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Cave Cat Sammy is no slapdash affair

By Ken Burke, June 2002

Last year, in separate conversations, both Dave Gonzales of The Paladins and Kevin Patey of The Raging Teens were asked to name an up and coming band they liked. Without hesitation the two well-traveled rockabilly veterans responded, "Well, there's these young guys in Texas called Cave Catt Sammy."

Hailing from San Antonio, Cave Catt Sammy includes lead guitarist Stephen Scott (age 22), acoustic guitarist Dustin Hutchinson (22), drummer Paul Ward (19), and singing stand-up bass player Beau "Sammy" Sample (21).

After a couple of local label CDs and over a thousand club dates, the flashy rockabilly quartet recently signed a three-album contract with a strong independent label, Rubric and issued their best disc so far "Love Me Like Crazy."

Officially formed in 1997, while still attending MacArthur High School in San Antonio, the group actually began a few years earlier as the comedy/rock duo Slapdash.

Speaking from his cell phone in San Antonio, Beau Sample explained the band's metamorphosis.

"Steven (Scott) and I have been playing together since seventh grade and were doing a music and comedy act. We called ourselves Slapdash. We were weird and wild. It was just him on guitar, me on bass, and we would play around town in coffee shops doing originals and covers. A lot of it was really bizarre stuff. It was mostly like a comedy act. Just dumb songs about funny stuff. So, it was They Might Be Giants humor by two guys playing music with this oldies feel."

So how did the Slapdash duo become Cave Catt Sammy?

"We had a piano player for a really short period of time," explains Sample. "And we were scrambling around for a new name because we learned there was a heavy metal band in Wisconsin called Slapdash. So this piano player we had says, ‘How about Cave Catt Sammy?' We all kind of said, ‘That's a dumb name…Okay.' To tell you the truth, none of us were crazy about the name. But after he came up with it he pointed at me and said, "Well, I guess you'll be Sammy." I said, "Well, Okay."

"We almost changed our name when we got on Rubric," Sample chuckles. "Then, we figured it wasn't a very smart idea. So, I guess we're stuck with it."

Upon graduating from high school, band members quickly eschewed a college education in favor of a full-time musical career. "All our parents were expecting us to go to college," says Sample. "But it would've been weird to break the band up, go to college and then try to put it together again. So, it was a strike while the iron is hot kind of deal."

That iron has been kept hot through perpetual touring, which created a demand for CDs by the band.

However, capturing their lusty live sound proved difficult on their first album for Big Bellied records, which Sample described as "more of a logo than an actual label."

"Our first album was called 'Fast Cars and Smokey Bars,'" says Sample of the disc released in 1999. "It was recorded up at the Fire Station where Wayne Hancock does his stuff. We recorded the whole thing in nine hours, then left and had a CD. It was like the olden days when you'd go into a booth, you'd record and then it goes ta-dink-dink-dink and it falls out, 'I've got a record!' We produced it on our own, and we weren't very happy with it so we stopped (repressing) ‘em – that was our choice. I didn't think it represented how we sound now."

Better was their second album, produced by Billy Horton, "'Comin' On Strong' (2001) came out more like we wanted it, but we were still new at the studio thing," reveals Sample. "Some guys can just walk into a studio and lay down whatever they need, but it took a while for me to get used to playing to a wall and make it sound as good as if I were singing in front of a crowd."

The aforementioned Kevin Patey hooked the Cave Catts up with the well-distributed Rubric label that released their current disc "Love Me Like Crazy."

"We really wanted to capture how we sound live," says Sample. "One of the things people always said was, ‘You guys are great, but you're so much better live than you are on CD. So we went into this last one saying, ‘Okay, we have to really make this one cook.'"

Producers Tim Magg and Wally Hersom of Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Boys, along with session pianist Carl Sonny Leyland helped them achieve their goal. "(They) were great because they would push us without making us blow up," observes Sample. "They'd say, ‘C'mon, you can do that better.' We probably wouldn't have done that again, but thank God we listened to ‘em."

Buoyed by the praise of peers and their best CD yet, Cave Catt Sammy, who played 250 dates last year, are readying for more of the same. When asked if he still gets any pleasure from non-stop touring, Sample says, "I get to be in a different place every night, meet different people and we get to entertain. I can actually see positive things coming out of how hard we work, which as far as jobs are concerned, is a real rarity. Man, I'm getting everything out of this."