California Cowboys back in the saddle – Times-Herald


The California Cowboys have been together almost longer than Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter. OK, maybe it just looks that way.

As the former president and his wife celebrated their 75th birthday on July 9, the Solano County-based country group has been doing their jobs behind frontman RW Smith for 38 years. And in an industry known for its egos the size of Texas – or, at least, Montana – it’s an eternity. And, perhaps more miraculously, with minimal staff changes.

Bassist Bill Mooney is one of them, with longtime Vallejoan leaving for a band touring Southern California. However, like a musical boomerang, the 63-year-old returned to the folds of the Cowboys just as COVID-19 was planting its spurs in the country.

“We’re doing pretty well, all things considered,” Mooney said over the phone Monday, fresh out of the River Rock Casino concert on Saturday and eagerly awaiting a semi-private and semi-public appearance this Saturday outdoors at the Pioneer Tap Room. in Fairfield.

Mooney originally joined the California Cowboys in 1998 – “before the turn of the century,” he joked.

After six years, he jumped on horseback for the Do Wa Riders in LA, admittedly drawn to paychecks.

It was a group that traveled extensively, across the country and along the east coast.

“It was pretty cool. Basically I did it for the money, ”Mooney said, with the passage including the opening of Pixar’s“ Cars ”and a handful of Disney-sponsored events.

“We did a lot of interesting things,” Mooney said.

Tired of the road after 13 years, however, he was offered the offer to start the in-house group – “Diablo Road” – at the formally iconic but now closed by COVID Saddler Rack in San Jose. It was a glorious 13-year race, said Mooney.

“I was now home every night, the money was good and I didn’t have to lug around my gear,” Mooney said.

Out of the blue, Smith called him in March 2020. The Cowboys needed a bass player. And Mooney was back. But not on stage. COVID has struck, and other than a private pool party with the group on one side of the yard and the foster family on the other, not much has happened in 2020.

Slowly the phone began to ring. And the California Cowboys have 40 dates on the books, Mooney said.

“Hopefully things come back. We’ll see, “he said.

Although noting “this is a mercenary business,” Mooney acknowledges that music for over a year has not changed attitudes.

“It’s a funny thing to be out of work for so long,” he said. “Before (the pandemic) there would be concerts and you would think, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this’ or’ It’s a long drive and the money is uncertain. Now it’s “We are going to do it”. To book.’ Things I used to complain about, I don’t complain about anymore. It’s just nice to play again.

RW Smith of Vacaville, founder of the California Cowboys. (Courtesy photo)

Pandemic or not, Mooney believed the California Cowboys would survive. Smith always made sure of that.

“I would say it’s all about the quality of the product,” Mooney said. “We’re sort of filling the niche in the market. There aren’t hundreds of country bands in the Bay Area. If we were in Texas, we’d be just another country band. There’s mostly R&B and blues and rock here, that kind of stuff. There aren’t a lot of country bands. I think that’s part of it. And we are good musicians.

Mooney is thrilled that the two upcoming local concerts – Saturday at the Pioneer Tap Room and September at Vacaville’s Creekwalk – will be outdoors.

“I’m much more comfortable being outside” during COVID, he said. “Although everyone in the group has been vaccinated, you just feel a little bit safer. You never know what you’re going to throw yourself into.

Hailing from New Mexico, Mooney formed a touring group that ended up doing a string of West Coast dates, including the much-publicized but long-gone Talk of the Town in Vallejo.

With so many concerts available in Northern California, Mooney decided to move here “because the cheapest rent in the Bay Area was Vallejo. So it was logical. And our reservation agent had an office in Fairfield.

Fortunately, he says, the days of performing on a stage surrounded by wire fencing – it happened in Texas – or a club owner offering cocaine instead of cash are seemingly over.

“Now the concerts are generally pretty good,” he said.

Another flashback. It was West Virginia during the soundcheck.

“We played ‘Roxanne’ by the police. And this guy comes out of his office: “I don’t want to hear any BS punk rock here!”

Mooney laughed. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, even during the soundcheck.

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