The Mavericks Break Rules And Break Through With ‘What A Crying Shame’

The Mavericks have always lived up to their name. A country band formed in Miami? That’s rule number one broken right there. A first generation Cuban American for a lead singer, and fellow members from Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi? Hardly de rigueur for a genre largely based in Nashville.

Add a musical template that drew on country influences from previous generations, such as Hank Williams and Buck Owens, and threw in pop, Latin and rock’n’roll flavors from Roy Orbison via Flaco Jiménez to Bruce Springsteen, and this was a band with a playbook all its own.

The group came together in 1989 and created their own buzz with an eponymous debut album on the independent Y&T label the following year. Early Mavericks gigs showed their savvy combination of infectious originals and covers from the Big O’s “Blue Bayou” to Elvis’ “Little Sister.” Soon Nashville was calling, in every sense, and they were snapped up by MCA Nashville president Tony Brown – during a soundcheck – for a two-album deal in 1991. The band attracted further praise, but not yet a commercial breakthrough, with their first for the major, From Hell To Paradise, in ’92.

By the time they arrived at their third album What A Crying Shame, released on February 1, 1994, the “Mavs” were in need of a hit, and right on time, slowly but surely, started to become national news. The LP, overseen by established producer-songwriter Don Cook, underlined the group’s fluency in such rootsy sub-genres as Tex-Mex and western swing, as well as the strength of their own songwriting.

Lead singer Raúl Malo co-wrote seven of the record’s 11 songs, three of them with Greek native and noted country composer Kostas. One of these, the title track, built slowly at country radio to become the Mavericks’ first Top 40 US country hit, and another, “There Goes My Heart,” the second. The next single, “I Should Have Been True,” written by Malo with Stan Lynch of the Heartbreakers, was the third. Seasoning the mix were vibrant covers of Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow” and Jesse Winchester’s “O What A Thrill.”

“The Mavericks are arguably the first ‘left-of-center’ act since Dwight Yoakam to break down the mainstream radio barrier,” reported Billboard. “What turned [the band’s] fortunes around was, interestingly enough, its strong live shows.” Amid extensive U.S. touring during 1994, the group snagged an appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien in September.

In October, they also played “Love Me” at It’s Now Or Never – A Tribute To Elvis at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, sharing a glittering bill with the likes of Tony Bennett, Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jeff Beck, Iggy Pop, and many more. By then, What A Crying Shame was gold in the U.S., went platinum in February 1995, and the Mavericks were on their way.

Listen to What A Crying Shame on Apple Music and Spotify.

Related Posts