The Paladins started out as a rockabilly band during the rockabilly craze of the early 1980s. Their tagline at the time was "Western & Bop", as they played a combination of rockabilly and vintage country. Their lead singer and rhythm guitarist was Whit Broadly. With this lineup they did their first recording, a contribution to a 1982 local compilation album, Who's Listening?, and a song two years later on The Best of L.A. Rockabilly, a 1984 Rhino Records LP. Their first LP, The Paladins, was produced by Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and was released in 1987 on Wrestler Records. Their second album, Years Since Yesterday, produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin and Mark Linnet, was released on Alligator Records in 1989 and had sold more than 20,000 copies by the end of the year; the band shot a music video for the title song at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California for $30,000. Spending most of their time on the road, by 1989 they had already toured with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Los Lobos, The Blasters and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. They toured abroad as well; in the summer of 1989, between recording sessions for the third album, they played in Europe for the month of June, including shows at the Peer Music Festival in Belgium and the World Music Festival in London.
In 1990 the Paladins released their third record, Let's Buzz, "an invigorating blend of rockabilly, blues, rhythm-and-blues and country" recorded in the Los Angeles studio of 1970s soul star Leon Haywood (who also played keyboards on the album), produced again by Steve Berlin and Mark Linnet and released by Alligator. Acclaim came with a nomination at the 1990 Entertainer Music Awards (San Diego County) for Best Rock 'n' Roll, Original Music, for which they were a critics' favorite (they lost out to Beat Farmers). They won the award two years later, a year after winning the San Diego Music Awards. Touring continued relentlessly at home and abroad; in 19