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Dan Schwalbe
Dan Schwalbe
at the Bayfront Blues Festival

Featured Musician — Daniel Mark Schwalbe

Born June 25, 1954, in St. Paul, MN.

Guitarist - Traditional Blues; Songwriter

Interview by Jo Ann Cope and Judy Cedar, 2006.

All photos provided by Dan Schwalbe unless otherwise noted.


Plays on Releases:

Dan is a modest and humble musician, mentioning not once the fact that he writes lyrics and music. Several tunes found on some CDs listed above are Dan's originals.

Dan grew up in a family filled with musical talent. His maternal grandmother played the piano in a trio (piano, drummer and trumpet) for silent movies and barn dances. Grandma Lusso and her two step brothers also played organ. Dan's father played piano. Dan has four siblings: Don, Julie, George and Gene. Of these, Don also showed interest in music and ended up singing in a high school rock band that Dan played in.

Dan in the 1970's
Dan in the 1970's

Fast forward to 12 years old and Dan hears a band play at the school dance at Johanna Junior High School. This school dance influenced the path of Dan's life because this is when Dan knew he wanted to play guitar. Dan doesn't remember the name of that band he heard at school but he remembers two of the members: Rick Tieso (guitarist) and Scott Johnson (vocalist).

It wasn't long after the school dance and Dan had his first guitar. One day, after work, Schwalbe's Dad brought home a Wards Airline acoustic guitar that he picked up in the bargain room for five dollars! He took lessons for two and one half years from Dick Braun. Dan would watch what Braun did and copy it and got an understanding of the basics while faking reading the music. At the same time, Dan would meet with a couple of his buddies a few times a week to play and they would show each other various riffs and techniques. By age 13 he was playing private parties in his first band named the Conglomeration.

Dan had many mentors including Lazy Bill Lucas, Sonny Rodgers, Mojo Buford, Percy Strothers, Baby Doo Caston, Steve Kilbride and Joel Johnson. More than anything else, these guys eased Dan's way into professional musician with their encouragement and by giving him opportunities to play.

And then there is Brian Carley who played harp. It was this good friend, Brian, who introduced Dan to so much traditional blues music and guided Dan in the earlier years of his career. They played together in the late '70's in a band named the Acme Rhythm Band. This band also included harpist/vocalist LeRoy Vargas, Guitarist Paul Abdela, drummer Rube Sering, bassist Jack Taylor.

Dan began learning music theory when he and guitarist Bob DuBois experimented with different musical ideas in high school. Mentorship can happen in many different ways. Dan says RJ Mischo and he mentored each other by helping each other out and teaching each other what they learned. "Every time musicians show each other ideas and trade music knowledge with each other that is mentoring" says Dan, mentioning that he has benefited from this his entire career. Dan has given formal guitar lessons to Phil Schmid and Jeff Hester.

Dan's had a rich, full career to date and he's been fortunate to accumulate plenty of fond memories of special moments:
Rockin' Daddy & The Rough Cuts backing up Billy Boy Arnold at The
  Blues Saloon
Playing with Lazy Bill Lucas at Mears Park for the Lowertown Arts
  Festival two years, 1980 and 1981
Live KFAI Fundraiser in 1979 at the Walker Church
  Chapel/Auditorium when he played with Crazy Legs
Playing with Mojo Buford at the Blues Saloon in July of 1983 on a
  very hot day (no air conditioning and felt like 120 degrees on stage)
Playing with Blues Deluxe at the annual Thanksgiving Eve Blues
  Party held at the Blues Saloon for seven years.
Double Bill with Thunderbirds at Taste of Minnesota in 1989 playing
  with RJ Mischo & Blues Deluxe.
Dan's little boy, Jimmy, showing a picture of Dan and RJ to his friend
  and telling them "this is my dad and Elvis"

RJ, Kim, Anne and Dan                                        
RJ Mischo, Kim Wilson, Anne and Dan.                                          

Playing the Eureka Springs Blues Festival in Arkansas with Blues
  Deluxe in 1989
Playing Tulsa's Blues Festival and performing right before Rod
  Piazza's band and then having Rod's band come to the club
  afterwards to hear Blues Deluxe play, sit in and hang out all night.
Playing at the Bayfront Blues Festival with Blues DeLuxe in 1989.
Playing at the Bayfront Blues Festival in 1993 after Rockin' Daddy &
  the Rough Cuts first CD release.
Backing Snooky Pryor for the Upper Mississippi Blues Society
  festival in the parking lot of Whiskey Junction.
Playing Marquette Blues Festival and Bayfront blues Festival with
  Cool Disposition Band.
Seeing blues musicians and fans from all over the world and
  competing in the 2005 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.
The five years or so of jams, Monday nights, at Whiskey Junction and
  getting visited by Dave Gonzales of the Paladins who played a set
  with the band and also visits at the jam by James Harmon and Sugar

Sonny Rodgers Band
Sonny Rodgers Band

Blues Deluxe
Blues Deluxe








Dan thinks it's important for new, aspiring blues musicians to listen to everything they can find through the blues catalog and check song writing credits to retrace the roots of songs and hear the song in its original format. Why? Dan says too many new musicians get limited when they only focus on the commercial blues— rock scene.

Dan remembers how blues took hold in the mid 1980s on West Bank. He played the 400 Bar in 1980 with Lazy Bill and Tom Burns before that bar had a stage and before they started booking bands (1984). From the 400 Bar, the music spread to the Viking, then the Five Corners Bar and then the Whiskey Junction. The blues scene is still active today and Dan notices more diversity in approach to blues music by the musicians today. Dan believes KFAI has been a significant influence on growing the blues in our metro area and that the 25+ years of the Lazy Bill Show (first hosted by Bill Lucas with Tom Burns and Steve Babbitt and then continued by Joel Johnson) had a tremendous role in keeping the blues alive in our area. Dan goes on to say that losing Joel was devastating for our blues scene.

All Dan's kids play some music: Anne plays flute and piano; Eric plays sax, guitar and bass guitar; and Jimmy plays bass, drums and vocals. Dan never gave them music lessons but perhaps he influenced them by being a musician role model. Eric (Dan's oldest) started to play on a toy plastic guitar when he was one and one-half years old. Dan remembers Eric, at age 3, being upset when that toy guitar broke so Dan built a plywood Stratocaster look-alike for him.

Dan builds and fixes guitar amps as a hobby. He builds replicas of old Fender amps from kits. Some of the local musicians use Schwalbe amps ... you can tell which amps are his because they have his nameplate on them. When Dan isn't busy with family, involved with blues community activities, playing music or working with his guitar amps, he likes to fish.

One of Dan's favorite clubs outside our metro area includes Bev's Juke Joint in Superior, Wisconsin. Dan says Bev knows the music and it is fun hanging out in a club owned by a blues fanatic. Other favorite clubs outside the metro area include Mick's in Durand WI. and the Embassy Bar in St. Peter, MN.

Dan listens to jazz, especially organ & guitar jazz, and Bakersfield country music when he's not listening to blues music.

The first guitar Dan owned was a Wards Airline. The first electric guitar Dan owned was a Gretsch Country Club. Dan's favorite guitar is the 2004 Telecaster. Currently Dan plays the following guitars: Telecaster, Stratocaster, Les Paul, Sebring (budget replica of a Gibson L5) and uses a Schwalbe 5E5-A or 5E3 guitar amp.


Note - The Society creates Profile Books (with additional photos) for our events. We make those available for your viewing at various functions we hold each year.




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page last updated: Friday, August 21, 2015

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