Makin’ music from MoorcroftWritten by Jennifer Womack
Moorcroft – A young person heading to Nashville brings thoughts of a street corner guitar player strumming next to an open guitar case littered with coins. Moorcroft’s Chancey Williams took a different route to the country music capitol.
As a junior in high school Chancey helped create a local band called the Playboys. “We still get a hard time about that,” he laughs. A year later when Nick Scofield of Gillette joined the band then consisting of Chancey, Joe Kissack and Travis DeWitt, they became The Younger Brothers. It isn’t a name rooted in outlaw history, but in the fact they all had older siblings.
While the band’s makeup has changed over the years, Chancey says The Younger Brothers have now been together nine years. “We all went to college in Laramie and Casper and we continued to play pretty much every weekend all the way through college.”
Today’s band consists of Chancey, Travis DeWitt on drums, Brooke Latka of Casper on the fiddle, Curtis Johnson of Torrington on bass guitar, and Nathan Potter of Laramie and Wyatt Springsteen of Saratoga playing lead guitar. Wyatt’s younger brother Gabe was a band member for about a year before he was killed in a car accident en route to one of the band’s performances. Chancey says it took a while for them to replace Gabe. Having Wyatt join The Younger Brothers proved meaningful.
Chancey’s own story might best be told in a song he wrote called “Six Figure Job.” While he says his parents, Dennis and Grace Williams, are supportive of his music career, he says they were also adamant that he needed to get an education and have a back up plan.
Combining multiple goals and passions, Chancey headed for the University of Wyoming to study political science. When he earned his B.A. his fellow band members were still attending school. Rather than traveling to gigs from Moorcroft Chancey decided it would work better to just keep going to school so he earned his M.A. in Public Administration.
“When I finished my master’s I had to do an internship,” recalls Chancey. “I did an internship with Toby Keith and they hired me to stay down there about a full year. I worked for Toby’s Show Dog Records.”
When Toby was in town Chancey says it was his job to set up the studio for recordings. “I drove him a lot, that was one of my main jobs,” he recalls. “When he came in I’d be with him until he left.”
Chancey also spent time processing royalty statements and learning more about the business end of music. “I didn’t plan on staying that long, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn from someone at that caliber in the business,” says Chancey. “He treated me well and I learned a lot. Playing live is what we know and the business side is so different.”
While in Nashville Chancey didn’t miss the opportunity to spend some time performing. “I was playing on Broadway once a week. I put a band together down there.” With so many players and singers in town, he says in Nashville there’s musical talent everywhere you look.
He also had a chance to review songs that were unsuccessfully pitched to Toby. Chancey sorted through about 500 songs to choose some that make up his latest album.
Back in Wyoming Chancey Williams and The Younger Brothers are one of the few acts around. Locals have purchased CDs with enthusiasm and each year the band gets an increasing number of requests to play.
Their latest CD, the second of two, was released mid-June. Chancey’s dad, whom he refers to as his best salesman, sold nearly a hundred copies within a couple hours at the Hulett Rodeo. “This time I got a producer to do it,” says Chancey. “He’s the guy that produced Western Underground’s CD.” Western Underground is Chris Ledoux’s former band. “It’s better quality and ready for radio.”
It’s also available for download at iTunes. The album itself can be purchased online at www.cdbaby.com. Or, find Dennis Williams and chances are he has few copies in his pickup.
Toby Keith received his own personal copy, something Chancey hopes will result in increased opportunity. Toby’s wife called Chancey to let him know when the CD arrived. “I hope that Toby will sign us,” says Chancey. “If he likes it, it would make things a lot easier for us, where now we’re doing everything on our own.”
“It’s fun being a local Wyoming band, but we’re not satisfied with that,” he says. “I don’t want to be 40 years old and playing at parties.”
Chancey says, “Most musicians don’t have a fall-back plan, but if I quit playing music I wouldn’t mind teaching college and being a rodeo coach. We’ll see where this other thing takes me first, though.”
In the meantime he says the support from the ranching and rodeo communities has been outstanding. “They could care less how good we are,” he laughs. “Everybody wants to buy a CD because they know us. You don’t get that support other places.”
Back in Moorcroft he says the band will continue playing, promoting their work and producing an album every couple of years. As this article went to press the band was amidst a six-day performance at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colo. They’re also booked to play at the Cowboy Saloon in Laramie for each of the home football games. Nov. 13-15 they’ll be playing at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in Las Vegas, Nev.