The Pryor Times

June 15, 2013

Dirtbox Wailers rock their roots

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

— The crowd trickled into Boots Saloon where the sign above the bar read “We don’t dial 911.”

On the tiny stage four men were in the midst of a relay of sorts. Each one performing their pre-show duties with a precision not unlike a synchronized dance.

With nods and thumbs up or thumbs down they communicated wordlessly, tweaking their many instruments, microphones and speakers to reach a precise musical blend.

Jimmy Ray Taylor and The Dirtbox Wailers showed all the signs of a group that’s played together many years. Truth be known, however, they’ve only been rehearsing together since October 2012 and played their first gig on New Year’s Eve.

Three of the four band members are from Pryor. The fourth is from neighboring Wagoner.

With a lifelong love of music, the diverse and winding road landed the four men on the same stage.

The group is the brainchild of Taylor, a self-taught musician.

“I was playing with some other guys and we needed a bass player,” Taylor said. “Our drummer at the time knew about Johnny Sea so we had him come in.”

Taylor said it was difficult to make something happen with various scheduling conflicts in the band and soon he was searching for another guitar player.

“Sam (Matthews) contacted me and we got together and started jamming,” Taylor said. Soon their drummer left the group and Boyd Murphy contacted Matthews about the vacancy.

“We rehearsed for a few months and played our first gig on New Year’s Eve,” Taylor said.

Taylor, Matthews and Murphy are from Pryor. Sea is from Wagoner.

Murphy began pounding the drums in junior high school.

“I got my first set of drums when I was in the eighth grade,” Murphy said. “I remember my friend Jeremy Freeman would come over and we drove my parents crazy playing the drums.”

Murphy is also a guru with sound and video. He keeps a crazy busy schedule that lets him exercise all of his talents.

“I run sound for a dance band called MIC,” Murphy said. “I also play the drums for a group called Beacon Drive.” All of this is in addition to his day job as a videographer for Channel 8 in Tulsa.

When he picked up a set of sticks for the Wailers, he recalled they gelled quickly.

“We were having a great time and there was a smile on all of our faces,” Murphy said. “I thought I’d stick around and see where this takes us.”

Sea landed the role of bass player when the previous drummer was still with the group.

Sea is a self-taught bassist, guitarist and singer. He picked up the bass in the 80s and went on to play with a popular Stillwater band called Streetside.

“I had a friend of a friend who was the friend of the drummer,” Sea said. “They needed a bass player and I auditioned for the spot.”

Sea said there was a different chemistry about Taylor and the group.

“These guys have a different directive that snagged me,” Sea said. “Jimmy has a plan. Not many bands do.”

Though the Dirtbox Wailers plays a few cover tunes, much of their material is original and written by Taylor.

“He’ll play and we just jam along and figure out our parts until something fits,” Sea said, adding that they are a borderline jam band. “The thing that Jimmy does, is he will sing lead, then drop back to play lead guitar and neither one suffers. He’s got a talent.”

Matthews learned of an opening for a guitar player from a friend.

“I Facebooked Jimmy and began jamming with them,” Matthews said. “He called me a few weeks later and asked me to stick around.”

Matthews has played guitar for much of his life. He also sings backup vocals and writes music.

The Dirtbox Wailers has a unique musical style all its own and includes flavors of blues, folk and rock.

Taylor said he heard the term “Roots Rock” and feels like it pretty much describes what the quartet does on stage.

“We do a bunch of our own material,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s real professional about what they do. We’re not 20-somethings anymore and our egos aren’t involved.”

The group is currently wrapping up a demo CD at Brady Street Records in Tulsa.

“We hope to be finished by the end of the month,” Taylor said.

The CD will be available through their website,

The site also features videos of their performances as well as upcoming dates.