Rockiní Daddy and the Rough Cuts grew out of Blues Deluxe, who started playing together as a group in the mid 80s first backing up Mojo Buford. Dan Schwalbe has been a member since the original bandís inception and along with the current lineup, remains a driving force in helping preserve traditional blues in the Twin Cities. The current members of the Rough Cuts include: Dave Sanny (bass), Steve Grosshans (harmonica, vocals), Marty Bryduck (drums), and Dan Schwalbe (guitar, vocals).
When you attend a Rockiní Daddy and the Rough Cuts show you can be guaranteed one thing for sure, you will hear great traditional style blues, the way it was played in the 1950ís and 60ís and drawing heavily from the Chicago post-war electric style. Even when they are playing some of their original material, it remains true to the roots. There is no fanfare here, no histrionics, just straight-ahead, gut-bucket, down-in-the-alley blues. The current line-up of the Rough Cuts is a cohesive, rock-sold ensemble that never waivers from their interpretation and delivery of traditional blues. Heavy on the shuffles this harmonica fronted band will also play some ballads, some swamp blues, and some up-tempo jump & swing blues featuring the excellent guitar stylings of Dan Schwalbe and the Chicago blues harmonica sounds of Steve Grosshans.
The band has a new CD due out in April featuring all original material and you can catch the band playing regular gigs around the Twin Cities every week.
Link to the Straight Shooter CD Review
Link to the new Blues & Tall Tales
The following interview is with Rough Cuts guitarist Dan Schwalbe and is followed by biographical sketches of the rest of the band.
Ray: Where are you from and when were you born?
Dan: I'm from the Twin Cities, born in St. Paul, 1954.
Ray: How did you first get interested in music?
Dan: I heard live music for the first time at a school dance. I was about twelve. A bunch of kids my age had a band. They were playing popular radio stuff of the day, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex. Top 40 back then.
Ray: What did you listen to when growing up?
Dan: Well I guess that depends on what age you mean. One of my first records was a Disney set (78's) that had a version of St. Louis Blues sung by Minnie Mouse. Took it to show and tell and my second grade teacher said it was inappropriate. She took it off the record player. There was always music at home though. My folks where big fans of classical and big band stuff. Heard a lot of Glenn Miller. My Dad played piano, but we didn't have one until the late sixties. My Grandmother on my mom's side also played piano. She had a trio that did silent movies and barn dances. The kind of gigs you'd expect, I guess, in North Dakota in the '20's.
Ray: When did you first start playing the guitar?
Dan: 1968. My dad found an acoustic in the bargain room at Wards, came home from work with it. That was in 1967. We all thought, why a guitar? Nobody had ever mentioned wanting to learn that I can remember. I fooled around with it for about 6 months, got nowhere. When my mother said I could take lessons, I jumped at the chance.
Ray: Who were some of your influences on the guitar?
Dan: Early on it was mostly the other kids in the neighborhood. We'd show each other stuff we picked up off the radio. Mostly surf and top 40 rock stuff, which back then was still pretty heavily blues influenced. When I really got the blues bug, well I guess Muddy Waters' Fathers and Sons album really woke me up to the possibilities. I've never felt that influenced by Mike Bloomfield, who played on that record, even though he was a great guitar player. It was the ensemble approach that Muddy used that impressed me. This was a blues BAND.
The guitar record that changed everything was "Freddie King Sings". Found that one in a cut-out bin at Target for $1.99. Seems like every blues riff there is, is on that record. And it's all played with a simple understated purity. Since then there's been a lot of influences, Magic Sam, T-Bone Walker, BB, The Alberts, Jr. Lockwood, Luther Tucker, Eddie Taylor, just about anybody who recorded in Chicago in the Fifties. A little bit of guys like Tiny Grimes, Bill Jennings. The jump stuff still gives me fits though. I try not to get overly influenced by any one person. Too many guitar players try to sound like somebody else rather than themselves.
Ray: When did you become interested in playing the blues?
