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Published: 1/28/2011

Bandera: 20 years, still strong

It's hard for Doyle Stubleski to believe, but Bandera has been in business for more than 20 years.

In 1990 when Kelly Stubleski, Doyle's brother, and Mark Morgan started the country band, Doyle was just a kid who would help with the lights sometimes or tag along when the guys belted out a tune in the garage. But he's now been singing with them since 2001.

"It's crazy. Some people I knew back in the early 1990s, now they're grandparents and their kids are coming to our shows," Stubleski said. "We see some of the familiar faces, they're just a little older."

Things have changed in many ways for Bandera. Doyle is now 32, married, and a father of two. Kelly had to give up the drums when he started driving a truck for a living. The group has gone through several guitar players, but Jonah Clayton, Doyle's best friend, has been playing for the last six years.

Many things are the same. Morgan is there, strumming the guitar and occasionally providing lead vocals. Doyle has had to pick up the drums in Kelly's absence, but he's as high energy as always. Most importantly, Bandera has never changed its formula for success.

"People are going to get what they've always gotten -- solid musicians having fun," Stubleski said. It's a formula that works. The band has not had a weekend off since March, 2002, and earlier this month, it started a new chapter when it became the house band for the newly opened Wild Hog Saloon at 1260 W. Alexis Rd.

The bar has some of the same feel as the former Bootleggers. There's Bandera, of course, playing a little rock and roll and a whole lot of country to a packed dance floor on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights until 2 a.m. There are drink specials on Thursday night and line-dance classes from 7:30 to 9:30 on the same night. John Kwiatkowski, who managed Bootleggers, is calling the shots at Wild Hog. Bootleggers put on a couple of successful concerts, and Kwiatkowski is hoping he can book some well-known country acts in the late spring, early summer.

He says he's "trying to put the country back in Toledo," and it seems to be working because the club has been drawing about 300 people on the weekends during its first month.

That success starts with Bandera. The group is constantly learning the newest songs on radio, and Clayton has even written an original song that the band is going to work into its set with the aim of getting it on local radio.

It's never easy to keep a group together for more than two decades, but Bandera seems to have it figured out.

"For us, it's always been a job but not really a job," Stubleski said. "We say, 'Don't be late, or there will have to be consequences,' like a real job. But once we're on stage, we're just out there having fun. We love playing."

Brian Dugger's column on country music appears in The Blade the final Saturday of each month.

Contact him at: bdugger@theblade.com. Follow him on: Twitter @DuggerCountry.



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