It happened during an ordinary refueling stop for the Dirty River Boys, the band on its way from Austin to Tulsa to kick off a six-date run. The van pulled up at a gas station and its occupants scattered, with Colton James hopping on his skateboard and heading over to a grocery store for a rotisserie chicken.
But the board hit an oil patch and went flying, and the bassist found himself not just down, but possibly out. “I see him at the van and he’s got a bone about to pop out of his shoulder, and our tour manager is on the phone,” recalls drummer Travis Stearns.
So the band retreated to Austin, where an ER doc told James he had a shattered collarbone and would need surgery. In the meantime, they outfitted him with a sling. For a moment the band contemplated scratching its upcoming six-date run, because for a stand-up bassist, a collarbone tends to be necessary equipment. “Every time I lifted my arms to play the bass I could just feel the bones crunching on each other,” he says.
But he didn’t want to force his bandmates to cancel shows. Why don’t I play the electric bass instead, he wondered, while sitting in a chair? Wouldn’t that work? The band agreed, and they were off again. “That was a long bumpy drive with a broken collarbone,” James wryly recalls. “Didn’t even stop to get any medication on the way—that was a bad idea. “
But that’s the Dirty River Boys ethos. Playing upwards of 200 dates a year, giving heartfelt, unrestrained performances, and winning over a loyal audience show-by-show, it takes a lot more than a few broken bones to stop them.