Michael 'Supe' Granda (Ozark Mountain Daredevils) 2020 Jul 12, 2020 16:33:37 GMT -6 classic rock revival likes this
Post by classic rock revival on Jul 12, 2020 16:33:37 GMT -6
Classic Rock Revival Interview
Michael 'Supe' Granda
Ozark Mountain Daredevils were formed in Springfield, Missouri, in 1972. They are most widely known for their singles "If You Wanna Get to Heaven" in 1974 and "Jackie Blue" in 1975. Their first album, Ozark Mountain Daredevils was released in late 1973 and spawned the Top 30 hit "If You Wanna Get to Heaven" in the summer of 1974. The album introduced the band's unique mixture of rock, country, bluegrass and pop to the world and is still the favorite of many of the group's fans. Their second album, 'It'll Shine When It Shines', (1974), featured the song, Jackie Blue, which became the Daredevils' signature song and a huge hit peaking at #3 on the Billboard charts in the spring of 1975.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils latest release,'HEAVEN 20/20', is a collection of new music from one of rock's legendary bands still active today.
JIM: It's good to see that 'Heaven 20/20', has been released on vinyl as well as CD. I remember when CD's came out in the early 80's and vinyl slowly faded out, it's great to see the return of LP's, especially the new one's being released today, much better sound quality. Can you tell us a bit about Ozark Mountain Daredevil's latest release, 'Heaven 20/20', how it came about?
SUPE: The idea came about over a long period of time. For the past 30 years, folks have been telling us, "Guys, 'Heaven' could be a hit song on the radio today - if it didn't sound so 70's. Our simple reply was, "Well, we can't help you with that 70's thing. That's when we recorded it. Though, it was cut on 'state of the art' equipment at Olympic Studios, it does sound very 70's. Some of us still like that sound. It's a brilliant song. It's become an anthem. I don't care if it does sound so 70's.
But, we did have access to a nice studio - that sounded so 2000's. John Dillon, Steve Cash and I looked at each other, as older men and decided to go in, have some fun and make one, last last record - 2018's "Off The Beaten Path'. Plus, Steve's health was waning. So this actually was a case of 'now or never'. We knew it, he knew it. We had a nice array of songs. We went into the studio, the red button was pushed, and we started making a racket. It's what we do.
While we were laying down tracks, the idea of re-cutting 'Heaven' arose. It was a no-brainer. We've been playing that song for half a century - and the latest incarnation of the Ozarks have been playing together for over 10 years. It's a very good band. We knew it would only take us 3 minutes and 12 seconds to do it, so we did it. Though we didn't include it on "Off The Beaten Path', we did include it on another special release - "Heaven 20/20" - pressed onto vinyl. It sounded wonderful and not-so 70's, it was our first actual record in decades. I loved it. I still like playing records.
As a sidebar, "Heaven 20/20" was Steve Cash's last harmonica session. He was a treasure. He invented a style. It's right there in the grooves of "If You Want To Get To Heaven".
JIM: How is it that a band gets signed to it's first ever record deal and gets two veteran producers like Glyn Johns and David Anderle to produce their debut album?
SUPE: The times were different. It all happened pretty quickly. We had just finished a demo tape in Springfield,MO,and were pondering how to get it to someone, who could get it to someone, who could help it find it's way into the world.
We'd been playing Brewer & Shipley records, which we really enjoyed. Not only could we relate to what they were singing about, we liked their sound. It was similar to ours, lots of acoustic guitars and harmonies,'Glyn's forte.' When we flipped the album over, on the back cover, we found their address: Good Karma Productions, 4218 Main, Kansas City,MO. We just dropped a copy of our tape into the mail, hoping it would find friendly ears. It found very friendly ears.