Dan: Saw Muddy at the state fair in '70, or '71. He had Mojo Buford in the band at the time. Hollywood Fats might have been in that band too. I thought that was a cool show, but I was too young or naÔve to actually 'get it'. Then a couple years later I went to this biker smelt fry at what's now The Water Works out in Centerville. The line up for bands was, Tony Glovers band, who just finished their set when I walked in. Then Lazy Bill Lucas, and after that Mojo, with that great band he had back then. Cool Breeze and Mic McCormick on guitars, Billy Black on bass, Mike DuBois on drums. I'm pretty sure that was the line up. The whole sound just floored me, it was so dynamic, so powerful, and I was amazed at the guitar work. Those guys are all still great players.
Ray: Tell me about your career? When did you start playing professionally? What bands were you in and when that was, etc.?
Dan: My first paying gig was at a party in the summer of '68. We spilt $5 between the two of us. Through high school played in rock bands mostly. Played bass in Zeppelin and Hendrix cover bands. When I was seventeen I was with an outfit that called it self a blues band. We did play a half dozen blues numbers, and stuff that other bands around us weren't doing. Things by The Band, The Dead, and the like. And we did some originals. My first actual blues band was The Acme Rhythm Band about 1975. That evolved into a band called Crazy Legs. That was with Jack Taylor, Charlie Lawson, Max Ray, Eric Anderson, a great harp player named LeRoy Vargas, and Maynard Christoferson, who was one of the most natural blues drummers I ever heard. That fell apart when Max and Eric left to join The Wallets, about 1980. I got a call from Mike Peterson in January of '80. Percy Strother needed a bass player for some gigs. So I went to a rehearsal, expecting to play bass. Percy wanted me on guitar, so he called Jimi Smith to play bass. That was an incredible band, Tom Burns on harp, Steve Kilbride on keys, another guitar player named Dave Lawson I think, Jimi on bass, And Mike drumming. Great band. So I got to know Burns while playing with Percy. He was playing with Lazy Bill Lucas at the time, that was his main gig. Tom started calling me to sub for Glen Hansen 'cause Glen's business kept him from playing all the jobs. Eventually it became my chair. Besides me and Burns, it was Craig Salminen on bass, Rik Sferra drums. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Bill played real blues. And he took no guff from his sidemen. Play right or catch hell! One time at rehearsal, Bill called on me to play a solo. I didn't start right away, stayed with the rhythm part. Bill stopped the band and starts yelling "I told you to take a solo, BOY. When I want you to solo, YOU SOLO, Danny Boy." Bill and my Grandmother are the only people who will ever get away with calling me Danny Boy. So, Salminen's over in the corner laughing to tears, cause he'd seen this before. And been in my place before. I almost quit, but I stuck it out. Got along fine with Bill after that. Bill passed in '82. I'm still realizing how much I learned from him. Mojo Buford stopped by Bill's apartment to pay his respects. Some of the guys from the band where hanging around, well Burns lived there. They were listening to some tapes of Bill and the band. Mojo liked my guitar work, and called me a few days later. Did a few jobbing dates that winter, winter of '82/'83. Mojo was having trouble keeping a solid band around him. We tried, but there was a lot of turn over. Wasn't Mojo's fault, but he was getting disheartened by it. He went back to Memphis in July of that year. Came back in the summer of '84. In the mean time I'd been jobbing some with R.J. Mischo. And doing some things with Baby Doo Caston. My playing improved by leaps and bounds playing with Doo. The guy had more talent and knowledge than anybody I've ever met. If you didn't understand part of his arrangement, he'd take your instrument, and play the part for you. I don't think there's an instrument he couldn't play. Mojo hired R.J. to manage the band, which was a good move. Mischo can hustle a gig good as anybody, better than most. Again the band was in a constant state of flux. Sonny Rogers was on guitar for a year or two. Man, that guy could play. Blues DeLuxe eventually came out of that trying to keep a band around for Mojo.
Ray: Who were some of the blues people you have played with over the years?
