Blackdog and the Rainmakers
An eastern Missouri based rock machine that has inspired mid west U.S. audiences for 31 years. Six albums heard around the world, the group covers a mix of popular and hard to find gems from classics artists. Our shows and albums are laced with great cuts from giants:
STYX - YES - PINK FLOYD - MARSHAL TUCKER - CCR - AMERICA - ELTON JOHN - SUPERTRAMP - LITTLE RIVER BAND - PETER FRAMPTON - LITTLE FEAT - MOODY BLUES - CLAPTON / CREAM / BLIND FAITH - ARS - MAMA'S PRIDE - ALLMAN BROTHERS - SANTANA - JONNY LANG - RICK DERRINGER - JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - HEAD EAST - JACKSON BROWNE - STEELY DAN - and more
Treat yourself to a crisp, tight well mixed evening of suprising classics. Every show is different, picking from over 1000 songs amassed over a lifetime of performances. One show and you will be hooked on
Blackdog and the Rainmakers.
In 1984, Scott Debo, Greg Farmer, Jayson Tipp and Lee Bowers began to collaborate and re-kindle musical roots from years together in school. The first project to gig was Raynes Park named and conceptualized by Tipp.
In 1986, RAYNES PARK lineup was Greg Farmer, Lee Bowers, Scott Debo. Jayson Tipp, Bill Hesskamp and eventually Ken Kase, Mark Huth, and other local St. Louis players. Progressive jazz - fusion and rock was the focus.
In 1987 much of the group moved out to other projects. Scott and Bill Hesskamp sought a bass player to form a power blues trio. Blackdog's first fruition was Bill on drums, Scott on guitar - vocals, and Carl Caspersen on bass. We were soon joined by our former sax man Mark Huth, and began taking gigs around the bi-state (Missouri / Illinois) area. The first blues show was at the old Cardinal Tavern on second street in Madison, Illinois, 1987 run by The Whales of Granite City. On the way to the gig, one of the guys asked, "What is the name of the band"? Realizing we had passed over this small detail, and not wanting to seem unprepared I spit out "The Blackdog Blues Band".
Unlike most band naming sessions, the guys went for it.
Soon we would loose Carl and regain Greg Farmer on bass. Then in fall of 1990, the day Stevie Ray Vaughn died, we met Kirby Kelley, who joined on slide guitar. At this point the focus of Blackdog shifted to showcase Kirby and his extreme blues prowess. Later Mark would move on, and Kirby would return to Texas to live and play. That's when we met Jerry Dean and Tom Smith from the Mojo Tooth Band, and the most colorful new member of Blackdog, Blind Willy - Bill Dineen. Again the focus shifted to showcase this avant-garde sax powerhouse.
We soon formed a friendship with the members of a band SEND HELP which included Tom Smith, Lee Bowers, Kent Stone and others. Billy began to work nights and having metdrummer Kent Stone, he took the full time role, and Lee Bowers returned to us on guitar, trombone and vocals.Now we were set for a while appearing as Blackdog Rythym and Blues.
This was the line-up that recorded Blackdog's first disc,
TAKE YOUR TIME, YO PARALYZEN ME
Recorded at Smith Lee Studiosand engineered by Steve Higdon,
a digital picture of what we sounded like in 1995.
Pamela Devine joined after sitting in on a magical evening at Union Station. Pamela was sharing the spotlight with Willy and covering a good part of the vocals from a new perspective, total soul. After building an annual invite to the St. Louis V.P Fair and Blues Festival summer shows outdoors at Clark's Bar / Boomers on Laclede's Landing, and appearing LIVE on the air on KSHE 95 radio's"Blue Monday" show, and the release of our first album, the 1995 season was capped off by opening the 5000 seat Regal Riverfront Ballroom on the New Years Eve bill with the "Queen of Blues" . . . Alligator Records star, Koko Taylor.
A couple of years of pushing the CD, playing around the bi-state area, some good airplay, and now a horn section is born. . .enter Ben Henderson on trumpet. Ben and Willy blended instantly and we begin to shift our sights to a more brass oriented sound. Not long after, Ben brings in St, Louis' Kurt Silver on trombone, now it's clearly a mutiny. Lee Bowers also blew trombone with the section and
The Hot Ho Horns are here to stay.
One summer night on Main street in St. Chuck, a new sound cuts through the groove, Mike Dreyer sat in on percussion and soon to share drumming duties with Kent. Now with a VERY full sound, we are moving toward something big. Now the band is set up in our studio working on a new self produced album it's late 1997. We are nine pieces strong, many tracks have been laid . . .
We have an idea: “Let's fill the house with people, open all the studio doors, bring the fans in the room, mic the house, and record LIVE but in the studio album"
LIVE AT THE JACKSON STREET HOUSEPARTY
was recorded March 28, 1998 and for all of us, it was magic.
As soon as it was released, we were honored to be "Album of the Week" on KCLC FM 89.1 show Blues from the Basementshow on a Sunday night. More airplay from the classiest stations in town, WSIE 88.7, KDHX 88.1,and now, thanks to the internet being heard in many countries around the world. Blackdog’s schedule grows longer each year, and with the horns and Pamela, we play upwards of nine years in a row at the St. Louis Blues Festival, The VP Fair weekends on the landing, The Festival of the Little Hills and travel to Hannibal, Mo, Quincy, Il. and Beloit, Wisconsin.
