Ask any rocker - any real rockers - and they'll tell you that rock n' roll is a long shot. And overnight successes usually fade away just that fast.
For the road-worthy musicians known collectively as the Deja Blu Band, these hard rules aren't hard to live by. They're just part of the process.
Although the northwestern Ohio quartet has been aligned in the Deja Blu formation for a mere two years this spring, its members have been linked musically one way or another for the better part of two decades. The band - bassist Davey Farrell, guitarist Paul Schmidt, vocalist David Raker and drummer Clem Kutzli Jr. -combines all those years of experience to good effect with the CD release Windy Town.
A potent sample of the band's live show, the eight-track collection (i.e.: the eight-song CD - as opposed to a collection of eight-track cassettes) treats the blues with a shot of electricity and a chaser of adrenaline.
Consisting primarily of original compositions, Windy Town contains a laid-back yet muscular reworking of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" and a serviceable rendition of ZZ Top's "Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers." The remaining tracks reveal the band's strong original material, especially on the mellow jams "I Got Some News For You" and "Sea of Teardrops" and the up-tempo "Solitude."
According to Farrell, this traveling band of working men keeps on pushing in hopes of securing a record deal, though something else keeps the band focused and intact.
"The love of the music, absolutely," Farrell says during a recent phone interview. "I feel that of all the different things that I have done, music is probably . . . it is the thing that I love doing the most and it very well could be the thing that I do the best."
At 47 years old, Farrell has racked up some 30 years as a pro-style player. He spent a considerable amount of those years jamming with Bob Hartman, the founder of the Christian rock band Petra.
The years have treated Farrell to times and experiences both good and bad. The bassist says the musical life has brought him in contact with some beautiful people and some deceitful people.
"The beautiful people go out of their way to make the band feel welcomed," Farrell explains. "And when they tell you they love the music you play and the effort you put into it, you can look at them and you can feel that it's genuine. One person out of a hundred people in a crowd that can come up and say that can absolutely make the night all worthwhile for you.
"There is an example that stands out. We were playing at a 25th anniversary party at a place in Montpelier called the Bar. This was just two nights before New Year's Eve. That night started out emotionally because some of the musicians and the patrons had all chipped in money and had a great, big wooden plaque built for (the owners). It was all etched with the name of the bar, the owners' names, for 25 years of good service, love, friendship,' and it said a few other things. We brought the owners, Beverly and Dixon, up to the stage. They got the plaque and of course they didn't know what to say.
"Personally, another emotional part for me was seeing a younger man that I knew. He was back for the holidays. His father had been murdered when he was just a young lad. His mother, when he was like 16, died of an aneurism. They were both real good friends of mine and I was a pall bearer at both his mother's and his father's funerals. When I saw him in the crowd, that lit me right up to where I just closed my eyes and played things I had never played before. As humble as I can be about any of my performances, that particular show was probably one of the best I ever did. Just because of the emotional height it took me to.
"About two weeks later I went in there and was sitting at the bar. I had a couple people come up to me and tell me they'd been watching me play all these years and they never seen me play that well. That was the very genuine good feeling - when you know somebody actually saw that, they actually recognized it. It was very true. A series of events made me play so much better. Something that you can't will. You can't will an extra special performance like that. It's really got to come from the inside."
Of course with the beautiful, there comes the bad.
"I'll give you a bad manager story," Farrell says. "This one is the band (Sweet Talker) Paul and I were in. This was in the 70s. We hooked onto a manager who immediately hooked onto us. He had all the promo stuff, he had some good looking girls hanging around his apartment in Toledo. He had everything going for him over there.
"Somehow he had some connections. He hooked us up to a show with Ted Nugent. And I'll be darned if this guy, after we agreed to have him manage us, within two weeks that tour was going and we were on it. Just that quick. So away we went. We were doing like six cities with them. This guy did this for us and right away we think we're in the big time right now. It's a done deal. We're already on our way."
"This guy needed some more money to finance what was going on," Farrell says. "To get some more promotion, get some record people in here. And he was a good talker about all this stuff. So the band anted up a bunch of money. We even took loans out. Got him money, gave it to him. Then a couple of jobs happened and they were okay jobs. Then he became hard to get a hold of. After two or three weeks, he virtually disappeared. We didn't ever see the guy again. He was 100 percent con man. He had us sold. That wised us up long ago."
Nobody ever said the rock n' roll life would be easy. But it's not so bad when you adore the music so much that you can spin a negative experience into a nugget of wisdom. It's that kind of attitude that keeps the Deja Blu Band in top form.
"Everybody loves playing the music," Farrell says of his bandmates. "If we had the opportunity where we could do that as our livelihood, I think everybody in the band would want to do it. But you know how very difficult that is. So you've got to just love the music. That's the biggest thing that keeps me going. I've done it all my life."
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