It's high noon for High Noon – July 2002
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It's high noon for High Noon  Print

By Jon Johnson, July 2002

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Once Smith returned to Austin, the group got down to business with a vengeance. Between 1990 and 1995, the group was prolific, releasing a number of LP's, EP's, 45s and even a 78, with the bulk of the band's earlier recorded output today available on 1993's "Glory Bound," 1995's "Stranger Things" and 1998's "Show and Dance Plus.

In addition, the group regularly acted as a backing band (with Young sometimes moving to drums) for the likes of Wayne Hancock, Ronnie Dawson, Mart' Brom, Mac Curtis, Ray Campi, Johnny Carroll and a number of other rockabilly and country acts.

The band also toured like there was no tomorrow, hitting Europe, Japan (a '96 Japanese date was released three years ago as "Live at Diamond Hall"), Russia, the U.S. and even the Canary Islands throughout the first half of the '90s.

In 1996, Mencher and his family moved to an island off the coast of Portland, Maine, consequently cutting back on the band's activities.

"At the time, we were playing primarily overseas or on tours, which is a pretty hectic lifestyle," says Mencher. "It's really fun, but it can be pretty taxing, especially if you're domestically inclined. I wanted Leslie (Mencher's wife) to be closer to family. My brother lives up there, my mom lives up there, and it seemed like a calmer and more stable lifestyle since Shaun, Kevin and I were meeting at airports anyway."

The group called it a day in early 1997 following a handful of New England shows a few months earlier. Mencher played around New England with the Sean Mencher Combo (with his wife Leslie on bass), toured and recorded with Wayne Hancock and produced records by several New England rockabilly and country acts including The Racketeers and the Starline Rhythm Boys.

Young played drums and guitar with a few Austin acts (Jive Bombers and the Horton Brothers), worked on his hot rod and recorded a High Noon-ish solo album in 1997, "Red Hot Daddy."

"A lot of that stuff was written with High Noon in mind," says Young. "But the solo album was something I did to keep myself sane. At that point, all I was doing was playing music, and Kevin and Sean were too busy to satisfy my appetite, and I had friends who'd come over and play just for the heck of it." As for Smith, he recorded and toured with the eclectic Asylum Street Spankers and 8 1/2 Souvenirs, did studio work (including on the upcoming Pam Tillis album) and filled in with the Brian Setzer Orchestra before forming another band and doing an upright bass video.

The three stayed in touch, performing on rare occasions when Mencher was available (including a triumphant reunion performance in 2000 at the Viva Las Vegas festival), and in October of last year, Smith contacted Mencher about the idea of recording a new record.

"I had spent the whole year being a stay-at-home dad," says Smith. "And then my wife got laid off, so I got excited and asked myself, 'What can we do with the time off?' So, I gave Sean a call to see how he felt about it."

"Kevin had called me, and we (discussed) getting together and doing a recording because we knew we'd be playing Green Bay," says Mencher, referring to a massive week-long rockabilly festival taking place in Wisconsin in July. "We wanted to go into Green Bay (with a new album). In other words, not just, 'Oh, here's High Noon. They did some neat stuff back in the '90s.' So, we decided to get together in January and make a new record."

Co-produced and engineered by former Hot Club of Cowtown bassist Billy Horton, "What Are You Waiting For?" finds the band picking up pretty much where they'd left off with Smith's hyperactive upright bass playing providing an anchor for Mencher's Travis-influenced guitar work and Young's rhythm guitar and vocals.

While no one seems in a hurry to return to the group's punishing road schedule of the early '90s, largely due to family commitments, with Mencher's recent return to Austin, the band have quickly returned to their old haunts around the Texas capitol and have booked a few appearances outside Austin at festivals in Denver and Lubbock, with more to come.

"I am so thankful for everything," says Mencher, ruminating on the band's career and return. "I consider it all a blessing."

Picture of High Noon (left to right): Sean Mencher, Shaun Young and Kevin Smith

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