Dan: Been in bands with these guys: Lazy Bill Lucas, Baby Doo Caston, Mojo Buford, Sonny Rogers, Steve "Killer" Kilbride, Texas Red, Mike Deutsch, Tom Burns, Jack Taylor, Greg Shuck, Dwight Dario, Curtis Blake, Jimmy Novak, Chris 'Kid Boogie' Nord, and of course the guys I'm currently with, Steve Grosshans, Marty Bryduck, and Dave Sanny. Jobbed with these guys, Lee Tedrow, Jimmy Valentine, Billy Black, Rob Stupka, Curt Obeda, Sunny Land Slim, Snooky Pryor, Billy Boy Arnold, Joel Johnson, Tom Hunter, Lynwood Slim, and I'm sure I've left someone out.
Ray: Please share some of the interesting stories about some of these people?
Dan: Well it's hard to come up with stories that would be fit to print. We were on our way to Eureka Springs Arkansas, about '89 or '90. Going down there to play the blues festival. Another Blue Loon band was a day ahead of us on the road. That was Bobby Johnson and the Crowns. Bobby was a great singer, and Lady Blue's brother, he's been in a nursing home for quite a while now, due to an accident. In Eureka Springs we were booked at a place called Center Stage, an old Vaudeville theater by the look of it. Bobby Johnson and the Crowns were on right before us. We're sitting in the front row with Pat Dawson from Blue Loon Records, watching the guys play. Smoke starts coming out of Ed Dunn's bass speaker, then it bursts into flames. I suppose it looked like part of the show, but it could have been disastrous. Dawson grabs a pitcher of beer, lunges for the stage, and douses the amp. Jack Taylor set up his rig and let Ed play that, so they can finish their show. We did our show after that. Then the festival promoters band goes on, it's usually a bad sign when the promoter headlines his own production. They had this wash board player like I'd never seen, he had a pedal board of effects that would've shamed a heavy metal guitarist. And piano type pick-ups in his washboard, so an electric washboard. Now I don't use any special effects, never have,
I tend to be leery of those who do. This guy leans up to his amp, a guitar amp, kicks on the pedals, starts working the Wah-Wah pedal, Twisting his washboard to warp it, change it's pitch. Makes this awful feedback like a sick wolf howling. That's their opening number. One of the strange things I've seen.
Ray: What was it like playing around town back in the 70?s/80?s?
Dan: In the mid seventies I started getting work in the clubs. There were some big rooms booking blues, but we were pretty green, so didn't get much in the big places. Crazy Legs used to play a place in East Bethel called The Pine Forest Inn. There was a bar clearing fight almost every night, and the only law was the county sheriff, 30 minutes away. And the disco craze made it really tough, A lot of the joints dropped live music in favor of DJ's. In the early '80's, the only regular club gig we had with Lazy Bill and Percy was at the Artist Quarter. That's when it was on 26th St. and First Ave. in Minneapolis. It was spotty otherwise. When Ted Wilebski opened the Blue Saloon in '82, things started to change.
Ray: What were the clubs like & what were some of the more popular blues clubs?
Dan: The Cabooze was probably the main blues room in town in the seventies. Saw Albert King there, and Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells, Mighty Joe Young, Koko Taylor, Luther Allison. Didn't work the Cabooze much back then, we were kids, not good enough to play there according to them. The Union Bar was the other big blues room, took over when the Cabooze backed off from blues. They used to bring in Albert Collins a lot. Muddy Waters played there once. They were more open to the locals, too. Local traditional bands could get Sunday nights in there pretty regular. When the Union started to fade, Welebski's Blues Saloon picked up the slack. And there was Archie's Bunker, Blues DeLuxe played weeknights there. Used to get weekends in there with Mojo. In '84 the West Bank really took off. The Viking, Five Corners, 400 Bar, and Whiskey Jct., all booked local blues bands. For four or five years we had all the work we could handle. No money, but lots of playing time.
Ray: Give me a history of the Rough Cuts?