All this and something is still missing. Great keyboards.Soon we would meet a very experienced honkytonk-barrelhouse-strideride-twofisted-ivoryslammin piano man Ed Synan. Just off the road with recording artist Moe Bandy, living locally and looking for a gig. What a great addition Ed Synan made to the group.
During this time, as Ed worked in on keys, we met another wonderful addition to the group... Susan Connor. Susan added a vocal element that took the band to new areas in music. Harmony and lead vocals come naturally Susan. She is a great musician, guitarist,and magic personality.
As time moves on, the Hot Ho Horns came into demand with other projects the band began to move toward a more classic rock sound and while traveling to yet another rain soaked outdoor event in Quincy we decided to change the name of the band to BLACKDOG and the RAINMAKERS. An accurate moniker considering the years of bad weather we have endured at our outdoor shows.
We seem to BRING the rain!
When the horns had moved on, we found ourselves calling on an old friend from the SEND HELP group, Tom Smith. Tom had sat in on many shows over the years, but now he was in a position to join full time. You cannot believe the sounds of this guitar giant. Tom lays out lush tones that haunt the likes of Robin Trower, Eric Clapton, Jonny Lang, Stevie Ray, Tommy Bolin, Gary Moore,Ritchie Blackmore and others. We have to dip his Stratocaster into a bucket of water to keep it from melting. While gigging regular on Main St. in our town, we met a great talent and new friend in a harp player from Tennessee, Zach Pemberton. Zach is and amazing harp player with a great understanding of American blues roots His harp style congers up the sounds of James Cotton, Little Walter and Charlie Musslewhite.
Zach played a couple years regularly with the band until we moved to a primarily ROCK song list. Zach Pemberton and partner Billy Skelton now run an incredible group, the Mid West's own Brown Bottle Fever.
Our longtime THUNDER on the drums, Kent Stone had commitments that will took him out of town so we once again welcomed original Blackdog drummer Bill Hesskamp back to the fold. Bill and his wife Denise helped to start all of this back in the Eighties. Bill has a funk pocket deeper than a coal mine. With Tom, Zach, Susan and Billy and a new sound to the band, it is time to make a new CD so 2006 was the year for our next album:
WE JAM MORE LIKE WE DO NOW THAN WE EVER HAVE BEFORE.
The next great addition was Bob McKeown who had joined the band years before but was now poised to play a major role on vocals. The four main voices in the band Greg, Susan, Scott and Bob now allow the group to tackle harmonies like Little River Band, Head East and more. Bob has taken the active role of booking and managing dates for the band at a wonderful pace.
Lee Bowers returned on keyboards this time and clearly holds the title of the most versatile player over all the years of Blackdog. Now the band expands out to more complex rock like STYX and Pink Floyd. After a few years Lee would move out to pursue his interests with his band JUSTUS in the Missouri area and Ed Synan returns from Branson Mo to take over on keys.
2013 brings the newest album: "Washington Apple."
A collection of the songs from our shows over the last couple years with the current lineup. The band has enjoyed packing clubs and expanding or fan base thanks to the efforts of all of the players, wives, kids, friends and fans over 29 years.
2016 - NEW LINEUP of Rainmakers!
Greg, Tom and Ed move on after many great years with BD and join Zach and phenom Terry Melton to form "Zach and the Heart Attacks".
Blackdog brings in BLAKE SMITH on guitar, PAUL "PJ" JACKSON on bass and guitar and welcomes LEE BOWERS back on keys, guitar, bass, mandolin and anything else we hand him to play!
The 2016 show will gravitate to a more vocal oriented album rock sound featuring six singers and bigger harmonies. Many of the longtime Bdog favorites will remain as well.
Dave Eckhoff joined us on bass in 2017! Wow this guy is great. An amazing talent with an equally amazing family! Dave has been one of our greatest additions.
Sorry in 2020 to see Bob Mckeown leave. Bob worked his butt off for the band learning songs, harmonies, providing tech help and most of all the booking! We hope to see him on stage for guest appearances in the future.
COVID-19 has hit the band hard in 2020. No shows for several months. Lots of uncertainty and unrest. We will get back on track as the world recovers. Thanks for your continued support.
In 2019 the sad news came that Pamela Devine had crossed over to Heaven's realm.
An angel on earth and a talent that will never be forgotten. We all miss her sweet voice, her kind ways and the smile that lit up every stage she stood on.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------There are dozens of players not mentioned here. This story could be days long. Thanks to all of the players who have helped shape Blackdog and keep the spirit and the burn in our souls alive to create another evening of great live music for our friends.
IF THE RAINMAKERS drive the full Blackdog band, then just a small rainfall is DRIZZLE. Susan and Scott are the core of this acoustic duo that showcases unique and mainstream tunes for a coffee house style atmosphere of dynamic artistry. Other great talent joins DRIZZLE from time to time to expand on the selections and instrumentation. If you are in the mood for something more relaxed and tasteful, come see a DRIZZLE show this year.
DRIZZLE features music from such artists as:
KRAUSS / PLANT - SARAH JAROSZ - VAN MORRISON - BUDDY HOLLY - GRACE SLICK - FLEETWOOD MAC - EXTREME - CLAPTON - NAT COLE - RICKIE LEE JONES - JAMIE CULLOM - BONNIE RAITT - GEORGE HARRISON - JIMMIE VAUGHN - RAY CHARLES - FATS DOMINO - ROBERT JOHNSON - CSN - JOHN HIATT - BILLIE HOLIDAY - JUDY GARLAND - CHARLES BROWN and dozens more.