Reckless Kelly is the 21st century culmination of a family tradition of music. Willy and Cody Braun grew up touring and playing with their father's band, Muzzie Braun and the Boys, all across the Big Sky country of Montana and Idaho. They opened for the likes of Merle Haggard, played the Grand Ole Opry and even appeared twice on The Tonight Show in the Johnny Carson Era. Family friends like singer-songwriter Chris Wall (who would later introduce the boys around Austin release their first record "Millican") and Pinto Bennett (whose band, The Famous Motel Cowboys, would prove a huge influence) watched Willy and Cody learn about life from a rolling motor home as their love for music and performing blossomed. Forming their own band, the Prairie Mutts, the boys wound up in Bend, Oregon in 1996, in the fading twilight of the grunge era. Their effervescent take on rock and country made them a poor fit for the local scene.
Austin, where they arrived in 1996 (now billing themselves as Reckless Kelly) proved far more compatible. From playing Monday night pass-the-hat acoustic gigs on the downtown Sixth St. entertainment strip to being named Best Roots-Rock Band six years running in the prestigious Austin Chronicle Reader's Poll, the band grew to be one of the most popular attractions in a city bristling with top-shelf bands and musicians.
Joe Ely, who should know, lauded Reckless Kelly as "...my kind of band: Hell-raising, hard-playing, kick-ass songwriting, feet firmly in the present, but with an amazing knowledge of where it has all come from. What else is there?"
Reckless Kelly Was Here is the band's sixth album, following on the heels of Millican (1997), Acoustic: Live At Stubb's and The Day (2000), Under the Table and Above the Sun (2003) and Wicked Twisted Road (2005). In that time, the band has opened shows for Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Robert Earl Keen and a host of others. They have also headlined at showcase venues across the country and recorded with Steve Earle and Joe Ely for critically acclaimed tribute records
"It's kind of bizarre to be where we're at right now and look around and say, gosh, this is everything we ever wanted to do!" marvels Cody Braun. "Is this for real?"
It's a long way from the very first Reckless Kelly show which, as Willy recalls, took place at a county fair in Yreka, CA a decade ago.
"The Prairie Mutts had broken up, but we still had these gigs on the books and our manager at the time said, well, if you wanna play 'em you can play 'em," Willy said.
"So our first gig as Reckless Kelly was either at the Yreka County Fair or a tiny, tiny bar in Millican, Oregon for about two people. At the fair, we played on a stage outside the rodeo grounds, and we had a bunch of hippie kids down front and then a busload of kids from Georgia showed up. So they were over there doing their thing, stage-diving and moshing, and the hippie kids were doing the hippie shuffle. And then the rodeo let out and we had cowboys swing dancing and line dancing on either side of the hippies and the moshing Georgia kids! It was bizarre, wild...but we were on our way to Texas, and we thought, this is gonna be all right!"
Ten years later, it still is.