Dan: A history of The Rough Cuts has to start with Blues DeLuxe. In 1984 R.J. Mischo and I were working with Mojo Buford, had been for a while. Mo was getting the itch to go back to Memphis, so we decided to keep the band going on our own. Mischo booked a job at the Whiskey Junction, billed it as R.J. Mischo's Blues Harp DeLuxe, With Dan Schwalbe, Greg Shuck, and Kid Hoffman (great bass player, flies planes for the government now). The show went well. Later we got Jack Taylor to be the regular bass player. I suggested that the Blues DeLuxe part of the original billing was a good name for a band, and we were off. Played all over for the next eight years. Changed drummers a bunch of times. Greg Shuck, Marty Bryduck, Rik Sferra, and Dwight Dario, all played with us. Piano players Mike 'The Hook' Deutsch, and Steve 'Killer' Kilbride came and went, and came back again. Tried two guitars a couple of times. First with Dan Neal ,and later with Shorty Lenoir. Made two recordings, one on Natural Born Lovers Records, one for Blue Moon (which became Blue Loon). Did a Scott Hanson TV show. Won an award for traditional blues band in 1988. And we played The Grand Emporium in KCMO, The Eureka Springs Blues Festival in Arkansas, the Tulsa Blues Fest, and Bayfront Blues Festival. With The T-Birds at the Taste Of Minnesota main stage, and a bunch of other far flung places and events. Then in '92 R.J.'s CD 'Ready To Go' was starting to get noticed, so he took off to do that. Jack, Greg, and I got with Steve Grosshans, and Texas Red. We kept Blues DeLuxe going for most of '92. Texas Red had to move on later that year. So we changed the name, and took what had started as a demo tape, began making it into a CD. I'd been writing a lot and for some time, but it didn't all suit R.J.. So I had some stuff stockpiled. Grosshans took to most of it right off. We got the CD out in June of 1993, and things started to go our way for a while. Had some great shows, got some really nice reviews. Basically, took up where Blues DeLuxe left off. But I think we'd just been together too long. We had to take some time, do some other things.
Ray: Where did the name come from? How about the Rockin' Daddy part?
Dan: We never thought that Blues DeLuxe was the greatest name for a band. It was functional is all. So we were trying to come up with some thing else. I sat down and brain stormed one day, filed the back of a business card with band names. The Rough Cuts was one of them, that was in about '89. The guys liked The Rough Cuts the best of what I came up with, but not enough too use it. Mischo wanted 'Bobby Love and the Bandits', I think. Greg's idea was Big Rockin' Daddy. Again nobody liked either idea enough to change from Blues DeLuxe. When the Straight Shooter CD was in the works, we decided it was a good time to change the name. Greg wanted Big Rockin' Daddy. The rest of us wanted to use The Rough Cuts. Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, we compromised with Big Rockin' Daddy and The Rough Cuts. The agent we'd been working with, Steve York, said there were too many bands with 'Big' in their name, we'd get lost among the 'Bigs'. It got shortened to Rockin' Daddy and The Rough Cuts. Of course we get called Big Daddy and The Rough Cuts a lot. Initially I got saddled with the Rockin' Daddy handle. As Pat Dawson said, "somebody's got to be Rockin' Daddy". Lately I've over heard people say they figure it's Steve, well that's OK too. We were going to stop using Rockin' Daddy, just be The Rough Cuts, but if you look up our first CD on the internet it's listed under Rockin' Daddy. So, I guess we' re stuck with it.
Ray: What is your recording history?
Dan: 1989 - Blues Deluxe: "Reet, Petite, and Gone" (Natural Born Lovers Records # BL8008)
1990 - Sonny Rogers: "They Call Me the Cat Daddy" (Blue Moon BMR-003 and Fattening Frogs # jump2)
Also in '90 I played a Bobby Johnson session that was made into a 45. Bobby is LaVerne 'Lady Blue' Johnson's brother. And somewhere during that time, we did the sound track for a film student's movie. Did sound effects, played some made up instrumentals, and wrote a song for it.
1991 - Blues Deluxe: "I Can't Stop It" (Blue Moon BMR-006)
1993 - Mojo Buford: "Harpslinger" (Blue Loon BLN-017)
1993 - Rockin' Daddy and the Rough Cuts: "Straight Shooter" (Blue Loon BLN-019)
1994 - Lynwood Slim: "Soul Feet" (Cold Wind Records # CWR9405-2). This Lynwood session actually went four or five numbers, only one got used. At about this same time I'd did a live recording date with Slim at the Whiskey Junction. It was a 3 night stand, I did Thursday, Kid Ramos did Friday and Saturday. I don't know what became of those tapes. They weren't released.
