By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 1996
hey may be The Mavericks by name and even by musical action, but when it comes to winning Grammy and other musical awards, The Mavericks are mainstream.
Even call it old hat for a band that is anything but a hat act.
The awards - for best vocal group from the Academy of Country Music and a Grammy in the past few months - suits lead guitarist Nick Kane just fine.
"Oh man, not at all,' Kane said when asked if grabbing the trophies was becoming no big deal.
"The awards mean a lot to me, personally, " Kane said. "I grew up dreaming about the Grammies. I never once thought I'd ever actually have one. That's an amazing thing, being accepted by the world-wide music community."
But this is no time for lead singer Raul Malo, bassist Rob Reynolds, drummer Paul Deakin and Kane to celebrate forever. "It's a funny thing," Kane said. "It's kind of like the fame without fortune syndrome. We still got to work hard to succeed."
And Kane, 41, the newest member of the quartet, quickly pointed to a goal. "This band has never had a top 10 single in country radio yet," he said. "That's something to struggle for."
That's the case despite having hits from their second major label disc, the title cut "What a Crying Shame," "There Goes My Heart," and "O What a Thrill" and "Here Comes the Rain" and the current "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down," edging towards the top from last fall's "Music For All Occasions."
"Even with all this fame and hoopla, we're still a struggling band out there and still striving," Kane said. "It's not a guaranteed open door to riches and fame just because you take home a couple of awards. This is just the beginning. I guess it means you've been accepted into the musical community. There's some validation to what you're doing. Now, you can get down to the gritty."
And for The Mavs, a band that is quite different from Nashville mainstream, that means a steady stream of touring throughout the year.
While the heavy duty road schedule may be typical of most musical acts, The Mavericks are atypical in other ways.
For starters, they emanated from the country music "hotbed" of Miami, where Malo grew up. Malo wrote songs, but performed with another musician doing his songs.
Malo went on his own and eventually joined up with Reynolds, Deakin and guitarist David Lee Holt in 1989. The Mavericks released an independent disc on the Y & T Music label in Miami.
Due to sharp packaging plus quality songs, The Mavs signed with MCA three months later.
The band's first MCA disc, 1992's "From Hell to Paradise" did well with critics, but lousy at the cash register, racking up paltry sales of about 20,000, according to Kane.
Holt left the band for the Austin, Tex. music scene. The Mavs recorded "What a Crying Shame" without a replacement, having to rely on studio musicians.
Looking for a permanent fix, the band called on Kane, who was more into blues than country. The existing Mavs knew of Kane from work he did in Florida in the 1980's. Deakin, in fact, was the first musician he played with when Kane went to Miami about 15 years ago.
"I always had a love for country music," Kane said. "I always played country on the side. I think the band made a conscious decision to hire me. They wanted a guy coming from the left field, coming from a different background, playing country licks. Of course, the way the band has evolved, it's right down my alley."
Kane, whose father was an opera star in Germany, joined in August 1993, in time to at least make the CD jacket.
The album, released in February 1995, soon broke The Mavs with glowing reviews both for the disc and in concert. The band displayed a bit of a retro feel especially when Malo recalled the ghost of Roy Orbison.
The singles helped expose The Mavericks to country radio. Their concerts were not a punch-the-clock type of affair. When headlining, two hours was the norm. And while they used a set list, it was not cast in stone. There's a freewheeling, fun aspect to the shows.
A summer tour opening for Mary-Chapin Carpenter helped bring the band to an even wider audience.
The year saw The Mavericks win two Academy of Country Music awards for top new vocal group and top vocal group. The band also earned a Grammy nomination.
And then it was onto "Music For All Occasions," released last fall and offering a somewhat different sound.
The disc is more squarely pegged in the music of about four decades ago. That Orbison link is still there, but a cocktail lounge sound also is evident.
It's not complex musically, but The Mavs come across as having a genuine love for the music instead of being poseurs. "We do music our way," Kane said. "We've been very fortunate that we've been able to do basically what we want to do and get away with it."
As for master plans or marketing schemes, forget it.
"Somehow things just kind of went wrrooonnnnggggg," Kane said. "The experiment just took on a life of its own. Raul has always had a penchant for singing really '50's and '60's type of music. I welcomed that with open arms. I'm very rooted with traditional music."