The Outlaws are a Southern rock/country rock band formed in Tampa, Florida in late 1967 by guitarist–vocalist Hughie Thomasson, drummer David Dix, bassist Phil Holmberg, guitarists Hobie O'Brien and Frank Guidry, plus singer Herb Pino. Guidry brought the name “The Outlaws” with him when he joined (he had been in another group that had that name). Previous to Guidry's arrival the band was called The Rogues, then The Four Letter Words. By early 1968 O'Brien and Holmberg both left the band to get married, and Frank O'Keefe came in on bass. Later that year, Tommy Angarano joined The Outlaws to replace Herb Pino, bringing Hammond organ sounds and his style of vocals to the band.
Shortly after, he quit and Herb was brought back in. In the spring of 1968 the group's first manager, Paul D., brought them to Epic Studios in New York City to record an album, which was never released after the band and the producer of the album had a falling-out. Guidry left at this point after differences with the manager. The group headed back to Tampa, then got another deal to go to Criteria Studios in Miami. There they recorded another album with producer Phil Gernhard. But this album was likewise never released, and Gernhard vanished soon after. Ronny Elliott was brought in around this time to play bass while O'Keefe briefly switched to guitar. But O'Keefe went back to bass after Elliott left in 1969 and Herb Pino began playing guitars and doing vocals at this time. Drummer Monte Yoho also joined that same year to sub for Dix.
Frank O’Keefe Billy Jones
In early 1970, The Outlaws were joined by two members of the Dave Graham Group that was also managed by Paul D. (Ped-Dyn. Productions.) The Dave Graham Group's Union leader was Monte Yoho, but he was not invited to be part of this line-up.
The early 1970 Outlaws line-up was Hughie Thomasson, Frank O'Keefe, Dave Dix, Billy Jones and Dave Graham. Graham was influential in moving the group toward country-rock, especially the music of Poco. They recorded a cover of The Doors' "Five to One" as an audition to a recording deal that never materialized. This grouping disbanded in the spring of 1970 and the group eventually parted ways with Paul D. Yoho and Herb Pino returned, but by 1971 the offers for gigs had slowed down and the group went into limbo for a year or so, not sure if they would continue.
In 1971 Henry Paul, a singer and guitarist who was born in New York but grew up in the Tampa area, returned from a stay in Greenwich Village NYC to form Sienna, which was more of a country rock outfit. He was joined by Monte Yoho and Frank O'Keefe. In 1972 Hughie Thomasson returned from a brief spell in New York where he'd been backing up folksinger Milton Carroll, joined up with Paul, Yoho and O'Keefe and Sienna became the reborn Outlaws.
Billy Jones, who would sometimes show up to jam with the group on organ in 1971 and 1972, returned from a stint in Boulder, Colorado in 1973 and switched to guitar, giving birth to the band's first infamous guitar trio later dubbed "The Florida Guitar Army". O'Keefe left the group temporarily in 1973–74. Buzzy Meekins and another bassist named Rick stood in until he was able to return. In 1974 Charlie Brusco signed on as manager for The Outlaws. Alan Walden (brother of Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden) was told of the group by Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant and he joined forces with Brusco as co-manager.
"The Florida Guitar Army"
New Years Eve 1976 – Sam Houston Coliseum – Houston, Texas
Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones, Frank O’Keefe and Larry Carswell
The band was the first act signed to Arista Records under Clive Davis. Davis was in the audience at a show in 1974 where the band was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in Columbia, South Carolina. At the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd's set, lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant said from the stage: “If you don’t sign the Outlaws, you’re the dumbest music person I’ve ever met—and I know you’re not.”
Monte Yoho (drummer)
The Outlaws' earliest well known songs were "There Goes Another Love Song" and "Green Grass and High Tides", both from their 1975 self-titled debut album. Their 1980 cover of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" from the album Ghost Riders was their biggest single chart success, reaching No. 31 on the Billboard "Pop Singles" chart.
While The Outlaws are generally considered to be a part of the southern rock genre, there are distinct differences in their approach and their influences. Their primary similarity to other southern rock bands is the dual lead guitar interplay, a defining characteristic of many southern rock bands. However, The Outlaws’ mix of country and rock elements displays the vocal harmony influences of groups like Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, and Poco. Their use of three and four part harmonies set them apart from their contemporaries who usually relied on a single lead vocalist.
