Two years ago, Gerard Egan and Carolyn Sills—both from the Carolyn Sills Combo—were hired to be DJs on KPIG.
At first they dutifully followed the station rules and only played music from the station’s song database. But at a certain point, they figured why not sneak in some of the obscure ’40s and ’50s country, western, surf, blues, and rockabilly music they had stashed away in their collection, telling stories of these once-huge, now-forgotten songs of yesteryear.
But then the station manager caught on. She liked it so much she gave them their own show, The House Of Twang, which lands on one random Sunday per month.
“At first, I thought she was busting me for breaking the rules. But she said, ‘No, it’s great! These are really cool songs that you don’t really hear on the radio,’” Egan says. “She basically cut us loose to play whatever we wanted.”
People really responded to these old songs, particularly the old country songs, which don’t really sound exactly how most people recognize country music. They have a bit more dance-y, jazzy feel to them.
When Egan decided six months ago to start playing the occasional solo show, he thought it would be cool to bring these songs to the stage. Not just playing the old songs, but also talking about them for live audiences and giving them some context.
He mostly covers artists from the ’40s, like Merle Travis, Bob Wills, Al Dexter, Skeets McDonald, and The Maddox Brothers & Rose, as well as a couple originals that he and Carolyn have written. Travis’ distinct style of picking, where it sounds like two guitars at once, is the foundation for what he does.
“It’s like a one-man hillbilly orchestra kind of thing,” he says. “The music doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just fun. It’s kind of like jazz with a cowboy hat in one sense. It’s stuff that I feel is timeless. I feel like I’m doing a small part in keeping that history music alive and breathing some new life into it if I can.”
INFO: 8 p.m. Friday, April 5. Michael’s On Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $12. 479-9777.