out of bed in the mornings, and we'd go to museums and do cultural
or educational activities. Our time wasn't spent idly on the road. It was a very healthy atmosphere - very different than
most. And I think it inspired everybody to do bigger and better things."
For most of the group, bigger and
better things meant leaving music behind.
"We had to make some decisions about career versus continuing on
with music, and although some made music decisions, some us decided to go and continue with school," Wilson said.
One by one, the members of Texas Gold went away to college. First, it was Mickelson, who decided to become a doctor. Texas
Gold became a four-man band. Then Wilson went off to medical school, too.
"The makeup began to change, and
a year later, I went to school," Weatherby said.
Mandile went to Dallas where he hooked up with an up-and-coming
band. Soon after, he was playing guitar for Lee Greenwood. From there, he went on to songwriting and now hopes to get more
involved in producing.
"We had changes of goals of life plans," Weatherby said. "But we all had
a wonderful time while we played."
And they weren't bad, either, Mandile said. He recently met up with one
of the old sound guys, who had kept a set of home-recorded Texas Gold tapes.
"I was almost nervous to listen
to them, because I had this idea that we were pretty good," Mandile said. "But time goes on, and I'm a much better
musician now that I was then. But I listened, and we were pretty good.
"It wasn't anything like we were good
for our age. We were fearless song-wise. I couldn't believe some of the things we were trying to do. We were a good band and
we prided ourselves on being good singers and on learning the songs like they were on the records."
the opportunity to reunite with his old bandmates presented itself, Mandile had a hard time saying no. Weatherby, who is on
the board of directors of the Children's Advocacy Center, was helping to organize a benefit concert featuring Jack Ingram.
The nagging question was who would open for Ingram?
Debbie Brown, executive director of the Children's
Advocacy Center, graduated with the Texas Gold guys and asked if they would consider getting back together for a night.
"I thought it was nuts. I still do," Weatherby said. "It's been 15 years since we've played. Any of the
kids who are in college now were toddlers then. They're not going to know us. And the age group that will know us is less
likely to get out and attend an outdoor concert. I thought it was a shot in the dark."
Instead, it's been
a lot of fun.
"It's been a ball," Weatherby said of the reunion. "It's been amazing to me ... We'd
only had a couple of rehearsals, and it all kind of comes back to you and falls into place."
Reynolds Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 659-8237.