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Old 97's

Although they became one of the most enduring bands in the alternative country-rock catalog, Old 97's drew inspiration from a broad range of genres, including the twangy stomp of cowpunk and the melodies of power pop. Formed in 1993 by frontman Rhett Miller and bassist Murry Hammond, the group spent the bulk of the decade posed on the brink of mainstream success, issuing albums that often drew warm reviews but never yielded a substantial hit. Old 97's tightened their sound as the decade drew to a close, retaining their bar-band vigor while introducing a stronger pop/rock sound on albums like Too Far to Care and Satellite Rides. Miller also mounted a solo career in the early 2000s, but the band remained together nonetheless, continuing to release material with their original lineup intact into the following decade.

Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond first partnered up in 1989, when Miller enlisted the latter's help in producing his debut solo album, Mythologies. Although six years younger than Hammond, Miller proved to be a dedicated musician as he canvassed the Dallas club circuit, playing an blend of folk and British-styled pop to local audiences. He also displayed a knack for storytelling, having previously earned a creative writing scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College. One year after Mythologies' release, Miller and Hammond teamed up once again, this time as part of the short-lived Sleepy Heroes.

Although the Sleepy Heroes disbanded after issuing one album, the band's mix of pop and Texas-styled twang helped lay the foundation for Old 97's. Continuing to build upon that sound, Miller and Hammond linked up with lead guitarist Ken Bethea and recorded a demo tape at the Cedar Creek studio in Austin. Drummer Philip Peeples climbed on board shortly thereafter, and Hammond's childhood obsession with trains inspired the band's new name, which paid homage to the country ballad "Wreck of the Old 97." With their lineup intact, Old 97's released the debut album Hitchhike to Rhome in 1994. It garnered positive reviews and began to build the group's alt-country fan base, which they consolidated on the album's follow-up, Wreck Your Life. Issued in 1995 by the newly formed Bloodshot Records -- a label that would also launch the alt-country careers of Neko Case and Ryan Adams -- Wreck Your Life presented Old 97's as a sharp, eclectic country-rock outfit with a pinup-worthy frontman. Such positive attention led to a major-label deal with Elektra Records, who hoped to translate the band's underground buzz into mainstream success.

Old 97's made their Elektra debut in 1997 with Too Far to Care, a muscular album that balanced the band's Texas traditionalism and pop leanings. Many publications placed the band among the leaders of the alt-country movement, and Old 97's toured extensively in support, joining the Lollapalooza tour that summer and playing alongside Whiskeytown for a series of shows sponsored by No Depression magazine. Arriving two years later, 1999's Fight Songs offered another polished, pop-friendly set of songs, allowing the band to sell out 1,500-seat venues during its return to the road.

By this time, Miller had moved to Los Angeles and shed the thick, '50s-style glasses that had become a major part of his image. He and Hammond also began performing in an informal side project dubbed the Ranchero Brothers, although a proposed album never materialized. Instead, the musicians returned their focus to Old 97's, releasing another pop-influenced record with 2001's Satellite Rides. Miller took a temporary leave after its release to work on a solo power pop record, The Instigator, which was released in late 2002. A period of relative inactivity followed, as the bandmembers found themselves in different cities, with several of them starting families.

The hiatus ended in 2004 with the release of Drag It Up, whose subsequent tour featured prominently on the double-disc live album Alive & Wired. Afterward, Miller returned to his solo career with 2006's The Believer, which found the frontman experimenting with strings and orchestral arrangements. Old 97's returned to the studio once again in 2008, though, this time holing up in their native Dallas to help channel the energy of their earlier records. The move worked, and the resulting album, Blame It on Gravity, delivered some of the band's strongest songs in years. While touring the country in support, Murry Hammond launched his own solo career, packaging a wealth of old-timey gospel ballads and locomotive imagery onto the album I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm on My Way. Miller also found time to release a solo album, 2009's self-titled Rhett Miller, which appeared one year before the ninth Old 97's record, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1. Originally intended as a double-album, The Grand Theatre was followed in mid-2011 by a companion record, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2.

