Expert blues

Crazy Texas Gypsies

The Crazy Texas Gypsies never played a show until they knew they were good enough, which meant they just practiced for about a year.

The Crazy Texas Gypsies never played a show until they knew they were good enough, which meant they just practiced for about a year.

Photo By David Robert

Crazy Texas Gypsies perform, Sept. 7 at the Auburn Fair in Auburn, Calif.; 9 p.m. Sept. 19-20 at Willliam’s Backdoor Blues Club, South Shore; 1 p.m. Sept. 20 for a Motorcycle Rally and Fundraiser at the American Legion Hall, South Shore; 9 p.m. Sept. 26, 1 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Washoe Club, Virginia City.

Between the old-man jokes and Monty Python allusions, the Crazy Texas Gypsies assembled and reassembled for pictures in Kevin Fraser’s backyard. Sitting on a wooden ledge, they looked like they’d just sprung out of the desert soil, like the all-natural Nevada backyard behind them. None of band members are originally from Reno, or Texas, but they’ve put in their time as a local blues band and grown roots. Having played everywhere from Virginia City to Shoreline, and having opened for themselves and ZZ Top, they’re on a mission of bigger exposure for themselves and potential audiences.

Crazy Texas Gypsies is Bob Cancro (organ), Jerry Coleman (drums), Kevin Fraser (bass/vocals), Kenny Williams (guitar/lead vocals). They’re a blues band determined to take their place in line with the greats of the genre. Being more of a rock ‘n’ roll aficionado, I didn’t recognize most of the names they threw at me. No matter though, these guys knew their business.

These guys are all business, actually. Aside from the jokes and drinking stories, Crazy Texas Gypsies is a group of serious musicians with serious goals. They wrote songs and hammered out rehearsals until they were better than just tight before they played their first show.

“We must have practiced one, two, three nights a week for a year before we thought we were ready,” Williams says.

One of those early shows is captured on their first CD, Blues for the Soul, recorded in 1991 at the Union Brewery in Virginia City, with the help of Damon Gold and Ralph Arista of Big Water Studio. This amazingly clear live recording grooves and moves even the most arrhythmic hips, and you can actually understand the lyrics. However, they say it can’t keep up with what they’re up to now. With a new CD and a tour of the Southwest in the works, the Crazy Texas Gypsies feel they’re on the top of their game.

“I don’t know about me, but these guys are by far some of the best musicians I’ve played with,” Coleman says, “and they just keep getting better.”

After all these years, bandmembers agree that part of the secret to their so-far success has been getting representation and management. Not only does it give them a level of legitimacy they haven’t had before, but it also frees them up to concentrate on being musicians. No more worrying about negotiating a door percentage and a couple of drinks each; they just show up where their manager, Katy Baker, tells them, and it’s taken care of—they can just set the house jumpin'. Talented or not, they are all appreciative of the help.

“Katy’s a great lady,” Cancro says. “She’s done a lot for us so far, and we’re just hoping things keep going up from here.”

Up, down, left or right, the Gypsies are coming. Shaking a little road dust off their cowboy hats and leather vests, they’re always ready to lay down some licks and play for kicks. But you’d better hurry because they’re not waiting for anyone before they breeze on through to the next festival.