1996 - Texas Red: "What Kind of Woman is That!" (Blue Loon BLN-034). Sometime around '96, Texas Red set up a session for his friend Tom Lieberman. We did a title song, and sound effects for a children's TV show that Tom was developing. It was supposed to be on the Discovery Kids channel. Never saw it, don't have cable.
1998 - Mojo Buford: "Home Is Where My Harps Is" (Blue Loon BLN-032)
Ray: Tell me about the Rough Cuts CD that was re-released this year on Blue Loon?
Dan: We recorded that in '92 and 3. At Brad Moe's New Moon Studio. Most of it in two sessions. It was a real comfortable record to make. It was re-issued because the band's back, and we hope it's still good enough that people want to hear it.
Ray: Tell me about your new CD that you are getting ready for release? (musicians, songs, originals, type of music, what is the label, release date, etc.)?
Dan: The new CD is called Blues and Tall Tales, it's on the Blue Loon label. Steve Grosshans sings and plays harp, Marty Bryduck on drums, and Dave Sanny, bass, the regular live band plays on all the tracks. It's Eleven songs, all original. Two By Steve, eight from me, and we wrote one together. It's a fairly traditional record, some swampy stuff, some jump, and swing blues, a great ballad written by Steve. We expect to release it about April 28Th locally. Blue Loon and its distributor are working out the national release date. Bruce McCabe and Mike Deutsch guest on piano. Mike did one song for us. Bruce did seven. I'm a huge fan of both those guys, and their playing is really stellar on this CD.
Ray: Who do you like to listen to?
Dan: Lately, Kid Ramos, Duke Robillard, Hollywood Fats when I need to get rejuvenated. Little Walter, T-Bone. I like R.J.'s new one a lot. Rusty Zinn's stuff is real cool. Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Sonny Boy, Muddy, Magic Sam, B. B. King, Jr. Watson.
Ray: What are your thoughts on the attention that is given the new, young blues or blues/rock players?
Dan: Those kids get picked on because they're young. The thing is, the successful one's all start young. Muddy and B.B. where just kids when the made their names. Mojo Buford and The Rough Cuts were the first band of a 3 band show that headlined with Jonny Lang. While we were setting up, Jonny offered Mo the use of his amps, and called him sir. I think the kids will be all right, they might not be blues, but they'll be all right.
Ray: What is your opinion of the health of blues scene in the Twin Cities?
Dan: Blues is struggling right now. It seems to run in cycles, at least from what I've seen. I'd say we're on the back of the curve right now. It's always swung back though, so I'm not real worried. And if blues isn't "the thing," the glamour seekers go away. That leaves more room for people who really love, and want to play this music. There's always an upside.
Ray: Is it hard to get gigs for a band that plays traditional blues like you do?
Dan: We've done OK so far. It can be tough though, and we're not as traditional as some. Texas Red said to me years ago, "Blues rock bands will always get more work, get used to it." And, I think if you try to bring the level of quality up, you can play most anything and most people will listen.
Ray: Can you give me a partial song/writer list that you play at your shows?
Dan: Little Walter, "Oh Baby," "One Chance." Lazy Lester, "I Hear You Knockin'," "Sugar Coated Love." Slim Harpo, "Scratch My Back," "Rainin' In My Heart." Bobby Bland, "I Smell Trouble," "I Don't Believe." Howlin' Wolf, "Squeeze Me," " Ridin' In The Moonlight." Jimmy Liggins, "I Can't Stop It." Louis Jordan, "Buzz Me Baby," "Caledonia," lots of other stuff. And we do about 4 or 5 originals per set.
Ray: I'm sure I have forgotten to ask some questions, please comment on any thing else you would like to?
Dan: Wow! A soap box. I get pretty opinionated sometimes, but the truth is I like a lot of different music. As long as it comes from the heart. What really bothers me is music that's not from the heart, music that's just for making money. I'd like to make some money at this too, but I'd rather not do it at the expense of the music. Not that I haven't sold out on occasion, but I can't make it last if it's not right. That's a big part of why I don' t use effects, I think it clutters the path of communication. Special effects devices can become a crutch, and mask what a person is really playing, really feeling. What ever level of performance I'm capable of on any given night, good or bad, you'll know it. And you'll know it's real, it won't be buried by noise. That's music made by Humans.
