The maitre d' of R&B

Elvis T. Busboy drives his soul train into the future

Shaw was soon a featured performer, but his burgeoning popularity was starting to overshadow the band and he was let go. He started working with bands all over town and eventually crossed paths with the Blues Butchers, a side project of Lubbock's premiere '80s band, The Nelsons.

Though the Nelsons had played on Farm Aid and toured with Culture Club, the group was struggling and had formed the Butchers to get blues gigs; with Shaw sitting in, the project was soon getting steady work--without the members ever formally declaring themselves a band.

"It was strange," Shaw smiles. "They were a terrific rock 'n' roll band trying to play the blues, and they literally were butchering it. Now, though, there are nights--quite a lot of them--when they are just a crack R&B outfit."

Jobs came so steadily that, a year ago, Shaw moved to Dallas to help the booking process. While the members of the Butchers still live in Lubbock, the Elvis T. phenomenon is rapidly becoming a career concept. The band is booked several nights a week well into next autumn, and the territory it plays is spreading like a pool of molasses.

"This is more than I'd ever hoped for," Shaw says. "Kevin Mackey and John Sprott played some amazing gigs with some big-time people in the Nelsons, and they'll tell you that this band gets a good reaction faster than anything they've been involved with. The response has just been mind-boggling."

Is Elvis T. Busboy and the Texas Blues Butchers milking a nostalgia gig, a la the Blues Brothers, or is there cause to speculate on the marketability of a contemporary R&B band?

"It's kinda interesting," Shaw says. "You hear blues everywhere now. It's mainstream--and that clearly wasn't the case 10 years ago. We just go and play in blues bars."

Clearly, the idea works--few trot out classic R&B in the fresh, contemporary fashion of Busboy and company, at least in the mainstream clubs--but what future is there beyond an endless circuit of gigs for beer-swilling frat guys?

The key lies in original material, which could take the band to the next level. "That's been our big holdup," Shaw says, "trying to write songs that fit into the classic R&B framework that we like, that match up."

Shaw and Sprott have to date written several tunes which percolate nicely alongside their classic covers, and plan to release an independent CD sometime this summer. Then, if they can transcend the party-band label, it's possible Elvis T. Busboy and the Texas Blues Butchers can re-invigorate a musical style rich in lore and heavy with groove that's lamentably been largely forgotten by today's songwriters.

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