When getting ready to interview a guest live on the radio show, the first thing I do is to locate music by that artist. And that Tuesday, I had no difficulty finding material by my expected guest, guitar player Dan Schwalbe. All I had to do was reach into my personal CD collection. "Blues and Tall Tales," "Straight Shooter" and a 1990 release called "They Call Me the Cat Daddy," are some of CDís I call my go-to music for the show. Whenever Iím looking to make a music transition from one style of blues to another, I know I can count on the Rough Cuts to ride that bridge. Whether it is from straight blues to Memphis, to James Harman/Hollywood Fats, or to Aretha Franklin, I know weíll be grooving right with these guys. Along with Schwalbe, the band includes Steve Grosshans on harmonica, and drummer Marty Bryduck, who adds a touch of jazz to their four piece honest-to-the blues sound. Well, five pieces now because theyíve added keyboardist Dave Wiegert, who enhances their flexibility and blends in smoothly with this guitar driven sound.
Wiegert is a strong player that isnít about to get lost in the mix, which could easily happen with a band like the Rough Cuts whoíve played together, or apart, for many years. They know each otherís moves so well, they are capable of slippiní and slidiní in and out of grooves effortlessly and effectively. A player less skilled than Dave could easily be left groping for content. But, Wiegert has been honed by blues jams at The Brown Derby in St. Paul and by his work with the Cup ĎO Joe Juliano Band. Heís not about to get left in the dust. Bassman Dave Sanny is on hiatus from the band leaving Grosshans as the only likely candidate for the nickname "Rockin Daddy". However, in talking with Dan during the interview, I found out that that conclusion may not be right, either.
Jacquie: Joining me in the studio, Mr. Dan Schwalbe. If I have all the right buttons pushed, Iíll have his mic open. Do I have it right, Dan?
Dan: The lightís on...Hi Jacquie...How are you?
Jacquie: Iím doing just fine. How are you doing?
Dan: Iím doing good.
Jacquie: Cool.... Weíre talking with Dan Schwalbe...the guitar player, and songwriter with Rockin Daddy and the Rough Cuts. For a long time, folks thought you were Rockin Daddy, but that just not true is it, Dan?
Dan: (hesitates) Well...itís all a matter of opinion...(hint of a smile)
Jacquie: Well, everybodyís got kids and you guys all rock..so, I suppose it all does fit together. You stopped by the studio at my request, to talk about the new CD. I understand from the reviews, itís doing really well.
Dan: Weíve got some really nice reviews. Things in the local news.....the Twin Cities Blues News, Ray Stilesí web site....Blues on Stage..... and Blues Review magazine did a real nice paragraph on us.
Jacquie: UmmHmm...they sure did! I saw that. Very nice. Checking out your own web site ...the Rough Cuts site.....I see you have some nice blurbs there, too.
Dan: Yea....some stuff from around the country. Nice to get things like that!
Jacquie: Iím gonna do a cross-band reference here cause youíve got Bruce McCabe (Jonny Lang band, Hoop Snakes) on your new CD.
Dan: Yea, he did a nice job. It was really nice to have him come in and do that stuff for us.
Jacquie: Along with Mike "Hook" Deutsch, youíve got 2 keyboard players on it. Which songs are McCabeís?
Dan: I think heís on 7 songs.
Jacquie: Thatís quite a few. Iíve got one cued up now called "Elbow Room". Weíll hear this song then when we come back, weíre gonna talk a little bit more with Dan. I kinda caught him off guard folks, I just opened the microphone and started talking. The new CD is on Blue Loon Records and is called "Blues and Tall Tales".
(Music break to "Elbow Room" a tune with a Slim Harpo-swampy feeling, guitar lead-in, Grosshans on vocals)
Jacquie: Nice work, very nice! So, tell me something about that tune, one written by you.
Dan: Well, Iím always impressed by Steveís harpwork on that particular cut.
Jacquie: Yea, heís got his Slim Harpo-thang going.......
Dan: Steve asked me, years ago, to write something that combines the "Mercy" beat...the Beatles...with Slim Harpo .......
Jacquie: (???!! The Beatles and Slim Harpo???!!)
Dan: ....and "Elbow Room" is what I came up with.
Jacquie: Are those his lyrics....
Dan: No, theyíre mine...music and lyrics.
