Growing up a cowboy prepared Ryan Bingham for the nomadic life of a rock star, touring the country with his band, The Dead Horses.

“My sister and I spent most of our lives packing stuff in cardboard boxes and moving from town to town since our folks couldn’t hold down jobs,” says Bingham, who also suffered his parents’ alcohol abuse. “I had to learn how to survive, roaming around the country just trying to make enough money. I figured out what I wanted to do to be happy and stay out of trouble.”

That, of course, was playing music, and tonight he and The Dead Horses play a set at the Canal Room on West Broadway in New York.

Before he took up the guitar, Bingham followed in the footsteps of his cowboy father and bull-rider uncle, competing in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He learned how to play the strings from a neighbor in Laredo, Tex., and soon “wound up playing more gigs than competing in rodeos,” he says, “so I decided to play music.”

Influenced by the Rolling Stones, Bob Wilson, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley, the 26-year-old has a sound that is a blend of the mariachi, swing, blues and zydeco he was exposed to early on, but with a distinctive alt-country twist.

After his career started taking off in Texas, Bingham bounced around France, Colorado and Los Angeles, where the band started landing gigs at local bars. The Dead Horses finally caught a break when the Black Crowes’ Marc Ford introduced the group to some industry insiders, who asked to produce its first album. Due this fall from Lost Highway Records (home to Ryan Adams, Van Morrison and the late Johnny Cash), the still untitled disc includes songs written over the last decade.

Lately, the group has been enjoying modest success among the social set, thanks to fan Yvonne Force Villareal, who booked them to perform at her 40th birthday party. “I remember John Currin said that every woman in the room needs a wee-wee pad after listening to him,” says Villareal. “Mind you, everything about it was perfect already, but as you listened to the words and the energy through his songs, it was heart-wrenching because these songs are his life.”

This story first appeared in the May 14, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Amy Sacco, who has been a tireless supporter since early in Bingham’s career, says, “It’s unique to find a young man who’s able to convey such emotions. This is just the beginning.”

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