We were contacted by Paul Peterson who, along with Stan Plesser, ran Good Karma Productions. They called, we met. Our Rehearsal house, Ruedi-Valley Ranch (Bolivar,MO), sat only a couple of hours south of Kansas City. We arranged a time and a rendezvoused for introductions, libations, music and food. After we played our songs, the Kansas City pair told us they wanted to represent us. We were thrilled. We entered the Good Karma fold and began playing the Cowtown Ballroom, which they also ran.
Stan & Paul also managed Brewer & Shipley. On one of their next trips to Los Angeles, they put a copy of our cassette into their briefcase. Brewer & Shipley's label was A&M Records. After a meeting, Stan thought, 'what the hell', set up another meeting, walked down the hall and knocked on A&R director, David Anderle's door. They sat and began playing our tape. David heard a handful of songs. Then, he stopped the tape. He picked up the phone and called his friend, Glyn Johns. The two had been looking for a project they could co-produce (not only as associates, but friends). Glyn had just finished producing the Eagles. They were looking for something a little less slick. They found us. David's phone conversation was short. "Glyn, it's Dave. You know that band we've been looking to produce together? I just found them". David quickly put the wheels into motion. Jerry Moss (who also liked our songs), signed us to a deal.
Glyn and David flew to Cowtown to hear us play a gig. When we convened later for a quieter, guitar pull, they liked what they heard. We sang, they listened. We would soon be recording. It was literally a dream come true that flashed by in the wink of an eye. It doesn't really happen like that anymore.
JIM: Ozark Mountain Daredevil's debut album, dubbed, 'the quilt album', by the fans, landed in at #25 on the charts here in the U.S. and the single from that album, "If You Want To Get To Heaven", also landed in at #25 on the singles charts as well, is that correct? I remember reading a couple of reviews back in the day and the critics seemed to like you guys, so did I, still do. Can you talk a bit about that time, the feeling among the band members on having a successful debut album/single?
SUPE: The feeling among the band members was unanimous. We were young and excited about what was taking place, a hit song, on our first album. We were just a little band from Missouri and we were working with two of the finest producers in the world. We knew we were in good hands. We had to pinch ourselves everyday.
We knew we were pretty good musicians. We also knew we were very good songwriters. Our songs were our calling card and the most important element in the whole equation. They were well crafted and well executed. We may have come from the Ozarks, but were weren't hayseeds and didn't want to play up that angle for one minute. I think that might have been one of the reasons why the reviewers' enjoyed what we did. The songs didn't all sound the same. There were no long, extended, 'Free Bird', guitar meanderings. Every part we put on was meant to serve the song instead of demand the spotlight. Reviews noticed this, along with our wide, varied influences and the multi-lead singer approach (ala the band). Plus, we all understood the studio. We knew what we had to do, in order to get what we wanted for the sake of the song. This may have been our first album, but we weren't complete babes in the woods. We knew we had the goods, and the makings of a really good record. When we started pre-production, Glyn and David walked in the door and had access to 40 or 50 songs. They got the pick of the litter, the cream of the crop. They could have chosen any ten of the other tunes and the record would have been just as good. When 'the quilt album', came out and started up the charts, we were thrilled but, not surprised. Like I said, we knew we had the goods.
Once the album and 'Heaven', began climbing the charts, every week was more exciting than the last. When we heard 'Heaven', on the radio, jockeying for position with, and being played alongside, Cat Stevens, Steely Dan and Grand Funk Railroad , the thrill ran right to the marrow, it still does. That thrill has never worn off. In June of '74 'Heaven', reached #25. Though, the next week, it began to float back to earth, our heads were still in the clouds. They were very exciting days.
JIM: The follow up album, 'It'll Shine When It Shines', did even better on the charts, landing in the top 20. It also featured your biggest hit, 'Jackie Blue', that reached the #3 position. A really great song, but a somewhat different sound for the band. Larry Lee sang lead vocals on it. Isn't this a song Larry started writing and Steve Cash helped him finish it?
