Ashcraft bringing ‘good fun’ to Bethany boardwalk

Randy Lee Ashcraft describes his kind of music as “good fun.”

“Whether we’re playing classic rock or country or ’60s, our motto is, ‘If we’re not having fun, they’re not having fun,” he said.

It is clear from watching his audiences smile, applaud, sing along, tap their feet and get up and dance that Ashcraft and his five-member band of Saltwater Cowboys succeed. In fact, they are so popular they’ve had a year-round gig every Thursday and Friday night at Smitty McGee’s in Fenwick Island for the past seven years.

Sylvia Candelora of Clarksville is a regular at Smitty’s and a big fan of Ashcraft and the band.

“I started watching them with my husband before he died,” she said. “After staying home for about a year, I decided to try going out by myself. I feel so safe and comfortable here amongst people of all ages, and I’ve loved watching Randy’s repertoire grow. He is a wonderful performer.”

Candelora added that she enjoys seeing television commercials featuring Ashcraft, too.

“It’s a sign of how far he’s come,” she said.

Ashcraft grew up on the Eastern Shore. He left to join the U.S. Army and was a Green Beret for four years. After playing in a band with his dad and brothers, Ashcraft spent 14 years playing in Nashville and touring nationally.

“Then, 10 years ago,” he said, “It was time to come home. And I’ve been based in Salisbury (Md.) ever since.”

Jimmy Rowbottom, who plays lead guitar and sings back-up vocals as a duo with Ashcraft, as well as with the band, was one of the first people Ashcraft called when he returned.

“I gave up my other bands in a heartbeat to play with Randy,” he said. “We play full-time throughout the year and are able to stay in a 30-mile radius of home. He’s a true professional, and he treats his musicians really well.”

One of their next gigs is this Saturday, July 31, at the bandstand in Bethany Beach.

“We love playing there,” said Rowbottom. “It’s great to play outside and watch tourists who are just passing by on the boardwalk and don’t know us, and they stop and stay for the whole show.”

Frank Minni resides in South Bethany and is a member of the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild. He has had the opportunity to observe two sides of Ashcraft. The first, at places like Smitty McGee’s, when Ashcraft performs for the crowd, singing a lot of cover tunes that he knows people will recognize and appreciate.

“The other side of Randy, that I like best, is poet and songwriter. I like it when he comes to Guild events and talks about the stories, meanings and feelings behind his words,” said Minni.

“I love singing my own songs,” said Ashcraft. “I love what I’ve already written, but I don’t like the actual process of writing.”

With titles like “Fair Weather Flu” (“time to call in and go out on your boat!”), “Swore Off Wore Off” (the wagon), and “All Decked Out” (in MR Ducks gear!), many of Ashcraft’s songs reflect his humor, local landmarks and popular watering holes.

Ashcraft is known for his great voice and cheery disposition, but there is a certain twinkle in his eye that appears when the names of his wife, Lisa, and 3-year-old daughter Bailey are mentioned.

“Sometimes they come to Smitty’s to hear us, and Bailey loves to dance,” he said. “The crowd here is awesome, and the people who work here are the best.”

Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Saltwater Cowboys is the perfect choice of band when you’re looking for a tried and true evening of music and fun.