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On the road again: Little Texas reprises country success with new album, tour

When Little Texas hit it big in the early 1990s, the band was the epitome of progressive country music.

Using videos to connect with a larger audience, Little Texas had a rocking sound and an accompanying fashion aesthetic -- leather, bandannas, cut-off shirts and long flowing hair -- that would've been just as at home on MTV as on CMT.

But Little Texas bassist Duane Propes isn't necessarily a fan of where today's country music is progressing.

"I'm still trying to figure out what it is," Propes said. "Is it rap? Is it country? Is it rock? I'm not a fan of the rap side of it. When I listen to country music, I listen to (artists from) the '50s, '60s and '70s. I wasn't a fan of current country music even when we were current. I've always gravitated to that. I've been known to call (modern country) Disney Country. It's aimed and directed to young teenagers. They're the ones spending mama's money on it."

Little Texas formed in 1988 in Nashville, and while it did have members who hailed from Texas, the band's name had little to do with its roots in a state where everything is supposedly bigger.

"We had a practice house outside of Nashville and it was a street sign on the way out," Propes said. "There's a Little Texas anywhere, just like Little Italy. It was just kind of a thing we kept passing by and thought it was an interesting oxymoron."

The band was signed by Warner Bros. in 1989, and Propes said with an average member age of 22, it was the youngest in country music history to be inked by a major label. Little Texas spent more than two years on a touring circuit that spanned from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Los Angeles.

"We did develop a good fan base, and not just regionally," Propes said.

When the band released its debut album, "First Time for Everything," in 1991, that fan base expanded.

The gold record included the hits "Some Guys Have All the Love" and "You and Forever and Me," as well as three other songs that landed in the top 20 on the country charts.

The band was reaching audiences not only on the radio but through music videos. The medium, which was already a staple for rock and rap groups, had spawned a number of country video channels and programs.

"It was song-driven," Propes said. "We wrote songs that stuck out on the radio. There were so many video outlets. You could go into America's living room and people could get to know you. CMT and TNN, they had an a.m. video show and a p.m. show. 'Nashville Now,' that came on every night. It was just right time, right place, right atmosphere."

The band followed up that release with "Big Time," which went double platinum in 1993. It produced the hit "What Might Have Been," which reached No. 2 on the country charts, but also landed on the Billboard Hot 100 and the adult contemporary chart. The song "God Blessed Texas" had similar crossover success, as did "My Love," the group's only No. 1 country hit.

By the mid-'90s, the band started to suffer some defections. Vocalist/keyboardist Brady Seals left for a solo career in 1994. Vocalist/guitarist Tim Rushlow followed in 1997, leaving Del Gray, Porter Howell, Dwayne O'Brien and Propes as the founding members.

That band as a whole didn't last much longer.

"We were just beat up," Propes said. "We were at each other's throats with business (disagreements). When it's not fun anymore, it's not worth the time. We didn't need to fool ourselves. There were other factors, business and everything."

By 2004, after a nearly seven-year hiatus, the band reformed with four original members.

"It was the smartest thing we could've done," Propes said. "We found ourselves as individuals. When you get on a (tour) bus when you're 20 years old, there's a lot you don't experience. I didn't fill out a job application until I was 33 years old. We learned to do things better than just be on stage. We knew it was time. We'd all dabbled in other projects, but none of them had the chemistry that Little Texas has."

Since the band reunited, Little Texas has released a live album and a studio album. Another full-length release, tentatively titled "Young For a Long Time," should hit shelves early next year.

Propes said the album covers a wide range of material the band has recorded over the past five years.

"It's a good representation of what we are now and who we are now and what we've seen the last 10 years," Propes said.

The band wrote "Slow Ride Home" after witnessing a funeral procession in a small Kansas town for a soldier who was killed in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan.

Another song on the album takes a jab at bro country, the subgenre that's gained popularity with its copious references to parties and tight jeans.

"It has roughly 132 cliches that are in every top 10 country song right now, along with a banjo," Propes joked.

Little Texas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22

Where: Egan Civic and Convention Center

Tickets: $35.50 to $117.30 at ticketmaster.com

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.

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