A little bit country
Mel Warstler founded the classic country band Silverwing in 1993. In 1995, he tied the knot with his wife Mary, a native of New York.
“We’re like Green Acres, Mary always likes to say,” Mel said. “I am the original country boy. When I was young, my father worked on a million acre cattle ranch out in the middle of eastern Oregon. And she’s from New York City.”
Mel grew up listening to country music. His favorite star of the genre is Merle Haggard. Mary had never heard country until she moved to Nevada and went to work at the hospital in Fallon.
“It was the height of Garth Brooks and Brooks and Dunn, and that music was entertaining and funny, and they had a sense of humor about themselves,” Mary said. “The songs reminded me of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt—acoustic guitars, and it was great music.”
Although Mary was new to country music in the early ’90s, she’d been a musician since childhood and had played guitar with different church groups and folk bands throughout the years. At first, Mary explained, she steered clear of Mel’s band because she didn’t want to intrude. But it wasn’t long before Mel put Silverwing on hold so he and Mary could focus on raising his two sons and her three.
In the early 2000s, with the boys nearly grown, Mel began playing again with a new group of people. But the feeling just wasn’t right. That’s when he and Mary decided to give performing together a try. They formed a duo and began playing at bars in Fallon.
“At that point it’s like, ’Let’s just—you and I—let’s just do this,’” Mary said. “So that’s how it all got started. And then he goes out and hires a drummer and bass player and makes me part of a band.”
Silverwing was reborn.
In the last decade, the band has seen several lineup changes, but Mary and Mel have been constants. Today, Mel is lead guitar and vocals. Mary sings and plays bass. The rest of the band is comprised of Brandon Hooten on drums, Sean Rold on vocals and second guitar, and Georgina Arze on keyboards and vocals.
These days, Silverwing plays gigs at venues across Northern Nevada, including several regular shows at bars in Fallon and Gardnerville. The band’s sound has also expanded. The set list on any given night still includes plenty of classic country tunes, but they’re mixed in with covers of swamp rock and Southern rock standards, as well as Silverwing originals.
The fusion of styles is fun, but the Silverwing originals are the ones that really stand out. They range from lighthearted, fast-paced songs like “Working Man” and “Hands Off the Barmaid” to slower, more nostalgic sounding numbers like “Wide Open Spaces”—all brought together and easily distinguished from the covers by their distinctive and prominent guitar riffs and solos.
According to Mel and Mary, all of Silverwing’s songs start with the guitar in Mel’s hands. The lyrics and the rest of the instrumentation come later.
“When we’re at home, I have a guitar sitting at the end of the couch where I always sit,” Mel said. “I pick it up and play it along with commercials. I can’t help myself. … I’ve got dozens and dozens and dozens of pieces of music that are waiting for lyrics.”
While they may not come first, the lyrics are by no means superficial. They’re thoughtful. Take the song “Moonshine,” for example. When that word kept coming to mind each time Mel played the tune, he and Mary knew they’d have to run with it, so the pair set to work researching moonshiners before writing the lyrics. The resulting song—a swamp rock anthem with the story-driven lyrics of a classic country tune—is the title track on Silverwing’s first full-length album. A second studio album is in the works.