Meet the musical chairmen: the Rail City Rockers

Rail City photoThere are two types of musicians in the world, those who play and those who do not play. I have been both. My induction into the world of musicianship came on Sept. 30, 1967 when I received my first set of drums on my 13th birthday. Most of my life since then I have been on the “playing” side of that equation. I kept up my musical training until I became the teacher. After high school, I continued my training by majoring in music at CSUS where I had the unique opportunity to play under the baton of Aaron Copeland (Google it, kids). During those years, I even had a very brief stint with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra.

But my heart was in rock and roll and blues. I spent most of my life playing with a tight group of friends in Sacramento before life had us separated by hundreds of miles. Some years later, around 2004, I moved to the Reno area where I played with new musical friends for a couple years before I took an unplanned hiatus for somewhere between five and six years. Being a non-player was an unnatural thing, but finding a compatible group of people to play with is not something that can be forced.

Then, quite by happenstance this past March two Facebook friends who had never actually met got together and one of them put an ad on Craig’s List for ‘Gray Haired Rockers.” Two veteran musicians answered the call, and here we are: the Rail City Rockers.

On guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and vocals is Steve “SB” Sullivan. Steve started playing guitar when he was 14 years old. SB knows country music as well as rock and roll. Whether he’s performing locally, writing songs or producing his latest Nevada Country Rock project, SB conveys the heart and soul of his own style of country music. His music is modern and unique, but hasn’t abandoned the original sound and feel that he loves.

Steve started playing in Rock and Roll bands about 42 years ago, and then moved into country ‘for the money’ in the early ’80s. This turned out to be a good decision that led to four amazing years on the road opening for country legends like Hank Williams Jr, and Marty Robins, among others. Along with these personal highlights Steve spent many years in Sacramento playing in local bands before moving to Reno and doing the same for the past dozen years. Yet to be explored by the Rail City Rockers are Steve’s skills on pedal steel, fiddle, and banjo, but we’re just getting started.

Master of the bass frequencies, Pat Cambra handles the bottom end for the Rail City Rockers. Pat wins the award for having been on planet earth longer than anybody else in the band. I’m not going to say how old Pat is, but he did take lessons from Fred Flintstones neighbor (not Barney though). Pat grew up with guitars around the house and took it up at 13 years old. He didn’t feel like he was handling it well and gave it up only to discover the bass guitar at 18. That was his instrument. His first band was a surf band in Fort Bragg Calif. in1965. In 1966 he bought his Fender ‘P’ bass which he still plays today.
That same year Pat moved to Reno and started playing in local bands. One of the first bands in his early Reno days was the Yellow Pages with a very young Chuck Ruff on drums. Chuck was not even 16 when they started playing together. Of Chuck, Pat says, “He was so young that when we played in a bar, he had to go outside when we took our breaks.”

Pat hung up his bass guitar from 1970 to 1979 at which point he looked up an old friend, Matt Wroblewski and started playing again. When Matt died in 2005 he willed Pat his 1962 Fender Jaguar guitar, which Pat still has. That is a very special friendship. Pat is the quintessential blue collar musician working his butt off in one band after another. He says he was just at that point of giving it all up again when a friend and band mate of his told him about the Craig’s List ad for gray haired rockers, and that was that. Now he’s our bass player.

Kurt Doughty is the “heart of rock and roll” in the Rail City Rockers, having spent many years at the helm of various rock and roll bands throughout his life. Kurt started playing guitar at age 9. During his musical career he did plenty of studio work, and like the rest of the Rail City Rockers as life’s demands required it, he had long periods of musical inactivity. Kurt plays acoustic and electric guitar and sings for the Rail City Rockers. He is also the band’s most transient rambling man having started life in the Inland Empire of Southern California where he lived for several years before moving to Sacramento, and then to Missouri to pursue non-musical career goals. After tragedy struck in 2010 when he lost his wife Darla to cancer, Kurt moved West and settled in Washoe Valley.

Not wanting to take ourselves too seriously the first name considered was the Little Blue Pills, but that was soon voted down as making us sound like a bunch of horny old men. That was replaced with the ambiguous Rail City Rockers. It’s ambiguous because we play rock and roll, but we all belong in rocking chairs.

After several months of putting together four sets of music we decided to record a demo so that we might be able to find some gigs. Since we have a built in recording engineer in Steve (who has owned and run a recording studio), we set aside a day to meet at Steve’s house and lay down a half-dozen songs on tape. That was this past weekend. We are now ready to present ourselves to the world!

There are two kinds of bands in the world. The Rail City Rockers want to be the kind that plays. Reach out, and good times will be had by all.

The Rail City Rockers can be emailed at:

Find us on Facebook, here.

To listen to a short medley of songs by The Rail City Rockers, click here.

… and the beat goes on.


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Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.


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