On Our Way

The boys in action at The Hop Garden in beautiful Paoli, Wisconsin.

By Carl Gitchel, September 1, 2019

It’s weird how a blog post can now seem kind of old fashioned. But in this day of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al., it sure does seem to be a dated form of Internet interaction.

I’m cool with that. The depth of a longer letter sure beats the snippet driven world we now live in. Thanks for reading along!

I wanted to take a few minutes and update the status of The Dawg Bones. We’ve been humming along for two years now and recently we’ve been getting noticed by a number of additional venues. I think we’re about to “break out” and start finding an expanded rotation of places to play.

Steve, Todd and I have had a ball playing together on this project. For Steve it’s a return to his roots—he’s been performing this style of music for most of his life. Todd is learning a lot about music he didn’t have a lot of previous exposure to, especially the classic country we play. He’s enjoying the discovery process.

(And I should give a shout out to our frequent sub on drums, Zach Brassington. Todd’s busy schedule means we would have to turn down a lot of work if we didn’t have Zach available. Although his primary form of music is a lot more “intense” than what The Dawg Bones play, he grew up on our repertoire and does it well.}

I’m kind of in the middle. On a new instrument I get to bring to life music I’ve been listening to for over fifteen years. The great thing about this music is the wealth of material at our disposal. There is no way we’ll ever get to it all!

For “old” music we find a lot of new stuff

Hardly a show goes by where we don’t try something we’ve never played before. And a lot of those “experiments” end up in our subsequent set lists! Mountain Dew, Suspicious Minds, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Battle of New Orleans, Ring of Fire (with that damned kazoo!)…all came from the crowd (or spontaneously from the mind of Steve Oasen!)

From trial and error and audience feedback I think we’ve found our “sound.” People really seem to respond to the mix. The appeal of the early rock-n-roll, classic country and rockabilly is unmistakable.

I know we’re hitting a stride when I look out and see lots of folks singing along. That’s a great sign. But it’s also encouraging when we get a good reaction to the abstract things we try.

Me and Opie (by Nashville’s BR5-49,) PBR (Hillbilly Casino,) and our Balls Medley are as close to “originals” as we’re likely to get. But everywhere we’ve played things like these we’ve gotten a good response. Or as I say to the guys, those songs get us a lot of “eyes,” meaning much of the crowd turns to look up at us and pay closer attention.

Yeah, we’re attention whores…

Some groups are designed to be in the background. A string quartet at a cocktail party. A guitar/harmonica player at the family reunion. An accordion band under the park shelter.

That’s not us.

From my days of leading small run-out groups of UW Band members to my years of fronting The Red Hot Horn Dawgs, I have been happier being the center of attention than sitting in the background. We like to just let ‘er rip—warts and all!

Not everything works perfectly, and that’s okay. That’s one of the charms of a live performance. Like Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” We prefer that to a group that plays the same show, every time, everywhere. It keeps our shows more fresh for us, and more entertaining for the audience.

Oh, yeah, it’s about entertainment

You can play all the music you want but it’s hard to engage with an audience if all you do is play song after song after song. I have learned from some of the best that you gotta talk about what you’re playing. Or you’re just going to be an expensive beer drinking jukebox.

Whether it’s Mike Leckrone in front of the UW Band, Sinatra at the Sands in Las Vegas, or a band playing for tips in the honkytonks of Nashville, you have to talk a little about what you’re doing up there on stage. Or people will treat you as a back drop and not the entertainment.

What we’re up to

In addition to some of our regular haunts like Marcine’s and Fisher King Winery, we have been to the Hop Garden, the Hop Haus, Rex’s Innkeeper, and Boomer’s 5th Quarter! We have return engagements already on the books for most of these places and are working on more.

But new places are asking for us as well. In the coming weeks we’re going north to the Necedah area to play a car show at The Old Finley Tavern (9/21.) In November we will be one of many bands to play a fundraiser at the VFW on Cottage Grove Road (11/2.) On November 16 we make our debut at The Thirsty Beaver in Beaver Dam! and next summer we will play one of the prestigious weekly car cruises at the All Stop in Lodi (7/30.)

So as you can see, this Great American Music thing is working well for us and we’ll keep busy at it for the foreseeable future. For those of you who have come out to see us: Thanks so much for your support! It warms the cockles of our hearts (which I think is immediately behind the left ventricle,) to see you out at our events. If you have yet to catch a show: check out our schedule—it’s usually free to get in, what do you have to lose?

Music: Pick A Direction…and GO!

We tried that, and still ended up spiraling out to all points of the music compass!

Let me try and explain…

I’m Carl Gitchel, the ringleader of The Dawg Bones. It was a little over a year ago when I approached Todd Thompson and Steve Oasen to form this group with the purpose of playing a mix of early rock-n-roll, classic country, and rockabilly music.

This was, we thought, a pretty basic way to start a new band, while at the same time playing a broad variety of music. Early Elvis, Merle Haggard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, George Jones, Chuck Berry—lots of great classic music to choose from!

We started calling this mix “Great American Music,” because it was great, it just so happened to be by American artists, and (obviously,) it’s all music!

We decided to “restrict” ourselves to American music not to follow any subversive jingoistic dogma, but rather for these reasons: there was so much in the American songbook to choose from without crossing the border. And the British Invasion signaled the end of the upright bass as a common band instrument. I suppose I took that personally.

(I have not done any research to suggest the Beatles, et al., were directly responsible for the demise of my new “favorite” instrument. I’m sure it was a pure coincidence. There were technological challenges to amplifying an upright bass. Meanwhile, the electric bass was introduced as a cheaper and more portable alternative. These were legitimate reasons for the demise of the upright in the 60s—but I don’t have to like it!)

It takes a little time and effort to put together enough music to cover a four hour performance. We scrambled a bit early on but the set lists came together nicely.

And then we started looking for more tunes to add to our library! And that’s when the “trouble” started.

One of the things we wanted to avoid as a band was the death trap of playing the same music at every show. We started out by playing a lot of gigs at Marcine’s so we had to push hard to add music for the next show we hadn’t done before.

It was a good thing for us. But it opened the flood gates as well.

You see, Steve Oasen’s knowledge of these genres of music is vast. every time we got together to rehearse he’d come up with another ten, twelve, fifteen songs he’d think we’d “kill,” as he said it. I assume he meant that in a good way…

Pretty soon—in addition to the classics I mentioned above—we were looking at George Strait, John Fogerty, Johnny Rivers, Bruce Springsteen, Kentucky Headhunters, Ozark Mountain Daredevils…you get the idea.

And the list keeps growing.

Here’s the thing: we are either building ourselves up to be a very diverse and prolific outfit, or we are in danger of losing any kind of consistency as we try to tackle too many styles and sounds.

Which is it? I honestly don’t know.

Perhaps you can help us figure it out. Take a look at our upcoming schedule and stop by for awhile. We always love feedback from the crowd!