Jacquie: You know, we were talking a little off mic about the Whiskey Junction Blues Guitar Jam(March 19, 2001). Dan was one of the featured performers along with Paul Mayasich, Scotty Graves..Teddy Larson.....who else?
Dan: Pat Hayes, Markiss, Kurt Koehler from Inside Straight...and Bernard Allison showed up. That was fun....he got up and sang with Paul Mayasich. Then he reached around Big Paul and played his guitar from behind him....that was hilarious!
Jacquie: He mustíve had some mighty long arms to reach around Paul.....
Dan: ...long fingers, like his Dad(Luther Allison).
Jacquie: You played the Whiskey Junction March 22nd? Been a long time since you guys were there!
Dan: Yea...on the internet (MnBluesOnStage-Message Board), thereís been a lot of complaining about bars like the Whiskey not booking blues any more. And I try to tell those people that instead of complaining about it....really...you got to show up!
Jacquie: Thatís right, you got to support it. You can call the Whiskey Junction and say "Hey, whereís the blues?". You can show up, bodily, to encourage a return of the blues. Iíve been noticing that myself. A lot of blues venues seem to be dissipating rapidly because a lot of bar owners think no one supports the blues, but we all know thatís not true.
Dan: Well, it works well here on the radio....
Jacquie: True, but itís got to work in the clubs too, cause thatís what makes bar owners hire blues bands. So for all of you listening, get out and support Rockin Daddy and the Rough Cuts. A four piece band playing straight ahead blues. Youíve heard their music quite a bit on this show.......
Dan: Actually, Jacquie......weíre a 5 piece band now.....weíve added Dave Wiegert on keyboard. Itís a bigger sound, so if you havenít seen the band in a while, itís a little different now, so come on out and check us out.
Jacquie: Daveís a little different now, too.....heís got that goatee thing going on. The last time I saw him, he was at the Brown Derby at a blues jam there with Joe Juliano, Leon McCormick and several other guys.
Dan: Dave does a lot of blues jams....
Jacquie: He does....he does indeed...heís a good player, thatís why. He molds right into the band. I caught you guys at Schullers the last time you played there. I was real surprised how well he did fit in. The sound of the 4 piece, the Rough Cuts is so tight...it would be hard for any other musician to fit in . But Dave does a good job. Letís talk a little bit about that new CD. Itís on Blue Loon Records and is actually your third release......
Dan: No, the second...
Jacquie: No, the third......the first one was called Blues Deluxe.
Dan: (laughing)....well....OK...if you count that one.
Jacquie: Itís a cassette from the Ď80ís.....with Bob Mischo on vocal and harmonica. I actually lost my copy of that and had to borrow one from Tom Asp(blues photographer), to play on the show several months ago. (I played "One Room Cabin"). It still holds up well.
Dan: I keep trying...occasionally...to talk RJ into pressing that onto a CD and re-releasing it. But so far, no luck.
Jacquie: Youíre kidding...its a real good cassette...itíll make a real good CD. Especially since either Pat Dawson(owner, Blue Loon Records) or Brad Moe (New Moon Studios) has the master reel-to-reel. A re-release wonít be from the cassette to a CD. Itíll come from the actual master. Has Bobby said why he wont do it?
Dan: No. People get funny about things...you just never know.
Jacquie: Especially harmonica players......you just never know what theyíre thinking. (D & J giggling....)
Jacquie: As long as I have you in the studio, Dan. Iíd like to talk to you about your music. What inspires you as a guitar player.....
Dan: ...other guitar players.
Jacquie: How so? Like Bernard Allison, for instance.
Dan: Sure. I havenít heard Bernard play live, but Iím real impressed by what he does on the recordings. His Dad was always impressive. When I was learning, I used to see Luther at the Cabooze (Mpls, Mn)....stay there all night....watch everything he did........then go home and practice until 2 or 3 in the morning. I used to do that kinda stuff a lot.
Jacquie: How longíve you been playing, Dan?
Dan: ...about 33 years.
Jacquie: Thatís a long time...you must have started when you were about...
Dan: ...13-14 years old.
Jacquie: So, what inspires you is other guitar players...whoís your favorite..Iím putting you on the spot here...
