Although they became one of the most enduring bands in the alternative country-rock catalog, Old 97’s drew inspiration from a broad range of genres, including the twangy stomp of cowpunk and the melodies of power pop. Formed in 1993 by frontman Rhett Miller and bassist Murry Hammond, the group spent the bulk of the decade posed on the brink of mainstream success, issuing albums that often drew warm reviews but never yielded a substantial hit. Old 97’s tightened their sound as the decade drew to a close, retaining their bar-band vigor while introducing a stronger pop/rock sound on albums like Too Far to Care and Satellite Rides. Miller also mounted a solo career in the early 2000s, but the band remained together nonetheless, continuing to release material with their original lineup intact into the following decade.
Miller and Hammond linked up with lead guitarist Ken Bethea and recorded a demo tape at the Cedar Creek studio in Austin. Drummer Philip Peeples climbed on board shortly thereafter, and Hammond’s childhood obsession with trains inspired the band’s name, which paid homage to the country ballad “Wreck of the Old 97.”
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