NORMAN — The official motto of Vernon, Texas, populatoin 12,000, is “Steer our way!” Centered in the Lone Star state’s north central Wilbarger County, it is cattle country with wide-open spaces and bright starry nights.
Vernon is home to other kinds of stars, having given the world vocalist Roy Orbison and jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden. It’s also the place Oklahoma City musician Joel Wilson, vocalist and rhythm guitar for Joel Wilson and the Revival’s, said he’s from when asked where he grew up.
You can hear the breezy rustle of bluebonnets in the young man’s decidedly Texas twang. Wilson came here after winning a track and field scholarship to Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond. He stayed on in the Sooner State to work in the oil service industry and start country-rock band Joel Wilson and the Revival.
“I’ve been playing for six years and came together with my drummer Mike Tapscott last April,” Wilson said. “Next we got together Joe Ellington (bass) and Eric Williams (lead guitar).”
They practiced together and started lining up gigs. The band’s music has a sound that straddles Americana, red dirt and country-rock. Their shows have been at roadhouses and honky-tonks in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Playlists include both original music and covers of familiar songs.
One of Wilson’s strongest original compositions is titled “American Ground.” It was inspired by his brother, James Wilson, who pulled two tours in the war that just ended. It’s about a soldier who longs for home.
“James is in the Army National Guard and he called me the night he found out he was going back to Iraq the second time,” Wilson said. “I was right in the moment when I sat down to write the song. It turned out to be one that everyone loves to hear.”