The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are a Southern rock/country rock band formed in 1972 in Springfield, Missouri, USA. They are most widely known for their singles "If You Wanna Get To Heaven" in 1974 and "Jackie Blue" in 1975.
The "Daredevils" name has much to do with the long hair and beards sported by the band in the 1970s, a rejection of the more conservative style of their native Ozarks during that decade. It is mentioned in the book about the band "It Shined," by Michael Granda, that the band name was derived from "Cosmic Corn Cob & His Amazing Ozark Mountain Daredevils," a name that John Dillon came up with at a Kansas City "naming party" after the band was told that the name they had previously been using, "Family Tree," was already taken. The band shortened the name because none of the band members at the time wanted to be called "Cosmic Corn Cob," and they did not want the name to sound similar to The Amazing Rhythm Aces.
In 1971 Steve Cash, Randle Chowning, John Dillon, Elizabeth Anderson, Larry Lee and Michael Granda began playing together with Bill Jones (flute, horns, formerly of Mike Bunge's band Granny's Bathwater) and Rick Campanelli (piano) at Springfield, Missouri's New Bijou Theater for small crowds of friends on Wednesday night under the name "Family Tree" ("Emergency Band," "Burlap Socks" and "Buffalo Chips" were other names they considered for this grouping in the early days). Larry Lee was working at the New Bijou as a bartender. The band recorded a demo at Springfield's Top Talent studios and that demo, containing such early songs as "Rhythm of Joy," found its way to New York music executive John Hammond via the hands of band friend Steve Canaday, who was co-owner of the New Bijou Theater. Hammond sent a producer, Michael Sunday, to the band's Ruedi-Valley Ranch in Aldrich, Missouri, the house rented from Randle Chowning's Southwest Missouri State teacher Mrs. Ruedi, where the band rehearsed and where Chowning and his brother Rusty lived. Sunday offered the group $500 to make another demo tape but ultimately decided to pass on offering them a contract.
The band later sent a tape to the team who managed fellow Missourians Brewer & Shipley, Kansas City's Paul Peterson and Stan Plesser (who also owned the Vanguard, a popular coffee house), who gave the band a chance and became their managers as well. The band then changed their name to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils in 1972 and saw the departure of Campanelli and Jones and the addition of Buddy Brayfield, a friend of Granda's, as the piano player. Anderson, though still romantically involved with Dillon, retired from the stage. Campanelli left on his own to pursue a masters degree in music; Jones joined the Daredevils briefly later and would continue to appear as a guest player on some of their shows and recording sessions.
The Daredevils are also mentioned in the "Don's Story" chapter of American humorist David Sedaris' book Barrel Fever. Bassist Michael "Supe" Granda has also written a book about the band, It Shined.
The group's demo tape eventually caught the attention of A&M Records staff producer David Anderle, who was looking for an Eagles country rock type of band to place on the label. Anderle and the Eagles' first producer, Glyn Johns, flew to Missouri to catch one of the band's performances. But the band, nervous about Johns and Anderle being in the audience, did not play their best. Later on, Peterson invited the two men back to his place to hear the band give an unplugged performance by candlelight. This time Anderle and Johns were blown away and they were signed to A&M and sent to England to record their first record with Johns at the helm.
On February 8, 1973 they played at Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City, Missouri. Later that month, on February 21, 1973, they played a concert at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. A month later, on both March 9 & 10, 1973, they played at Cowtown Ballroom again, this time with Brewer & Shipley accompanied by Louden Wainwright III.
The first record, Ozark Mountain Daredevils (also referred to as "The Quilt Album"), was released in December 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.
For the second album, It'll Shine When It Shines (October 1974), Johns and Anderle came to Missouri to record, utilizing a mobile recording truck set up outside of the band's rehearsal home. During the sessions, Johns overheard Larry Lee sitting at a piano playing and singing a song about a mysterious friend of his who sometimes dealt drugs on the side. Johns loved the melody and thought it could be a smash hit if the lyrics were altered to be about a girl and the drug references downplayed. Lee and Cash did as Johns asked and the song, "Jackie Blue," became the Daredevils' signature song and a huge hit (No. 3) in early 1975.
The Ozark's third release, The Car Over the Lake Album (Fall 1975), produced by Anderle alone, featured their old compatriot, Bill Jones, joining them to play and arrange their songs. He also toured with them in 1975-1976. Another face from the past, Steve Canaday, also came back into the group's life at this same time as road manager and opening act before joining the band in 1976. The album sold fairly well but produced no hits. One reason why the band's fortunes began to falter might have been their reluctance to relocate to Southern California after being asked to do so by A&M co-head Jerry Moss. As a result, A&M might also have begun to lose a bit of their enthusiasm for the act at this point.
Personnel shifts within the group also began to change the chemistry. Randle Chowning left in May 1976 (following a European tour), due to the bad work ethic of other band members and their unwillingness to do a major tour, to form his own Randle Chowning Band. Norwegian musician Rune Walle, whom the band had met while on tour in Europe with his band The Flying Norwegians, then joined to replace him.
That same year the Daredevils headed west to the Rockies, to Caribou Ranch near Nederland, CO, to record their fourth album, which they had originally titled Nuclear Fishin ' but then changed to Men From Earth after A&M objected. The Nuclear Fishin' title was later used up in Canada for a greatest hits pack. Anderle was once again in the producer's chair and Evergreen, CO native Jerry Mills joined the band on mandolin and also served as the group's advance publicist.
In the fall of 1976, Buddy Brayfield departed to study medicine and Ruell Chappell (vocals, keyboards) from the popular Springfield group Spillwater Junction came in. But the band's next several releases -- Men From Earth (fall 1976), Don't Look Down (fall 1977, produced by David Kershenbaum) and It's Alive (September 1978) -- sold in lesser quantities than their previous records had. Jerry Mills and his mandolin were dropped from the group after It's Alive since the band was performing fewer acoustic numbers in their show by this time.
During the summer of 1978, the Daredevils went out for a short run of shows where they opened for Fleetwood Mac. Granda was not available since he was at home helping his wife with the birth of their second child. Springfield bassist Larry Van Fleet (from the Randle Chowning Band) sat in for 'Supe' for these dates.
In 1978 John Dillon and Steve Cash contributed to an album, White Mansions, which documented life in the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Waylon Jennings, Eric Clapton, Jessi Colter, Bernie Leadon and several other musicians appeared on this record as well.
Also in 1978, Larry Lee recorded a solo album for A&M that was not released.
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