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ABOUT RAR: For those of
you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher
of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites.
Use this link to visit the
RAR music page, which features original music
compositions and other.
ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance"-AVAILABLE
NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM
CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects
the building of America in a trilogy of novels
collectively called ATWOOD. Book One explores
the development of the American West through the
lens of public policy, land planning, municipal
development, and governance as it played out in one
of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of
the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious
and cultural traditions that imbued the American
Midwest with a special character that continues to
have a profound effect on American politics to this
day. Book One creates an understanding about
America's cultural foundations that is further
explored in books two and three that further trace
the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one
isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as
an icon in the development of a certain brand of
American character. That's the serious stuff viewed
from high altitude. The story itself gets down and
dirty with the supernatural, which inATWOOD
- A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance is the
outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the
monumental to the sublime.The
book features the epic poem"The
well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard
Meets Larry McMurtry
I am offering another
novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service.
Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its
sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado,
1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm
equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of
individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and
distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.
It is a ripping good yarn, filled
with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to
pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950,
when the story is set. Richard Padilla
has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of
a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The
whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on
Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little
of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns.
Use this link.
EXPLORE THE KINDLE
If you have not explored the books
available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing
division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You
will find classic literature there, as well as tons
of privately published books of every kind. A lot of
it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published
books are awful, but some are truly classics. You
can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works
for two bucks.
Amazon is the largest,
but far from the only digital publisher. You can
find similar treasure troves at NOOK
Barnes & Noble site),Lulu,
"Dusty Drapes/Cocktail Stevie" Swenson Looks Back On His
Stephen Swenson, who has been known by stage names "Dusty
Drapes" and "Cocktail Stevie", has been featured before on this site. Back in the 1970s,
he fronted a fantastic Western/Country-Swing band in Colorado,
called "Dusty Drapes and the Dusters".
They seemed to me to be an extension of a music/theatrical thing that
was happening in Boulder, beginning in the 1960s. That university town
had spawned The Astronauts, a Surf-Rock instrumental unit that
put the town on the pop map, while providing something of a model for a
certain brand of showmanship to come.
The reserved Astronauts portrayed as top-of-the-charts guitar
instrumental bands did at the time, which was somewhat robotic, but they
were a kind of a bridge to what followed. Boulder found its inner
Catskill with the emergence of Flash Cadillac and the Continental
Kids (Flash Cadillac). They were right up there with the most
energetic White people ever gathered under one band name, and they were
Great with a capital G. Their history is well known, as they started
showing up in movies ("American Graffitti", "Apocalypse Now") and TV
shows ("Happy Days"). None of those appearances came close to capturing
the madness of their live show, but check out the Boulder music video at
http://www.rarwriter.com/Boulder%20Video%20History.htm to see some
truly great footage.
Around 1973, three other very showy bands
appeared in Boulder, all of which became important to the area's music
history: Hot Rize, Magic Music, and Dusty Drapes and the
Dusters. That period also put a soul band called Freddie & Henchi
in the Colorado market. (My recollection is that they moved to the area
from Arizona, but I could be on something.) All of those bands were
considerably more theatrical than were ordinary bar bands, and so
extended this Boulder tradition of show making.
led the Dusters as "Dusty Drapes", which was a band loaded with
tongue-in-cheek, flashy western apparel, and some of the greatest
musicianship you would ever hope to find anywhere. These guys were
smokin' and should have been the biggest Country Swing band in the
world, but somehow there seemed to be only one available slot and it
went to Asleep at the Wheel (yawn). Dan McCorison (you can
find an archived piece on him at
http://www.rarwriter.com/LinksNASH_Archives.htm) was a Duster, and
he had been something of a protégé of Chris Hillman (The Byrds
and other hitmakers), who produced him. The band also had connections to
Tumbleweed Records, so they were well known in the music industry,
and in a position to break big. In this interview below, Steve does a
wonderful job of describing how it all came down, and his feelings and
memories about the whole thing.
The Dusters reunite for a few shows at Nissi's in Lafayette every
other year or so, and you can find video of those shows below. The sound
quality doesn't do justice to who Steve and his cohorts are as
musicians, but it shows them all grown up. - RAR
off, I know that you are running your own band out of Minnesota, which
must be your ancestral turf? Where do you come from and where are you
Stephen Swenson (SS):
I was born in Western Minnesota (Granite Falls). My father was a
Brakeman on the Soo Line Railroad and my Mother was a Registered Nurse.
We moved to Hankinson, North Dakota when I was one year old and lived
there till I was 11. Then Dad moved us to the big city of Coon Rapids,
Minnesota, which is a suburb of Minneapolis. When I was 21 I moved to
Colorado to become a session Bass player for
Tumbleweed Records, which was headed by world famous producer
Bill Szymzick (who was associated
with) The Eagles, James gang, BB King,
to name a few. I lived there for 13 years and founded
“Dusty Drapes and the Dusters”. In 1984
I returned to Minnesota for family and health reasons. I now live in
Minneapolis and have been happily married to my wife Cindy for 25 years.
