Mandy Meyer, Kiya Heartwood, Kopana Terry, Jon Durno
Mandy Meyer, Kiya Heartwood, Kopana Terry, Jon Durno

 

I was in this little band called Stealin Horses. There’s a lot of misinformation about the band, particularly where dates are concerned. The Cliff Notes version of the truth:

In 1985 I hooked up with a group called Radio Cafe (Kiya Heartwood, Sam Gillespie, Thom Thompson). They’d been playing around Lexington for nearly two years by then. Within months of my addition we changed the name to Stealin Horses, made a 10 song tape in Nashville, and then both guys bailed (sigh). Connections made during those Nashville sessions, however, lead to a production deal, followed by a major label deal.

When Thom and Sam split, “the band” became just Kiya and me. For the next five years we carried on with a rotation of players like Gregg Fulkerson (Blue Tears, Attraction 65 – R.I.P. 2009), Jon Durno (Roman Holliday, Samantha Fox), Tony Nagy (Mark Selby, Terry Clark), and Brian Bonhomme (Roman Holliday). It wasn’t until Mesas and Mandolins (1991) that there were other members who shared equally in our spoils and tragedies.

 

self titled, Stealin Horses
Stealin Horses, Arista 1988 (cover by Arthur Tress)

 

Our self-titled album was released on Arista Records in 1988. We toured the U.S. and Canada with The Smithereens, Level 42, Wang Chung, and a slew of others, appearing on MTV, Farm Aid IV, and every beer dive in between. In truth, we recorded the record twice, first in Nashville and again in LA. Only the LA sessions were released. The album sold a respectable 100,000 units, but it didn’t begin to recoup what was spent. Arista dropped us the week before Christmas. They said we had no Top 40 potential.

 

 

Rotten as that was, we were one of the lucky bands. Many on Arista’s roster never made it out of development, much less have a charting product and tour support. How well we sold, and are still remembered today, is testament that bad business can’t kill good music.

 

Stealin Horses, 1992 (photo by Guy Mendes)
Stealin Horses, 1991 (photo by Guy Mendes)

 

Dusting ourselves off, we signed with indie label Waldoxy Records (Malaco) and eventually left Nashville for Tahlequah, Oklahoma. After more touring and more drama, we regrouped for the last time with Okie native Steve Kirkpatrick, and Kentuckians Kevin Clark, and Tim Gilliam. We produced one record, Mesas and Mandolines, but the strain of constant touring, no money, bad food, shady business deals, inner-group squabbling (bands are just dysfunctional families of our choosing), and general unhappiness finally drove us apart, with me out the door first. That was August 1992. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Stealin Horses, Mesas and Mandolins, Waldoxy 1991 (cover by Sam McKinney)
Stealin Horses, Mesas and Mandolins, Waldoxy 1991 (cover by Sam McKinney)

21 Responses

  1. Patrick Holleran

    I stumbled on this Web site while listening to some old Stealin’ Horses songs and perusing information about the band. I think that music stands up really, really well after more than 20 years.

  2. Larry Roy

    I have one of those 100,000 albums that I bought new in 1987 and I love the entire album!!! I don’t know what boob said that Stealin’ Horses didn’t have Top 40 potential, but he’s probably sweeping floors somewhere today. “Turnaround”, “Walk Away”, and “Tangled” could have been huge with just a little support from the record label!! I can’t imagine all the great music that i’ll never hear because some bonehead doesn’t know a good song when he hears it! Thank you, Kopana for the aural delights on this album… IT’S AWESOME!

    • Kopana

      Thank YOU Larry for your kindness and support. In the end, boobs never win 😉 And stay tuned, you just never know what might happen. You can’t keep a good horse down.

  3. Keith

    It’s a real shame the poor quality of music on the radio these days as a misperception of the music talent in the world today. It seams that nothing stays in it’s own genre and talentless musicians are given their success by certain influential people through name recognition. I just happened to be in a store many years ago around 1991 when I heard Mesas and Mandolins playing as demo music in the stereo department. I ejected the CD to find out who it was. A person from the store (I took to be the one the CD belonged to) came over and gave me a dirty look as he put the CD back in…I think he thought I was “stealin” his horses. Anyway, I scoured the earth and bought my own copy and was not disappointed. It just goes to show, there’s a lot of great talent out there…just most of the time it is a fortuitous discovery. Still hoping you horse bandits would make a comeback!

  4. Dave

    I came across their music by way of 100.3 FM here in Los Angeles in the late 80s. They were the only alternative radio station here in LA with any clout that was playing good music that was not getting a lot of airplay. I loved the single TURNAROUND, and went right out and bought a CD from Stealin Horses. I remember hearing an interview with some of the band members at the time, they said the name referred to a Native American ritual by where some of the young tribe members had to either steal of go out and get a wild horse as a rite of passage, something like that. . Still have it the CD. timeless great music, still enjoy listening to it today. Great stuff.

  5. Matt Rose

    Wow. Just saw ‘Stealin Horses’ band last night for the first time on Rogers State University (Oklahoma) program called Oklahoma Swingin Country. I didn’t see the whole program so trying to see if I can get a copy on DVD or find a link for it somewhere. Loved the music. You have a new fan.

  6. Joe in Az

    OMG! Just discovered this band when someone mentioned Pralltown Cafe. How did I come of age in Lexington and not know of this band? Moving away in 1986 didn’t help any. Oh well, my loss. Bit better late than never.

  7. John Kelly

    I was one of the 100k that bought that album and still love it today. Any chance that “nashville recording” of the album is floating around? I would love to listen to it?

  8. H Eri c Bagley

    Ko you left out the name of that quirky interem guitarist in between Kelly and Kevin as some have described as…That virtuoso guy… He was really cute back then when he had been alot of hair before the creeping scourge of male pattern baldness took its toll .Hell I’m still pretty cute for an aging balding psychedellicaly leaning hippie guitarist.I treasure my time playing with you I gained alot of self knowledge from that experience and became truly competent and not so erratic almost like selling your soul to the devil but without the success clouse.. fucking lawyers.. actually I did get so fixated I’m probably chaneling Garcia when I pick up a guitar hours vanish it still fascinates me to play on that level ..anyway you are still dear to my heart being young in that era was such a blast

  9. Don Lindquist

    Well, finally hooked up the cassette player that’s been sitting in the garage for 25 years. And first cassette played? You guessed it, Turnaround and all of the other great tunes on that album. First thing I thought of was how you guys would be huge in today’s country music “ scene“. Just throw in a steel guitar. Who knows? Maybe Nashville is ready for you guys now? Timing is everything.

  10. KENNITH L DOWDLE

    Hi guys. This is Ken Dowdle. I met you guys in a little bar in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Good times.
    But that was just the end of the story…. I drive from SLC Utah to New York City back in the 80s and met up with a man, you might wanna forget… He said he was your promoter and he gave me your cassette. I thought nothing of it at the time, but then when I got home and listened to I fucking loved it. Every song on that tape was out standing.
    Many years passed and my friend and I went to Jackson Hole for a food drunk and guess who was introduced at the Mangy Moose…. It was you guys… Thank you so much for the good music, good memories and good times. There’s gonna be some rockin… Love and admiration for you all.

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