20th August 2018
Hi Riff Raffers,
Recently I posted my rough and ready, live acoustic interpretation of ‘The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’, ‘Black Sky’. The band came into prominence with their release of their first single in 1973, ‘If You Wanna Get To Heaven’ which peaked at number twenty five on the US Billboard charts. A harmonica driven tune written by Steve Cash and John Dillon with Randle Chowning providing the vocals. All of these three ‘Daredevils’ played harmonica, but Steve Cash, the primary harp player blew the signature riff here.
Steve Cash was born in Springfield, Missouri and he resides there to this day. He was an inspired writer of poetry and short stories. In the late sixties, Steve met John Dillon from South Arkansas and a life long friendship began. Initially Steve was just an avid consumer of music, however at some point he wanted more. He purchased a harmonica and thought he could go alright at it. John helped Steve’s journey by showing him how to cup the harp and to pass on an important piece of advice that John had received from his Mum, who was a noted harmonica player; “Put it in your pocket and you’ll learn how to play it”. A few weeks later Steve realised the wisdom of the suggestion. Steve was heavily influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson II and Sonny Terry’s rhythmic, chugging style, and perhaps he’s not the most prolific harpist, but what he brings to the table is both brilliant and integral to the ‘Ozarks’ sound.
‘Black Sky’ started life as a poem and then transformed into a two chord tune in ‘E’ with a cross harp riff in ‘A’. It would morph into a radio jingle advertising a local auto parts store. ‘It’s a Black Sky forming on the ridge’ became, ‘It’s Stinger Sam for your automobile’. Even greater success was in store for the song when it featured on the ‘Ozarks’ debut self titled album. The 1973 album was known to loyal followers as the Quilt album due to the patchwork quilt cover art.
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, with three of the founding members, John Dillon, Steve Cash and Mike Granda, have released a new album consisting of sixteen brand spanking new originals, their first in twenty years. ‘Off The Beaten Path’ can be downloaded from their website. Steve’s talents are never ending as the front cover is an exquisite original painting of his. He is also a published author with a science fiction trilogy consisting of The Meq (2002), Time Dancers (2006) and The Remembering (2011).
Randle Chowning and Larry Lee were still performing together and writing original material. Randle has released two albums under the moniker of Ozark Joe. I had the honour and pleasure of chewing the fat with Randle over the air waves a couple of years ago. Hear here https://soundcloud.com/3mdr-97-1fm/old-shep-chats-with-randle-chowning-on-3mdr
I’ve also uploaded a tune showcasing Steve’s rhythmic harp from 1974, ‘Ballad Of A Country Dog’ by fellow Missourians, ‘Brewer (Mike) and Shipley (Tom)’. You might remember their 1970 hit, ‘One Toke Over The Line’.
If your not familiar with the ‘The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’, do (as Molly would say) yourself a favour, and check out their tunes. I rate them highly.