Bob and Rick Stinson, a.k.a. the Stinson Brothers, are seasoned road warriors traveling the country performing music just about anywhere they find an audience. These guys prefer life on the road, experiencing the edgier bumps along the way and hanging out in bars that could very well come with a warning label. But that's not to say they don't enjoy playing in the best of venues, too, because this duo can fit in anywhere and can have fun no matter where they land.
Not too long ago the brothers were part of the "Simply Reba" show at the Riverside Resort in Don's Celebrity Theatre, as Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. The pair added a nice dimension to the show by cranking up the volume on energy and spot-on vocals as Brooks & Dunn. One of the show highlights was the segment where they teamed up with "Reba," (Wendy T), and did justice to powerful hit ballads "Cowgirls Don't Cry," and "If You See Him (Her)." The brothers are considered one of the best tributes to the dynamic duo out there.
A career highlight for the brothers includes performing as "Ricky Bobby," then being signed by Capitol Records Hollywood and A&M records Nashville, singing and recording with everyone from George Michael to Dan Seals.
The boys have had their own TV show and radio show on Warner Bros. and performed on cruise ships, countless clubs, amphitheaters, and showroom production shows. This time the brothers Stinson return to Laughlin in a new show for Don's Celebrity Theatre, "Buffettville — Adventures in Paradise," from Radical Productions in Las Vegas. The musical and comedy show "with a tropical twist" has Rick portraying Jimmy Buffett and Bob portraying Alan Jackson.
We talked with the Stinsons about their career, their lifestyle and the show they bring to town. Here's their take…
Talk a little bit about your background and how the "Buffettville" show came to be.
Bob: Me and Rick — we grew up all over because our dad and our uncles were the original Stinson Brothers. They had a bunch of hit records, and they were on the road constantly, and we just kind of bounced around on the road with him. Our mom did everything she could to keep us out of the business, but obviously that didn't work.
Our whole life was also about hockey. We grew up playing hockey, up until our early 20s, and music, obviously was a big part of our lives. When we were little kids we used to get up on stage with our dad, wherever they were playing. We were always on the road. With hockey, we had some injuries and we were starting to get a little burned out there. Then music in our late teens just took off and we knew we needed to be in L.A. or New York — we ended up going to L.A. and got our first record deal with Capitol Hollywood.
We were more of a pop act then, similar to Duran Duran or Wham! We had a chance to work with Rick Springfield, and his guitar player Jeff Silverman produced our first album, which was cool for us. One thing lead to another, the grunge scene came around and we ended up going to Nashville and signing with A&M Records in Nashville, as a duo. Then we ended up in Vegas, that's how the whole impersonating thing came about. We always used to joke about singing and acting like Elvis, or this artist and it turns out Rick has got the vocals down with the Ronnie Dunn. Our dad asked if we had ever thought about doing the tribute stuff — it's very popular here in Vegas, so that's how that whole thing started.
Sounds like your dad instilled that love of the road, and life as traveling minstrels?
Bob: It's like a lot of our friends here had never left the general area and we're just a total different mindset. We like to go party and go to border towns in Mexico and just go to all the dangerous places. It's fun and adventurous. If something happens to you, I guess that it was meant to be. We don't quite look at it the same way they do.
Talk about your direct connection to Jimmy Buffett.
Rick: We actually had the chance to play with Jimmy and the Coral Reefers seven or eight times, and that was always fun. I remember about half of them because those guys like to drink, as you probably know. Michael Utley is a friend of ours. He's Jimmy's keyboard player and musical director, he lives in Venice, California, and that's where we live, out in L.A., there in Redondo Beach.
What are your similarities to his beach bum lifestyle?
Rick: The Jimmy Buffett lifestyle has been a big part of our lives. I'm actually a 100-ton boat captain. I took it a little too literally. It's just a natural fit. I took it to heart, it doesn't happen overnight. When I became a boat captain, it's a lifestyle choice that's been a big part of our lives. And then Bob, he writes for Wild West and True West magazines. He's a historian. When Jimmy Buffett was in college he was a history major, so there are a lot of tie-ins. With this show, we don't just sing it, we live it. Jimmy's also a great writer. The guy is a freakin' genius, if you ask me.
Was any part of putting the show together challenging?
Bob: For us to do Jimmy Buffett and the tropical stuff, that's very simple for us. Alan Jackson is a little bit of a stretch. I think he's originally from Georgia, so to do that was a little bit of a challenge, but, obviously, I like that. You've gotta stretch yourself and you've gotta be an actor when you're out there doing these tributes. But compared to the Brooks & Dunn, this is very fun and very easy for us. And like Rick said, we want the people to come in for an hour and a half, forget about their problems. We want it to not only sound great but visually we want it to look great. If they drink, that's awesome. They can come in and have some cocktails, and we'll drink right along with them and go into the crowd and hand out some leis. If they want to dance and sing, go for it, or if they just want to sit there and not do anything, that's fine too. We just want to give people something where they can forget about life's problems for a little while.
Will there be a band?
Rick: There will be a full band — we're gonna have a steel drum player added to the band for this, so it should be a nice show. We talk about it all the time, we try and give people an experience when they come to our shows. We try to take them away from their lives and the chaos and tribulations they have going on. We want them to be blown away rather than just mildly amused.
How do you go about picking songs?
Rick: The producer looks at Jimmy Buffett's setlists over the last couple of years and then he puts in the songs he thinks are necessary and Jimmy Buffett certainly has those 10 or 12 songs that when people go see him in concert, they expect to hear those songs. We round it out with songs we like, and songs we know come across well in a concert setting. Then the Alan Jackson stuff — we've kind of chosen songs there that are all centered around tropical things. We'll probably throw in some "Summertime Blues," but there will be "Pop A Top," and "A Bug in My Margarita," so they're songs centered around that whole lifestyle and philosophy.
What do you think it is that sets this show apart from other Buffett tributes?
Bob: We like it to be more like a theatrical production, we don't want it just to be some dudes up on stage singing another artist's songs. We want to have the crowd interaction. We do a segment where we break it down, we have the band sit down on some bar stools, have some cocktails and do an acoustic segment for three or four songs. That's the way we like to do it.
I think another difference is we do our best to look and sound like these artists. I've noticed a lot of tribute artists who throw on a purple outfit and say, "Hey, I'm Prince," or they're in a jumpsuit, a wig and some glasses, and say, "Hey, I'm Elvis." We don't want to do it that way. When people come into the show, we want them to say, "Hey, we're seeing Jimmy Buffett, and we're seeing Alan Jackson here." For us it's about the look, the sound, the likeness. I don't think we'd even do a tribute act if we didn't think it was very, very similar.
Talk about the show in Laughlin.
Rick: We really enjoy Laughlin, the Riverside and Don Laughlin, who's a friend and a cool dude. We're looking forward to coming down there and I hope people get tickets to come see the show because they're gonna have a good time. They can have some drinks, just get away from the B.S. of life and have some fun with us.