Rusty Wright Blues Band: I Ain't From Mississippi
“ An awful lot of couples I've met are nicer and more courteous to strangers than they are to each other. I just don't get that at all. There are enough people out there willing to tear you down. Your spouse shouldn't be one of them. ”
Throughout the history of showbiz, there have been married couples who have shared the stage together. Add to that list the names of Laurie and Rusty Wright, of the Rusty Wright Blues Band (RWB) from Flint, Michigan.
Coming from a hard rock background, Rusty had always told his band mates that regardless of what may happen, when he turned forty he would go home and play the blues. So when he turned forty years of age, he did just that. However, he didn't start to play the blues in resignation, but as a goal, the culmination of his musical career, something he had worked to attain.
Laurie also came from a musical background. As with Rusty, she pursued numerous musical projects which took her all over North America and abroad. But as with so many other entertainers, she worked a day job as a journalist and freelance writer. Little did she realize that a newspaper article she was assigned to do for an entertainment paper for which she worked would be their introduction, and the beginning of their relationship.
Then, when Rusty was called upon to fill in for the guitarist for the band Laurie was playing with (so her band could honor contracts to which they were committed), Rusty and Laurie discovered they also enjoyed working together. After chasing the elusive dollar by playing the music they were playing at the time, they progressed to the musical magic that they knew they could share: they decided to play the blues.
That, you could say, was the beginning of the rest of their story. They are making beautiful music together.
All About Jazz: How did you meet?
Rusty Wright: Laurie and I met when I was in a touring hard rock outfit. She was interviewing us for Riff Magazine. We kept in touch and when we ran into each other again things just "clicked" as they say.
Laurie LaCross Wright: Rusty and I met in late 1993, I think. I owned a monthly entertainment paper and interviewed him and his band for a feature story. We didn't begin dating until several years later though. He was trying to shake off the effects of a bad relationship and I had just gone through a divorce so we were both spooked about the whole dating thing. I think we both thought we could ease back into dating by going out with someone we already knew a little bit. Funny how that worked out [laughing].
AAJ: How did the Rusty Wright Band come to be, and how did you decide that you were going to perform together?
RW: The idea for the band really started in my head when I was a kid. I was traveling around playing hard rock with various bands but even when I was a kid I told my band mates that no matter what happens in this life, when I hit 40 I'm going home to play the blues till I die. So when that monumental day came I had already been planning for it for a long time.
Laurie and I started the process over four years ago. Both of us have been playing since we were kids. We have traveled all over the US and Europe doing various music projects. We didn't start playing music together until after we had been dating quite a while. I came in to fulfill some gigs for her band when the lead guitarist left suddenly. It went so well we kept playing as a duo and eventually started looking for the band members.
We began creating the music and building the act even though we didn't have a steady lineup at first. I have pretty demanding standards and there were a lot of personnel changes over the course of the first two years. The crew we have now is outstanding and I am very comfortable with them. I hope we make great music for some time to come.
LLW: We were a couple of years into our relationship before we played any music together. Both of us had our hands full with our own bands. When my band blew up in 1998 Rusty filled in on guitar so I could honor the remaining show contracts we had. We weren't necessarily playing the type of music that lights either of us up, but the money was good and we found we enjoyed working together so we just continued playing gigs. It seemed that the more soul-sucking the gig was, the more we got paid. Musically, that's a very dangerous place to wind up. We became dependent on the money but we hated what we were doing. There was no joy in it anymore.
We knew we had to make a decision. Either find the magic again or quit playing. We decided to quit chasing the dollar signs and concentrate on playing blues, which we both love. We had been adding more and more blues and southern rock to our repertoire and it was very well received by audiences. I guess because we didn't think there was a demand for it both of us spent years playing every genre but the blues.
Things started to take off fast when we finally put the band together in 2004. Our second gig with the new band was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is still one of our all-time favorite performance experiences.
The frequent changes in band personnel that Rusty mentions was a real source of frustration for a while. Most players just don't understand the level of commitment and amount of work it takes to truly move an act forward. Constantly having to work new players into the band slowed our progress and took time away from developing new songs and pursuing better opportunities for the band. I have a great deal of appreciation for our current team of players. Every one of them puts a lot of effort into every challenge Rusty has thrown at them.