RAM Review, April 1998
Veteran Musicians Rock Out Blues by  Melanie Marshall, Editor, RAM, April 1998

 

     Don't let their older ages fool you - the RAM-nominated Blues Hawks know how to crank out some great rocking' blues for a guaranteed good time.

    "We're putting people that are 25 together with people that are 50 and older," said Dave Hanson, keyboard/harmonica player. "It's kind of amazing to see that we can appeal to that wide of an age group. It really says something about the kind of music we're playing and developing."

     Their music is ageless. The Blues Hawks repertoire includes proven favorites by groups like Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Yardbirds, George Thoroughgood, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan along with several others that are so good, dancers don't miss a beat.

    "This is more  good-time music, not cry-in-your-beer blues, burn out, out music," guitarist Tim Roe said. "You can't help but tap your foot , and that's the whole battle there. It goes over with most people, where sometimes if you're playing rock music, people don't go out and dance to it."

     The Blues Hawks are all lifelong musicians with diverse abilities. In addition to playing instruments, they all write music, sing, and take turns at lead vocals. All are mature performers who work together well, sharing a common desire - to get the party going and keep it going.

    "It's more of a democratic group,' Hanson said. "There's no dictator here. When it comes to writing the songs or at our rehearsal if someone has something to add to the groove, it's pretty much a mutual situation. That makes everybody an integral part of the group."

     Hanson, a blues man who plays mouth harp and keyboards, brought the Blues Hawks together about a year ago, but the band went through some personnel changes before hitting on the right mix of members.

     Bass player Adam Stryker and drummer Roger Wylie joined the group after the original members parted ways with Hanson. Their strengths - vocal harmonies and playing skills - establish a notably good rhythm section. But the Blues Hawks have gotten a turbo jump into success since October when Roe joined the group.

     That is what really took us over the edge as far as developing our sound," Hanson said. "When he came into the band it added such a strong note as far as rocking' style of blues guitar, not to mention his stage presence, vocals and song-writing ability. So with the experience that these four people have, I thought, 'Gee, we can't miss. ".

     Roe, 39, has an extensive background in the Rockford music scene and to call his playing impressive is an understatement. He's played in bands, mostly rock, since he was 15 years old, including Patty And The Panic, The Jelly Soldiers, Fabulous X-Men, The Flying Saucers, The Bun E. Carlos Experience, and many more.

     Although his musical resume shows a predominantly rock background, Roe says playing blues comes naturally to him. When learning to play guitar in the 1960s, he says he tried to emulate British guitar stars, like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, until he realized they were all just trying to imitate American blues bands, like T-Bone Walker, Hound Dog Taylor and others. He never took formal guitar lessons, but collected records of the blues greats and learned guitar from their examples. A rarely seen treat to watch for in Roe's performance is the slide guitar, which he enjoys playing because its sound is smooth and fluid. "It's a different sound, and I'm surprised more people don't do it, but very few guys do," he said.

     Hanson's abilities are equally awesome- Like Roe, he goes way back in the local music scene, playing with the band Wheezer Lockinger, a group that was together from 1969 to 1971 and reformed in the early 1980s, He and wife Cheryl both 50, married at age 16 and opened a Rockford head shop called the Red Whale in 1969. Bun E. Carlos was a good buddy of Hanson's during high school and through the Red Whale, Hanson met a lot of other musicians, including the other pre-Cheap Trick members. He took a job tuning pianos at Nielsen's Music Shop in 1973, and after that at Angel's Piano Shop. He's also worked as the main concert piano tuner at the Metro Centre for the last 18 years.

     Bassist Adam Stryker, 52, spent 16 years working as a musician in California and Colorado beginning 'm 1970 after leaving college at the University of Illinois, where he majored in music. "I went out there to become a rock star, but that didn't happen, but I met a lot of people out there who really helped me with my playing and my knowledge of music."

     He returned to Rockford ten years ago and played in a band called The Corvettes with his cousin Mike Novak, another longtime musician, for two years. From there he played a summer with a band called Smuggler and then another group, Rick Rogers And The Resistors, where he first met Roe.

     Stryker is well versed in many styles of music, from rock to country to blues. Playing with the Blues Hawks is an enjoyable situation, he says, because the members are mature and not prone to petty power struggles. "In this situation, nobody's making any money, and if you start thinking it's more important than it is, that's kind of a blind alley, then the egos get in the way," he said.

    "That's kind of the pleasure of this band. I think because everybody's singing in this band, everybody feels a little bit more in touch with what we're doing. It keeps everybody more interested."

     Like Roe and Hanson, Stryker believes most styles of music are intertwined, whether it be blues, country or rock. All agree the music they play has been well accepted throughout the last 20 years, but rock blues in particular has returned to popularity recently, even turning up in advertising.

     Local music has struggled to survive in recent years, he says, with more stringent alcohol-related laws coming into force. "There used to be a lot more places to play, and now, there are a lot of bars that do really well for about a year and then close down" he said. "I don't know what that's all about. I know a lot of people are cautious about going out and drinking and driving to hear music anymore, and that's taken its toll "

     Stryker started out playing trumpet during junior high, just like his father who played with an orchestra, but he switched over to bass during college. He got into a rock band while in college, in part to earn some extra cash.

     Wylie, 45, has been playing drums since junior high and has played in several bands ever since. He, too, started out in Wheezer Lockinger in 1969. Throughout the '70s, he traveled around the country, playing lounges from Michigan to Alabama. After that, he was part of the Wheezer reunion until 1983.

     Since then he's played with bands Teacher's Pet, Quest and Prime Time, from 1990 until joining the Blues Hawks last fall. He played with both groups for awhile until the schedul4 got too complicated and he had to make a choice between the two. I've always wanted to be in a blues band, so when Dave called me, I just couldn't turn it down " he said. "It was a real opportunity for me." Wylie, as well as all the Blues Hawks, have a deep mutual respect for each other. He says he was thrilled to be able to work with Stryker, whom he had heard so much about.

    "Tim is another one - I only met him one time, but I'd always seen him in bands and knew a lot of people who knew him throughout all the years, knew he was a good guitar player."

    "The time that the four of us have been together, we've gone a lot farther than any other band I've played with in that amount of time," Wylie said. A resident of Caledonia, Wylie also owns and operates Heartland Screen Printing.

     As for the future of the Blues Hawks, they plan to keep on playing clubs and hope to get booked at some outdoor summer festivals. Recording is not in their immediate plans, but with more than 20 originals, it is something they'd like to do if the right opportunity arises.