Dan: Thereís so many great guitar players...and I always made a conscious choice not to pick a particular favorite.....Iíd end up sounding like that particular person. I try to spread my influences out. I really love BB King, T-Bone Walker...Buddy Guy..especially early Buddy Guy....Freddie King....Albert King, Albert Collins, Luther Tucker. All those Chicago guys....Robert Jr. Lockwood....all fabulous guitar players. A lot of people look at blues guitar playing as soloists.... but the work that guys playing behind Little Walter or Sonny Boy Williamson did as 2 rhythm guitar players, is so wonderful....just so intricate the way they weave their parts together.
Jacquie: ..and theyíre so spacious.....their sounds donít compete with each other... they leave space for each other. All the guys that you mentioned are Chicago oriented...but I always pick up some Memphis influence in your sound...a little soul-strutting in there...so for some reason, I expected to hear you say Matt Murphy.
Dan: Thatís a possibility. I guess I donít think about it all that much. The influence is spread wider than Chicago....with those T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown influences. As a kid growing up with top-40 influences and a lot of Detroit soul music and Memphis soul music...with Booker T, Wilson Pickett and all that kinda stuff. Thatís what caught my ear first and lead me to the blues, initially.
Jacquie: I knew I could hear an Aretha Franklin twinge to what you do. You know way back when, about 12-13 years ago, I walked in to the Viking Bar and I saw a 4 piece band called Blues Deluxe. It was Bobby Mischo on harmonica and vocals, Jack Taylor on bass, Dwight Dario on drums and you on guitar. I just stood there, dumbfounded. I couldnít figure out why 4 white guys would want to play the blues. Would choose to play the blues. Itís been 12 years and I still havenít figured it out.
(D & J laughing)
Dan: The music is really universal, isnít it. You think about the subject matter of the songs...the emotion and the feeling in the songs.....it applies to every body. It doesnít have to be strictly one cultural aspect of the music.
Jacquie: The blues itself isnít like that anyway...itís intention is to reach into a deeper part of you. And if that hasnít happened to you, then youíre not listening to it right, you havenít heard the right blues or something hasnít grabbed you correctly.
Dan: . .....you got a hole in your soul.
Jacquie: Must have. So what do you hear from Mischo these days?
Dan: Havenít heard from him in a while. I email him every now and then, but I havenít talked to him. Last time I talked to him, he was real excited about doing a show with Junior Watson, another fabulous guitar player.
Jacquie: Good combination. That 4 piece band we just talked about..Blues Deluxe...split into 4 parts. Dwight Dario to the Big George Jackson Blues Band, Jack Taylor playing with the Blues Kings. You with the Rough Cuts and Bobby off in San Francisco, leaving his harp all over the place. Together as Blues Deluxe, your sound caught my attention and Iíve been hanging out in front of the stage ever since. Youíve been carrying that sound on now with the Rough Cuts. Itís true to the blues.
Dan: Thatís the point. We want to represent this music as authentically as we know how to do.
Jacquie: You do a good job of it. Thereís not many bands left playing straight ahead blues and I just want to tell you straight across the board here, that I appreciate the work that you do.
Jacquie: Up next, a tune cued up from the CD ĎStraight Shooter" on Blue Loon Records. Itís called "Hit the Bottle". What did you have in mind when you wrote this?
Dan: A lot of songs come from road trips and guys out on the road...when theyíre away from their families....they tend to cut loose a little bit. Small degrees of cutting loose. That song was basically about....Iím not going to mention any names...but that song was about some guys I was in a band with who like to drink a little too much when they werenít home. It could apply to anybody. Thereís a lot of blues drinking songs.
Jacquie: Male and female versions. Thanks for coming into the studio, Dan.
Dan: Youíre welcome Jacquie.
I hit the button on the engineering board and we move into a music break with "Hit The Bottle". Dan put on his coat to leave, signaling the end of the interview. I asked if he had any closing comments to make to the radio audience, but he just slipped out the door, saying "Come on out to a gig. Iíll talk there!".
Rockin Daddy and the Rough Cuts can be found at the Whiskey Junction, Schullers, the Lower Landing (now closed) and other blues venues around Minnesota. For more information, use the internet: www.theroughcuts.com.
Rollin & Tumblin
90. 3FM & 106. 7FM
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454
This review is copyright © 2001 by Jacquie Maddix, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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