The Ozark Mountain Daredevils - Whatever Happened To......
First Published in Country Music International – March 1998
Following a meteoric rise to fame in the mid-1970s with the Worldwide pop hit Jackie Blue, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils appeared to fade away as quickly as they’d arrived. But having quietly plugged away in relative obscurity, the band returned late last year with a brand new LP entitled 13.
“After Jackie Blue kind of faded, we didn’t have any more radio success, so it’s natural for people to think that we just faded away. But we continued to work, continued to record and continued to play,” says Michael ‘Supe’ Granda, long-standing bass player with the Ozark Mountains Daredevils.
Along with Granda, the band still boasts original members John Dillon and Steve Cash, plus relative newcomers Bill Brown and Ron Gemp. And over the years, the Daredevils have continued to explore the diversity if America’s musical heritage, drawing on country, rock’n’roll and the Appalachian sound to create their own distinctive musical blend.
Based in Springfield, Missouri, the Daredevils blossomed out of a fairly close-knit musical community, centering on the New Bijou Theater, which doubled as a rehearsal facility and live music club. At the start of the 1970s, members of various local bands decided to join forces to create a writers’ co-operative, and from this developed a sort of Springfield supergroup who swiftly became known as the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
By the spring of 1973, the Daredevils had landed a record deal with A&M and were in London recording their first album with producer Glyn Johns. He already had a track record, having produced the first two Eagles albums, and he struck gold again with the Daredevils’ eponymous debut. On their return to the States, the band’s profile grew fast with If You Wanna Get To Heaven making the pop top 20 and the group heading out on the road with 1970s icons the Doobie Brothers and Loggins & Messina.
However, the band did not relish the stadium circuit, preferring the smaller, more down-home style venues, a trait that was reflected in the recording of their second LP. IT’LL SHINE WHEN IT SHINES. Rather than book into a high-profile, state-of-the-art studio, the band chose to record at their own studio at the Ruedi Valley Ranch near Springfield. But surprisingly, despite this approach, the album produced the hit pop single Jackie Blue, which threatened to carry them further from their rural heritage.
“Even back on our first albums, we’ve always played country music.” Granda explains. “We tried to persuade our record company to put some of our records in the country bins, but they didn’t get it. ‘What do you mean? Jackie Blue’s a pop record. Give us Jackie Red, give us Jackie Green!’ We had this real nice country song to follow Jackie Blue but they didn’t want to know.”
The third album, THE CAR OVER THE LAKE ALBUM, was recorded in Nashville and with its mix of country, rock’n’roll, jazz and r&b, lacked the musical coherence of its predecessors. The Daredevils produced a couple more albums for A&M, before signing to Columbia in 1980—but after one more record, they pretty much disappeared. However, the band never really stopped recording. They continued to work up new material, occasionally producing gigging tapes, until, in 1989 they released MODERN HISTORY, recorded in Nashville under the auspices of Wendy Waldman.
“We came to Nashville about 10 years ago,” Granda says. “The music scene here is a bit different in the Ozarks. We tried to go the Nashville route and recorded half-a-dozen songs by Nashville writers, quite successful writers, but we didn't really agree with the Nashville process of doing things,' Despite this view, Granda, who is now settled in Nashville, runs his own publishing company, Missouri Mule Music, and has a tune, The Ode To Mel Bay on the latest Chet Atkins album, THE DAY THE FINGERPICKERS TOOK OVER THE WORLD.
“We’ve always written songs that were not only accessible to us, but to other people,” Granda says. “Jeff Carson recorded If You Want To Get To Heaven, and Hank Williams Jr did it on one of his albums.”
A couple of years ago, the band produced a six-song tape, which they shopped around the Nashville labels. Although disappointed by the response, they went back into the studio, cut another six songs and are marketing the album themselves. The album, 13, displays the band in a acoustic setting, and demonstrates their talent for solid songwriting.
But despite their low profile, Granda says, “We’ve decided to catch up with the times, and now with a new website we are re-establishing contact with people all over the world and that has got to be good.”