Once upon a time, in 1975 in San Marcos, Texas, there was a band looking for a singer and a singer looking for a band. One of them, or maybe both of them, put up a notice on the bulletin board at Southwest Texas State University.
Steel guitar player Mike Daily,bass player Terry Hale, and then drummer Tommy Foote were players in a local band. George Strait, fresh out of the Army and an agricultural student at the University was beginning a quest for a singing career. They all met and the rest, as they say, is history. They began playing together and became a popular band around Houston, San Marcos and south Texas. Before Strait became a recording artist, the Ace In The Hole Band featuring George Strait relied on traditional country music, heavy on Texas swing, Bob Wills and Merle Haggard. "Even then, George had a lot of musical integrity," says Foote. "We lost a few jobs because we wouldn't play top 40 covers. But we were a great Texas dance band." Foote says that the band knew that George had a better chance than most to "make it." "He had the voice, he had the looks and he was always focused. I saw the band as a way to keep from getting a job, and a way to meet girls. George saw it as the future. We knew that if the train were going to pull out of the station, he would be the engineer."
Though at one point Foote thought George was quitting and he'd be out of work, Norma Strait talked her husband into giving it one last shot. He was signed to MCA in early 1981 and that summer the band came to Nashville to play nights at the Radisson Plaza while George recorded his first album. George and the band also performed three songs on the Fan Fair show. "We played "Unwound" because that was the only record George had, and two others. It went pretty well. It was the first time we had ever played outside of Texas."
In 1982, Foote gave up the sticks to become full-time road manager. Piano player and now bandleader Ronnie Huckaby joined in 1983 and the rest followed. Rick McRae on lead guitar, David Anthony on Guitar and vocals, utility man Benny McArthur on fiddle, guitar, and vocals, Gene Elders on fiddle and most recently, Mike Kennedy on drums. Daily and Hale are the original Aces. All hail from Texas but Anthony, the token Okie, and Gene Elders, the Illinois Yankee.
The Ace In The Hole Band has long been considered one of the finest bands on the road today. Their musical prowess is routinely exalted in concert reviews. Huckaby laughs modestly at the praise. "It's a compliment to us. Gene was classically trained on the violin, but none of the rest of us has ever had lessons or training. " Huckaby says Strait likes the band to perform songs as close to the record as possible, but the piano player adds that they embellish a few songs. The Ace In The Hole Band uses twin guitars on "The Fireman," for instance. For the past couple of albums, the band has been invited to play on one or more album cuts. Huckaby says that they are flattered. "It's an extra thing we hadn't planned on."
There is no shortage of hits for George and the band to perform, but Huckaby says they all enjoy swing music and traditional country standards like "Folsom Prison Blues," "Milk Cow Blues," "Lovesick Blues," and "Big Balls In Cow Town." "It's a good time. We all get to get going. Everybody gets to play."
And here's Benny and Rick; Benny plays fiddle, Guitar, and is a great vocalist. He's tops in the smile department. You always know he's having a great time. I love to watch him play, and when he really gets going on that guitar he's pretty animated. He had a video out several years ago, which I enjoyed. He has a great voice and I miss the days when the band used to do a few songs before George came out. I would rather experience the talent of the "Ace In The Hole" Band then most of the artists out there today.
Lonesome Ol' Rick plays Fiddle, and is the hottest lead guitar man on the road. I get a big kick out of watching him turn loose on stage. Don't let that quiet gentleman in the cowboy hat fool you, this man's fingers really do the talking! A man of many talents, Benny wrote "When It's Christmas Time In Texas" for George's "Merry Christmas Strait to You" album.
Terry and Benny cutting up in Springfield, Missouri October of 1995. I like to watch the guys during set-up, tuning up and joking with each other. When the lights go up they are all-pro and one of the tightest bands in the business. George Strait is very lucky indeed to have such a great group of individuals with him all these years.
David is a very talented individual, he used to tour with Reba before he met George. He wrote one of my favorite songs "Something Special" for George's album by the same name. He also wrote "Santa's On His Way" for George's "Merry Christmas Wherever You Are" album. He quietly adds his rock solid talents to the group.
