Authenticity is the key to the music of Rockabilly Hall of Fame members Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Although they’ve moved from their rockabilly roots to a sound that encompasses folk, bluegrass, Western swing, Cajun, and mariachi influences, the six-piece Southern California-based band continues to be faithful to the music of the past. Despite their connection with days gone by, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys maintain a foot in the present as well.
Big Sandy (born Robert Williams) grew up listening to his parents’ collection of jump blues records. Inspired by the rockabilly revival of the early ’80s, he began to perform with a variety of neo-rockabilly bands in southern California. Formed as a trio in 1988, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys soon expanded to its lineup featuring Wally Hersom (bass), Lee Jeffriess (steel guitar), Ashley Kingman (guitar), and Bobby Trimble (drums). Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys represent an international collaboration with Kingman and Jeffriess hailing from the U.K. Although they released two albums as Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Trio, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys’ proper debut album, Jumping from 6 to 6, was produced by ex-Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin. While their second album, Swingin’ West, released in 1995, focused on the Western swing influences on their sound, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys took a more eclectic approach with their effort Feelin’ Kinda Lucky, released in 1997.
The following year, Big Sandy and the group took a break from each other and recorded separately. Big Sandy’s solo album, Dedicated to You, featured covers of R&B and doo wop oldies, while the band’s album, Big Sandy Presents the Fly-Rite Boys, was an instrumental tour de force. Big Sandy and the band reunited during the recording of an EP, Radio Favorites, released in 1999. Although original plans called for three new tracks to be combined with three tunes available only on vinyl copies of the band’s albums, the comradery in the recording studio was so strong that they decided to record six new songs instead. The EP introduced the piano playing of Carl Sonny Leyland, who joined shortly after the recording of Feelin’ Kinda Lucky.
Night Tide appeared in 2000. It’s Time! followed three years later. A collection featuring Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys’ biggest hits for Hightone and HMG was released as Rockin’ Big Sandy in 2004. The group’s 2006 release on Yep Roc Records, the exceedingly eclectic album Turntable Matinee, served as a creative tip of the hat for the band’s Western swing, Memphis soul, and of course, old-fashioned rock & roll influences. After an extended seven-year break, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys returned in 2013 with What a Dream It’s Been, where they revisited favorite songs from their catalog.