This 6-piece Western Swing posse, based in Toronto, is aptly summarized by these lyrics from the Roger Miller song: "They swing like a pendulum do." Authentic to the core and thoroughly versed in the timeless tradiation, it would be very easy to figure the Bebop Cowboys originate from Tulsa, Austin, Santa Fe, or Bakersfield, rather than the Great White North. Guitarist extraordinaire and music historian Steve Briggs, the co-founder along with harmonica wiz Howard Willett, fortuitously bumped heads together at the school their young children attended. That was five years ago, and they would launch the Bebop Cowboys along with pedal steel guru Burke Carroll who is considered a veritable touchstone on the Canadian Roots music scene. The group is graced by a rock-solid rhythm section of veterans Dennis Pendrith and John Adames. All these guys have also backed up a truckload of Canadian and international artists on stages and in studios over the decades, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Raffi, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Prairie Oyster, the Good Brothers, Shania Twain, George Fox, Carroll Baker, David Wilcox, Diana Reeves, Shirley Horn, and many others.
The standard swing lexicon always gets spiced up with their own ear-catching selections that stack up with the enduring classics of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley, Hank Penny, Hank Thompson, Little Jimmy Dickens’ Country Boys, and Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours. Western Swing’s heyday was the years immediately following WWII. The embers have been fanned since then by dedicated purveyors such as the Bebop Cowboys and Ray Benton’s Asleep At The Wheel. Updating Western Swing while still remaining true to the faithful has been their respective callings, and the Bebops are proud to have played a role in its resurgence, via recordings, performances at clubs and festivals, and on television and radio appearances.
The Bebops polished their repertoire in residency at Toronto's roots temple Cadillac Lounge and within a couple of months would record their first CD titled Début: an offering of 10 traditional favorites. Since those early days, the Cowboys have become mainstays on the Roots/Rockabilly/Folk/Blues festival circuits, while widening their reputation and renown in venues near and far. Regaling audiences in the Western Swing heartland of western Canada, the Bebop Cowboys have quickly earned the reputation as "Canada's premier Western Swing outfit".
They then elevated their game by penning their own original western swing tunes, brought together with Briggs' formidable arranging skills, and it resulted in their critically-acclaimed follow-up Some Kind of Fantasy, which was issued in 2003. Tours in western and central Canada followed, and they played the role of presenters with their successful HOMETOWN COUNTRY JUBILEE showcase. In comparing the Bebops to such legendary Western Swing groups as Jimmy Dickens and his Country Boys, and Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadors, one of Canada's Western Swing Music Society reviewers summed up their second release as follows: "Ordinarily such comparisons would be a bit of a reach; believe me, these guys really are this good. Some Kind of Fantasy (their second release) is easily the best contemporary Western Swing recording heard in quite awhile."
The other captivating aspect of the Bebops is their wide ranging versatility, and this ability has allowed for their remarkably seamless incorporation of genres invested with similar rhythmic sensibilities, such as Jazz, Jump Blues, C&W, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Perhaps, the only ingredient missing from the Bebop Cowboys' talent pool was the lack of a permanent fiddle player, but that omission was rectified recently with the addition of classically-trained violinst Drew Jerecka.
Which leads us up to their latest release, and as band leader Steve Briggs says, "Canadian Dance Hall is by far the best work the Bebops or to be precise, The Bebop Cowboys Western Swing Orchestra, have ever done." It also confirms their esteemed profile in the Blues, Roots, and Jazz communities, graced as it is by guests like Chuck Jackson (Downchild Blues Band), Alex Pangman, Sarah Harmer, Russell de Carle (Prairie Oyster), Terra Hazelton, Chris Whiteley, Dennis Keldie, and lots others. Further details on this wonderful release are available at www.bebopcowboys.com.
Steve is rightfully pumped up about Canadian Dance Hall, and with 15 tracks including 7 originals, it’s guaranteed to be one of the most anticipated releases of the year. It’s cheering how that basic configuration of pedal steel, electric guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and keyboards has worked wonders in bringing people together of all ages in an old-fashioned, stress-relieving celebration of good times. And nobody accomplishes that objective better than the Bebop Cowboys!