Steve Denney

"The best thing about growing up in South Texas during this time was the music that could be found everywhere. Blues, jazz, Tex-Mex, country, rock & roll, Texas swing - all mixed up in the same spicy, simmering pot. You could pay a couple of bucks, stroll into a club, and hear folks like Johnny Winter, Eric Johnson, or a then-unknown kid named Stevie Ray Vaughan - then you could walk down the San Antonio Riverwalk and hear Jim Cullum's Happy Jazz Band. On Sundays, you might fall into one of the legendary, marathon open mic jams with players like Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm, or Doug Clifford and Stu Cook from Creedence Clearwater Revival. All you had to do was just reach up and plug into the air - the music was everywhere. There were so many unbelievable players to listen to and learn from - most of whom you've never heard of.

"It was against this backdrop that I played, listened, and learned. Hundreds of gigs in the juke joints, roadhouses, clubs, pubs, streets, and stages of Texas. Get me started telling stories and see what happens! Some of the bands I played with during this time were Frank Rodarte's Dell-Kings (Tex-Mex, 50's and 60's rock), Amyr (jazz and fusion), Acquiescence, Marauder, Sharpshooter (rock and blues), and a whole boatload of others. And for four terrific years, I was one-third of The Hardliners - a trio with my brother Butch on bass and vocals, and Jim Eiland, one of the South's outstanding drummers. We called ourselves a rock band, but were known to shift between hard-core Delta blues, Who-flavored rock & roll, Buck Owens country, Jimi Hendrix covers, jazz-tinged originals, and the occasional acapella gospel song - often all in the same set. We produced a record on our own label, and played many, many memorable gigs in the San Antonio / Austin area. I was - and still am - very, very proud of that band. There are some amazing live recordings that I hope to put out on CD someday.

"I essentially took about a decade off from the music business - it got to the point where the 'business' was overshadowing the 'music' end of things. I was just totally burnt out. I basically put the guitar in the case and didn't take it out again for nearly ten years. Then I moved to Boston in 1997, and gradually rediscovered music again. My wife, Debbie, deserves all kinds of credit for coaxing me back into it  I think she realized I missed it even more than I did. I started sitting in at local open-mic jams, and before long I had both feet fully back in the circuit. But the important thing was that I had discovered the pure joy in playing again. No longer having to depend on the 'business' of music to make my living freed me from all of the unpleasant compromises and other nonsense that you have to put up with - any working musician knows exactly what I'm talking about. I feel truly blessed and fortunate to have been able to come full circle and emerge from that with a sense of perspective and my sense of humor about it all reasonably intact. Now, it's all about just having fun with the music, the musicians, and the people we play for, and it feels great.

"Since I relocated to Boston in 1997, I've had the great fortune and privilege to play or sit in with many of the area's talented musicians: the All-Stars, Boston Baked Blues, the Dr. Harp Delta Blues Band, Mission From God, the New Blue Revue, John Putnam and Used Blues, the Yardrockers - I know I'm forgetting some. These days, I'm working primarily with 'The KGB Party Band,' which is a complete blast - it's always a good time when these guys take the stage. Like myself, these are all battle-scarred veterans who are playing for the sheer fun of it all. I also work with 'The Steve DiCecco Band' - Steve is a terrific chromatic harmonica player, and we mix in a lot of jazz with our blues and R&B. For over a year now, we've run a Sunday night open mic blues jam, and that's turned into a blast as well - you never know who will show up, and there have been some really magical moments. It's a treat to be able to sit in with people and bands like Shirley Lewis, Mission of Blues, the Love Dogs, Than Smith, Basic Black, Slo-Burn, Gregg Miller, Part-Time Lovers - so many talented players from all different backgrounds and styles. I also enjoy it when younger or up-and-coming players come out to jam - some of them are really, really good and you can see they're going to get better. They have the raw talent but they don't yet have the experience. I watch them watching the older players, soaking up all they can, and I see myself at that age. It's a continuum - no matter how much experience you have, or how much you know, there's always someone you can learn more from.

"For the gearheads: My stuff is really pretty basic these days. I used to carry around a lot more stuff than I do now. Nowadays, it's either a Gibson ES-135 or Les Paul guitars (either a '77 Custom or '83 Standard). I use Lab Series L9 amps, and occasionally a Korg multi-effects pedal. I used to include a Leslie speaker cabinet as part of the overall sound - the effect was great, but I got tired of lugging it around. My main influences on guitar would be Al DiMeola, Pat Metheny, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Leo Kottke, Pete Townshend, and probably a zillion others I'm leaving out. Vocally, I was heavily influenced by people like Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Justin Hayward, Steve Winwood, the Beatles, and Badfinger.

"One night at a gig, Chick Deptula (a terrific local bass player) and I got to talking about Jaco Pastorius, the great bassist from Weather Report who died too young. Chick told me that every time you step on a stage, you should always play like it's the last time you're going to have the privilege - because it might be. And he's absolutely right. It really is a privilege to be able to do something you love so much, and then get positive feedback for it from other people There's so much more to it than just the technique you've achieved, or the fame you might get, or how loud you can play, or the amount of notes you can cram into a given space. In the end, none of those things really matter. It's when I finish up a gig and someone I've never seen before comes up and says, 'Man, we really enjoyed listening to you guys tonight' - that's the real payoff."

(The following is excerpted from a 2002 interview.)

"Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas - where the sun shines hot and the blues run deep. I picked up the guitar at age 10, inspired by Leo Kottke's 12-string fingerpicking, and also wanting to be like my older brother, Butch - who still plays some of the meanest blues in Texas. I cut my musical teeth in the usual series of high-school rock bands, then gravitated to blues and jazz - inspired by Weather Report, Pat Metheny, AlDiMeola, and Johnny Winter, among many others.