Sons of the Desert was an American country music band founded in 1989 in Waco, Texas by brothers Drew Womack (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Tim Womack (lead guitar, background vocals), along with Scott Saunders (keyboards), Doug Virden (bass guitar, background vocals) and Brian Westrum (drums). The band released Whatever Comes First for Epic Records Nashville in 1997, and recorded a second album for Epic which was not released. Change followed in 2000. Counting two singles from the unreleased album, Sons of the Desert charted eight times on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including the top ten hit "Whatever Comes First".
The band, deriving its name from the 1933 Laurel and Hardy film Sons of the Desert, was founded in 1989 by a group of students attending McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Drew Womack assumed the role of lead singer; his brother, Tim, played lead guitar and sang backup vocals. Completing the band's lineup were drummer Brian Westrum, keyboardist Scott Saunders, and bass guitarist/vocalist Doug Virden. The quintet toured throughout Texas for several years.
In 1997, Sons of the Desert signed to Epic Records, a record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment. The band's debut album, Whatever Comes First, was released that year. Its title track served as the lead-off single, reaching a peak of number 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. The album's second and third singles, "Hand of Fate" and "Leaving October" (which Drew Womack wrote about his third-grade teacher), also reached top 40 on the same chart. Drew Womack and Virden also appeared as studio backing vocalists for other Epic Records artists, including Ty Herndon's 1996 album Living in a Moment and 1998 album Big Hopes, as well as Joe Diffie's 1997 album Twice Upon a Time.
Following the release of its first album, Sons of the Desert discovered a song called "Goodbye Earl", which they began to perform in concert. Written by Dennis Linde, "Goodbye Earl" told of a domestic abuse victim who enlisted a friend's help to kill her abusive husband. The group then recorded the song for a planned second album on Epic. At the same time, the Dixie Chicks (who were signed to Monument Records, another division of Sony Music Entertainment), had also recorded the song, and they were planning to include it on their next album as well. Although both bands had planned to release their versions as singles, the Dixie Chicks claimed the song as their own. Their version was recorded on their 1999 album Fly, and released as a single in 2000.
Sons of the Desert then entered a dispute with Sony over "Goodbye Earl", resulting in the band's departure from the label. Their second album for Epic was not released, and Sony acquired the rights to all of that album's songs (including the single "What About You", which had been released and peaked at number 45 on the country charts). Also included on this unreleased album was a recording of "Bless the Broken Road", a song which was previously a number 42 country single in 1997 for Melodie Crittenden, and would later became a Number One country hit when the group Rascal Flatts recorded it for their 2004 album Feels Like Today. "Albuquerque" was issued as the unreleased album's second single, peaking at 58. "Albuquerque" was later re-recorded the band's MCA album in 2000.
Switch to MCA Nashville, breakup, and solo projects:
Sons of the Desert signed to MCA Nashville Records in October 1999. The band's first album for MCA, titled Change, was released a year later. The label also shifted the band's focus to just the Womack brothers and Virden. Saunders and Westrum still performed with the band, but were no longer considered official members; further, Westrum did not perform on Change. The title track served as the first single from Change, followed by "Everybody's Gotta Grow Up Sometime." These songs peaked outside the country top 40.
Following "Everybody's Gotta Grow Up Sometime," Sons of the Desert appeared as guest vocalists on Lee Ann Womack's 2000 single "I Hope You Dance." (Lee Ann is not related to the Womack brothers.)
The band's final chart single, titled "What I Did Right", was released after "I Hope You Dance," and it reached a peak of 22 on the country charts in 2001. At the end of the year, Virden left the group, reducing Sons of the Desert to a duo with the Womack brothers in the lineup.
Sons of the Desert subsequently exited the label, and by 2004, the duo went their separate ways. Drew Womack recorded a solo album for Smith Music Group in 2003. This album featured several contributions from the band's other members, and a re-recording of "Leaving October". In 2012, Womack released his first solo album in nearly a decade, Sunshine to Rain, following surgery to rebuild a vertebrae in his spine. The album is a significant musical departure from his previous work.
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