Secret Frets – Jim Shearer & Friends with Strings


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It all started with a pick-up band that came together to focus on the music of Django Reinhardt. The band went through several permutations of name, including the unwieldy “Hot Club of the Southwest” and the even more unpronounceable “Djangology,” which was finally shorted to simply “Django.” The group was somewhat unusual to say the least. It featured Steve Smith, mandolin; Gordon Butler, violin; Joseph Mancilla, acoustic rhythm guitar; Curt Warren, electric arch-top guitar; and Jim Shearer, tuba and vocals.

The band played a series of shows, festivals, and club dates during the 1990s, which culminated with the band recording most of the tracks featured on this current project. The sessions were set, and they were recorded to two DA-88 ADAT machines (early multi-track digital recording equipment) at Goldust Recording Studio in Las Cruces. As is so often the case, the funding was not enough to complete the project, so the tapes went on the shelf in a half mixed and unmastered state. Time passed, the musicians went on to other projects, and the sessions were largely forgotten, except for a few dusty cassette tapes of rough mixes showing “what might have been.”

In 2016, Steve Smith was working at Goldust Studio on another project, and owner/engineer Emmit Brooks showed Steve some new techniques he had developed to move material out of the old ADAT format into a modern digital editing program called “Digital Performer,” an industry standard for today’s recording needs. Some of the tracks he transferred included material from the old Django sessions. The spark was reignited and the project completed!

Jim Shearer, tuba and vocals
Gordon Butler, violin and vocals
Steve Smith, mandolin and mandocello
Curt Warren, electric guitar
Joseph Mancilla, acoustic rhythm guitar
with special guests
Steve Eckels, acoustic guitar on Sweet Georgia Brown
Shaun Mahoney, electric guitar solo on Little Rock Getaway