Hughie Thomasson and Chris Anderson - 2006
Hughie Thomasson's signature guitar playing style and voice were defining characteristics of the band's sound. Thomasson's guitar sound was underpinned by the use of the Fender Stratocaster (and sometimes a Fender Telecaster) played in a quasi-country style mixed with fluid, quick blues runs. Hughie was nicknamed "The Flame" for his flaming fast guitar work. He is a member of the Fender Hall of Fame.
The other lead guitarist, Billy Jones, played mainly a Gibson Les Paul and switched between a clean and distorted sound. A good example of this can be heard on "Green Grass and High Tides" on the right stereo channel. Hughie Thomasson's smooth Stratocaster sound can be heard on the left channel. Thomasson opens the first solo at the intro and plays the first half of the two succeeding longer solos all on the right channel. There are many video examples of his Green Grass solos on the internet.
The records released by the band between 1975 and 1980 are considered the best representation of the band's style. The band was seen on successful concert tours billed with other non-southern rock acts of the time. This contrast of styles was more common at that time than the packaged "genre" tours seen so often these days. The willingness of promoters to mix styles led to The Outlaws gaining a large following in the United States.
The Outlaws style is highly characterized in their first three albums. These are considered the best work of the band with all of the "classic era" band members, except for O'Keefe who was replaced by the left-handed bass player Harvey Dalton Arnold (see below for a complete roster of Outlaws members). O'Keefe and Jones both died in February 1995; Jones by suicide.
The albums released after 1980 are largely viewed by critics as a gradual move away from the original sound that gained them success in the 1970s. The reworking of the Western-styled "Ghost Riders" in 1980 was the band's last taste of big league success, although the band released two more records, Los Hombres Malo in 1982 and Soldiers of Fortune in 1986. As the 1980s came to a close, Thomasson became the final original member of the act. Albums such as Diablo Canyon, released in 1994, were released on smaller independent record labels. The band by now was mostly confined to smaller club dates. This situation led to Thomasson accepting the guitar position in the legendary, and by now much more popular, Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996. This essentially sidelined The Outlaws for a decade, as Thomasson's voice and guitar style were just too integral a part of The Outlaws' sound for the other members to successfully work without it. In 2000, the Diablo Canyon-lineup released the album So Low, to mixed response from fans. Many cited it as being more of a solo output from Thomasson. After this release, the band again vanished from the musical environment.
Henry Paul went on to form the country band BlackHawk, which had some chart success in the 1990s.
In April 2005, original members Hughie Thomasson, Henry Paul, Monte Yoho, and David Dix reunited as The Outlaws and the rest of the lineup was filled out with former guitarist Chris Anderson, bassist Randy Threet, and Dave Robbins on keyboards. The latter three had been with Paul's country group BlackHawk. The two originals not included in the lineup, guitarist Billy Jones and bassist Frank O'Keefe, could not join as they both died in 1995, within weeks of each other. O'Keefe died of a drug overdose and Jones committed suicide shortly after. Paul and Robbins left to resume their careers in BlackHawk in early 2006, but the remaining band soldiered on. They were part of the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam tour in the summer of 2007. Band leader Hughie Thomasson died on September 9, 2007, of a heart attack in Brooksville, Florida.
In December 2007, 2008 Outlaws tour dates were released. In January 2008, The Outlaws lineup would be revealed to include Henry Paul (guitars/vocals), Chris Anderson (guitars/vocals), Billy Crain (guitars), Jon Coleman (keyboards), Brett Cartwright (bass), however, Randy Threet remained and Cartwright never toured, and Monte Yoho (drums). This would be the first lineup in Outlaws' history without Hughie Thomasson on guitar and vocals, as from the band's formation to his death, he was the only constant member, garnering him the nicknames "Mr. Outlaw" and "The Lone Outlaw".
According to the band's web site, The Outlaws announced their intention to continue to tour throughout the summer and fall of 2009 with this lineup and planned to participate in the Simple Man Cruise with Lynyrd Skynyrd in January 2010. It was also stated on the website that the band would change its name to 'Henry Paul Band' due to Thomasson's death, but to continue touring with the same setlists.
In May 2010, The Outlaws were featured, along with The Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, Blackberry Smoke, and The Chris Hicks Band, on stage at Long Island Southern Jam 2010 in Babylon, NY at Overlook Beach. The all day concert featured a unique jam fest for all the bands. *LI Southern Jam website
For the 2010 tour Dave Robbins returned on keyboards and Henry Paul was involved in a lawsuit brought about by Hughie Thomasson's widow, Mary, which alleged trademark violations. In April, 2011 the case was ruled upon in favor of Henry Paul, Monte Yoho and the co-defendants.
