From the musical hotbed of Austin, TX, sprang Don McCalister, Jr., a singer/songwriter with a revolving group of friends and musicians that made up his Cowboy Jazz Revue. Intelligent songwriting and McCalister's smooth tenor, backed by a Western swing and jazz-tinged country sound, drew comparisons to other Texas mainstays, including Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel), Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, and the music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. On any given night, the Revue could appear as just a trio, with McCalister and Boomer Norman on guitar and Carl Keesee on bass, or expand to a full orchestra with as many as 14 musicians on-stage. Some of the notable musicians that occasionally played with McCalister included the Grammy award-winning Floyd Domino on piano, Champ Hood on fiddle, Lynn Frazier on pedal steel, Stan Smith on clarinet, and Maryann Price on vocals.
The son of a college professor, McCalister was raised in several places, including California, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maine, Alabama, and New Orleans. As a result, he cites a variety of musical influences, such as Muddy Waters, Flatts and Scruggs, Norman Blake, and Duane Allman. Moving to Austin in 1981, McCalister formed his first band, the short-lived Bluegrass Demons, in 1986 before helping found the Flakey Biscuit Boys, which became a popular central Texas bluegrass band which performed regularly at the renowned Kerrville Folk Festival. After that group dissolved, McCalister independently released a cassette in 1990 entitled Silver Moon which moved in a folk music direction and concentrated on his songwriting. Shortly thereafter, he assembled the Cowboy Jazz Revue. McCalister was signed to Dejadisc in 1993 and his debut album, Brand New Ways, garnered McCalister rave reviews in and around Austin, plus airplay on regional radio stations. ~ Jack Leaver, Rovi