Johnny Dango & The Stillwater Pioneers
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Johnny Dango & The Stillwater Pioneers

Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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"Texas Platters"

“The Pioneers' debut balances the playful and sincere amid easy back-porch jams, from the swinging hootenanny of "Trouble All My Life" to the dark drawl of "Going Home." "Ain't Gonna Worry" touches on the Gourds' illustrious wordplay, and "Used to Be" similarly creeks resistingly against middle age. The local quintet's at its best on "1492," with harmonica and banjo matching the weary, biting lyrics.”

--Doug Freeman
Austin Chronicle [Jan. 11, 2008] - Austin Chronicle

"Check Out This Band!"

“I had the opportunity to go see Stillwater Pioneers perform Saturday night. They played a lot of bluegrass, country, Texas Country and some rock and were great to listen to. They were a lot of fun to witness and if you are ever looking for some entertainment, I’d encourage you to check them out.”

--Clay Morgan
Aransas Pass Progress [November 21, 2008]

- The Aransas Pass Progress


Johnny Dango & The Stillwater Pioneers "Let's Go Pioneering!" Released September 2007

Johnny Dango: The Bedroom Companion EP, released August 2003. Poison Okie Records. Out of print.



It takes a lot for a man to be a Pioneer. Grit, guts, determination... and a strong liver. These are men who come from all walks of life, from different corners of the known territories. They have one goal in common: making emotionally honest music that reaches the audience and makes 'em laugh, cry, sing along, hoot n' holler, and dance the night away.

"That," says Dr. Lew, "is what art's fer in the first place, pardner."

The Doctor is, of course, correct. Hailing from somewhere in Tennesse, it was his idea to put the Pioneers together.

"We'd all been hangin' around Austin, playin' shuffleboard at the same bar, but playin' in different bands and such. Finally, I said, 'why don't we try to put our own dadburned band together?' The rest, ya know, is just plain ole history."

Enlisting the aid of bassist Kevin Hennessy, known on the shuffleboard circuit as "the Mother Buffalo," and one John Q. Dango, a down and out singer/songwriter and part-time journalist, Dr. Lew knew he had a special sound.

"Right from the start, from our first practice--and I use the term 'practice' real loose like--I just knowed that this was the right sound. Old-timey, yet new. Unique."

Hennessy, from nearby San Marcos, Texas, puts it like this:

"The Pioneers are different from other bands I've been in because there's a real friendship here, a fellowship that really comes through in the songs. We're all individuals, but we come together as one to make music. Or whatever."

The Pioneers played their first show on New Year's Day, 2006. A packed crowd witnessed the maiden voyage and listened in awe as Dr. Lew and Dango traded fierce leads over Hennessy's steady bass.

More shows were quickly added.

Dango is from Stillwater, Oklahoma. He began playing music at a young age, as his mother forced him to sit at the piano for hours.

"Chopin, know the drill," he says. "Good stuff. Right powerful music. But I needed to rock, man. I needed a guitar."

He got his first guitar for Christmas while in high school and went about teaching himself chords.

When he reached the age of 21, he began playing the Stillwater club scene with his pal, Stoney LaRue.

"Stoney was miles and years past where I was," says Dango. "But he was a friend and a brother. He helped me along, showed me some tricks, and encouraged me."

Still, Dango felt the rock gods stirring in his blood.

"I didn't know a thing about country music, really, outside of Willie & Waylon. Cash and Merle. That's about it. I was more into Led Zeppelin. The Stones. Stoney, and then of course Cody and Jason (of Cross Canadian Ragweed and Jason Boland and the Stragglers fame, respectively) turned me onto a bunch of country-flavored stuff I'd never heard before. But it wasn't until later, when I got into the Grateful Dead and Townes Van Zandt and the Band that it all sorta started to make sense, musically, the way all those different strains of American music can come together and make a kind of musical gumbo. Suddenly, I got it. I didn't write my first song, though, until I was 23 years old."

Now 31, Dango has written many songs, around 200 or so by his own estimation.

"Everything from blues chants to hymns to songs for kids. I've got 2 beautiful nephews now and I want music to be as vital for them as it is for me. It's certainly saved my life more than once."

Time spent on the road with the Stoney LaRue Band introduced Dango to Jeremy Watkins, a fiddler of enormous talent from the Waco, TX area. Hitting it off, the two decided to work on a project sometime down the road, at a later date.

That time came in mid-2006, when Watkins left the Stoney LaRue Band.

"I needed a new challenge," says Watkins, "and a chance to play something really different. John's tunes seemed like the perfect fit. I knew him, loved him like a brother, and we'd recorded together in the past, for the Brothers & Sisters record."

Both Dango and Watkins did appear on Austin, TX band Brothers & Sisters' self-titled debut album. Dango played lead guitar and Watkins added gorgeous fiddle touches on the record, released by the independent Calla Lilly label.

"That was my first taste of what John could do on tape," says Watkins. "I'd heard some of his songs, and knew that we could do something really neat, but going into that studio for the Brothers & Sisters sessions really opened my eyes. And ears."

"We've played enough shows now to be confident in what we're doing," says Dango. "But we needed a record."

The record, "Let's Go Pioneering!" was released in September of 2007 and immediately began getting local airplay on KUT 90.5FM in Austin.

The band continues to play shows and is currently planning a new record.

"That's the pioneer spirit, I suppose," Dango says. "Just moving forward, going to places we haven't been, seeing things we may never see again. There's a song in there somewhere, isn't there?"