Formed: in Austin, TX.
Group Members: Gene Brandon, Omar Kent Dykes, John Inmon, Bruce Jones, Steve Kilmer, Paul Junior, Rich Chilleri.
Styles: Modern Electric Texas Blues, Electric Texas Blues, Blues-Rock, Blues.
The European blues fans all adore Austin, TX-based guitarist, singer and songwriter Omar Kent Dykes. That's because he fits the stereotypical image many of them have of the American musician: he's tall, wears cowboy boots and has a deep voice with a Southern accent. However, Dykes does not carry a gun, and though he looks rough and tough, he's actually an incredibly peaceful and intelligent musician, and a veteran at working a crowd in a blues club or a festival. While Dykes still has a sizeable American audience owing to his albums for Columbia Records, he still spends a good portion of his touring year at festivals and clubs around Europe.
Among White blues musicians, Dykes is truly one of a kind, a fact that Columbia Records recognized in the 1980s, when he recorded for them. These days, Dykes and his band, the Howlers, record for the Austin, TX-based Watermelon Records label. Since being dropped by Columbia Records after the company was bought by Sony, Dykes's independent-label output since 1990 has been nothing short of extraordinary. His albums since 1990 include Monkey Land (1990, Antone's) Live at Paradiso, Blues Bag and Courts of Lulu (all for Rounder), as well as Muddy Springs Road (1995) and World Wide Open (1996). Dykes's 1987 debut for Columbia, Hard Times in the Land of Plenty, sold upwards of 500, 000 copies, excellent numbers for a blues album.
Omar Kent Dykes was born in 1950, in McComb, MS, the same town from which Bo Diddley hails. He first set foot into neighborhood juke joints at age 12, he recalled. After he'd been playing guitar for awhile, he went back into the juke joint. After graduating from high school, Dykes lived in Hattiesburg and Jackson, MS, for a few years before relocating to Austin in 1976. He'd heard the blues scene in Texas was heating up. At that time, Stevie Ray Vaughan was still playing with Paul Ray and the Cobras.
"I know Stevie Ray had a big impact on me,'cause he was such a great guy. But I think everybody in the blues scene around here influenced everyone else," he said in a 1994 interview. "The blues scene is tight and loose at the same time, everybody is rooting for everybody else, because it helps everybody else out when one artist is on the radio," he added.
To hear how Dykes has developed as a songwriter in the 1990s, check out Muddy Springs Road or World Wide Open, his two recent releases for Watermelon Records. To hear the finesse, fury and excitement of one of his live shows, pick up Live at Paradiso (Rounder) recorded at the club by the same name in Amsterdam.
- Richard Skelly & Al Campbell (All Music Guide)