Chuck Wagon Gang has recently released their brand new album Radio Days. The new album is a collection that expands the vintage experience into a full-length recording, bookended by a handful of new recordings that serve the Chuck Wagon Gang as well on today's radio as the renewed songs did for them in days gone by.
For those who know today's Chucks as a group devoted exclusively to gospel songs, the set holds a surprise, for during their earliest years, the original Chuck Wagon Gang - renamed from the Carter Quartet when they made the move to WBAP - sang a wide variety of songs, represented here by the western-themed "I Want To Be A Real Cowboy Girl" and the charming "Take Me Back to Col-Ler-Rad-Da Fer to Stay." The remainder are drawn largely from the group's many recordings from the 1940s and 1950s, fitting easily into the good-humored re-enactment of a typical show that includes sponsor jingles, station IDs and even "Dad Carter's Thought For The Day," a long-time signoff concept for the show. And, not surprisingly, the new songs, including the hit single "I've Just Seen the Rock of Ages," segue seamlessly into and out of the album's central element.
We are honored to be able to chat with alto Shaye Smith for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thank you for doing this interview with us. Many of our younger readers are not familiar with the golden era of the radio days, can you tell us a little about it?
When the Chuck Wagon Gang began in the early 1930s, the Great Depression gripped our nation. In those days there were no TVs, computers, or cell phones. One of the highlights of entertainment for a family were the weekly radio shows, like the Grand Ole Opry. Many of these shows only came on once a week, and when the show would air, the family would gather around their radio and listen in. Many families could not afford radios, therefore, the homes in an area might sometimes gather on the front porch of the family who was fortunate enough to own a radio. These radio shows were truly highlights to people during these very difficult times.
Q: How has the music from this era shaped and formed your appreciation of music?
This old form of Gospel music was the pattern that led the Chuck Wagon Gang to be the unique group it has become. It was originated from simplicity, and a need for encouragment. We current members of the Chuck Wagon Gang feel that same guiding in our music and performances today.
Q: Why did you decide to pay tribute to the music of this era?
This is our roots. It's when and how the Chuck Wagon Gang began. It is to pay tribute to what made us unique.
Q: Since the early days of the band, Gospel music has been an integral part of your music. Talk to us about the importance of Gospel music to you and the band?
When the group first started they actually sang Cowboy songs, Western ballads, and folk heart songs. All of this repertoire was wholesome, but not sacred in genre. The group would, though, sing one sacred song or hymn once a week. As the radio listeners heard the encouraging lyrics of the old hymns and sacred songs they began to write in to WBAP Radio and request that the Chuck Wagon Gang sing MORE sacred pieces.
As time went on the sacred songs and hymns were overwhelmingly desired and as a result the Gang stopped singing the Cowboy tunes and shifted to sacred songs only. It was clear that God's desire for the Gang was to minister through song. And so sacred tunes became the integral part of our music early on and has remained the focus of our music.
Q: What were some of the highlights in the making of this album?
The Chuck Wagon Gang has recorded over 900 songs in an 85 year career...many of those songs have become favorites of our fans. As we recorded this record we went deep into the archives to record songs that have been overlooked for many years. It was a highlight to sing and record some of the 900 songs that many people have never heard.
Q: What message(s) would you like your listeners to take away after listening to "Radio Days"?
To remember and respect your roots is so very important. We don't ever want to forget our heritage and the fact that God chose to bring the Chuck Wagon Gang out of such a difficult time as the Great Depression, and then to allow us to sing over 85 years. This recording is a real illustration of our past, our roots, and we are thankful for the opportunity to share it with the world.
You can download/stream the album HERE.