In 2012, the Old 97's released an archival project via Omnivore Records, an expanded and remastered reissue of Too Far to Care that included a bonus disc of demos recorded before the project went into the studio. (The demos also received a stand-alone release on vinyl as They Made a Monster: The Too Far to Care Demos.) That same year, Omnivore released a limited-edition EP for Record Store Day that featured two songs the group recorded in 1996 in collaboration with Waylon Jennings; the EP was reissued in 2013 simply as Old 97's & Waylon Jennings. In 2014, the band released its first album for ATO Records, a fiery effort titled Most Messed Up. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You) (Radio Single)

Comments

I love this band. The lyrics make me smile and make me feel like they followed me around back in the day and wrote songs about my life. Good times
I always thought these guys came out in '97, but they were rockin' a while before that.
follow ill follow back
Love this sound.
where is 'A State of Texas' !!!
Yes my friend welcome and thanks for listening
Are you the one???/?
.
danzigirwin
There are a lot of reasons I miss living in Fort Worth. This band is a big one.
Liking this band! Different in a good way!!!!
gwpel
Love Alive and Wired. As close to a live show you can get. Catch them if you can!
One bummer about living in the North East? I have no way of seeing this kick-a** band live. :-/ Great stuff though. I think I've listened to Too Far to Care around 120+ times back to front: the CD has a permanent place in my car's CD player.
nicko252008
Grwat hidden GEM of a band, keep it up guys. The world needs more good music like this!!!
I like em, Murder By Death fan here. Big time. Good stuff for long drives.
Good band.
sc367788
SwEeT!!! :)
steveandlaur a 7 1 8 9
american country folk beatles
The song that got me to this page "Adelaide" is reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. Good stuff.
cpfischer
Saw them last week in Minneapolis. Awesome live band.
fallen0047
Too Far to Care and Wreck Your Life are great places to start. IMHO, Old 97's belong in the pantheon of great rock bands, and those two albums deserve mention with some of the great albums of all time. And yes, they are a hoot live. They are great performers and never disappoint.
Just got home from seeing them live, fantastic show, tons of energy, super tight, played for almost 3 hours is in a small club in Salt Lake City.
cpfischer
It would be a good first album. I might recommend Too Far To Care, however.
Hey! So is Fight Songs the best first album for a new fan?
Fight Songs is excellent, top to bottom. Highly recommended.
Alive and Wired is a perfect live album by these guys, love Salome!
Great live band! Don't miss them when they come to your town!
good discovery pandora
Very different than Cake. I like Cake too, but there's a lot more substance to the 97's.
wow never heard of these guys before...i like it
These guys are way better than Cake. Cake sucks. One trick pony is an understateme n t .
gcraigm
oops, "poised" not "posed" .... no Duh
oops, "their," not "there"..... . . D u h
There music is like a good kick to the nuts of the music industry. Wake up execs, this stuff is the best!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !
Love this band. I discovered them during their time on Bloodshot, a record label they shared with Graham Parker, another of my favorites. I've seen Rhett Miller solo but I have yet to see the Old 97s as a band ... I'm hoping they come to Massachusett s next year.
I've been in love with this band since I was a teenager. Always excited to see their songs featured in movies and trying to increase their fanship :)
They played at Belle Chere in Asheville last July. Fantastic!
legaz
Love blame it on gravity. Love these guys. If they don't come play somewhere in the southeast soon I will shrivel (shrivle?) up and die.
been with 'em since Rhett played Club DaDa at the age of sweet 16! Great Band-all time favorite live band!
i love these guys....grea t music...and great guys. I got to spend new years eve with them at The Granada Theater in Dallas in 2004....we opened for them....they were so nice to us and we all celebrated the New Year together backstage... . a great memory.
not only are they a very good live show, they are just down right nice guys!
egreen486
also philip's band I Love Math is GREAT!
egreen486
all the best live shows i've seen are Old 97's. bigger venue, tiny club (belly up aspen), red rocks amphitheater , all awesome shows.
jason_knotts
Hitchhike to Rhome is not listed in the discog...
hodgejennife r 0 4
I knew Rhett Miller in high school and some of my best memories are he and his band playing at parties! Great music after all these years!
bromide01
Music for people afraid of mosh pits.
We've been going to Old '97's shows for the better part of ten years. My wife saw them open for Wilco in '98 and we like to think we personally convinced them to play Bonnaroo in '05 (repetitive email please seemed to help). More recently, we watched them outlast the sound crew at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA. Never a bad gig. Some just better than others. These guys actually ENJOY playing live and it shows.
jason_knotts
seeing them tomorrow at the Dallas St. Patrick's day parade!

Long time fan!
i'm a longtime lover of these fine boys. lord knows how much they rock and also how much i enjoy seeing them live. the new album ' Blame it on Gravity' is AWESOME.
gwpel
These guys are absolutely awesome live. If you get lucky and they play near you, go!!! They'll blow your socks off.
thewatersgre a t
These guys throw an amazing live show as well...
I can't figure out why they never fully took-off.

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