Reno rockabilly outfit The Trainwrecks has faced derailments that amounted to what stand-up bass player Anthony Wood calls a “rock ‘n’ roll molting.”
After losing the hot-footed singer Leroy Brownstone—among other lineup changes during the band’s three-year run—The Trainwrecks are still the answer to rockabilly in Reno, according to guitarist Mick Wray.
The band has continued on full-steam ahead thanks to Wood, the only remaining member of the original lineup for the honky-tonk trio. He found a drummer in Paul Wesley (formerly of Blue Haven) and a guitarist in Wray after exhaustive auditioning in June 2006.
Instead of looking for a singer, the band decided to go on as a three-piece, with Wesley providing vocals.
Wesley’s singing carries the band through an arsenal of more than 50 cover songs, including tunes from Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis. He says they take many of their cues from Elvis and Hank Williams, “the granddaddy of rockabilly.”
They describe rockabilly as an intermediate between country and blues. Whereas Brownstone’s voice and holler tilted the band toward country, Wesley’s crooning roots the band in blues.
Although their singer is behind a drum kit doing rhythm work, the band members say their stage show doesn’t lack the energy of music that Wesley calls “country on steroids.”
“Anthony’s absolutely out of his cage,” says Wesley. “We’re a fun-loving band.”
Wood says that although the band may have a reputation for being destructive, that’s only part of their stage personae.
“We’re more gentlemen than anything else,” he says. “But we’re a dance band at heart. … People dance like crazy. It’s good, clean fun.”
The band makes it a point to always stay in character, taking care to dress to the nines in black, accompanied by boots, slicked-back hair—Wesley prefers a backwards cap and sunglasses—at night.
Wesley says the band’s goal during their live shows is to keep the audience moving.
“Most of our songs are covers, but we really work ’em,” he says. “They’re so old, they’re new.”
In November, the band tried their hand at creating their own songs, all carrying the stamp of approval from their musical consultant—a Blue Queensland healer named Maddie.
“She knows rock ‘n’ roll,” Wray says. “If the vocals are good and the rhythms are tight, she’ll bark.”
Released in November, the group’s four-song demo CD has toe-tapping tunes that tell the tales of a love affair that has to endure 20 flights of stairs and the healing power of music instead of medications. They enlisted the aid of saxophone player Rick Metz, who appears from time to time during stage shows.
"[Metz] is tremendous,” says Wood. “It’s being in 1955. When he plays, it swings.”
The band tried out a song for their audience on New Year’s Eve at the Cantina Los Tres Hombres in Sparks to a good reception. Wesley says that although they’re happy with the demo, they have more songs in the oven that they hope to bring to the stage.
The Trainwrecks say their current lineup is on the right track.
“We’re all on the same page, and it shows on stage,” says Wesley. “We have a ball.”
“If you’ve got grandma dancing with the teens, you’ve got to be doing something right,” Wray adds.