Group details career as Southern Soul band
April 30, 2012 at 8 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
WHARTON - They are known for playing the type of down-home music that is found in Southern juke joints and hole-in-the-walls.
That type of relatable music that tugs on the souls of listeners, forcing hands to clap and feet to tap.
A Southern Soul group based in Wharton, Lady Audrey & The Superior Band have made a career making music that is best understood by grown folks and others who have been there, done that and have a couple of stories to tell about it.
"It's about real life," said Audrey Haller, also known as "Lady Audrey," lead female vocalist for the band. "When you take a song like 'Whole Lotta Woman' or 'Why Do You Ask Me,' we're talking to the men. You know what we need."
A combination of blues, country and Southern gospel, the band's hear-and-feel sound permeated the walls of their small but workable practice room, as they rehearsed recently.
Plastered with posters promoting past performances and head shots of band members past and present, the room's walls document the band's journey through the years.
Formed in 1967, The Superior Band was started by brothers Paul and C.J. Kearney and their cousin Eugene Triggs.
Influenced by Wharton-area Southern Soul bands like The Soul Packers and Junior Ward and The All-Stars, Paul said he and his cousin convinced their parents to buy them instruments so they could teach themselves how to play.
In the Kearneys' garage, the group learned their first song, James Brown's, "I Feel Good."
"All we did was practice that one song until we got it right," said Paul, keyboardist and band leader. "Through practicing every day and getting a little spanking every now and then for staying in the garage all day, we were finally able to move onto other songs."
The band first showcased its talent in 1967 at the Wharton High School talent show, where they performed James Brown's hit, "It's a Man's World."
"We won the talent show, but got the smallest trophy," Paul chuckled.
Over the years, the band found work both playing for other artists as well as performing as their own act with various lead singers including Buddy Ace, Bo Williams and Terry Ellis, who later joined Grammy-nominated En Vogue.
The Superior Band got its first big break in the late 1980s when they were invited to be the opening act for B.B. King at Houston's J.B. Entertainment Center.
From there, the band's popularity skyrocketed, leading to invitation to open for various big-name artists including Johnny Copeland, Bill Withers, Bobby Blue Bland, Johnnie and Floyd Taylor, Al Green and Frankie Beverly & Maze.
They mostly played the Chitterling Circuit, a string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe and acceptable for black entertainers to perform during the age of racial segregation in the United States
This included Victoria's former Cotton Club.
"It was a great experience because (the Cotton Club) only selected the biggest bands," said Paul. "It was a great honor."
Additional band members Bruce Orange, guitarist; Scott Raschke, guitarist; and Rebekah Garcia, singer, all joined the group within the last two decades.
Haller joined the band in 2001, but her path crossed that of the Kearney brothers long ago.
As a teen, Haller, who had formed a gospel group with three of her eight siblings when they were younger, would sneak off to see the Superior Band when they performed at local venues.
"I used to sneak out and see (The Superior Band) perform in Egypt (Texas) at the Farmer's Hall," said Haller reminiscently. "I got a whipping and all."
She did not formally meet the brothers, however, until 2000.
Haller performed Gladys Knight's, "Midnight Train to Georgia" at a karaoke contest at Greek Brothers in El Campo, catching the brothers' attention.
Within two years, she was offered and accepted the position of lead female vocalist for the Superior Band, now known as Lady Audrey & The Superior Band.
The band has since released three albums, "No house. No home. No woman," "Work until I sweat" and their latest album, "Swanging Big Girls."
The band described the recent album, which was released in November, as having a little bit of everything from songs about love to a line dance called, "Big Girls Swang."
The song has gained popularity over the last year, becoming a staple song in many El Campo and Houston area night clubs and family gatherings.
Fans have also posted videos of themselves performing the dance on YouTube.
"There are a whole lot of things out there for smaller women. You are still a woman regardless of size, shape or height. You have to celebrate yourself just like the smaller women," said Haller of the dance. "Big girls can move just like little ones. Matter of fact, I've seen some big ones move better than little ones."
Though they have had record deals in the past, they have been independent since 2010.
Embracing social media has really helped the band propel in recent years, said Haller.
"We're reaching people we wouldn't normally reach just by playing somewhere," said Haller. "I've met people out on the road and they've sent me friend requests."
Today, the band continues to perform when time permits, playing their original songs as well as cover songs of different musical genres.
"R&B is geared toward sex. Country is real talk. It's just Southern Soul with a twang and vice versa. Southern Soul is just country with an attitude."
Raschke credits the band's respect of one another as one of the reasons The Superior Band has stayed together so long and not fallen by the wayside like many other musical groups.
"Bands are like bad marriages. That's what ends up killing them. They get sick of each other, but that's not us. Maybe because we don't live together," Raschke joked. "We get along real well."
With the majority of the group having retired from their day jobs as of this August, the band plans to focus on their music full-time, even embarking on their first tour as the headliner band.
"You may not know who we are before we get there, but before we leave, you will know who Lady Audrey & The Superior Band are."