We Play Two Kinds of Music: Country & Western

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The Dalton Brothers
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Biography: Dalton Brothers

Descendants of a legendary family of Wild West outlaws, the Dalton Brothers have overcome their family's tarnished past and troubled reputation to forge a splendid --albeit largely unrecognized -- career in the "wild west" of the country music industry.

The Dalton Brothers are made up of brothers Luke, Duke, and Alton, and their sister Betty. Today, they all tend to the Dalton family ranch in Galveston, Texas, with the exception of Duke who has a 3-bedroom apartment in Dallas. The Dalton's came together in the late 1960s under the leadership of Dallas Schoo Dalton, who quickly realized his talents were needed behind the scene as the band's sound and equipment manager, a position he still holds today. Dallas was instrumental (no pun intended) in helping the Daltons land a 3-show stint as an opening act on U2's massive Joshua Tree world tour in 1987. (Dallas' brother -- also named Dallas -- is guitar technician for U2's The Edge.)

(Betty -- on the left -- and Alton are pictured at right. Luke and Duke are very reluctant to allow themselves to be photographed.)

Alton and Betty Dalton

They've taken their inspiration from many of Country's seminal artists, including such legends as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn. But they're quick to credit one of the all-time greats, Hank Williams, Sr., as the spark that lit their country music candle. It was Williams who reportedly told the brothers, "You can go far with country and western, not that rock and roll shit." Today, the Daltons honor Williams' memory in concert with an updated version of his 1949 Top 10 classic, "Lost Highway".

But the Dalton's current success is due more to perseverance than anything else -- perseverance to put the past behind them, and to convince country music fans that they are not like their ancestors, the famous Dalton Brothers Gang who gained fame in the Old West as bank and train robbers par excellénce. Those three Dalton Brothers (Robert, Emmett and Grattan) started their careers as deputies in Fort Smith, Arkansas, before they turned crime to make a living.

Dalton Ancestors

The original Dalton Brothers Gang

In 1890 they stole some horses in Oklahoma, but when the ground became to hot under their feet they left for California, where they attempted to rob a train. The attempt failed since they couldn't get the safe opened. A man was killed during the attempt and the Daltons became wanted in the state of California. While in California, the Dalton Brothers Gang made their hideout in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada at a site which is now the Wonder Valley Ranch.

In 1891 was they were back in Oklahoma with some new members in the gang. They tried another train robbery, and this time it was successful.

After this they had a period when almost everything they did was successful, until the day when Robert decided to execute the crime of the century. October 4 the Daltons rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, planning to rob two banks at the same time. This attempt failed miserably, and only Emmet came out of the town alive. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned in 1907.

But not all of the Dalton Family made their living as outlaws. Prior to the Dalton Gang's trouble with the law, their cousins were making a name for themselves as one of Canada's premier baking companies. In 1834, the Dalton Family started a soap and candle making factory in Ontario and grew the business exponentially over the next 150+ years until they were purchased by Reinhart Foods in 1996.

But despite the best efforts of Luke, Duke, Alton, and Betty, it is still the wild west legend that attracts most people to the Dalton Family name. Their outlaw ancestors were recently remembered in the Lucky Luke comic books and video game series. But while today's youth learn about that side of the Dalton Family, the Dalton Brothers of today will continue to fight the future through their music. They continue to spread the country and western gospel at the annual Farm Aid extravaganza and at county fairs across the United States.

The Dalton Brothers will ride again!


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Special thanks to Sherry Lawrence for assistance with The Dalton Brothers home page!