Country band Little Texas to headline inaugural music event
A new summer music event is scheduled for Saturday, July 13 at the Itasca County Fairgrounds Midway. Grand Jam 2019 will feature local country act We Ain’t Cowboys, country party band Coyote Wild, and country superstars Little Texas will headline. Early Bird tickets are available until June 1 for $39 at the Reif Box Office, 218-327-5780, or by visiting grandjammn.com. Two-day advanced camping passes are also available.
“We’ve been discussing an outdoor festival type concert for a while,” said Reif Arts Council Marketing Director Paul M. Gregersen. “Things at the Reif Center are a little slow during the summer because it’s difficult to get folks inside when the weather is nice. Plus, our regular season of shows doesn’t kick off until September.”
Due to the popularity of other country and rock music festivals in the geographical area, Grand Jam is intended to fill a void in the summer Grand Rapids music scene.
“Hosting the concert on the scenic Midway of the Fairgrounds is totally ideal for this type of show. It also moves the Reif away from Grand Rapids High School property, for one day anyway, so we can offer our ticket buyers different food and beverage options. Nothing goes with country music better than ice-cold beer,” Gregersen said. “A lot of folks have told us Grand Rapids needs something like this.”
Although the Reif Arts Council is the primary sponsor, the show wouldn’t be possible without other area partners. Main co-sponsors include 96.1 Duke FM, 99.9 Radio USA, Brewed Awakenings Coffeehouse, Visit Grand Rapids, and the Grand Rapids Downtown Business Association. Scotty Hanson of Duke FM/Radio USA will emcee the festivities.
“The Reif hosted Diamond Rio over the winter and drew almost 1,500 people across two performances. There is definitely a market for bands of their caliber in our area. Once our co-sponsors were on board, we reached out to Little Texas and inked a deal for Grand Jam. This year the band is celebrating their 30th anniversary,” Gregersen said.
As part of the Young Country movement of the early ‘90s, Little Texas were responsible for shaking up the country music world with a new, energetic sound that fused the look and attitude of modern rock music with traditional country themes and styles, bringing a much appreciated bolt of life into the genre. For their efforts, country fans the world over richly rewarded the band, buying over 7 million of their albums, while critics showered them with three Grammy nominations plus honors from both the Academy of Country Music (Vocal Group Of The Year) and the Country Music Association (Album Of The Year).
Their first radio release in 1991, “Some Guys Have All The Love,” became a Top-10 hit, as did their next single, “First Time For Everything.” After the album “First Time For Everything” was released, five singles reached the top of the charts. The second album, “Big Time,” truly was the big time for Little Texas.
The sophomore release, which has sold more than 3 million copies to date, spawned three No. 1 singles - “What Might Have Been,” “God Blessed Texas” and “My Love” - and captured the group's first CMT Award, a Billboard award, a Radio & Records award and their first Grammy nomination.
Early in their career, Little Texas was designated as an arena act. They first signed on as an opener on an arena tour headlined by Clint Black. Later, they traveled with Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood on a tour sponsored by Budweiser. After that, they were on their own, with Crown Royal, singing to packed arenas across the United States and Canada. During this time, the band played a part in Common Thread: The Songs of The Eagles, which later earned their first Country Music Association trophy for Album Of The Year.
The group's cover of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” charted well; albeit, without an official release, and with that, Little Texas broke another record in country music history: Three different songs on three different charts with three different lead singers, all at the same time. It is a feat that has never been repeated since by any band. The year 1994 also brought the lineup an Academy of Country Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year.
Little Texas released their “Kick A Little” album, and their first true arena-headlining tour began, supported by Keebler and newcomer Tim McGraw with opening act BlackHawk. The tour and the album were huge successes, highlighted by shows in Detroit and Minneapolis, where they sold out the arenas just days after their heroes, The Eagles, had played the same venues. The tour continued on through 1995, finishing as the fifth largest-grossing tour of the year, and over the course of ’94 and ’95, the band received two more Grammy nominations and released “Little Texas–Greatest Hits.”
After the self-titled Little Texas album was released, Little Texas, the players, needed a break following years of performing a relentless concert schedule. Thus, at the end of 1997, each member went his separate way, opting to spend time with family and friends, and work on individual projects.
“At that point it was time for our loved ones to have us back for a while. It all happened for a reason,” said bassist-vocalist Duane Propes.
In 2004, the multi-platinum band’s four original members—Propes, Porter Howell (lead vocals and lead guitar), Dwayne O'Brien (vocals and rhythm guitars) and Del Gray (drums) rebuilt the franchise with a completely new sound, and they couldn’t have been happier to be back on tour and bringing fans what they do best.
“Everybody still has a ‘What Might Have Been,’ there’s always a ‘First Time For Everything,’ and folks still want to ‘Kick A Little,’ so we decided to take the party back on the road," said Propes, referring to the group’s continued rotation at radio and generations of both old and new fans that keep the band playing their classics and putting out new music.
In the summer of 2007, Little Texas returned to the airwaves, country charts and music video playlists with an album titled “Missing Years.” In typical Little Texas style, the band broke the rules yet again, choosing to unleash two new albums within the span of a month, including the band's first live album, “The Very Best of Little Texas: Live & Loud.”
The music the band has generated over the years is timeless, and has been featured on hundreds of television programs and sporting events including “Good Morning America,” “American Idol,” “Don't Forget The Words,” “America's Got Talent” and HBO's "True Blood," while "God Blessed Texas" has been the theme music for the Texas Ford Dealers commercials since 1998.
In 2015, Little Texas broke new sonic ground with the release of their 8th album, “Young For A Long Time.”
“The four of us appreciate each other and still have a ball on stage,” said drummer Gray of the band’s chemistry on stage after all this time. “There is a comfort level that happens to us when we play together that can only happen with 20-something years of experience.”
”Our goal is to make Grand Jam an annual event. If ticket sales remain strong throughout June, we hope to book our line-up for next year and announce it from the stage on July 13. We are looking at other country acts, as well as classic rock. What’s great about this event is that it is one-day long. Personally, as I get older, just the thought of heading out of town to a music festival that is three or four days in length is exhausting,” Gregersen said. “This event gives area folks the opportunity to enjoy summer, music and beer without the unnecessary headaches of leaving town and the price-tag that comes with it. Grand Rapids is the most beautiful place in Minnesota during the summer. We look forward to highlighting the area with Grand Jam 2019.”