Fiddler Extraordinaire! Gene is classically trained but has a Country soul. I can't say enough about Gene, a very classy man with alot of heartfelt talent. I'm fascinated when watching him during a concert. I love the soulful sound of his fiddle and George's "buttah baritone" intwining together.
used to be the new guy but in 2002 has been with the band for years now. He is a steady and awesome Drummer, always in time. It's alot of fun to watch him when he plays. He feels the rhythym and is the heartbeat of the band. One of my biggest photographic challenges has been trying to get a decent picture of Mike. (Check out the 2002 page, I finally did it!)
an original Ace, and tops in Pedal steel guitar. He can really make that baby cry. Mike is the strong silent type, the quiet one, and lets his talent do the talking. Go to the "D Label" link on the Ace page or on my Straitfever Page to read about 'Pappy Daily's D Label" which will tell you more about Pappy Daily's part in the career of George Strait and the Ace In The Hole Band. There are a few wavs there to an old recording that I know you will enjoy.
another original Ace, Terry has been there since the beginning. He and Mike are the ones that named the band. He is a cool cat , steady and solid, with a big Bass talent! I love watching this guy play, especially when I'm sitting where I can really hear that awesome bass.
This cute individual is Tommy Foote, Road Manager. He started out being the drummer but before long took on some major responsibility. He is in charge of concert security, and does his job well. Tom plays an important role making sure things run smoothly, and that George is safe from overly enthusiastic fans. (By the way Tom loves chocolate chip cookies, and the more he has the easier it is to get those photos of George you want.
Production Manager, a smooth, cool, and steady man. Paul is an audio professor in Austin when he isn't on the road taking care of the George Strait tour. I love this guy, and I couldn't make a page for the band without including Paul. He keeps everything going smooth. Watching him walk across the stage gives you an easy feeling that everything is okay and is about ready for George and the Band to take the stage. In 1992 it was a delight to see the members of the "Ace In The Hole Band" up on the big silver screen in George's movie "Pure Country." If you haven't seen it go buy it. You will watch it often and enjoy it every time. Watch this band and know that you are seeing the real thing.
This is the cover to the Band's album. The "Ace In The Hole Band" was named the 1995 Western Swing Group of the Year and presented with a "BOB" (as in Wills) Award the Band also has an album that was released in 1994 on Texas World Records. Information on that album follows.
Texas World Records announces the release of "Ace In The Hole," the debut solo effort of George Strait's touring band, The Ace In The Hole Band. The CD/cassette showcases the talents of one of the most acclaimed, versatile bands in country music -- winners of the 1991 SRO Touring Band of the year. The ten song collection encompasses the musical spectrum from lively swing to tender ballads.
Showcased is the diverse instrumental, vocal, and composing talents of The Ace In The Hole Band. From the traditional to the contemporary, Ace In The Hole captures the breadth of today's Country Music.
Members of the Band, which formed in 1975 in San Marcos, Texas are; Rondal Huckaby on keyboards, Benny McArthur on lead guitar and fiddle, Rick McRae on lead guitar, Mike Daily on steel, Gene Elders on fiddle, Terry Hale on bass, David Anthony on acoustic guitar and Mike Kennedy on drums. Joining the band on this project are musical legends Mel Tillis and Darrel McCall, who lend their distinctive vocal styles to two featured songs: "What Comes Natural To A Fool," and "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You." Additional vocals feature band members Benny McArthur and David Anthony. Anthony, who wrote "You're Something Special To Me," a #1 hit for Strait in 1985, performs his tune in a unique style that pays tribute to Strait's version. The Radio Western Swing favorite "Back in the Swing of Things" showcases this Band at their best. The album was produced by former Warner Bros. producer Billy Stull and recorded in The Fire Station Studio in San Marcos, Texas.
I recently found the Ace's album available on cassette for $16.98 at "Amazon.com" Then under "Artist Direct.com" I found that the album is available by cassette or CD. I am providing the link. I have also listed my main "Ace In The Hole" page on that website.
CD $14.99 ACE IN THE HOLE Cassette $8.99 ACE IN THE HOLE (Previews: 5 Songs) 1 Returning the Corn (2:45) 2 You're Something Special to Me (3:54) 3 Mirrors Don't Lie (3:14) 4 What Comes Natural to a Fool (2:45) 5 I'll Be Waiting Here Til Then (2:29) 6 Texas Bounce (3:25) 7 Back in the Swing of Things (2:55) 8 Difference Between Me and Him Is You (3:24) 9 My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (2:50) 10 I'm Ragged But I'm Right (2:32) Album Credits Benny McArthur Guitar (Electric), Vocals, Vocals (Background), Fiddle Mike Kennedy Drums Tom Foote Project Coordinator Billy Stull Producer Lucky Tomblin Executive Producer Don Anders Photography Ace in the Hole Band Main Performer David Anthony Vocals, Guitar (Acoustic) Bobby Arnold Engineer Mike Daily Guitar (Steel) Terry Hale Bass Ronnie Huckaby Keyboards I'm always looking for good photos of the guys, or for old or new articles - if you have some articles please contact me. I can type them up or scan them and return the original. If you have some photos you'd like to have displayed here please contact me, I can scan them and return them to you.