LINEUP: Steve Swenson,
Rick "Delmar" Schmidt, Don DeBacker, Dan McCorison, Tommy Evans and
Jamie Kibben. Guitar-wizard Junior Brown joined the Dusters four years
after the band's founding (see story below).
In 2013, the Boulder Daily Camera described the
formation of Dusty Drapes and the Dusters:
McCorison had recently moved to Boulder and was living
in a one-room former schoolhouse in the foothills above town when he,
guitarist Don DeBacker and Swenson formed Dusty Drapes. Even in their
early 20s, they were veteran musicians -- Swenson had been a session
bass player and played on Danny Holien's minor hit record
"Colorado." Originally, they wanted to get some songs together, play ski
resorts and try to cobble together a living.
After seeing a slick country outfit play, McCorison
recalled recently, the band decided to give that genre a go.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes I think I dreamed this story,
though I think I got it in some form from Steve Conn, who was a prominent
figure on the Boulder music scene in the 1970s and 80s. There seems to
me no documentation on this anywhere, so maybe Steve dreamed it, and
then told me, and then I dreamed it all over again. The great
dual-guitar wizard Junior Brown passed through Boulder at some
point unknown to me (I once lived there) and played for a time with
Dusty Drapes, and at
there is this story about Dusty and the boys finding Brown hitchhiking
through the desert at night, and bringing him on board. Junior Brown
plays the "Better Call Saul" theme, though that is not the reason I
would find horrifying the notion of picking him out of a desert night.
It's like picking up a rock, finding Lucifer, and asking for a light,
though I bet he did supercharge the already supercharged Dusters. I wish
to think the story is true as it would attest to the level of the
musical talent in the Dusters, because Junior Brown is a monster! -
Swenson Sets the Story Straight:
Junior was my guitarist for 3.5 years. We met
him on a trip to New Mexico. His old Cadillac had overheated and he was
sitting on the Fender when we first saw him. We got him some water for
his vehicle and invited him down to our gig in Golden, New Mexico. He
came down and sat in with us. He loved our band and what we were doing.
I told him that if he wanted to play in my group he would have to cut
his hair, shave and "Cowboy up!" in order to be a Duster. About a month
later he showed up in Boulder with his hair cut and clean shaven. We
took him out and got him a hat and some cowboy clothes. When we first
met him he was a long haired hippie. We were responsible for his image
change which he still wears today and is a definite part of his image.
He was a character to say the least.
You apparently went directly from Dusty Drapes and the Dusters in
Colorado to your Cocktail Stevie Review, which I understand was designed
to be a “backup/show band.” Do I get that right? How did that come
Actually, “Cocktail Stevie” started in Colorado. We decided to put
an alternative band together that played Rock ‘n’ Roll and “Rockabilly
music”! Gigs were getting harder to come by around 1981 because of the
drinking laws and dram shop insurance rates going sky high. A lot of
“western bars” were closing down or not hiring as much live music. Our
friends “Hot Rize” had put together
“Red Knuckles” and we thought it would be a great idea to
have two bands in one! It was a lot of fun, but short lived as I moved
back to Minneapolis soon after.
When I got back in the
Midwest, “Classic Rock” was the big thing and there was more money in
it. If you were a country band you might make $300-$600 per night, but
if you had a Rock ‘n’ Roll band you could get anywhere between $1,000
and up. I went to some gigs and realized that when the bands played
Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll the whole room lit up and there was lots of
energy. People loved it and so did the players. So when I got back here
it was an easy decision for me to make, Dusty or Cocktail Stevie?, And
Stevie won out.
have had these two personas – Dusty and Stevie. I haven’t seen Cocktail
Stevie. Are you a different guy as Stevie than your were as Dusty?
SS: I’m basically
the same person. I front the band the way I would either way.
I grew up in the early
60’s listening and playing the music of The
Everly Bros., Chuck Berry, Beatles, Stones and all that. The
mid-60’s found me playing Motown and then I got into the
Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Hendrix and
all of that stuff. These are my original roots. When I got to Colorado,
I re-discovered my country roots. I dove into
Hank Sr., Bob Wills, Ray Price, Webb Pierce and all of that
Texas honky tonk music. Next thing you know I put together Dusty and it
really took off.
You see, we were hippies
that cut our hair, cleaned up our act and then proceeded to play a sort
of “Tongue in cheek” style of country music, similar to
“Comander Cody”, only we had the look
of Ernie Tubb’s “Texas Troubadours”!. We
were the Asleep at the Wheel, Comander Cody
of the Rockies, so to speak! We got a gig downtown Boulder and the
college kids took to our group. We packed them in to a place called
Keller’s Inn. It was packed 4 nights a
We originally decided to
put the Dusty band together to get away from the idea of becoming stars
as the Tumbleweed record company had
failed. We thought we’d just go and play music without trying to shoot
for the moon. What happened next was somewhat ironic to say the least. A
manager from LA heard about this “Cowboy” band that was taking the town
by storm! He came out and heard our originals and ended up signing us to
a record deal with Columbia Records out of LA! We ended up getting a
deal by trying not to get one! Go figure!
