Singing and songwriting are recent developments in Hollis Wayne's long career as a multi-media artist. Arriving in Austin, TX in the mid '70s armed with a degree in History & Theatre from UW La Crosse, she became a street vendor at the famous open air 23rd St. People's Renaissance Market across from the University of Texas. To make a buck off the students who passed by in a never-ending parade, she developed and sold her hand-made airbrushed clothing and brilliantly glazed ceramic tiles on this eclectic side street right off The Drag, later adding street shows and Renaissance Faires across the country. She lived a gypsy's life, traveling in a cargo van stuffed with the tools & products of her trade, living & working for months on festival sites, periodically returning to a garage studio in Austin to regroup, make more stock, then hit the road again, headed for another show.
DB Rouse started playing guitar and singing Elvis songs when he was just a tall sprout in Neena, WI. A philosophy degree from UW Eau Claire in the mid 2000's was quickly followed by busking around the country in a minivan, singing for gas and food money in between assorted odd jobs from Alaska to Maine. After a 6 month stint as a lounge singer on a Carnival cruise ship in 2009, he headed for Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World. He wanted to see what all the hype was about, and if Austin could offer a young talented busker singer/songwriter any clues about how to make it in the music business.
When things didn't go well quickly enough for the roving busker and he actually headed outta town to return to the north country before he ran outta funds, the suggestion was made by his brother-in-law that DB shouldn't give up quite yet on the Austin scene. He knew some folks that would let him pitch a tent at their place. Mike gave him the phone number for Hollis and the Happy Horse Hotel. DB called immediately. Not having a horse was a problem, but once he said who'd told him to call, and that he had a guitar with him and would gladly perform in exchange for a tent spot and some dinner, Hollis said, "Sure, come on over!" So DB Rouse pointed his minivan southeast to Bastrop County and the Happy Horse Hotel.
By the time DB reached Austin in October 2009, Hollis and husband Beaux Graham had established the Happy Horse Hotel campground for people with horses. Located between Bastrop and Austin, campfire music was part of its charm. She'd retired from over 2 decades of road life, designed and built a cozy spot for horse people with their big rigs and equines, traded in her paintbrushes and kilns for a sure-hit song-writing pen and was turning out tunes that used the dangerous aspects of riding a spirited steed as metaphors for the challenges that life throws at all of us. Her stories about fast horses and riding them on the amazing trails at McKinney Roughs, the nearby equestrian park, were starting to be an integral part of the camp scene.
"The music changed in so many ways when the tall guitar player showed up," says Hollis. "DB became our camp foreman and simultaneously helped push along the change from being an instrumental squeezebox band (concertinas and an accordion!) to a more traditional cowboy and country/folk guitar sound. The band got another singer-songwriter and a great rhythm guitar player! We call this unexpected development a result of The Brother in Law Deal," laughs Hollis.
All-around musician John Warner Dunn was already part of the song scene at the Happy Horse Hotel weekend campfires, having been commandeered early in 2009 to help the squeezebox players hone their musical skills. Eventually the strident bellows gave way to the mellow strings of acoustic guitars, the song list of covers and originals grew. DB and JD pushed for doing shows away from the campfire, so we tried our wings at some low-key Bastrop venues.
In January 2011 we all ended up at Parrot Tracks Studio in Manchaca letting George Coyne's awesome engineering skills guide us through the process of capturing our unique sound on the first Happy Horse disc, RIDE RIDE RIDE. It was a collection of the covers and originals that had been thrilling our camp audiences for about a year.
What an adventure it was! Hollis decided going into the first CD that there would be a Trilogy, with each successive CD planned to capture the progress in the musicianship and song-writing skills of the band members. So she set about finding a drummer who fit into this collection of players, and lucked out when Pete the Beat Langhans was found through the Bastrop Music Academy in January of 2013, just in time to do studio work on CD2, which Hollis had titled Rockin' & Ridin' even before she found the ROCKIN' part of the sound!
With Pete Langhans on drums and helping out with the 3 part harmonies, and the addition of Darrell Vernum (aka Dr. D) as producer, the quartet soon found a rich, driving sound that blends campfire sing-along and folksy country western with the high energy of rock and roll. The strong lyrics and vocals of the two balladeers tell tales of taking risks, reaping the rewards, and living the adventurous life of artists determined to follow their own life-plan. Fans say the music's stories and band sound are incredibly upbeat & happy, often humorous, sometimes pensive, and it always makes ya wanna get up and MOVE!
In mid 2013, Beaux Graham set down his bass and took over as Band Manager, Booking Agent and Gear Wrangler. The quartet began to perform at various Austin venues, finally stepping away from the campfire and local Bastrop scene where they'd honed their intentions and the sound of the music. DB Rouse gave up his annual solo spring & summer busking jaunts across the USA to stick around, perform with the band and begin the studio time for CD #3. Now fast on the heels of Rockin' & Ridin', Hollis and DB have a brand new collection of tunes and stories to tell, and the band began laying down tracks for "Hell Bent for Leather," the 3rd CD of the Trilogy, in April at Orb Recording Studio. It's due out by the end of the year.
It's gonna be another great ride and we sure hope y'all will join us for the fun!