A throwback to the days of early rock and roll, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys are a high-energy outfit capable of wrapping their pomaded swagger around a heaping handful of musical styles. From rockabilly and Western swing to boogaloo, Memphis soul and traditional country, these guys have a deep appreciation and understanding of American roots music and are on a mission to share it with the world.
Formed in California in 1988, the band got its start as a rockabilly trio. But Big Sandy (born Rusty Williams) and the boys quickly expanded their lineup and their repertoire. They moved beyond being rockabilly revivalists and started exploring other genres. They always kept their focus however on the pre-rock and roll traditions. “I think of us as just a rock and roll band,” frontman Big Sandy has said. “A rock and roll band that’s letting the roots show.”
With a respect for the styles that laid the foundation for much of today’s music, as well as a keen understanding of today’s landscape, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys go beyond the novelty of being a “retro” group and tap into the spirit that makes early rock and roll so great. With double-taking authenticity, these guys manage to capture the essence and excitement of yesterday and bring it screaming forward into today.
On the band’s website, Big Sandy relates a story of being on tour in a converted 1950 school bus. The band stepped out of the bus in front of a thrift store and as Sandy tells it, “There was a kid out in front, and he was just like in awe when we pulled up. He looked a little bit confused, and then we come walking up, and he wasn’t sure if he should approach us or not. Then he asked us, ‘Are you guys from the past?’ As if we were traveling in a time machine or something.”
The time machine analogy is a good one. Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite boys transport audiences back to a time when rock and roll was the new kid in town; when bands had to perform so that there was something to dance to; when music was a swinging good time and the dance-floor was the place to be.
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys perform with Hurricane Roses on Saturday, June 25 at the Landmark Ballroom in downtown San Jose.