SUPE" Yes, it did sound different from our other material. This was no big deal us. It was just part of our DNA, and was from the very beginning. I always loved Larry's songs because they presented more of a challenge for me. I was able to come up with bass parts that were a diversion from the simple, G-C-D chord pattern a lot of our other songs contained.
When Larry first presented the song, it was about a guy named Jackie. He sang, "Ooh, ooh, Jackie Blue. He was this and doo, doo, doo. He went here, He did that, Ooh, Jackie". When we first started working up the song we didn't think about how different it was. It was just a damn cool song and we had an absolute blast grooving it. Glyn and David also loved it. When we cut the track, Glyn turned to us and predicted, gentlemen, That is a #1 song".
We went to Sunset Sound to mix the album, Larry began to put his vocal on the track. After a short while Glyn called him back into the control room and asked him what the song was about. When Larry mentioned it was about a guy he knew, Glyn replied, "No, no, no, mate. Jackie has to be a girl. You and Steve (Cash) go into the other room and change it." The two went off in search of a piano, returning later that afternoon with the lyric it has today. When the rest of us heard it for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised with Jackie's sex change.
It's a wonderful song and Glyn was right, even though it only made it to #3 on the Billboard charts. At that time though there were three different industry periodicals with charts, Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World. That May, 1975, Cashbox and Record World both placed "Jackie Blue", at #1. So, I guess Glyn was right after all.
JIM: You guys had a great six year run with A&M Records. Releasing six albums, two hit singles, and touring the world over. But you left A&M Records in 1980 and signed a deal with Columbia Records. What made you decide to do that?
SUPE: Our contract with A&M ended and we signed with another label, Columbia. No hubbub, no juicy headlines. no press conferences, no hard feelings. We went from a boutique label to the epitome of corporate. In L.A. we walked into Charlie Chaplin's funky, old studios, referred to as 'the lot'. In New York , we rode the elevator to the 27th floor.
We were signed by A&R head, Don Ellis, who came to one of our gigs, liked what he saw and heard. We worked out a two album deal. We were off to L.A. to make our first record for a label other than A&M. We hooked up with old friend, John Boylan and had an absolute blast. When we finished the mixes and took the final master to Ellis's office, we were informed that he no longer worked there. When we entered the office of his new, younger replacement, our tape was stacked on top of the existing pile on his desk. Indifference was not a good sign. The album never made much of a splash, or a dent in a chart. Then the recession hit and we all hit the heap. When the industry cutbacks came we could see the writing on the liner notes. The label saved Artist 1 through Artist 67. Artist 68 through Artist 2,317 got the axe.
It wasn't just Columbia. Every label was cutting back then. Those of you, who remember, remember. We could hear the scissors snipping off the bottom 2/3 of the roster. We hit the cutting room floor curled up in twisted tape. The latter half of our contract just evaporated. We never made a second album for Columbia.
JIM: That album, the band's second, 'self titled', release was a really good one, one of my favorites. It features one of the OMD's classic tunes, "Take You Tonight." That song had 'hit', written all over it. K-SHE 95 in St.Louis played the hell out of it and designated it a 'K-SHE Klassic." Overall, that album was a damn good one in my opinion. Looking back on that album, what's your opinion of it?
SUPE: Our opinion of it is, we loved it. Still do. They were very cool songs and we had a ball recording them. We spent a month in L.A., living large, making music and enjoying the late 70's L.A. rock and roll lifestyle. Though, the album didn't get a ton of promotion, it made it on to the charts and "Take You Tonight", reached #67. That's still pretty good. That song is rock solid and one of my favorites. Plus, it sounds great on the radio.
I must take a couple of seconds here to shine a light on K-SHE. They all had great ears. They played our very first record when it came out. They played every one of our records when they came out. They played "Take You Tonight", a lot. They had an album oriented format, so they didn't just play the hits, they played albums in their entirety. This gave their listeners a broader brush (so to speak), we used for our music. Over the years I've remained friends with many of those old K-SHE DJ's. Most of them are still doing what they love, (radio). I'm still doing what I love, (music).
