Music

Peñasco powerhouse

The Steady Rollers pick up momentum

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It all depends on how you gauge success. It could be that success is measured in something other than hoards of fans, a loaded touring schedule and the endless shuffle from airport to venue to hotel to airport.

Maybe success is measured in finer increments and ultimately, what we’re really after is to be able to live in a beautiful place – surrounded by folks you’ve built a profound affection for – and the ability to have the headspace to write songs, play them and live the life in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.

Named from a blues song by the legendary Robert Johnson, about a man who was able to find regular work, the “steady rollin’ man” was a hardworking man. The Steady Rollers have been longtime bandmates from Peñasco, and they play rock, blues and ballads to a dedicated audience that has continued to grow over the years.

Allen Lytle does the songwriting, sings vocals and plays guitar with the band. He said the band has been together more than 30 years and pointed out the group’s first gig as The Steady Rollers was at the now-legendary Don Quixote Bar on Kit Carson Road in March of 1986.

Also in the band are Scott Leherissey who plays piano, accordion and flute. Weto Malisow plays the harmonica. Lance Grey plays bass and Dick Padburg plays guitar and sings backup vocals.

This is promising to be a big summer for the band because it’s managed to line up a string of upcoming gigs in the Taos area. The first is a Friday (July 21) show at Black Mesa Winery’s Taos Tasting Room, from 6-9 p.m. The venue is located at 241 Ledoux St. There is no cover charge.

Lytle said, “We’re really going to be busy the beginning of August. On the fourth and the fifth of the month, we’ll be playing at Vivac Winery in Dixon. Then Tuesday of that next week, we’ll play the Taos Inn. Friday, we’ll be at the Sagebrush Inn, and on Aug. 12, we’ll be back at Black Mesa Winery.”

Very few bands have been together as long as The Steady Rollers, Lytle said and recounted that he recently found a set list under the name Steady Rollers and noticed the date.

“It was for this little place called the Don Quixote Bar and Lounge there on Kit Carson Road. It’s no longer there. I guess it used to be a little motel as well. The date on the set list was March 6, 1986,” he said.

Lytle has played guitar since he was a teenager in San Antonio, Texas. Before The Steady Rollers, he headed a band called Blue Sky Highway that played in the Taos area. One person even described Lytle’s unique style as a mixture of Willie Nelson and David Byrne (of Talking Heads). The Steady Rollers perform songs by both of these musicians on occasion, as well as songs by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and many others.

“There was a period where we kind of laid low and didn’t play a whole lot of gigs, but we pretty much kept the flow fairly steady paced, if you’ll pardon the pun,” Lytle said.

“One of the things that has really lit the fires for the band is a spate of creativity and songwriting, and we’ve really been well received in little communities like Dixon and Rinconada. And this summer, we’re playing a lot in Taos and people seemed to really enjoy us there at our recent gigs,” he said.

“It’s a good time for us,” Lytle said. “We’re all connected cosmically – even beyond all the time we’ve known each other,” he said, adding that playing together with people he’s felt so connected with over time just gets better and better.

The Steady Rollers are known for being flexible and taking audience requests, which they can usually fulfill. Each member draws from their large individual repertoires and the collective list. The group has a reputation as a dance band, especially when it was in a Cajun music phase. The band’s members still do play some Cajun tunes, Lytle said, and they still aim to please those who want to come out and dance. They also have a soft spot for a good song that tells a story. The combination makes their sets enjoyable for both dancing and relaxing.

Lytle says being in The Steady Rollers is a wonderful experience.

“There’s nothing like it. It’s going to be a great summer and I know we’re all looking forward to it – and especially expanding our audience back into Taos.”

It’s like a wide circle coming around, connecting to the place where it began as it rolls through time, like a steady rolling memory and music that never fades, but keeps going. A little like The Steady Rollers’ fame.

For more on the band’s Black Mesa gig, call the venue at (575) 758-1969.

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