The basis of The Cruzeros was formed by Kelowna, BC highschool friends and guitarists/vocalists Barry Mathers and Curtis Tulman, who formed Sea Cruise and Jimmy Shoes, where they merged alt/country with rock roots and a bit of bluegrass thrown in for good measure. In ’89 they produced a cassette that they sold to raise money for demo tapes, which went nowhere.
After taking some time off in Mexico on a writing sabbatical, they regrouped with guitarist Reg Greenwood from Duane Steele’s band and bassist Jim Ryan (ex of Patricia Conroy). They took their show on the road for the next year or so, and although more demos were sent out, no major labels bit, prompting them to form their own Cruzeroos Records.
Produced by Bill Buckingham, they released their self-titled debut album in ’96 which was an instant hit, spawning five singles that all did relatively well on the country chart over the next year and a half – “Am I Invisible,” “Landslide,” “The Last Time,” “Into Your Eyes,” and the top 20, “Take You By The Heart.” Four videos made their way onto the CMT airwaves, and earned them a nomination at the 1998 Juno Awards for Country Group or Duo of the Year. They were also nominated for five BCCMAs (British Columbia Country Music Association) awards, and three from the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association).
They continued touring the country and made some stops Stateside, opening for Prairie Oyster, Asleep At The Wheel, and Blackhawk. But over the next year or so personnel changes saw Greenwood and Ryan replaced by Gary Smyth on bass and drummer Glenn Parsons. By the fall of 2001 landed a deal with the independent Blue Leaf Music label, releasing the single “Am I Losing You” in time for the Christmas rush. Recorded at Mathers’ Rutledge House Studio in Kelowna, the album EL NINO followed the next August and quickly gained critical acclaim.
The record was dedicated to Tulman’s son Lukas, who died while the album was being completed. Smoothly melding country and bluegrass with Texas swing and rock, it earned them a Canadian Independent Music Award for Best Country Album, and the singles continued to pour out, starting with the mandolin-driven “This Old Road” (covered later by The Outlaws), “Piece of Stone” was next up that summer, and three more roots-based country hits – “Roses and a Cross,” “Tangled Up in You,” and the tender ballad “Going There with Grace” kept the band on the radio through early 2003, while a pair of videos also gave them added exposure. Three songs were also featured in the Malcolm McDowell film, “The Barber.”
More changes were in store, when Kirk Bewer became the new drummer, and Mike Jervis, a longtime touring member, was officially added on keyboards. Moving over to Maple Music for their next album, they called on producer Joe Hardy (ZZ Top, Steve Earle, Chris Knight, The Georgia Satellites) and recorded for the first time in Nashville at the Hum Depot, as well as back home in Kelowna. “November 11th,” an ode to a war-time hero, was on the airwaves prior to the album’s release, and set the stage for another critic’s delight. In the stores in 2005, SCANDALOSA featured covers of Donny Ray Ford’s “Cowboy Boots” and the ’60s hit from Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully,” and several cameos, including The Georgia Satellites’ Dan Baird. With “Load Me Up” peaking at #3 on the CMT videos chart and leading the way, they released three more singles after that – “The Way You’re Looking at Me,” “Cowboy Boots,” and “The Way It Is Around Here.”
They found themselves on the backs of several North American tours over the next few years, sharing the stages with the likes of ZZ Top, Barney Bentall and Spirit of The West, among others, as well as doing the country and roots festivals circuits. They also made a pair of trips to Europe to open shows there.
As the decade wore on, the band continued touring while taking on outside projects. They quietly disbanded in the late 2000s and everyone went their separate ways, including Tulman pursuing his religious pursuits, while forming a new group, Cowboy Bob. Mathers meanwhile has concentrated on production work, engineering and producing from his home studio in Kelowna, Redhouse Recording. He also started up a new group called Mean Donna. A Cruzeros reunion show in 2012 saw the band headline Floyd Fest in Kelowna.
The Cruzeros have appeared on numerous radio and television programs in Canada over the years. Their music has been recorded by artists in Europe and has been used in TV shows domestically and abroad. They’ve also performed throughout Canada, showcased in Nashville, and toured in Mexico several times.