The Return of Sweethearts of the Rodeo
Sometimes the road to success begins in some very unsuspecting places. In the case of The Sweethearts of the Rodeo, named for the seminal Byrds album, a duo, both sisters, began by playing a pizza parlor in Manhattan Beach, California. It was a town known more for The Beach Boys than its output of energetic country-rock complete with soaring pedal steel and Everly Brotherly-tight vocal harmonies. Before long, Janis Oliver and Kristine Arnold, were appearing four nights a week at a pizza joint off Pacific Coast Highway to capacity crowds. Beginning as an acoustic act accompanied by John Folwer and pedal steel great, JB Crabtree, it was clear from the beginning they were going places.
It didn’t take long until someone noticed they needed a bigger venue. With the help of promoter John Campbell and musician, Jim Conroy, Sweetwater was born. They bought a place in a strip mall in Redondo Beach and set it up for shows seven nights a week. Soon, Sweetwater attracted so many name acts the venue was included on the same club tour circuit with Golden Bear, The Troubadour and The Palamino.
For Janis, Kristine and the Sweethearts, Sweetwater was the perfect place to develop their talent and to associate with some of the best names in country music including Willie Nelson, Levon Helm, Bonnie Raiit and Emmylou Harris. Sweethearts would be established at Sweetwater. According to Janis Oliver it became a place to grow their talent, develop their stage presence and experiment in a spontaneous way.
And as fate would have it, Janis met Vince Gill at Sweetwater when Gill was starting out with Byron Berline and Sundance. On that evening their 20 year-old marriage began.
Somewhere in Manhattan Beach Janis Oliver and Kristine Arnold sat down with promoter John Campbell.
Started in 1971 with JB and John Fowler. They were Sweethearts of the Rodeo and the Handsome Guys.
Really got started at Straw Hat Pizza in MB. 4 nights a week..thursday to sunday. Jim Conroy was htere. called himself Jimmy discount, Tarzan String Band. One night John Cambell was in town. We all sat down and he said ‘we’ve gotta have a regular venue. Found an old shopping strip with a store front and that became sweetwater. They became the regular openers for some very famous acts that came through including Levon Helm, Bonnie Raiit, …became a place to develop talent and performing skills. Most of what SH learned began at Sweetwater.
Meeting Vince Gill: Vince a kid. 19 years old. He was moving from Oklahoma City to So Cal to join Byron Berline and Sundance. The first night, we met on the stairs to the stage…He quickly became one of us. Sweetwater was an intregal part of SH. You could try different material or even styles. We could get up and say, “Now we’re a rock & roll band” and then try that out. we opened for willie and rodney crowell. Late 70’s. Sweetwater became part of the So Cal tour circuit including Troubadour, Palamino, Starwood. We played openings for Emmylou Harris too.
On the ’87-92 era of country music radio. you’d never think you’d hear lyle lovett or kd lang on country radio, but you did. I often thing what a stroke of luck that we came around at that time.
We stepped away from aggressively pursuing our music career. We raised kids and took time to focus on our families. It’s been a long time since we made a CD. It’s coming out next month. People ask how we’d describe the CD. I say it’s the music we’ve always loved from the era of folk-rock from the 60’s and 70’s. That’s the concept we had in mind when we made this record.
Americana? It seems like a perfect fit for us. I think we will find an appreciative audience…we’re reclaiming our legacy. We plan to tour once the CD is released. We’d like to play state fairs and hopefully some club dates.
Tour band includes Al Perkins, Dave Polmory, Rick Lano, Danny Flowers(co writer–wrote for Emmylou “Beyond Believing). In studio we had Kenny Vaughn, Richard Bennett, Rick Lano, Al Perkins, Dave Pomoroy and Jim (Moose) Brown.