On July 30, 2012, it was announced on the band's website that "their first new album in 18 years" will be released on September 25, 2012, titled "It's About Pride". It will also be accompanied by a separately released DVD documentary about the making of the new album, called "Hid in' Out In Tennessee".
- Current members:
- Henry Paul – guitars, vocals (1972–1977, 1983–1986, 2005–2006, 2008–present)
- Chris Anderson – guitars, vocals (1986–1989, 2005–present)
- Billy Crain – guitars, vocals (2008–present)
- Dave Robbins – keyboards, backing vocals (2005–2006, 2010–present)
- Randy Threet – bass, vocals (2005–present)
- Monte Yoho – drums, percussion (1969, 1970–1979, 2005–present)
- Former members:
- Hughie Thomasson – guitars, vocals, pedal steel guitar, banjo (1967–1996, 2005–2007)
- David Dix - drums, percussion (1967–1969, 1970, 1977–1987, 2005–2007)
- Herb Pino - guitar, vocals (1967–1970, 1971–1972)
- Phil Holmberg - bass (1967)
- Hobie O'Brien - guitar (1967)
- Frank O'Keefe – bass, guitar, vocals (1967–1973, 1974–1976)
- Frank Guidry - guitar (1967–1968)
- Tommy Angarano - Hammond B3, vocals (1968)
- Ronny Elliot - bass (1968–1969)
- Billy Jones – guitars, keyboards, vocals (1971, 1972–1981)
- Dave Graham - guitar, piano, vocals (1970)
- Buzzy Meekins – bass (1973–1974)
- Rick - bass (1974)
- Harvey Dalton Arnold – bass, vocals (1976–1980)
- Freddie Salem – guitars, vocals (1977–1983)
- Rick Cua – bass, vocals (1980–1983)
- Mike Duke - keyboards, vocals (1980–1981)
- Bob Jenkins - guitar, vocals (early 1983)
- Steve Grisham – guitars, vocals (1983–1986)
- Chuck Glass – bass, keyboards, vocals (1983–1987)
- Roy McDonald – bass (1987)
- Anthony "Nino" Catanzaro – bass, vocals (1987, 1989–1990, 1992–1993)
- Barry "B. B." Borden – drums, percussion (1987–1995)
- Steve Kaye - bass (1988)
- Rich Parks - guitars, vocals (1988; guest - 1991–1992)
- Ean Evans - bass, vocals (1988–1989, 1992)
- David Lane - guitar (1989), violin (guest - 1982)
- Billy Yates - guitars, vocals (1989–1991)
- Billy Greer - bass, vocals (1990)
- Chris "Hitman" Hicks – guitars, vocals (1990–1996)
- Rob Carroll – bass, vocals (1990–1992)
- Timothy Cabe - guitars, vocals (1992–1993)
- Eric Wynne - bass (1992)
- Jeff Howell – bass, vocals (1993–1996)
- Billy Davis – guitars, vocals (1993–1994)
- Sean Burke - drums, percussion (1995)
- Frank Thomas- stand-in drummer (1995)
- Kevin Neal - drums (1995–1996)
- Steven Elliot - stand-in guitarist (1996)
- Ric Toole - guitar (2006)
- Jon Coleman - keyboards, backing vocals (2008–2010)
It is getting more and more exciting for me as I do the research into bands like The Outlaws. Learning all the ins and outs of their success stories and their downfalls has taught me a lot about the music business and what I missed after leaving the business to raise a family some 30 years ago.
I must admit that even though I read about the many adversities that these bands face, I also recognize that they are doing what they love each and ever day and not very many of us can state that; that’s for sure.
Well, The Outlaws, similar to Lynyrd Skynyrd have quite a history behind them; they went thru several different band members yet seemed to have captured the heart and soul of the American Southern Country Rockers as they travelled with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, Blackberry Smoke, and The Chris Hicks Band.
I hope you’re enjoying following along with me as I take you thru the different Southern Rock, Country Rock and Blues-Rock Bands back from the early 70’s. I have a few more that I’d like to cover for my own interests in not for all of you. I believe we all can learn something from each of these artists/bands so I’ll be covering “Molly Hatchet” in my next post. I certainly hope you continue to follow along.
Until next time !!
MUSICIAN by Night
GOD Save “The Blues”