Who Are These Guys?
If you're wondering if this is the same Warbabies that took Baton Rouge, the state of Louisiana, and eventually much of Texas, Oklahoma, and the entire southeast by storm in the late 1960's and early 1970's, well, it sort of is. The Warbabies of that era was composed of several distinct line-ups. The line-up of Courtney Westbrook on guitar and vocals, Randy Laray on guitar, Skippy Varnado on keyboard and vocals, Tim Rockett on bass and backing vocals, and Terry Burhans on drums was an early and well-remembered version of the band. A later version, with Terry Blackwell replacing Burhans on drums and Jeff Pollard replacing Laray on guitar and vocals, is also fondly remembered by fans. Only Westbrook, Varnado, and Rockett were in every version of the band. The Warbabies partied hard, performed harder, and traveled nearly constantly for a decade. They left a legacy of packed houses, great performances, and rabid fans in their wake.
Westbrook, Varnado, and Rockett continued their musical careers after the demise of The Warbabies in the mid-1970's. The trio worked together for a time touring with Casey Kelly, then became part of another popular Baton Rouge-based band, Potliquor. The trio parted ways in the late '70's. Tim Rockett joined Baton Rouge legend Duke Bardwell in the group Tomcat. Skip Varnado left for Florida, where he played in a country band. After the demise of Tomcat, Rockett and Varnado were reunited in another popular and long-lived Baton Rouge band, Li'l Hub and The Wheels.
Courtney Westbrook began a new band, Kicks, in 1979. Like The Warbabies, Kicks evolved through a number of line-ups and became a dominant force in Baton Rouge music that played throughout the country and abroad for more than two decades. And, similar again to The Warbabies, only three people were members of every version of Kicks--Westbrook on guitar and vocals, Clay Coleman on guitar and vocals, and Bob Coleman on bass.
The tragic and untimely death of Tim Rockett in late 1999 shook the entire Baton Rouge music community, and none more so than Tim's former bandmate, Courtney Westbrook, and Tim's contemporary bandmate, Skip Varnado. The event brought Westbrook and Varnado back together, and Westbrook asked Varnado to join him, Clay Coleman, Bob Coleman, and drummer Joey Breland in Kicks.
The popularity of Kicks had pretty much finally run its course by early 2003, and the band began to work on new material. The old chemistry of Westbrook and Varnado naturally steered the group, and before long they were pounding out a mix of classic and eclectic Southern blues/rock tinged with the best from the golden age of British rock--the formula that had originally launched The Warbabies so many years before. After somber consideration and with great respect for their fallen comrade, the guys decided to acknowledge the obvious--that the new band of Courtney Westbrook, Skip Varnado, Clay Coleman, Bob Coleman, and Joe Breland had become, in sound, spirit, soul, and with as many original members as possible, The Warbabies. The band performed under that name for the first time at Big Daddy's, a tiny club on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge, in early 2004. The popularity of the group soared, and the band played steadily from 2004-2008.
After a hiatus from 2008-2010, The Warbabies were asked to reunite once again by a Baton Rouge promoter. Drummer Joe Breland, who had moved to Nashville in the interim, was replaced by Keith Simoneaux. All things must come to an end, but The Warbabies aren't done yet.
But if you remember the older versions of the band, and if you find yourself at a Warbabies show, and if you approach one of the guys and start reminiscing, "Hey, man, remember that time when we were (insert immoral/illegal activity of your choice here) at (insert the name of a roadhouse bar that closed its doors 15 years ago here)...", remember that the person to whom you're talking might not have actually been there. On the other hand, he might have been. In any event, he'll be happy to talk to you about it.