Steve Grosshans (harmonica, vocals)
Born in Brooklyn Center (1954), Steve likes to joke about being from places like Memphis, TN or Lake Charles, LA. "Everyone knows that white boys from Minnesota can't play the blues," he says. "I got my first interest in the blues from KQRS radio in the late 60's. The station used to play a lot of music from a variety of artists like Albert King, Freddy King, Bobby Bland and Paul Butterfield. It was the Butterfield stuff that really got my attention. I can remember wearing out a couple of copies of that double live LP that Butterfield released in 1970."
A self taught harp player Steve bought his first harmonica in 1969, "A Hohner Chrometta," he says. "I couldn't play a lick on that thing and quickly realized that Marine Band harmonicas were what I was hearing on the records. About the same time, I picked up Tony Glover's blues harp instruction book. This turned me on to Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson (II), Howlin Wolf and others." Current influences include William Clarke, Lynwood Slim, Kim Wilson and Paul deLay.
After jamming with college friends for over five years, Steve and his friends formed their first band, the Cordon Blues Band in 1983, changing the name to Juke Jones in 1986. In the early 90's, I got a call from Dan Schwalbe from Blues Deluxe who was looking to replace the harp and vocal spot left when RJ Mischo formed his own band with Teddy Morgan. "Of course, I jumped at the chance. Blues Deluxe was one of the best blues band in the cities at [the time]." "We reformed Blues Deluxe with existing members Dan Schwalbe, Jack Taylor (bass), Greg Schuck (drums), and Texas Red (guitar and vocals). About the time we started the Straight Shooter CD project, Texas Red left the band. It was about this time that the name changed to Rockin' Daddy and the Rough Cuts." The Rough Cuts took a break in 1996 and Steve played with the Crowns before Dan and Steve reformed the Rough Cuts about a year ago with Dave Sanny on bass and Marty Bryduck on drums.
Marty Bryduck (drums)
Born in 1956, Marty "grew up in west central Minnesota (Benson) about 125 miles due west of Minneapolis," and has lived in the Twin Cities since 1978. He says his main influences were, "Chicago Blues artists like Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and the jump swing blues artists [like] T-Bone Walker, Roy Brown, Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and the list could go on and on." He enjoys "playing various styles of Chicago blues, Kansas city jump blues, west coast jump blues, 50's R&B and swing."
Marty has developed a solid reputation in the Twin Cities over the past two decades, drumming in many bands starting in 1978 with the Bee's Knee's, Butanes, RJ Mischo and Blues Deluxe, Lynnwood Slim, Big Walter Smith Band, Mojo Buford, Sonny Rogers, Senders, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Adams, Big Jay McNeely, Lowell Fullsom, and Percy Sledge."
Dave Sanny (bass)
"I've been playing bass for about 25 years," says Dave. "I became a bass player by default
because when we wanted to start our first band, two of my friends already played
guitar and another was already a drummer. Yes, we did dream of being Kiss. Some of my other friends introduced me to the blues in high school. There'd be some Muddy and Howlin' Wolf in the mix, but most of the stuff we listened to was like Canned Heat, ZZ Top (early albums), and Son Seals. It doesn't seem that bluesy, but for a small town in SW Minnesota in the mid '70's, it was as bluesy as it got."
Picking the bass up again after college, Dave and some friends started a basement band playing mostly the blues. This informal group eventually evolved into Off The Hook. "That was a three piece with Bill Mague on drums (now in Power of 10) and Mike Moat on guitar. We did that for about a year until Mike left to front The Big Bang. After the band split, I started to hit the Monday Joel Johnson jam at the Whiskey to try to make some contacts. That's where I originally met Dan Schwalbe. I must've made a good impression. I've been filling in with Joel Johnson from time to time since then and Dan thought of me when he was looking for a bass player for a new project. Dan and I have been playing together for the last two and a half years."
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