Rusty Bladen
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Rusty Bladen


Band Americana Rock


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"Rusty Bladen Blends Classics, Humor and Originality"

by Byron Rohrig, Music Editor

Rusty Bladen, 20-year veteran of the rock 'n' roll wars still living in his hometown of Madison, Ind., is coming off a home-turf gig with his band at the Madison Regatta before a wild riverfront crowd of 3,000. For his first-ever appearance in Evansville, 40 or so people - the crowd grows some as the night progresses - are ready to rock and roll at the Duck Inn by the time the music starts. There's no evidence Bladen is deflated.

The opening chords of "Summertime Blues" sound, and Bladen emerges from behind a large black, logo-emblazoned backdrop, grinning and pounding a foot on the stage as he and his acoustic guitar blaze through a version more reminiscent of The Who than Eddie Cochran. His solo engagements are all-acoustic, but his Web site says they're "almost as loud" as shows by Rusty Bladen and The Shakin' Jakes, a group including drummer Dane Clark and bassist John E. Gee from John Mellencamp's band.

"Let's get this party goin'!" he yells over the Duck audience's applause, turning a quick, slick transition to an original, "I Can Drink Any Woman Pretty." The title is transparent. Audience members listen and laugh about the transforming power of beer.

Rapid-fire, Bladen will cover an artist's range from Jim Stafford to Joni Mitchell, Rolling Stones to Elton John, with ample Neil Young, Mellencamp and Eagles alongside originals including "Up a Crick," "Smoke Like a Train" and "The Karaoke King of Crawfish County." He kicks off his final set with The Who's "Squeeze Box," then introduces a song he wrote in an Interstate 65 traffic jam en route to a private party in Indianapolis. It was a bash put on by two single guys celebrating giving up their high-paying jobs in some high-rise to start a lawn care service. "Baby, Let Me Mow Your Grass," a delightful piece of songwriting mischief, hadn't a thing to do with grass-mowing.

Bladen's big onstage logo shows an acoustic guitar emerging from tall corn with the caption "Homegrown Rock 'n' Roll." Here's how homegrown: The logo idea was sketched by Bladen on a napkin, perfected by an artist friend in Cincinnati and painted on the backdrop by his brother, Rick, also tour and stage manager. Hometown boy Joey Ernst keeps up-to-date. Cousin Michael Barton rides herd on T-shirts, CDs and other Rusty merchandise and doubles as road manager for Bladen's gig this night (there are two more coming up, on Wednesday and Friday, both at the Duck Inn). And that doesn't begin to take into account Bladen's music.

"I've not given into any certain fads or any certain styles that might be popular at the time," he said. "Instead, I've stuck with what I started with, which is just basic, homegrown rock 'n' roll - just believing in yourself and sticking with it, not jumping on the bandwagon and going with the flavor of the month."

That, "and the fact that I'm in this for the long haul," set him apart from most acts that tour the region.

Bladen turned off down the road he's now traveled for a decade after passing in and out of several cover-tune bands: "When I announced that I wanted to write and do original stuff, the band wasn't interested - they had wives, jobs, kids; they didn't have time. I had to quit and start out on my own."

He researched, got connected with some studio musicians and cut his first CD in 1993. "I'll tell you what, it's been pretty much steady progress since then: better gigs, better money, more of a following. That's not easy without a major record label backing you."

Nor is it easy to do from Madison ("It's where I want to be if the world ends, because everything's 10 years behind"), on the Ohio about 45 miles upriver from Louisville, Ky., known for historic pre-servation but not as a musical mecca. "You've got to be persistent about calling people to play," he said. And though there's a club in Madison where Bladen plays regularly, there are almost no weekends without at least one road trip. More often there are two, sometimes three. He still hits small towns all over Southern Indiana (Jasper is a regular stop), but gigs at clubs in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville are common. He's picking up more campus shows, too.

And this fall, he'scontinues his House Party Tour: "How cool would it be to have Rusty Bladen perform a concert in your living room? Or on your deck? Or in the basement of your best friend's house?" a Web site promo entices. It's a lot of travel, but Bladen's not complaining. "I like it. When I was growing up, I never got out of town. My parents never went anywhere." Actually, he'd like to travel a little farther.

He's set to do a showcase in Nashville, Tenn., soon that could help him become a national act. "If it happens, OK. If not, I'll keep trying." Today, well into his 30s, Bladen says he has the best of both worlds. "During the week, I'm Mr. Mom," he said. While his wife, Andra, works as nursing director at a nursing home, Bladen stays home with their children, Jackson, 4, and Lydia, 2 .

" Most guys have to work all day and don't get to spend much time with their kids," he said. "And we don't have to pay for day care."

In fact, he wrote a song about it: "The Lucky One." He performed it recently on a live radio appearance.

"But after a few days of dirty diapers, I'm ready to rock 'n' roll," Bladen smiles.

The work is relentless. Bladen's River Road Records recently released a 10-year commemorative of his debut CD, "Are You Happy Now?" He has recorded three others, including one recorded live on a previous house-party tour. A new release is scheduled for next year.

Then there's rehearsing, performing and overseeing new features on his seemingly never out-of-date Web site, which before midweek posts photographs of people attending the previous weekend's gigs. Bladen is excited about the response to two new photographic features - of fans' tattoos and bellybuttons.

"You heard the one about the kid who told his mom he wanted to be a musician when he grew up?" Bladen asks. "Well, the kid's mom answered him, 'Son, you can't do both.'"

- Evansville (IN) Courier


Are You Happy Now? CD
Live At The Hoosier Theater CD
Everything For Everybody CD
Rockin' Your House Party CD
Ride That River CD
One Live Night DVD
Feels Like Christmas CD
Homegrown Treasures CD

"Ride That River" featured in major motion picture - "Madison" - soundtrack.

Several tracks are receiving radio airplay.



"Rusty Bladen is a familiar one to anyone who has spent any amount of time in the live music establishments of Indianapolis. It's for good reason that he's one of the most popular live acts: Audiences love him." - NUVO Newsweekly

Genre: American Rock and Roll
Sounds like: If Tom Petty was from Indiana...
Official Band Website:
My Space site:
Management Website:

Bladen powers the crowd at his shows with an atmosphere of party songs, sing-alongs and a whole lot of audience participation. A college favorite, Rusty has cultivated an extremely loyal Midwestern fan base for his band and his solo performances.

Rusty's solo show is a high energy, freewheeling tour-de-force of Bladen originals, songs from the radio, and some excellent hippie country-rock tunes. The band show is an exhibition of what five guys holding onto the same roots rock and roll rope can pull an audience into. The band shows are fun, rockin' and loud. The solo shows are fun, rockin' and almost as loud.

•Rusty’s song, “Ride That River” was recorded with John Mellencamp band members and appears in the MGM major motion picture “Madison” soundtrack.

• Headlined the Jasper Strassenfest, Swiss Wine Festival, Mount Adams Music Fest in Cincinnati, Ohio, Salem Speedway, WJAA Radio Bustock in Seymour, Muscatatuck Blues Festival, and Mellencamp Festival.

• An acoustic version of "Molly's Song", a song about missing person Molly Datillo (from Rusty''s hometown of Madison, Indiana) has been released as a web-only MP3 offering at and on Rusty's myspace page, and has been downloaded more than 5,000 times since 2008.

• He released his most recent CD, "Feels Like Christmas", in 2008. Produced by Dane Clark (Mellencamp drummer), who also plays on it. The album was mixed by the legendary Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams).

River Road Records

Rockforward Digital Media
Online Management

Rob Nichols