After 30-some years in the music business, Benny “Burle” Galloway knows the right and wrong way to do things.
The one-time Durango local has kicked around the Colorado jam-grass scene for years, dating back to his time in the Boulder-based Wingnutz, to writing and recording with jam-grass favorites Yonder Mountain String Band, hanging with one-time local bluegrass band Broke Mountain and leading local roots-grass outfit Wayword Sons.
A dude with a load of irons in the fire, Galloway has spent the last few years bouncing around doing what he does best, which is a solid mix of art and blue-collar work. He’s a classic jack-of-all-trades, who will come to your house to write a few songs over coffee in the morning; fix your plumbing problems after lunch; smoke a pork-shoulder through the afternoon; cook everybody dinner; and then lead a front-porch pick into the wee hours. He continues to work with former local musicians who now play in The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass and Leftover Salmon among others, musicians he refers to as “gunslingers.” He will spend the fall in Durango hanging with family, fishing and playing music. But at the top of his to-do list is the Denver-based Rong Reckerds.
Galloway is a man who’s watched the comings and goings of the nationwide music scene and the at-times unfair treatment of musicians. Working with business and music partners Danny Freeman and Andrew Lundsford, the purpose of Rong Reckerds is to not only be a record label, but a place that connects musicians with other like-minded musicians for songwriting and band-building – a business that not only pushes out product, but spurs creativity. It’s all done with a punch-the-clock, blue-collar approach where you suit up and produce music.
“We put up a forum to where musicians can come to us, you can play with us and we can help with your product,” Galloway said. “We’re going to record, song by song.”
If you’re a Colorado or national festival bluegrass player, you’ve likely rubbed shoulders with Galloway, as he can rattle off numerous people and bands he’s played alongside, cut a record or tracked a song with, or simply lent an ear to. This is potentially their space.
“We’ve created a position for these great artists I’ve bumped into over the years and hung with over the years, and we’ve given them a forum to take their great product,” he said. “‘I really like that song; can I sing on that?’ You don’t go in with the band anymore, you can build the band as you create the song; that’s the idea with Rong Reckerds, you have an idea and you build that up.”
More than a record label, Galloway, Freeman and Lundsford have created a brain trust, think tank, advice group and clubhouse for musicians and their music.
“We’re all artists,” Galloway said. “And we want other artists to come in and be artists with us; there’s no executives in Rong Reckerds, zero execs.”
As the music business continues to change, many artists in the roots-music world are realizing what the punk and indie artists put together years ago – that suits and corporate labels do nothing but hurt the art with bad decisions. This is music first, business later, a place that will be a springboard for up-and-comers to get their music career moving in the right direction, guided by the right people.
“We’re not looking at spreadsheets, unless it’s notes and lyrics. We’re not looking at what the accounting office said. What we’re looking at is the music and what we’re going to do with it, and let the ears decide, not the suits,” Galloway said. “It’s artist to artist. But we do have an office, and we will have people that will help us with the business part of things so everybody gets their accounts covered and gets their royalties. But it’s song first, money later.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.