Perhaps you’ve caught wind of it, or perhaps you haven’t. But there is a strange project that is preparing to be released on September 7th by a pair of country music performers called The Stryker Brothers that has folks trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and who the hell is behind it all. The record is called Burn Band, and the back story claims that two brothers named Coal and Flynt were early legends in the Texas music scene, and contemporaries of people like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard before they perished in a prison fire on September 7th, 1974.
Prefaced by videos from Bruce Robison, Lloyd Maines, Shooter Jennings, and of all people, former astronaut Charlie Duke (see below), the story goes that reel to reel tapes of The Stryker Brothers’ music were recently found in the basement of the burned-out wreckage of the prison where they died. The tapes were in a trunk that also contained photos of The Highwaymen, a letter to astronaut Charlie Duke, and prison intake forms for Coal and Flynt. Handlers of The Stryker Brothers material have even gone as far as to supply photos of said trunk and it’s contents, which have been posted through the band’s social media feeds.
A quote attributed to rancher Mary Lambau in the press release accompanying the Stryker Brothers project states, “I couldn’t believe what we’d found. And all these years, it’d been sitting there on right under my nose. Sure … we’d all heard the mythology about how Coal and Flynt Stryker died in that prison fire, but could that have been true? Could these tapes really be all that remained of the two?”
If you believe yourself to be a well-versed Texas music fan and are wondering if the back story is less truth and more an elaborate piece of performance art, you’re probably right. The image above the band’s social media accounts says,
The Stryker Brothers are an enigma…
their history is nebulous yet their
contribution to the musical tapestry of
a generation is undeniable.
Where did they come from?
Where did they go?
Any why isn’t their music out there?
Clearly someone is screwing with all of us, and wanting us to ask the question, “Who are The Stryker Brothers?” We know it’s somebody who can wrangle Bruce Robison, Shooter Jennings, and astronaut Charlie Duke to vouch for them, so it’s probably not some fresh-faced up-and-comer just trying to draw attention to themselves.
You also might be asking what 82-year-old astronaut Charlie Duke has to do with any of this. For those not boned up on their space history, Charles Duke Jr. was an Air Force Brigadier General who piloted the Apollo 16 space mission to The Moon in 1972. Duke was the 10th human to ever walk on The Moon, the youngest human to ever do so, and one of the last to visit the lunar surface since Apollo 16 was the next-to-last mission of the Apollo program.
Charlie Duke also happens to have his own place in country music history as the astronaut who brought country music to The Moon. You can hear all about it in the first song from The Stryker Brothers appropriately called “Charlie Duke Took Country Music to the Moon,” complete with the original Merle Haggard introduction to the country music recordings brought to the moon by the Apollo 16 mission.
But again, the question that remains is, “Who are the Stryker Brothers?” Saving Country Music has reached out to the various entities involved in the project, but they’ve all been sworn to secrecy, probably because they really don’t want us to know. But listening to the lead single, one of the brothers sure does sound like Robert Earl Keen. But perhaps it’s just someone who sounds like Robert Earl Keen. And even if it is REK, this doesn’t answer the question of who the other Stryker brother is, and if it’s someone else famous in Texas or country music. And of course, even if you can fill in both names, it really doesn’t fill you in on what the hell is going on.
Perhaps when Burn Band is released officially on September 7th and we get a full snoot of the 13 tracks, we’ll get a better handle on all of this. But until then, it’s definitely an interesting riddle to try and solve, and if nothing else, The Stryker Brothers have contributed a fun piece of country music history about Charlie Duke and his lunar contribution to country music.