The Derailers are an American country music band based in Austin, Texas. They were founded by Portland, Oregon natives Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt in 1994.
The Derailers' first LP, Live Tracks, was issued in 1995. It was the first release of the Austin-based independent label Freedom Records. Shortly after the release, The Derailers became one of the most talked about acts at Austin's 1995 South by Southwest music festival, and the record became profitable within two months. This occurred at a time when "Americana" radio stations were starting to multiply and various forms of non-mainstream country music were coming together under such rubrics as Americana and alternative-country. The Derailers became a major part of that movement, representing the "traditional honky-tonk" end of the subgenre.
With its fan base growing, the band signed with the more established Austin independent label Watermelon Records for their second release, Jackpot (1996), and then moved to Sire Records for their third release, Reverb Deluxe (1997). Aggressive touring across the U.S. and airplay on Americana radio stations grew a steadily increasing fan base and The Derailers came to be seen as an act poised for breakout success in mainstream country, and were even hailed as "the future of country music" in the Austin press. They signed with Curb Records for their first major-label release, Full Western Dress, in 1999, which would reach No. 69 on the Billboard Country chart. A single from this album, "The Right Place", appeared on the Billboard single charts at No. 71 and the video became one of the 50 most requested of the year 2000 on Country Music Television.
Seeking greater mainstream success, The Derailers switched to Sony's Lucky Dog Records for their next release, Here Come the Derailers, and were paired with Nashville A-list producer Kyle Lehning. This album had the unfortunate release date of September 11, 2001, and was largely overlooked by mainstream radio stations that began emphasizing patriotic songs. A profile of the band on National Public Radio's Morning Edition in 2002 did help push the album just into the top 50 on the Billboard country charts. The follow-up release for Lucky Dog, Genuine (2003), did slightly better, cresting at No. 44. But soon after that, founding member and primary vocalist Tony Villanueva announced he was leaving the band to spend more time with his family and become a church pastor.
Since Villanueva's departure, The Derailers have shuffled their lineup, with Brian Hofeldt taking on the role of primary front man. With these changes they have moved back to the independent world, releasing two albums on the Palo Duro label, Soldiers of Love (2007) and Under the Influence of Buck (2007), a tribute album to one of their heroes, Buck Owens. While their new music is being once again embraced by Americana stations, it appears that The Derailers may have passed their high water mark in terms of success in the mainstream of country music.
Buck Owens and the Buckaroos has been one of the primary influences on the Derailers' music from the beginning. Owens himself performed with the band on one track of Full Western Dress, "Play Me the Waltz of the Angels", and also selected the band to play at his 70th birthday party in 1999.
In addition to Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, The Derailers' music also reflects influences from 1960s pop-rock acts such as The Beatles, Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys. On their 2007 CD, Under The Influence Of Buck, they dedicated the CD to Buck Owens and Buckaroo front men Don Rich and Doyle Holly.