JIM: Who are some of the artists/bands, you enjoy listening to and some that you've enjoyed sharing the bill with at festivals?
SUPE: As for the band, there wasn't one particular influence. That's because there were many influences. One of the nicer characteristics of the band was the diversity of tastes. There were influences of country, bluegrass, smooth pop and swampy rock, all rolled into one. A good example of this was the juke box at the New Bijou Theater, where we formed, hung out and began playing music. You would hear the Sons Of Champlin, Merle Haggard, Taj Mahal, Dan Hicks, Jimmy Reed, the Jazz Crusaders and Canned Heat. At our first rehearsals we worked up cover songs by Bo Diddley and the Coasters.
My earliest musical influence was my crazy Uncle Don's record collection. While my father spun Tony Bennett and Mel Torme records, my Uncle Don bought Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino records. When Uncle Don played his records the party jumped and I took notice. His music burst into my brain well before the Beatles. Then, when the Beatles hit the Ed Sullivan Show, my mind was completely blown. When I saw those guys playing those same Little Richard songs, I put two and two together, got four and headed for the door. When I saw them do it, I wanted to do it too. I immediately knew what I was going to do the rest of my life. While the British were coming, I was just as enthralled with the Stones and the Yardbirds. If it had spirit, grease, and grit, I was all over it. Same goes for my Dr. John records. This was also where I heard and developed a love of country music for the first time.
When I moved to the Ozarks from St. Louis I heard country music for the first time. My dad hated country music. We never listened to the Grand Ole Opry. When Hank or 'Hee Haw' came on, he could not reach for the channel changer fast enough. Then, when I heard those wonderful songs my band mates were writing, I was smitten. I immersed myself. The tsunami was wonderful.
We began branching out, playing larger gigs with larger bands. Our first foray onto the scene was with Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band. Then we hooked up with Commander Cody and his nutty bunch. Then we began to tour with Brewer & Shipley, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Doobie Brothers. Then, when "If You Want To Get To Heaven', became a hit, we got lumped into the country rock genre, playing myriads of gigs with the Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, Emmylou Harris and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Another aspect of our music's diversity was we could also hook up with country artists and bluegrass festivals. All we simply had to do was slightly amend our set list for the event. This was no big deal to us. We enjoyed playing a football stadium with the Beach Boys. Then the next night play a honky-tonk with Waylon Jennings, followed by a bluegrass festival with John Hartford and the New Grass Revival. It's been a long, strange and very interesting trip.
JIM: You have a show coming up at the River City Casino in St Louis. Awesome Hotel/Casino, great concert venue, I've seen some great shows there. You also have a show coming up in Edwardsville, IL. I've checked Ticketmaster and they haven't been cancelled or rescheduled, so I guess they're still on, is that right? Any other upcoming shows in the near future?
SUPE: At this point, summer of 2020, the only thing anyone can be certain of is the uncertainty of things. I wish I could give you a more solid answer. I feel like a holiday snow globe that has just been shaken. Eventually, all the snowflakes will settle back down. Until then.....
JIM: The first Mississippi River Festival, in Edwardsville, IL., in 1969, was so successful that it became an annual event for the next ten years, the last one was in 1979. A lot of great bands/artists played those festivals like, The Who, Bob Dylan & The Band, the Grateful Dead and countless others. Ozark Mountain Daredevils played the last 4 MRF's, 1976 thru 79. Any memories, highlights, of the Mississippi River Festivals you played come to mind?
SUPE: The Mississippi River Festival holds a very special spot in my heart. When it began, I was in heaven. I couldn't get enough of the place. I was there when Dylan came out to play The Band's encore. I saw The Who, Paul Butterfield and the Grateful Dead. It was a magnificent scene.
