The boy from West Texas: Doug Moreland carves out a niche at the top of the country music charts

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov 15, 2007 - Bob Wills and The Light Crust Doughboys. Johnny Gimble. Asleep at the Wheel.  Here’s a new name to add to the list of Western Swing greats  – Doug Moreland.

Doug Moreland (center) and his band, Craig Smith, Andrew Silver, Eric Lenington and Wade McNutt are ready for country music stardom.

After paying his dues in honky tonks and dance halls for 15 years, Moreland is ready for his closeup. With a new self-titled CD and increased bookings, Moreland’s star is on the rise.

�We�ve played about 140 dates this year,� Moreland said during a telephone interview. �Next year, we�ll break 200. We�re really busy. I like it.�

Moreland spoke by phone from the front porch of his home in Manchaca, 10 miles southwest of Austin. He was watching his young son, Worth Winston Moreland, play inside his converted 1972 Cadillac Calais, along with his border collie, Little Miss Molly. 

�The car�s like a big play pen,� Moreland said of the land yatch painted to look like the Texas flag.�

Moreland put a lot of thought into refurbishing his car. He cut the top off of it and put a set of longhorns on the hood. He even put the car on the cover of his new CD. 

He and his band played gigs in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands this summer, where he was surprised by the number of country music fans who showed up to see his act.

�There are a lot of fans in Europe,� Moreland said of . �And, they love to line dance to our music. Usually, when people begin to line dance at our shows, it�s a sign that we need to do something different. Over there, though, it�s a quite a compliment.�

Moreland said the fans in Europe favor “real country music,” like Western Swing and the older songs.

�The stuff that passes for country music today, which should really be called adult contemporary, doesn�t really translate over there,� Moreland said. �They have what they call country clubs over there and they listen to true country music.�

Moreland was raised in Fort Davis. His dad played fiddle and he credits Bob Wills’ “Faded Love” for his interest in the fiddle. After graduating from high school in 1992, Moreland spent some time at South Plains College in Levelland, and then headed to New Mexico for a gig at a dinner theater, where he worked on his fiddling and his humor. 

When he was just 18, he met Jason Roberts, another West Texas fiddle player. They played gigs in bars, where they were both too young to drink. Roberts is currently the fiddle player for Asleep at the Wheel and Moreland thinks Roberts has really come into his own in the past few years.

�When he started playing the lead in Asleep at the Wheel�s play, �A Ride with Bob,� he really improved,� Moreland said. �He�s really at the top of his game now.�

Roberts plays on the new CD, adding dimension to “Forever in Your Arms,” a pitch-perfect waltz, and “End of the Trail,” a cowboy song that honors Moreland’s father.

During the early part of his career, Moreland worked in Arizona, where he and his beloved border collie Jalapeno (pronounced Holly-Peno) perfected their comedy routine. Holly was part of Moreland’s stage show, even “singing” with him and holding the bow while he played the fiddle. Moreland and Holly landed two gigs on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Holly passed away on July 4, 2004, and Moreland says he hasn’t really had the time to train Molly.

Moreland remembers the first time he heard one of his songs on the radio and he never tires of hearing his songs get air time.

�Back in 2000, a friend of mine ran a radio station down in Gonzales,� Moreland explained. �He called me a 5 p.m. and said, �Hey, my guest just cancelled. Can you be here by 6?� On the way down, I heard �Dallas,� [a cut off �� Toast to Life�]. I still get chills. I�ll tell you what, if I ever get tired of that, you can come up here and kick me.�

A chainsaw-carved cowboy stands guard outside Cattlelac’s, Doug Moreland’s store in his hometown of Manchaca, just outside of Austin. 

In addition to his considerable music skills, Moreland has also made a name for himself as a chainsaw carver. It’s only natural that a lot of country music performers own his pieces. 

With a Stihl chainsaw, he created a skull for Stony LaRue, a parrot for Django Walker. He even traded Ray Benson, Asleep at the Wheel’s front man, a car payment for a sculpture. His handiwork can be seen at his store, Cattlelacs, in Manchaca

�I�ve done horse heads for Jason Bourland,� Moreland said in an interview with Austin Monthly Magazine. �He takes them everywhere.��

Moreland survived the breakup of his band and an ill-timed move to Nashville before he finally found the sound he wanted.

�I�ve been on my own path,� Moreland said. �And I write songs I want to hear, not just the commercial stuff.�

Moreland says that even though he was raised on “cowboy music” like his father played, he has been influenced by a lot of musical styles.

�Bob Wills, Roger Miller and Jimmy Buffett have been great influences in my music,� Moreland said.

Bob Wills and Roger Miller make sense. But  Buffett?

�Every year, my wife and I go to Panama for a music festival down there,� Moreland said. �We spent our honeymoon there. I have a lot of really good beach songs. I have a great Christmas song called �Snow Angels in the Sand.� Someday, I�m going to have a house in the islands.�

Moreland once met Buffett, and while meeting famous people doesn’t usually phase him, his face-to-face with the world most famous Parrothead caught him off guard.

�I usually feel really comfortable talking to people in music. I don�t get nervous if they�re a big star, because that just means they�ve been doing this longer than me,� he said. �But I went down to Houston one time to see Jimmy Buffett. I was with Django Walker, and his dad Jerry Jeff is good friends with Jimmy. So after I was introduced to him, he asked me what I did, and I told him I was a chainsaw artist.�

Someone later told Buffett that Moreland also wrote songs. 

In fact, Moreland has written a lot of songs.

�I�ve got hundreds of songs. Roger Miller wrote songs because he wanted to,� the singer said. �Every time they try to pigeon-hole me into strictly Western Swing, I write a ton of beach songs. I�m going to record a CD of just beach songs someday.��

Moreland also likes artists who have an original sound.

�Ryan Bingham has been a friend for a while. I went to Los Angeles to his CD release party,� Moreland said. �And I�ve been hanging around with Stony LaRue. He�s a talented son of a gun.�

�� Moreland says Bingham and Texas legend Willis Alan Ramsey are in a class by themselves.

�� �There�s a rawness to their sound, � Moreland explained. �You can�t hear any influence in their music. Their sound doesn�t come anywhere but from them.�

�� With his own smooth, easy style, it�s only a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers Doug Moreland. He�s touring more than ever. His fan base continues to grow. The new CD has received wide critical acclaim, and he�s already penned 10 new songs for another.�

�� Will he be ready for the big time? You bet your polished Tony Lamas.�

� � �This is what I�ve been working toward for years and years,� he said, then laughs. �I�ll do anything to keep from getting a real job.�

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