You were so closely associated with Boulder, Colorado, which was and
still is a notoriously “fun” place. Can you recall your lifestyle back
in those days, how Boulder was as a music community, and what your main
memories are of the place?
SS: Boulder was a
fun place! It was like a carnival! Everyone has to leave the carnival
sooner or later or they’ll eat too many hot dogs and get sick! That’s
what was starting to happen to me. I met some great people there and I
have so many memories (good and a few bad) that people have told me to
write a book on it. We played with just about every major act that came
through (Merle Haggard, Linda Ronstadt, Cody, The Blasters, Joe Ely, the
Wheel, even Paul Butterfield.
RAR: Do you recall your feelings around the time that you stopped
being Dusty? That must have been a tough decision.
SS: It was very
tough. I knew it was never going to be the same musically speaking. I
had a great band and I was surrounded by some of the best players on the
planet, but I had to leave the Boulder scene.
Over time I had been
swept up in the Boulder scene. One morning I woke up, after having
surgery to remove a malignant tumor on my thyroid, and I realized that
my best friends were dealers and/or users, and that the only way I was
going to get out of this situation alive was going to be by removing
myself from the scene!
My Mom was going through
a depressed state back in Minnesota as a result of losing my Grandmother
and my step-Dad in a matter of three months. I knew then and there that
I had to move back and straighten out my life and take care of my Mom!
But I had to leave my friends, my music as I knew it, and Colorado.
There were tears shed but I’m very glad the good Lord gave me the
insight and a second chance to get my life together.
BLOCK PARTY: Steve lived in
Longmont, Colorado in the early 1980s, which gave him an appreciation
for the Hispanic culture that he encountered in the neighborhoods there.
He wrote a tune extolling the virtues of the community - "Living With
the Mexicans" - that inspired a feature story in the Longmont newspaper.
Do you maintain friendships with folks you knew in Boulder? Or do
you ever return?
Yes there are folks there
that are like family to me. I don’t go there as often as I’d like but
we stay in touch.
Country swing, particularly super-charged the way you did it back in
your Colorado days, never really goes out of style. And it is also a
music that looks good on “older” players. Do you ever entertain any
notion of resurrecting the Dusters?
SS: I do a Dusty
reunion every 2 years now and we sell out two shows. It’s wonderful
seeing all the old friends and fans plus the musicians!
The list of name performers that you have been
associated with since returning to Minnesota is impressive (including
Bobby Vee, The Platters, The Coasters, The Shirelles, Bo Diddley, on and
on). It is like a roster of historic pop stars. How are these people to
SS: For the most
part they are wonderful, some more demanding than others, but it has
been great working with the people that I used to listen to on the radio
while growing up in the sixties. I guess you could say that that is
really where my heart is at, the 50’s-60’s Rock/ Rockabilly and Rhythm
RAR: How has music changed for you over the years? What were your
initial interests and influences, and how did you develop in your
musical interests over time?
SS: The music
stays the same. I prefer the stuff I grew up with!
RAR: You know how journalist use a kind of classification crutch
that helps them talk about musicians by categorizing them into
“singer/songwriter” (which always seems to me to be the grouping used
for people others are unlikely to listen to), “musician” (which is
sexier) and “performer” (sexiest of all), and there are other
categories. Firstly, do you have any feelings about these sorts of
generic classifications? Or do you have a classification for yourself?
SS: I’m basically
a Professional Band leader/ bass player/ singer and songwriter.
a follow-on to the previous question, what strength do you possess that
has put you on a level with the type of top-flight players with whom you
have been associated.
SS: Professional Band
Leader and babysitter. lol
Are you a music fan? Do you listen to music to be
entertained in your off hours? And, if so, who are you listening to
SS: I listen to
Willie’s Roadhouse/ 50’s and 60’s Rock n Roll mainly plus the Motown
Are you a fan of live entertainment? Do you go out
to see other bands?
SS: Sometimes but
I’ve slowed down lately. I never miss Bob Dylan when he comes to town!
What is the greatest challenge a player of your
age and experience faces regarding your ongoing music career?
SS: As you get older
the music gets younger. My biggest problem is my hearing which has
forced me to stop gigging on a regular basis. I play about 12 dates per
year nowadays. I enjoyed backing up national acts, but their days are
numbered. I played with Bobby Vee
for two years and that was a great experience for me. I was on the same
bill as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby
Checker, plus many others.
What themes are you attracted to in music?
SS: Just about
You have obviously pursued recording contracts
with major labels, and with a measure of success. Do you remain in
search of the “big break” or is music a different pursuit for you now
than it was in your youth?
SS: It’s different
now. I’ve come to realize that those days are over for me. I really have
no desire to do anything like that. It’s a cut throat business and the
technology has moved forward and I haven’t.
I’m now into the commercial
real estate business, and it’s much better financially.
Don’t get me wrong though,
if someone wanted to record Dusty and the Boys, I would be all for it.
I’m just not the one to go
knocking down the doors anymore.
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