Several years later, the Ozarks played SIU-Edwardsville, using the same approach we used at many colleges around the Midwest. Around lunch time we would set up in the student union area and play a scaled down acoustic set. Passers-by would stop, listen and hang. We informed everyone that we would also be playing another show later that evening, somewhere else on campus. This gave the campus grapevine all day to heat up. It was an effective approach. Our evening gigs usually filled with those who had either been to or heard about our lunch show.
That afternoon when we finished our set, a member of the staff approached us about playing this festival they were hosting. I went out of my ever-loving mind. For years I'd been telling my bandmates about this festival. To receive an invitation to play it was an absolute dream come true. For years, I'd walked in the front gate as a ticket buying customer. When I drove through the back gate as a performer, I was on cloud 9,999. The back stage was loose, comfortable and run by students. The on stage production was first class. It sounded wonderful. I think we played there 3 or 4 times. I remember playing with The Guess Who, Doug Kershaw and a new, upstart singer named, Jimmy Buffett.
For a St. Louis kid to be able to perform on the Mississippi River Festival stage was mind blowing. When I walked onstage the applause literally took my breath away. This impelled me to play my ass off. It impelled all of us to play our asses off. I felt like David Freese, hitting that home run in the World Series at Busch Stadium - "home town kid fulfills boyhood dream." It also felt fantastic when we played the Kiel Opera House and the Fox Theater. But, nothing will ever replace the Mississippi River Festival - EVER!
JIM: How did you get the nickname, 'Supe'?
SUPE: Actually, I acquired the nickname years before the Daredevils even got started. When I moved from St. Louis to Springfield (Sept.,'69) to go to college. I had no desire to get up early and go to Sociology class. I did have a huge desire to stay up late , hang out with other musicians, drink beer, play music, get high and be in a rock and roll band.
By that Halloween, I had already formed a band, "the Grate Sloth." We did our first gig at the Four Star Opry House on Commercial Street. I was the lead singer for a repertoire that included covers by the Stones, the Who, the Dead, the Airplane, Chuck Berry, Wilson Pickett, Cream, etc.,etc... For the gig, I wore a Superman t-shirt, jumped around the stage and acted like a jester. On our last song, I wanted to make an impression on my new town. So, I startled the entire front row , when I leapt off the stage, flashed my "S," screamed and ran up the aisle-right out the front door, onto Commercial Street. We were as rag-tag, as it gets. It was loud , it was obnoxious. We were stoned. It was fun.
The Sloth began to play at Be-Bops and became the house band at the Warehouse Experience. Then we got a handful of gigs on campus. Each time, I wore that ratty old, comfortable as hell, Superman shirt. I was still attending classes every day, meeting dozens and dozens of new people (as college freshmen do). Conversation was usually, "Hey, you're that guy in that band. You're that goofy singer in the Superman shirt."
From that point on, I became "Supe." As my circles widened across Springfield, it became a nickname I couldn't seem to shake. So, I didn't try.
JIM: In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to us fans, the "Dareheads?"
SUPE: Yes, a couple of things. For the older fans; We cannot stress enough, how grateful we are that, for the past 50 years, you pulled a dollar out of your pocket to buy a record, a ticket, a t-shirt, or a song. This has afforded me a life, where I haven't had to concentrate on anything, other than making art. Being an artist, became my job. The greatest asset an artist can have is "his time." If he owns his time he can get his work done. I'm a fortunate man. I realize this. Because of you, I've owned my time. I thank you.
For the younger fans; Many of you have come to our gigs, declaring, "My mom & dad/grandma & grandpa just love you guys. They played your records all the time. I've been listening to your music since I was a little kid. Now I'm a junior at whatever State University and I got a ticket to your concert tonight, I can't wait. Generation gap? Schmeneration gap. Youngsters, do not-and I repeat, DO NOT-give up on your dreams. You must do the work, but keep the dream. You're looking at a guy who has lived his.
OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS Official Website: www.theozarkmountaindaredevils.com/
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