If ever arecording had some powerful South Texas mojo working for it, the new collaboration between the Krayolas and Augie Meyers is it.
Consider the karmic convergence required to pull this off: The Krayolas, a beloved but long-domant power-pop quartet, reunited this year after 19 years of inactivity to promote a compilation of their old singles; Meyers, San Antonio’s greatest living music legend, heard the Krayolas CD and was inspired to dust off an unreleased 1967 tune called “Little Fox”; Grammy-winning producer Joe Treviño helmed the session at Blue Cat Recording Studios; and “Little Fox” was translated for a Spanish-language version by Krayolas frontman Hector Saldaña’s mother, Hilda Guerrero, with help from his 95-year-old grandmother, Romanita Galindo, who used to serve food to Pancho Villa at her father’s restaurant in Guerrero, Mexico.
Although the single has yet to be released (it should be available for iTunes download by late September or early October), it’s already garnering attention — in both its English and Spanish incarnations — on local radio stations KEDA 1540 AM, KXTN-FM 107.5, and KSYM 90.1 FM.
Jonny Ramirez, morning-show host at KXTN, recently added the Spanish-language “Little Fox” to his rotation.
“It’s just a fun little record; one of those summertime, put-the-windows-down, put-the-top-down-and-let’s-cruise kind of records,” Ramirez says. “The fact that Augie Meyers is part of it and that he actually wrote it so many years ago is kinda cool, because Augie is no stranger to the people of this radio station.”
Meyers and the Krayolas cut three songs together at Blue Cat on August 8, but the major attraction was “Little Fox,” a syncopated throwback to the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “Mendocino” era, with a verse melody that strongly recalls Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”
With the Krayolas tightly packed in Blue Cat’s tracking room and Meyers manning a Korg Triton keyboard in the control room, the band slammed through the songs with great efficiency, never requiring more than three takes. Meyers characteristically kept things relaxed with self-deprecating quips and offbeat one-liners.
When Meyers needed to fix an organ solo on Saldaña’s rocking “I Just Wanna Be With You All the Time” (Itself a 30-year-old, previously unrecorded gem), he walked to his stool and cracked, “Let’s see if I can fuck this up any more than I already have.” When Krayolas lead guitarist Van Baines struggled with an out-of-tune string during a guitar overdub for Saldaña’s new song, “The Kind of Girl You Rescue Roses For,” Meyers joked, “Maybe he’s using a flat pick.”
Meyers says he originally offered “Little Fox” to Sir Douglas Quintet leader Doug Sahm, but Sahm, used to writing the lion’s share of the Quintet’s material, pushed it aside with the promise that the band would record it on their next album. When they never did, Meyers cut the song himself, but left it in the can. A few months ago, he heard the Krayolas collection Best Riffs Only, and it occurred to them that they’d be the perfect group to record “Little Fox.”
The Krayolas’ genesis can be traced to early ’70s bedroom jams between brothers Hector and David Saldaña, with Hector on guitar, David on drums, and two vocal microphones strapped to broomstricks and plugged into Hector’s Fender amp. The brothers bashed out versions of “Money,” Paul McCartney’s “Smile Away,” and John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” for school friends who’d drop by with their dates. Later, the brothers took their act to the carport garage, where they’d literally stop traffic on Jackson-Keller Road.
They formed the Krayolas in 1975 and quickly began playing at the Warehouse Club, a popular warehouse-district bar near the airport. With David Saldaña obviously under age (“he hadn’t had his growth spurt yet,” Hector recalls), the teen drummer would have to exit the club’s backdoor and stay outside between sets.
In 1977, the Krayolas won a Battle of the Bands contest at Sunken Gardens and began hitting the road, playing military bases in New Mexico, nightclubs in Oklahoma, and pool halls in New Orleans. They attracted a strong gay following in Houston and Dallas, and became a frat-house party favorite in Austin. In San Antonio, they would play three shows a night, sometimes for rock diehards, sometimes for polyester-clad disco crowds. “That was a pretty decadent era, that’s when people would be groping us, and all this kind of weird stuff,” says Hector, a feature writer for the San Antonio Express-News.
He says the Krayolas were “just a hard-working bar band that had a lot of energy, some of our own songs, we knew we were good, and we loved it. We were true believers.”
They had brushes with national success: In 1978, Bomp Records founder Greg Shaw offered them a deal, but they passed. Years later, famed producer Jack Douglas (Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, John Lennon) saw them in Los Angeles at the Roxy and set up a production deal with them. They returned to San Antonio as conquering heroes, but after recording demos for Douglas, an album never materialized.
By 1988, Saldaña recalls, “We were all tired of babysitting ourselves,” and the band called it quits. They reluctantly reunited this year, at the urging of Best Riffs Only mastering engineer Ron Morales, and the enthusiastic local response has stunned them. They’re continuing to write new material, and Meyers has two more songs that he’s eager to cut with them.
“Working with Augie has been like a dream,” Hector says. “A year ago, I would have never believed it. It makes you realize that that’s what music is really all about. It’s about the joy that it can give you. This time out, we’re just trying to enjoy it a little more than we did the first time.” •