& the Firedogs is one of the greatest albums in Austin music history.
A record that was set to give major national exposure to the then-fresh
outlaw country movement in Texas.
band consisted of Marcia Ball, John X. Reed, Steve McDaniels, David
Cook, and Bobby Earl Smith, and in the early part of 1972 legendary
producer Jerry Wexler, who'd already signed Doug Sahm and Willie Nelson,
took a shine to them, and had them record an album for Atlantic. Unfortunately,
says Smith, "We were trying to make sure and get a good deal, and
we hemmed and hawed too long. We ended up putting Jerry in a kind of
a bad light at Atlantic," and the deal was never signed.
album was forgotten, the band members lost their personal copies over
the years, and then, not long before Sahm's death in 1999, Smith called
him and got Wexler's number in hopes of finally releasing the album
more than a quarter-century after it was recorded. Unfortunately, Wexler
reported that the master tapes had been lost in a warehouse fire. "My
heart sank," gulps Smith, but then Wexler added that he had managed
to keep track of his personal copy of the reel to reel tape. Following
a bit of EQ-ing and the limited corrections that could be made to the
original recording, Smith has had a limited number of copies pressed
up for Austin release, with national distribution to follow.
if you didn't guess that rumblings of a reunion are already buzzing,
shame on you! Smith says he's talking to Ball this week about putting
together some shows at the Broken Spoke, Gruene Hall, and elsewhere.
--Ken Lieck, Austin
Chronicle, October 11, 2002
would be difficult to over-praise Freda and the Firedogs. This is a
great bunch of youngsters, both personally and musically. They stick
closely to the traditional and their brand of country music is pure
Freda, whose real name is Marcia Ball, plays fine piano. More important,
her beautiful voice is…well, I just never heard any better. It
has a lovely, melodious quality that is rare. And Marcia knows how to
interpret and sing a country song. Her vocals are simple and honest,
and they’re simply and honestly great.
The first time I heard the Firedogs, something most unusual happened.
With my ear tuned to spot the individual talent of some single musician,
the first who impressed me was, surprisingly, the bass player. He is
Bobby Earl Smith, who also sings many of the vocals.
Equally talented is another member who plays what often is considered
a “minor” instrument in the band, drummer Steve McDaniels.
The quality goes on and on. John Reed, lead guitarist and vocalist,
has a reputation around town as a “musician’s musician.”
And you David Cook plays the steel guitar in the classic manner of the
older masters, a welcome pleasure in these days of the often too-gimmicky
steels of the moderns Nashville sound.
The Firedogs, featuring Freda’s (Marcia’s) piano and lovely
vocals, are a solid country group, strong on the traditional but with
a lively young flare.
--Townsend Miller, Austin American-Statesman, July 22, 1972.
Freda’s Firedogs: Savvy, Stringy Meat
Hardly an art form.
Still, you can’t arbitrarily rule out the issue without at least
a perfunctory listen to—can you believe this?—Freda and the
Firedogs, an Austin-based band of freaky hill-Williams more intensely,
and authentically, into C&W tradition than most groups currently trying
to make it.
Country ‘n Western—white man’s blues, a current critic
calls it. And Freda and company grasp that truth with all the searing
scorch of human passion, with more musicality per square twang than many
musicians ever manage to muster.
Filling in for the canceled Dr. Hook band and sharing a bill with Houston
folk singer Townes Van Zandt, the Freda group rattled Friday Liberty Hallers
with skeletons from forgotten closets.
In that context Freda and the Fire Dogs recall the great British singer
Joe Cocker, bringing to others’ time-worn repertoire expertise and
innate musicianship so severe as to transform shockingly raw stock into
glowingly burnished brass.
“White Lightnin,” “Who’s Sorry Now?”—THAT’S
reaching back—“Honky Tonk Man,” Hank Williams’
“Jambalaya,” Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It
Through the Night”—shimmer with deeper highlights even than
songs composed by the group itself.
The Blood, Sweat and Tears of country, perhaps, Freda’s band romps
through other people’s material like B,S&Ts former David Clayton-Thomas
exhaling life into dormant Billie Holiday tunes.
Top biller was Van Zandt, and he sang with the constant fidelity and competence
for which he’s known. His long suit is of course guitar, his short
suit any garb worn by woman—he’s still into the “a man
needs” type of shuck.
But his “Greensboro Woman”—“and I’ll thank
you kindly, babe, if you’ll kindly let me be”—ripples
and relevance, surprisingly free of contemporary conceits and faddish
Still, for anyone seeking musical heights, a whiff of Freda’s Fire
Dogs should trip out the staunchest country pop purist.
Freda and the Firedogs may look like freaks, but they pick like corralsful
With musical savvy.
All puns intended.
Scarborough, Houston Chronicle, 1972
Once upon a lime,
before Austin was touted as "Nashville West," before Redneck
Chic and Outlaw Music, there was a band in this town called Freda and
They played a soulful, energetic amalgam of country music and rock 'n'
roll with elements of blues, Cajun and Tex-Mex tossed in for good measure
- that tore down the barriers between partisans of the two forms and fostered
the climate in which the now famous Austin Sound bloomed.
Because of Freda and the Firedogs, young long-hairs began to feel it was
safe to patronize country dance halls and older, straighter country fans
began to visit rock clubs. The age and lifestyle di fferences that seemed
so large to so many vanished when Freda and the Firedogs began to play.
"Those kids were so good, everybody just had to love them,"
recalled one old fan Monday night when Freda and the Firedogs got together
at Soap Creek Saloon for the first time in nearly four years.
Their performance before the packed house demonstrated why Freda and the
Firedogs enjoyed such a fanatical following during their three-year existence,
why the rule of thumb in those days was to arrive by 8 if the band was
due onstage at 9 and you wanted a seat. The band crackled with more than
enough energy to offset the occasional rough spots in its playing.
The large crowd kept the dance floor jammed until well after the bar had
closed. Marcia Ball - Freda - said she saw people she hadn't since the
band's last gig in 1975, and for both performers and fans it was a night
of pleasant nostalgia for a scene and a feeling thal's slipping away.
"If you were here in 1972, you were lucky," said Doug Sahm who
hopped on stage to do five tunes. When Sahm moved to Austin In 1972, he
regularly played with Freda and the Firedogs. "There was magic in
the air when they played," Sahm added. "That doesn't happen
The original cast of Freda and the Firedogs was on hand Monday to recapture
some of that magic. Besides Marcia Ball, who played piano and sang beautifully,
there was frizzy-haired lead guitarist John Reed breathing life into rockabilly
tunes with a voice tailor-made for that style; Bobby Earl Smith, a teenage
heartthrob in the band's heyday, offering melodious bass lines and occa-
sional vocals; versatile David Cook moving easily between sax, pedal steel
guitar and accordian; and drummer Steve McDaniel, providing the steady,
driving backbeat.that held it all together.
When It was over, they went their separate ways again. But for a few hours
in a place that also will be gone soon, Freda and the Firedogs brought
a lot of people together and made them very happy. Which is the stuff
legends, especially this band's, are made of.
January 17, 1979