"Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word…" - John Steinbeck
To start a musical biography with a John Steinbeck quote may seem a little far-flung. But Bradley Jaye Williams may well be a lead character out of a Steinbeck novel. Born in Saginaw, Michigan, he moved to the San Francisco Bay area to excel in visual arts and illustrations. Instead he landed in the commercial fishing industry, trying his luck as far north as Alaska, and eventually returning to the Bay area where he worked in and around the wholesale fish trade for ten years.
Already playing trumpet since fifth grade and having the ability to read music and play by ear from his dad's old collection of shellacs and 45's, Bradley taught himself to play mandolin and button accordion. In 1988 he joined the folk-rock gang, the Movie Stars. They released two acclaimed albums "Heck Ola" (Village Green/Japan) and "Head On A Platter" (Whirl-a-way) and started to tour nationally, opening shows from everybody to Flaco Jimenez, Hot Tuna, Nick Lowe, k.d. Lang, Lucinda Williams and el rei Joe "King" Carrasco.
Eagerly expanding his musical gumbo he also played with Eric & Suzy Thompson of the California Cajun Orchestra, added some Polynesian flavors with the slack-key Hawaiian band "The Lei-a-ways" and served up some hot chili with the Wannabe Texans.
Three years later Bradley formed the first incarnation of Los Pinkys - an acoustic conjunto at the time - starting their career at San Francisco's famous Montgomery Street BART station and eventually moving on to gigs at coffeehouses, restaurant patios and the largest flea market in the world in San Jose. Their music not only created quite a stir with Bay Area shoppers but also with the Chicano and Mexican national communities.
Fabulous Thunderbird's bassist Keith Ferguson poured even more oil into the band's fire when he observed that the accordionist should "either get a monkey and a tin cup or to move to Texas". 1993 saw Bradley moving to Austin -- the self-proclaimed live music capitol of the world. The compadres he soon found for his new group weren't from the world-renown Sixth Street, but from the East Side barrios. Los Pinkys were born again.
Along with Conjunto veteran Isidro Samilpa on accordion and bajo sexto, Augie Arreola on drums, Manuel Herrera on bass and brothers Javier and Chris Cruz on bajo sexto and bass respectively, Bradley and the band eventually released two indie titles as Isidro Samilpa & Su Conjunto and one as Los Pinkys. Rounder Records picked up the tab for the next two releases for Los Pinkys: Seguro Que Si! and Esta Passion. Extensive touring brought the bands authentic tex-mex sounds back to California as well as to the East Coast.
The vitality and honesty of their music made them sought-after participants for festivals such as the Tejano-Conjunto Festival in San Antonio and the Texas Folk-Life Accordion Kings in Houston. Their spanglish "El Cool Dude" even scored them a number-one-hit on the nation's top Conjunto station - KEDA in San Antonio.
But the success of Los Pinkys did not and does not complete Bradley's musical stew. The accordion plays as much of a roll in East Texas' and Louisiana's music as it does in South Texas', so it came as no surprise when Williams founded the Gulf Coast Playboys and added a new spice to his hot musical recipe - the Cajun and Zydeco music of the Acadians and Creole- based cultures of the Gulf Coast. With players like Steve Doerr (LeRoi Brothers) on guitar, Speedy Sparks (Texas Tornados) on bass and fiddlers Ralph White (Bad Livers) and Darcie Deaville, Williams and his Playboys have set such infamous Austin clubs as the Hole In The Wall, Antone's & The Broken Spoke on fire.
In 1999, Bradley was approached by Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson and Lazy S.O.B. Recordings to produce a collection of original songs for a platter to be named Tex-Mex Gumbo under Bradley's own name; a first for the musical virtuoso and a first release for Benson's new Bismeaux Records. Folding the talents of Los Pinkys and The Gulf Coast Playboys into the "roux" and spicing it up with additional guests like Max Baca (Texas Tornados, Flaco Jimenez), Tony Villanueva (Derailers), Joe Guzman (Flaco Jimenez) and steel guitarist Marty Muse (Don Walser, Roger Wallace), Bradley Jaye William's gumbo was finally ready.
The mix of polka, waltzes, two-steps and back beat Zydeco tunes, rancheras, country and swamp pop songs showcase the musical diversity of Bradley as well as the Lonestar State that he now calls home. Enjoy this spicy "Tex-Mex Gumbo" and feel what it is really like to be a Texan
Top-ten local releases of 1999" -- Rauol Hernandez, Austin Chronicle
"Top-ten for 1999" -- Freeform American Roots Poll, 3rd Coast Music