In the late 1990s, five musicians from Texas who called themselves Sons of the Desert were seemingly living the country music dream. They were signed to a major record label in Nashville, had released their debut album, and were primed for a long career. But then, after the band released their third album, Sons of the Desert broke up, effectively ending their career as a band. So, what exactly led up to the termination of the group?
To determine that, one must look back at the band's origin. Sons of the Desert began as a bluegrass group formed by students from McClennon Community College in Waco, TX. Eventually, the group morphed into the band fans still remember today, consisting of brothers Drew and Tim Womack, Scott Saunders, Doug Virden, and Brian Westrum. They signed with Epic Records Nashville (under Sony Music Entertainment) in 1997, and their debut album, Whatever Comes First, was released that same year. The future looked bright for the group, as the album's title track and their debut single went on to become a Top 10 hit on radio. They followed their debut with "Hands of Fate" and "Leaving October," which both landed in the high 30s. But when it came time to ready their sophomore, eponymous album, the band ran into a detour.
Dispute Over a Song
Sons of the Desert's second album was set to include "Goodbye Earl," which the Chicks made famous with the release of their Fly album and the subsequent release of the song as a single. However, Sons of the Desert originally discovered the Dennis Linde-penned tune and began playing it live after the release of their debut album. When the Chicks released the song on Monument Records, which is also a Sony imprint, they entered into a dispute with the label over the song, and their relationship with Epic/Sony soon ended. This led to their sophomore album never being released. The album was also set to feature their version of "Bless The Broken Road," which was later recorded by Rascal Flatts.
After parting ways with Epic, the band made a return in 2000 with Change, a new album released on their new label, MCA Records. However, the new record deal brought change to the group, as the Womack brothers and Virden were made the focus of the group and Saunders and Westrum simply performed with the band. The Change album produced three singles, the last of which, "What I Did Right," landed at No. 22 on the charts. The group also saw success by appearing as featured vocalists on Lee Ann Womack's 2001 hit, "I Hope You Dance." After 2001, however, Virden left the group, the band left MCA Records and they effectively broke up.
Where are the members now?
After the Sons of the Desert parted ways, lead singer Drew Womack went on to pursue a solo career, releasing a self-titled album in 2004 that included contributions from his former band members. He later released Leftovers and Sunshine to Rain in 2012 and Here's Some Stuff I Wrote in 2017. In March 2021, Womack succeeded Richie McDonald as the new lead singer of Lonestar. Tim Womack has assisted on his brother's projects as well as written songs and worked as an audio engineer for various artists. Scott Saunders has worked as a session player on multiple projects, Doug Virden's last recorded credit is from Drew Womack's 2004 album, and drummer Brian Westrum does not have any other recorded credits.
The Sons of the Desert band was named after a 1933 feature film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Laurel & Hardy were a Classical Hollywood slapstick comedy team that was active from 1927 to 1955. In the film, Sons of the Desert is a fraternal organization of which Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy are members. The film follows Stan and Ollie as they try to convince their wives, Betty and Lottie, to let them attend the organization's convention in Chicago. They eventually trick their wives, telling them they took a cruise to Honolulu instead. When the ship going to Hawaii wrecks, their plan is foiled as their wives worry for their safety. Their wives eventually see their husbands on a newsreel about the convention and their lie is completely revealed.
The film also featured Charley Chase, Mae Busch, Dorothy Christy, and Marvin Hatley. It was directed by William A. Seiter and produced by Hal Roach. The film was released in the United Kingdom under the name Fraternally Yours. The Sons of the Desert is also the name of the comedy team's appreciation society, which was founded in New York City in 1965 by John McCabe, Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, Chuck McCann, and John Municino.