The Greezy Wheels Are Singin’ on Sunday

I consider this a pretty special treat for Singin’ on Sunday. I hope we can do this, again, many times. The Rag reported and promoted the Austin music scene extensively in its heyday between 1966 and ’77. Why should we stop now? And because today we’re spread across the world …. Well, you get the picture.

This is what started all of it, at least for this week’s posting. Actually, I suppose it all started 40 years ago when I began to be attuned to the new music of the era. When I became involved in the Rag, I’d already met some funny fellas who played in a band called the Zig Zag String Quartet. They were fine musicians then, and they’re all much better now. The two guys I got to know the best are Vic Egly and Tony Airoldi, still in Austin and still active in music.

I moved on from Austin in 1970, but I’ve maintained a certain connection that must be nearly unavoidable. Texas roots seem to be strong, no matter where one goes. And being born and raised in Austin has kept something dear in my heart for all these years. Well, after reading Fred‘s column, I got to thinking about music a little more than usual. And I’d just come up with the notion of posting a tune every Sunday, calling it ‘Singin’ on Sunday.’ And then there was Fred’s column, and then Janet Gilles suggested I track down Lissa Hattersley, and I also remembered that I’d met Lissa once in 1977 (I think that was the year) when she was playing a gig with Tony Airoldi, and ….

I love the synchronous nature of life !!

Richard Jehn

P.S. Before you read Cleve’s words, you should read Fred’s, despite the latter’s eccentricity. There’s a peculiar natural flow.

The riddle should be: what has blown up good, yet still lives on to tell the tale? The answer would be Greezy Wheels, long thought dead, or at least pretty much blown apart, yet still kicking around thirty-five years after the first Big Greezy Bang, dancing on the graves of all who believed they would outlive Greezy.

What once was a hippy band blessed with a little bit o’country is now….a hippy band blessed with a little bit of Americana. Once considered by many Armadilo-ites as the Grateful Dead of Texas, these Wheels are now just grateful to see themselves in the mirror. Or maybe not. They are grateful to be still making music.

Greezy Wheels has always been a family band, one that didn’t form so much as it coagulated, and it has now done so twice. The Wheels first coagulated around a Hattersley (Cleve), a Pankratz (Pat) and a Pugh (Michael) in 1971. It grew to include, first, Sweet Mary (another Hattersley) and Tony Laier, then Lissa Hattersley, Tony Airoldi, and Madrile Wilson. It was kinda like one big happy freakin’ family.

It stayed that way until Chris Layton, Chip Dill and Vic Egly replaced Pat, Michael, Madrile and the two Tonys in 1976. Though more a band than a family, the Wheels continued to role from here to the east coast for a couple more years, and it could have stayed together for a good while, if Stevie Ray hadn’t called out to Chris to come join him. I told Chris he was making a big fucking mistake. We still laugh about that. The band fell into ‘disuse’ in 1978.

Flash forward twenty-two years, to 2000, when Sweet Mary was deathly ill with breast cancer and our dear friend John ‘Mambo’ Treanor was dying of an even worse cancer. We did what any right thinking, aging musician might do – we (Mary, Liss and myself) reformed the band around Mambo. Once again a coagulation process just took over. David Roach, once of the legendary Austin reggae band, ‘Lotions,’ fell in with the band immediately on keys, along with Mike Pankratz, Pat’s brother, on percussion. John Jordan, of the killer diller Chris Duarte Group, also fell in line on bass, almost without question, and Penny Jo Pullus a Syracuse, NY ex-patriot and touring pro, proclaimed herself our Greezette.

Mambo passed away soon after starting what became ‘Millennium Greezy,’ the first Greezy album in 25 years, and Lisa Pankratz, Mike’s daughter and Pat’s niece, took the Mambo chair. Randy Kirchhof dialed in shortly afterwards, as well. All of it was a coagulation – a natural coming together of a bunch of great hippy cells. Out of this coagulative process, two more records have sprung forth, 2004’s ‘HipPop’ and the upcoming new release ‘String Theory’ (due in late 2006).

Though John Jordan has moved into politics with the Kinky Friedman campaign, the family core remains, with Lisa’s husband, Brad Fordham, now doing most of the bass work. The live shows still kick ass, Mary’s ‘Orange Blossom Special’ still rules all of the known world, and Greezy Wheels simply refuses to grow any older. They do so, because they now believe they will never die, and they are plenty old enough now.

At least one reviewer still agrees with his earlier assessment of the band. John Swenson, who compiled the first ‘Rolling Stone Record Guide,’ declared the band “ahead of it’s time” in 1978. He still believes they are ahead of their time.

All the more reason to live on.

Cleve Hattersley, Fearless Greezy Leader

Cleve wrote it, Lissa ‘interpreted’ it, and the band played it. We just love the sound of it.

Flying Signs by the Greezy Wheels

Here’s their Web site – Greezy Wheels – where you can buy their CD’s, read some Austin history, see photos of these fine folks, and connect to more of their music. Go visit them, and buy their tunes. They’re living legends of central Texas music.

Note: if you only have 56K dialup, you’re best off downloading the tune completely before playing it. Right click and select “Save link target as …” (Netscape) or “Save target as …” (Internet Explorer). High-speed connections can click the link which will open your default mp3 player.

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