were a guitar band, often considered
part of The Paisley Underground
Singer Gavin Blair and guitarists Richard McGrath and Russ Tolman
were the nucleus of the group.
Originally from California's Sacramento Valley, guitarslingers True
West first gained attention in 1982 with their cover of the
song "Lucifer Sam" (and for maximum psych effect placing
the same song backwards on the B-side, titled "Mas Reficul").
Contemporaries and friends with L.A. bands such
as The Dream Syndicate, (Blair
and Tolman had been bandmates with a pre-Syndicate Steve Wynn), Green on Red, Rain
Parade, and The Long Ryders,
True West soon came to the attention of music writers in the East
Coast, UK, and Europe as part of the West Coast neo-psychedelic
movement dubbed The Paisley
However, what distinguished them from the
rest of the paisley pack was the twin lead guitar interplay of
McGrath and Tolman.
Their 1983 self-released five song EP
co-produced by Russ Tolman and Steve
, enabled the band to tour the U.S. non-stop, coming to the
attention of Television
, who took them to upstate
New York's Bearsville Studios
record demos for EMI America. More attention from the music press
followed with True West being singled out in the March 29, 1984
magazine feature entitled "Rock & Roll
Rookies: Ten Bands You'll Be Hearing From Soon."
September 1984 saw the release of the band's first album
. While not as gritty and psychedelic as the
band's debut (which by this time had been re-released as an
eight-song mini-LP called Hollywood Holiday
, with its folk-rock influences, was dubbed
"guitar poetry" by Rolling Stone scribe David Fricke.
Other 80s luminaries started noticing the band, such as Prince
, who passed along the word after
one Minneapolis show that he was greatly impressed with guitarist
McGrath's lyrical leads.
True West landed in London in April 1985 amidst what the UK music
press had declared "The American Invasion," which had been kicked
off a few months earlier by the arrival of R.E.M.
. Suddenly, England couldn't get enough
of American guitar bands and True West made the front pages of the
big three music publications of the day: the NME
, and Sounds
. Several major labels
came courting with talk of production by Steve Lillywhite
(U2, XTC), but problems
with their work permits did not allow the band to make scheduled
appearances on The Old Grey
and other British TV that would have pushed them
over the top and into the arms of a waiting major, unlike the rest
of their paisley amigos. After a successful tour of the European
continent, the band returned to the U.S. to write and prepare to
record their third album.
However, as soon as they were home, REM invited True West to join
them for the 17-date western U.S and Canada portion of the Athens
combo's 1985 Fables Of
tour. Playing venues such as Seattle's
Paramount Theatre, L.A.'s Greek Theatre and Irvine Meadows put True
West in front of the largest audiences of their career.
Two years of constant touring and several disappointing close
brushes with a major label recording contract had taken their toll
on the band, and True West called it quits in the summer of 1985.
Tolman started a successful solo career and the band decided to
reform without Tolman shortly after and go on to record and release
their third album Hand Of Fate
the next year. However, in
1987, bassist Kevin Staydohar (who had also been a member of
Central Valley pioneers Thin White
) died of a heart valve infection.
In the following years, guitarist Richard McGrath was a member of
Wall of Voodoo
frontman Stan Ridgeway
's band and joined singer Gavin
Blair to release two albums as The Fool Killers (a collection
Out Of State Miracle
was recently released). Russ Tolman
has recorded seven solo albums, the
most recent released in 2000.
In 2006, True West reformed including original members Tolman,
McGrath, and Blair - see this site
for details. On June 5, 2007,
Atavistic/Touch And Go Records released Hollywood Holiday
, a CD collection of True West's first two albums
- "Lucifer Sam"/"Mas Reficul" (1982)
- Hollywood Holiday
- Drifters (1984, PVC/Passport)
- Hand Of Fate (1986, CD