Christian Serpas and Ghost Town bucked the odds. The enduring Mandeville country-rock band, featuring three-fourths of its original membership, will celebrate its twentieth anniversary July 12 at the Rivershack in Jefferson. “Bands are such a fragile thing,” mused singer, guitarist and songwriter Serpas. “To get guys who can get along and have the same vision, it’s rare.”
During Ghost Town’s two decades, the band released eight albums of original songs and shared stages with Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Montgomery Gentry, Jason Aldean, and Zac Brown.
Ghost Town debuted on April 3, 1999, at the Rockin’ Horse in Folsom, Louisiana. The set list featured the only songs the band knew at the time, eight originals and a rocking take on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Driving home from the show, Serpas remembered, “I looked at my wife and said, ‘Now what do we do?’ I had no idea where to do an original band playing this material. But we just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving.”
Through it all, Serpas and his bandmates—original members Jeff Oteri, drums, and George Neyrey, guitar, plus bassist Don Williams, a member since 2007—stayed true to themselves. “Our idea was to do original music in a country vein, but do it our way,” he said. “We came from rock backgrounds, but growing up I always enjoyed country music. We wanted to be the country band that we wanted to see. We’ve had many situations where booking agents would say, ‘Hey, if you learn these songs, I can get you in this place.’ We don’t do it. We play what we play. That’s it.”
Serpas founded Ghost Town following his exploratory forays into Los Angeles and Nashville. “I had been going back and forth to Nashville,” he said “I did the thing where you sit at a guy’s desk and he says, ‘Okay, play your hit for me.’ I didn’t like that. I liked being in a band. Eventually, I realized that’s how it would have to shake out.”
Serpas considered letting the band’s big anniversary pass unobserved. “I hesitated to make any notice of the 20 years,” he said. “I didn’t want people to think that we were running out of gas or wrapping it up. We’re not. But the show is a thank you to everyone who has helped and supported us for 20 years—we’ve been lucky. It’s a free show. We want everybody to come on down and say hello. It’s gonna be rocking.”
Christian Serpas and Ghost Town celebrate 20 years at The Rivershack in Jefferson on July 12 at 9 p.m.