One of the earliest forms of rock and roll music came out of Memphis in the early 50s on labels like Sun Records. This hyped up, rhythmic music became know as hillbilly, or rockabilly music, and took the nation by storm. Like all forms of music, rock and roll changed over the years, and rockabilly slid into the ranks of nostalgia. Occasionally it makes a return to the limelight with groups like Brian Setzer’s Stray Cats, but mostly the sound is carried forward by committed traditionalist like our feature group this month, Ryan Cain and the Ables.
Formed in 2011, this quartet from Clarksburg, WV released their first CD in late 2012, titled My Pistol Rides Shotgun. The CD features a collection of songs penned by front man, Ryan Cain, and it charted well on the Roots 66 chart, and the Roots Music Report. It was the most added CD on the Americana chart in December of that year.
In addition to Ryan on vocals, lead guitar, and piano, the current lineup features Evan Jones on acoustic guitar, and electric bass Gary Hamrick on drums, and Brandon Elmore on upright bass, and acoustic guitar.
“Ryan lives Rockabilly, he is rockabilly,” Gary told me. “Not just the music, but the lifestyle. Nothing about him is contrived.” The band prides themselves on their versatility to blend other like genres into their music, like Honky Tonk, Hillbilly, Western Swing, and Doo Wop. “A lot of rockabilly bands like to take songs and amp them up into rockabilly. We consider ourselves traditionalists and try to stick with authenticity,” Gary said.
A Ryan Cain and the Ables show is a history lesson on the early influences of rock and roll. Their web site says; “Equally versed in guitar, standup bass, and piano, Ryan covers music from Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and a whole lot more. The Ables perform much more than a concert. It is a musical journey paying tribute to the pioneers of rock and roll, rockabilly and early country music.”
Takin’ It To ‘Em
“A lot of rockabilly bands gear towards rockabilly scenes,” Gary said. “If you live in areas with larger populations, such scenes are much easier to find. Since we’re from West Virginia, there is not a population base here that really supports any one style of music. We see the band as taking Rockabilly to the masses.”
Gary said that they feel fortunate to have been able to amass a large following. “People that are new to our shows may not even know what rockabilly is when they arrive,” he said. “But if the music is good enough, that doesn’t matter. Ryan tries to educate the audience on rockabilly during the show. We are trying to preserve not only a genre of music, but a generation.”
Honered By Airwaves
The band’s song, “Yes Indeedy” was featured in Episode 1, of season 10, on the television show, Supernatural. “That was a great honor. It actually all came about because of a guy who liked our CD. Turns out, he was a television producer and passed it along to the music supervisors. A couple years later I got a call letting me know that they would be using it in the season 10 premiere. It may not sound like a big deal to have a song playing on the jukebox during a bar scene in a TV show, but to a rockabilly band from West Virginia it is a really big deal. That show was seen by 2.3 million viewers on the night it aired. There is a whole legion of fans of the show that we were unaware of at the time. Downloads of the song immediately increased and the streaming increased by over 1000%,” he told me gleefully.
Although Ryan is a prolific song writer, the band likes to mix up the music for live shows. “We do a blend of covers/originals,” Gary said. “Our CD, My Pistol Rides Shotgun, has sold really well. But we need to cover rockabilly to show where the music came from. Most people don’t realize that as great as the Stray Cats were, a large portion of their music was covers. Great songs need to be played, regardless of who wrote them.”
As with most bands, summertime is the biggest season for Ryan Cain and the Ables. Gary said, “It seems like a full time job then, but we are all involved in other work. Ryan is a School bus driver, Gary works as an investigator in the prosecuting attorney’s office, Brandon is a laborer, and Evan owns one of the oldest music stores in the state.”
While the band spends warm weather months playing fairs and festivals and winter months doing everything from casinos to private functions, their sights are set on the next chapter, a new CD set to be released summer of 2016.