The Kansas City, Mo.-based band has released "Better Than This," a CD that was co-produced by ex-Skeleton Lou Whitney.
In most families, brothers play basketball together or battle it out over a video game. In the Wickham family, brothers Fred and Greg -- the founders of Kansas City's alt-country band Hadacol -- noodled around on a guitar and a piano.
"We've been doing it together for so long," Fred Wickham said during a recent phone call. "I'd play guitar, my brother played piano, and we just sat around and played."
The brothers grew up in Warrensburg, Mo., a farming and college town about 60 miles east of Kansas City, and the first band they tried to form was a fiasco. Wickham admits he wasn't ready for the responsibility and the band eventually booted him out for another guitar player.
Then about 10 years ago the brothers decided to get serious about their music. They started writing songs as well as developing their roots-rock playing style.
"We had access to a small (8-track) recording studio (in Warrensburg, Mo.)," Wickham said. "We wrote the songs together and played all the instruments."
In the early 1990s, the Wickhams hooked up with Richard Burgress, a bass player known for his rockabilly groove. The group went through a few drummers before Scottie McCuiston came aboard in 1996.
The band, known then as Big Iron, became a staple at The Hurricane in Kansas City, Mo., and began recording its first CD.
"We had the record done and hadn't shopped it around. We thought we had something good and we thought we needed to send it out. We didn't know what to expect," he said.
"We did some research for an independent label and narrowed it down to 15 to 20. There was lots more interest than we thought there would be."
The band eventually signed with the Chicago-based Checkered Past Records label, whose executives hired bassist Lou Whitney, of Morells and Skeletons fame, to co-produce the CD. The disc was recorded and mixed at a Springfield, Mo., studio.
"We recorded most of it as Big Iron, and then we learned there was a band in Texas with the same name," he said.
So the group renamed itself Hadacol, after the part-alcohol, part-laxative elixir that sponsored country singer Hank Williams' radio show in the late 1940s.
In a roundabout way, the name change was a good move for the roots rock-country foursome.
"We had taken Big Iron from a Marty Robbins song, but people assumed we were a heavy metal band," Wickham said.
The name of the CD was also changed before it was released in mid-January as "Better Than This." The original name, "Pets and Fryers," came from a sign the band had seen along a highway that read "Live Bunnies for Sale -- Pets or Fryers."
"The record label didn't think it was clever," he said.
Wickham said the band's style of music has evolved over the past decade.
"We've always been roots-oriented so it's not a drastic change," he said. "We're more concentrated on our own songs now. Some of the bluesy, R&B elements have become less (prevalent). We're a little more twangy now."
Hadacol will be taking off for Texas in about a week to perform at the annual South by Southwest music festival and a Texas swing concert in Dallas. At the end of March the group will embark on a 10-day tour that will take it to New York, Cleveland and other points east. In June, band members will head west for 10 days.
Wickham said he and his bandmates are realistic about their success.
"We just want to have as many people see us and hear the record as possible," he said. "There's no illusion of us being the next Madonna."
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.