The CultureMap interview
George Dunham’s day job as morning show host of the Dunham and Miller Show on the popular sports-talk station 1310 The Ticket has paid the bills for more than 15 years. But his rekindled love of country music and performing brought out a new batch of listeners who are fans of his band, the Bird Dogs.
Dunham and band mates Steve Porcari, Travis Behl, Clay Powers and Bryant "Pablo" Russell, released a debut album in 2010. The earnest but slightly green Our Hope was a good first effort. However, the band enlisted the help of area super-producer and drummer Matt Pence (Centro-matic) for its second record.
The resulting offering, Fool Hearted Dreams, was a clear step up on all fronts. It was refreshing to see the band display effort and drive instead of simply hoping people would continue to pay attention because of Dunham’s high profile.
"I was inspired to play guitar and fiddle again after discovering Texas-based artists like Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen," Dunham says.
With regular gigs and appearances with some of the biggest names in the local country scene under his belt, we thought it was a great time to catch up with Dunham to find out more about the Bird Dogs.
Culture Map: How long have you been a fan of country music?
George Dunham: I guess I've been a fan of country music as long as I can remember. I grew up a Beatles, Rolling Stones and Neil Young fan, but my first memories of music are of country music. Buck Owens and a truck-driving album by a duo named Jim and Jesse were played over and over again on our family turntable.
Willie Nelson was a favorite when I was in junior high while I lived in the Texas Hill Country. I lost touch with the whole scene until I heard Randy Rogers Band for the first time after turning 40.
CM: Have you had any bands prior to the Bird Dogs?
GD: When I was in high school, I was in a band called Pegasus. We played two gigs: the R.L. Turner High School talent show and we opened for a group called the Fugitives. We stopped playing after about two months, and there has been no talk of a reunion.
CM: How did the Bird Dogs come about?
GD: I was inspired to play guitar and fiddle again after discovering Texas-based artists like Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen. After a playing once a year with the Ticket Time Wasters, I felt like playing in a group again, and the music I wanted to try was rock-country or Texas rock.
I asked Steve Porcari if he would be interested in playing guitar and if he could put together a group of musicians. I figured we would just play covers, but beginning with our first practice, I would play some originals. It was so much more enjoyable to write and then let them bring the songs to life.
CM: You had some personal songs on the first album. Did putting those feelings out there make you nervous?
GD: The whole notion about performing and recording my own songs was very concerning to me at first. I did get some great advice from Randy Rogers about it. He said, "Don't worry about other people liking your music. Do you like it? If you like it and you have something to say, then say it and don't worry what other people think."
CM: The second album has a more fully fleshed-out feel to it. What were the key differences in the writing and recording of your two albums?
GD: The biggest difference between our first and second albums, I would say, is my growth as a song writer. The first one was very genuine, but it may have lacked some warmth.
Fool Hearted Dreams has some depth to it, thanks in part to the musicians who worked with us. Brady Black (Randy Rogers Band) and Scott Danbom (Centro-matic) played fiddle parts, and Jesse Chandler (Midlake) played on keys. They really added to the sound. We recorded at Echo Lab with Matt Pence, who has an amazing ear and is such a wonderful person to work with.
CM: Your regular band mates do seem to know what they’re doing.
GD: Yes, they absolutely do. I think we throw down. Steve Porcari is a guitarist who is very much an old hippy soul, influenced by the Grateful Dead and Neil Young. Travis Behl is a terrific bass player and an even better vocalist.
Pablo is a guitar tech at Charley's Guitar Shop; he's a great singer and drummer and he even plays classical guitar. Our steel player, Clay Powers, owns Charley's Guitar shop and plays just beautifully.
We're all so different from one another that it makes for something unique.