The Mavericks - Biography
By J Poet
The Mavericks lived up to their name with an exciting blend of country, rock, R&B, and Latin, all delivered by the larger than life Orbison-esque vocals of bandleader and main songwriter, Raul Malo. In their brief ten year career, they sold four million records, racked up one platinum and two gold albums, and recorded one of the biggest selling albums of the 90s for MCA Records. They also took home two Academy of Country Music Top Vocal Group awards and two CMA Vocal Group of the Year awards. Despite it all, the country establishment didn’t know what to make of their boundary breaking music and then went on extended hiatus in 1999. Malo went on to a successful career as a solo act and producer, but reunited the band with a new lead guitar player in 2003.
When The Mavericks came roaring out of Miami in 1990, they were ostensibly a country band, even though they aimed to demolish the boundaries between country, rock and Latin. The Mavericks began in Florida when Malo and Reynolds met in high school and discovered a shared passion for traditional country music. They began playing as The Mavericks in 1988 and went through various personnel changes before settling down to their first stable line-up. Although dubbed as both country rock and alternative country, the tag wasn’t exactly accurate. They began playing rock clubs in Miami because the country clubs wouldn’t let them play their own original tunes. Despite their genre experimenting, their first few albums are fairly straightforward country recordings.
In 1990, the band recorded The Mavericks (1990 Triple Crown/1998 Hip-O) produced by Malo and the rest of the band. It was released in a signed, limited edition box, with the intention of receiving major label interest. Legend has it that MCA signed them midway through the sound check for their first Nashville gig. From Hell to Paradise (1992 MCA) included four of the best tunes from The Mavericks, but it only sold a piddling 20,000 copies. Malo was still holding back a bit vocally, self-conscious of the Roy Orbison comparisons. For album three, he decided to write tunes in a consciously commercial style and What a Crying Shame (1994 MCA) quickly went gold and eventually platinum.
The band, and Malo, stretched out a bit on Music for All Occasions (1995 MCA). Tex-Mex, country, jazz and neo-classical R&B flavored some of the tracks, and the album went gold. “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” became their biggest US hit and “Here Comes The Rain” won a Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group at that year’s Grammys. Trampoline (1998 MCA), the Maverick’s last album before their hiatus, was inspired as much by the Beatles, as it was by Buck Owens and Hank Williams, Sr. Malo’s arrangements used a horn section, string orchestra and a bevy of exotic instruments including electric sitar. It was MCA’s biggest selling album worldwide in 1998 – everywhere but the States. It went triple Platinum in the UK and “Dance the Night Away” topped the British pop charts. The band went on an extended world tour documented on It’s Now, It’s Live! (1998 MCA International), an EP that was never released in the US. Despite Trampoline’s impressive sales abroad, the US division of MCA dropped the band.
Raul Malo went on to a successful solo career. He produced albums for K.T. Oslin and Rick Trevino, sang lead on several tracks by the Tex-Mex super group Los Super Seven (1998 RCA)and made albums like Today (2001 Higher Octave) and You’re Only Lonely (2006 Sanctuary), which saw him applying his golden pipes to pop standards and country classics. In 2003 the band reunited for The Mavericks (2003 Sanctuary) a collection of Cuban cowboy rumbas, neo-classical R&B ballads and traditional country.