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Rhythm Rangers Is a Band With Plenty of Power : High-energy rockabilly and R&B group will record a live album during a gig at Maxie's.


If you're lookin' for a fun time this weekend dancing to lots of original and cover country, rockabilly and blues tunes, Maxie's in Oak View is the place to go. The Rhythm Rangers, a jumpin' high-energy local country and R&B band, is planning to record a live album during its gig Friday night. And they want fans to help make it a dynamic event.

The quartet chose Maxie's because it's where the current lineup got its start about four years ago. And they have a loyal following that packs the place whenever they return.

"We consider ourselves a live band--we're a working band. And we'd like to get some of the cuts on the album live," said band leader Michael J. Smith. "We want it rowdy as can be 'cuz we get the energy from the crowd."

Rick Griffin, owner of Dolphin Studios, a recording studio in Ventura, will handle the live remote and masters. Cassettes and CDs should be available in six to eight weeks.

Smith isn't kidding when he calls the Rhythm Rangers a "working band."

Since the original group was formed in 1981, the band has earned a well-deserved reputation for versatility--a skill no doubt honed on the wedding and Bar Mitzvah circuit and by gigs ranging from hotel lounges and biker bars to the Ventura County Fair and annual California Beach Party blowout in Ventura. And don't forget six years on the road touring lumberjack bars in Alaska.

"Live Rangers: Long, Hard Road," the album's working title, was not chosen lightly. Smith didn't mention ever playing behind protective chain-link fencing, but his war stories from the road included a logger named Rockie who pulled the door off a police cruiser.

Smith, with 20 years experience under his belt, plays guitar and harmonica for the band. He switches to the bass when he and fellow band member Craig Newton pick up extra gigs as the Rhythm Rangers duo. Smith and Newton (guitar, keyboards, flute, mandolin and lead vocals) also collaborated on the original tunes to be included on the album.

"Our newest one, 'The Dancer,' is a waltz about eternal love," said Smith. " 'A Girl Like You' is an up-tempo swing tune with harmonica. 'Wheels' is a truck driver song with Eddie Rabbit influence. And 'No More Lonely Days and Empty Nights' has three-part harmonies like the Eagles."

Drummer Louie Louie (Nilson) also does lead vocals. And according to Smith, "Louie's the only one who can play that two-four country train beat and also play a simple, solid rock drum."

Smith and bass player Alan Drettler go back to the '70s together. "I was a drummer then," recalled Smith. "And we worked with Canned Heat, Albert Collins and Luther Tucker."

Besides playing and composing, Smith's professional experiences during the last two decades motivated him to become more active in the business side of music. And after serving as vice president of the Ventura County Musicians Union, Local 581, he was elected president on Dec. 1.

"My whole charter as union president is to promote live music," said Smith. "I want to bring free-market, capitalistic principles into unions. Musicians have to market themselves to overcome self-entertainment like karaoke, line dancing and deejay music. You've got to make the venue want to hire you 'cuz you'll do extra things to bring in people and make the owners some money."


As you may have noticed, swing is getting almost as popular as the two-step. So if you want to be up to your eyeballs in swing lessons, check this week's Two Steppin' column for courses starting today. Page 7


Love Connection is coming to the Crazy Bull next Thursday to give single cow folk the opportunity to get on the show. Besides being single and over 21, the only criteria is a bubbly, outgoing personality, according to producers. So just show up to chat and complete a short questionnaire. And they may invite you to continue the screening process at the studios.


* WHAT: The Rhythm Rangers invites everyone to join them to tape a live performance album.

* WHERE: Maxie's, 101 Short St., Oak View

* WHEN: Friday, 9 p.m. (Also Feb. 4, 5, and 11)

* FYI: 649-9931

* OTHER GIGS: Jan. 21, 22, 28 and 29, Breakers Lounge, Holiday Inn, 450 E. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, 648-7731. For details, call 650-1841.

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