It goes without saying that no one in Austin, Texas’ LeRoi Brothers is named LeRoi. Debuting on the unpretentious Check This Action as a trio (singer/guitarists Steve Doerr and Don Leady and drummer Mike Buck) plus a guest bassist, the LeRois set to rocking without ado, reeling off energetically unreconstructed rock’n’roll/R&B covers (plus a few originals that don’t slow down the party one bit) in an unmistakable Southwestern accent. Nothing fancy at all, just solidly American music given a sweaty workout.
Adding singer Joe Doerr and a permanent bassist, and recutting “Ain’t I’m a Dog” (dig that syntax!) from the first LP, the LeRois entered the big leagues with six greasy slices of fun, Forget About the Danger. Burning with the hellfire spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis (only lacking his pumping piano), songs like “Treat Her Right” and “D.W.I.” state the band’s case with conviction and maximum excitement.
With Evan Johns replacing guitarist Don Leady (who went on to form the Tail Gators), Lucky Lucky Me is even better — a full menu of high-energy tunes played for keeps. “Fight Fire With Fire,” the zydeco-tinged “The Back Door” and a quick history lesson, “Elvis in the Army,” are among the highlights. (Protection From Enemies is the same album with an alternate title, cover and song sequence.)
The following year, a four-man lineup (Joe Doerr is gone; Johns has returned to his own career, replaced by Rick Rawls) led by Steve Doerr and Mike Buck whipped off the seemingly effortless Open All Night, a splendid slice of tasty archetypal Texas R&B that shimmies and howls with understated eloquence from start to finish. (Actually, “Ballad of the LeRoi Brothers,” the mock-serious cowboy ballad which closes the album, isn’t that great.) Fans of Dave Edmunds are strongly advised not to miss this one.
Dispensing with the traditional electric grit, Viva Leroi finds the quartet in a slower and gentler mood (read duller) than usual, playing Buddy Holly-styled Texas pop, Doug Sahm-speed rock, country and a little lightweight N’Orleans gumbo with so little pep and zest that it sounds as if someone’s baby might be asleep in the next room. (When new bassist Speedy Sparks sings a song that complains about music being too loud, you know things have gone very wrong.) The record gets interesting (not exciting, mind you) when the idioms bump into each other, as in “Mambo Leroi,” which feeds Rawls’ Nashville-styled picking into Doerr’s pumping accordion, but otherwise this is pretty tepid.
Joe Doerr’s Ballad Shambles is a similar (but less rootsy or stylish) quartet. Although hot guitarist Michael Maye (ex-H-Bombs) is the band’s main songwriter, the 12- inch EP — which is okay, but no big deal — contains two Joe Doerr tunes and one by his brother Steve. Following that band, Doerr formed the far superior Hand of Glory, a diverse and exciting quartet which includes guitarist Bill Anderson (a B.S. holdover) and bassist Tim Swingle (ex-Doctor’s Mob). Mixing up cowboy rock, blues, Doorsy atmospherics and more with confidence and creativity, Hand of Glory is a strikingly potent band. Rey Washam (ex-Scratch Acid/Rapeman) is the drummer and co-producer on the fine Here Be Serpents.