Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams

Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams

BandAmericanaCountry

One exposure to Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams’ honky tonk and you’re hooked forever. Ringing out across Colorado and beyond, Wofford's tenor conjures up images of Hank Williams Sr. and Buddy Holly. Original knee-slappers accompany time-tested favorites in a rollicking show for all ages.

Biography

“I shoulda quit you,” Halden Wofford half sings, half screams to a pack of dancing fans at a pub in northern Colorado, “a long time ago!” Three hours ago the dance floor was empty and patrons gazed quietly at the quintet plucking and yodeling from onstage between casual sips of Guinness. But song after high-energy song, folks from the very young to the very old rose from their chairs like they had seen the Holy Spirit and started spinning and stomping on the hardwood dance floor. Such conversion is not uncommon at a Hi-Beams’ concert, as crowds catch on to the honky tonk craze that is slowly but surely sweeping the American West.

Those unfamiliar with Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams are often as shocked by the band’s rootsy, honky tonk music as listeners once were by the Beatles’ shaggy hairdos or Johnny Rotten’s snarling lyrics. But just as old-time beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life are again topping the drink charts, classic honky tonk is back in style with a force. The echoey twang of the steel guitar, snap of the snare drum, thump of the stand-up bass and rippin’ electric guitar solos mix with Wofford’s distinctive vocals to create a solid sound that is familiar yet purely original. Not unlike hard-core bluegrass, the Hi-Beams’ style of honky tonk has a language and culture all to itself, but only takes one quick lesson to learn how to love for a lifetime.

“We’re trying to bring back the roots of the music that commercial country has left behind,” says Wofford, the lanky, bespectacled singer from Texas who leads the Denver based honky tonk powerhouse.

And the Hi-Beams are succeeding in doing just that, armed with some of area’s finest musicians including Ben O’Connor on bass, Greg Schochet on guitar, Damon Smith on drums and Bret Billings on the upright steel guitar. The band’s first CD was released in 2003 and is soon to be followed by a second album, Midnight Rodeo.

Their simple yet creative approach has gained the band critical acclaim since they formed in 1999, landing a cover story in the Texas based Third Coast Music Magazine and an in-depth profile on Colorado Public Radio. Wofford’s wavering, throwback tenor won “Best Traditional Country Vocalist” from Denver’s Westword newspaper in 2003 and the band continues to woo audiences and critics alike across the Front Range of Colorado and beyond.

But the Hi-Beams’ devotion to the roots of country music doesn’t keep them from mixing it up a little, as seen in Wofford’s tendency to toss Led Zeppelin lyrics into his original “Floyd Hill White-Out” or bang out an old Springsteen tune-honky tonk style.

“We have a classic sound,” says bassist Ben O’Connor, “but we don’t simply re-create old music. We play contemporary music that reflects the great stuff from the past.”

This ability to straddle the old and new, classic and contemporary while sticking true to the heart of the rebellious country spirit has made Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams a hot commodity in a West hungry for something to believe in.

“We’ve been burning up the highways in the region,” says O’Connor. “It’s a great experience to go to the smaller towns and play this kind of music for people who thought it was gone forever.”

Discography

Midnight Rodeo (Release date May 2006)

Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams (2003)
Airplay on approximately 150 stations worldwide. #1 for two consecutive months on Freeform American Roots (FAR) charts in 2003.

Set List

A typical short set from the Hi-Beams is mostly original songs from the CDs, with an occasional reinterpretation of classic songs from the likes of Bob Wills, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson.

Longer club shows feature most of the band's best original songs (approximately two hours) and a deeper sampling of the classic country genre.

Club dates often feature the "Yodeling Portion of the Set," with originals and classics, the "Hippie Portion of the Set," which includes the popular original "Hippie in My House," and Bob Dylan songs that the band learned for a Bob Dylan tribute show in 2005, and other assorted madness.

When necessary, as on the Denver Post Cheyenne Frontier Days Train when the train broke down a few years back, the Hi-Beams can play as much as 6-7 hours without repeating any songs.