Bobby's One Hit Wonders, Volume 19: Trick Pony -"On A Night Like This"

In this exclusive article, Bobby Peacock takes a look at the lone Top 10 hit from the trio's brief four year career, a career which brought three album releases and a Gold record for their self-titled Trick Pony album. Read on here to learn about the hit, the band, and where they are now.

Keith Burns (guitar) and Ira Dean (bass) founded Trick Pony in 1996. Respectively, they were former backing musicians for Joe Diffie and Tanya Tucker. (And in an interesting case of continuity for this column, Burns co-wrote a song on Anita Cochran's debut album.) Wanting to form a band, they recruited California native Heidi Newfield, and eventually secured a deal with Warner Bros. 

"Pour Me" was in near-total contrast to the pop-leaning country music scene of the early 2000s. It was up-tempo; it was energetic; it even had an acoustic bass. If anything, they sounded like a more organic Highway 101. Like Carlson, Heidi Newfield posessed a slightly grained, passionate alto with just a hint of twang, with her bandmates providing tight, high-voiced harmonies and musicianship much like original Highway 101 members Jack Daniels, Curtis Stone, and "Cactus" Moser.

"On a Night Like This" became Trick Pony's lone Top 10 hit on the October 6 chart. By then, the band field was limited almost entirely to Lonestar, who was just starting to ramp up the glurge, and the Dixie Chicks, who had just called a mulligan with the too-complex-for-radio "Heartbreak Town." The odds were long for a new band, much less one fronted by a female. On the other hand, solofemales were numerous. There were not one, but two country-pop chanteuses out of the Paul Worley camp: Cyndi Thomson (who was #1 on October 6) and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Trisha Yearwood and Tammy Cochran were also riding high in the Top 20, and Jamie O'Neal was just wrapping up her second #1. Waiting outside the gates were Reba with the overwrought "I'm a Survivor" and Martina McBride with "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues." The latter strikes me as a radical departure; while most of the women at the time were dabbling in the dramatic like Martina herself often did, she chose this one time to let her hair down and have fun. And it worked. Likewise, "On a Night Like This" was a rare "fun" song, and likely a respite from the emotions running high at this point. 

One Artist of the Year award from the CMA's, and it was on to single number three: "Just What I Do," a Burns-Dean co-write that, unlike all the other singles, featured Burns on lead vocals. The song boasted quirky lyrics about how Jesse James robbed banks, Orville Wright built the airplane, and Picasso painted all because they "can't get no lovin'." Every bit as fun, witty, and effervescent as its predecessors, it peaked at a respectable enough #13 and netted a Grammy nomination. Cue the sophomore jinx with album number two, On a Mission. The title track, a thumping party anthem co-written by David Lee Murphy, fizzled out at #19. As for the slower, sultry "A Boy Like You," I have absolutely no clue why it bombed. Maybe Warner Bros. is to blame, as they seemed to be a near non-entity in 2002-2003, getting success only with Blake Shelton's "The Baby," while John Michael Montgomery and Faith Hill had both come to a screeching halt. (As an aside, this album also featured "Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart," which later scraped the bottom of the charts when Curb Records quintet Cowboy Crush covered it.) 

And speaking of Curb, that was Trick Pony's next stop. The wit was back in full force on "The Bride," about a recently divorced woman rejoicing that her man is now married to someone else. After it, a near-carbon copy of Bonnie Tyler's "It's a Heartache" got them just shy of Top 20, close enough for Curb to release their third disc, R.I.D.E. (short for "Rebellious Individuals Delivering Entertainment," certainly an apt description of this trio). However, not even the gaggle of guest vocals on "Ain't Wastin' Good Whiskey on You" (Tracy Byrd, Joe Diffie, Mel Tillis, Tanya Tucker, Darryl Worley) got it to Top 40. Furthering the comparisons to Highway 101, Heidi Newfield announced her departure in 2006. Meanwhile, Dean kept himself in the spotlight by penning Gary Allan's thundrous "A Feelin' Like That." Newfield made her first solo bow backing Cledus T. Judd on "Gitarzan" from his Ray Stevens tribute album. 

Meanwhile, the two remaining members of Trick Pony recruited Aubrey Collins — whose only claim to fame was that she was eliminated from ABC's The One: Making a Music Star, which set the record for the lowest audience for a major-network TV debut and lasted only four episodes. Perhaps her origin was an omen, as she lasted only five months (May to October 2007) in her new role before Trick Pony split. Heidi stayed with Curb to cut her debut album What Am I Waiting For, whose overproduced but otherwise superb "Johnny & June" made it to #11 in 2008. Burns paired up with former DreamWorks Nashville artist Michelle Poe to form the similarly kinetic Burns & Poe, while Dean penned Montgomery Gentry's 2009 single "One in Every Crowd" and was briefly signed to Average Joes Entertainment. Newfield is supposed to have a second album out, but in true Curb fashion, said album has produced only one single that went nowhere.

Trick Pony strikes me as an act that was just "out there" enough that, even though the musical tides changed repeatedly during their career, they never really seemed to completely fit in. When they tried the up-tempos, they got mixed results in the chart department; when they mixed it up, like on "A Boy Like You," it blew up in their faces. Just the fact that they had any hits at all is surprising to me, but I'm glad they did.