at www.RARWRITER.com      

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Volume 2 -2017




What happened to the list?

As the CCJ transitions to a model better geared to leverage social networks, we are moving away from our past use of email notification services. If you would like to be added to our internal email distribution, please send your request to Rick@RARWRITER.com.

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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.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.



Use the RARADIO link to go to our radio page, where you will hear songs you are not likely to hear elsewhere.



"Music Hot Spots"




























Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page


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 in ATWOOD - 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 Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel











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.



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.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves at NOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.



Special Feature

Stephen "Dusty Drapes/Cocktail Stevie" Swenson Looks Back On His Entertainer's Life

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.

Stephen Swenson 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

RAR:  First 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 now?

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.


ORIGINAL 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).


PHOTOS: John Lehn

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 http://rarwriter.com/index%20(June%202015).htm 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! - RAR

Steve 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.

RAR: 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 together? 

SS: 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.

RAR: You 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 week. 

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!

RAR: 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.

RAR: 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.

RAR: 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!

RAR: 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 work with? 

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 ‘n’ Blues.

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.

RAR: Probably 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

RAR: 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 these days?

SS: I listen to Willie’s Roadhouse/ 50’s and 60’s Rock n Roll mainly plus the Motown soul music.

RAR: 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!

RAR: 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.

RAR: What themes are you attracted to in music?

SS: Just about everything

RAR: 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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Copyright © November, 2017 Rick Alan Rice (RARWRITER)