By Barry Gilbert
Michael “Supe” Granda, St. Louis native and bassist for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, has added a new series of gigs to his parallel solo career: “Supe’s On: An Evening of Songs, Stories & Serious Silliness.” The show, which debuts this weekend in St. Louis, features Supe singing songs from his Daredevils and solo catalogues, and telling stories drawn from his book on the band.
We had a very enjoyable chat last week, and my story from that interview appeared in Go! magazine (EDIT: The link is apparently permanently broken; ) in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Also, here are some links to some earlier Supe/Daredevils stories
–A review of Supe Granda’s bandography, “It Shined: The Saga of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils”
— A review of the Daredevils’ CD “Rhythm and Joy: The 1980 Reunion Concert”
— A story from 2004, “Old stunts are new again”
— A story from 1999, “Band keeps on strummin’ ”
For fans of the Daredevils, Supe and the Sandwiches, Supe de Jour and the Garbonzos, here’s the interview Q&A, edited a bit for length and clarity.
BG: I see by your area code that you’re still down in Nashville.
Supe: I’ve been in Nashville 19 years. Almost as long as I lived in Springfield. I love it down here. I got access to the greatest musicians in the world. For a musician and writer, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.
BG: Are you doing any side work? Any session work?
Supe: Yeah. I do a lot of it. Of course, I do my own, I’m still doing Supe and the Sandwiches records. Lately I’ve been working with Burrito Deluxe, which is a derivative of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Plus, I get hired to do these odd gigs. They’ll call me and say, ‘What you doing next Tuesday?’ and they’ll bring a person in from out of town, a songwriter who just wants to make a record with some Nashville cats. And I’ll get introduced to the guy and we’ll just write charts to his songs and play songs. Everybody here is so good, we can get an album done in a couple of days. So I do a lot of work.
BG: Are you in Nashville, or in East Nashville with Todd Snider and that crowd?
Supe: No but I’m close (laughs). I know all those guys.
BG: So now you’re embarking on this whole new thing — Garrison Keillor of the Ozarks!
Supe: (Laughs) Well, it’s so cool, man, I’m having such a good time. It started about a year ago when I put the book out [“Let It Shine: The Saga of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils”], and I started doing these book signings. And I started getting introduced to people in the literary world. I started to bring my guitar along and, right where there’s a lull in the action, I get my guitar out and just start playing it. Just start playing my songs, and all of a sudden a crowd gathers, and I said, “Hey, wait a minute.”
So then I play some songs, and then I would read one of the stories from the book, and people came to really enjoy it. So I said, “Wait a minute, let me think about this, maybe I can turn this into an entity.” So I did it a couple times, and it went over like gangbusters.
So I started getting invited to these folk festivals and these acoustic series, where it’s just me and my guitar, and halfway through the show I pick up the book and read a couple of passages and went, “Wow!”
It only took me 60 years to figure out that I didn’t have to carry a bunch of equipment around and the drummer and all his drums and my big-ass basic amp. So I’ve been doing this lately, I just walk in with my acoustic guitar and sing silly songs. And people laugh and they dance, and at the end of the night I don’t have to haul a bunch of equipment in the rain.
BG: What do you classify as silly songs?
Supe: The songs I write. You know, I’ve got my songs covered on the Dr. Demento show, so that’s where my songs have ended up. I don’t think Toby Keith is going to be cutting any of my songs — or Taylor Swift (laughs).
BG: Well, thank God for that! Well, maybe you don’t think that way — that would be a good payday.
Supe: Well, that would be a great payday. But did you watch that show the other night [country music awards]? 0hhhhh, good Lord…
BG: I saw a list of the nominees and decided I would do something else.
Supe: Yeah, it was just … terrible. But thankfully, I don’t have to depend on [contemporary, establishment Nashville and radio] to make my living.
There’s a whole strata of artists down here, like Todd Snider and Tom Mason and Peter Cooper and those kind of guys. We make our living. We don’t have to rely on getting a Brad Paisley or a Brooks and Dunn [to cut one of our songs] to pay my rent. I pay my rent with what I do. Thank God.
BG: Did you think it would come to this? Traveling with the Daredevils and, all these years later, you’re doing a Hal Holbrook thing or maybe it’s the Ray Davies thing? [References are to Holbrook’s famous “Mark Twain Tonight” and Ray (the Kinks) Davies’ “Storyteller” one-man shows.]
Supe: Did I think it would come to this? No, I didn’t. But I didn’t think it would come to me living in Nashville, either. I’ve gotten to the point that whatever happens won’t surprise me. What happens tomorrow, no matter how crazy or harebrained it may sound, it won’t surprise me. [But]this little project [“Supe’s On!”] has pleasantly surprised me.
BG: This show at the Ivory Theatre will be the first formal one, other than the book tour. What does the Ivory hold?
Supe: It’s only a couple of hundred people.
BG: Well that’s nice and intimate.
Supe: Yeah. If I get 100 people, it looks great. I get 100 people on the Fox, it looks horrible (laughs).
BG: So why did you pick the Ivory?
Supe: I don’t know. I heard about the theater and in talking with [St. Louis writer Terry Perkins] and asked him about it. He said it’s a cool little place. And I told him about what what I was doing, and he said it would be perfect for what I’m trying to do. Then I went and met with the people, and they were very, very cool, they were very very open to my ideas. We sat down one afternoon and talked about it, boom there you have it.
BG: What will you be doing at the show? I assume a few Dardevils songs.
Supe: Yeah, a small handful. I would say two or three, and then the show basically will be my catalog along with the stories I’ve written.
BG: Any chicken clucking likely to break out? [A reference to his work on the Daredevils’ “Chicken Train Stomp”]
Supe: I’ve been known to (laughs).
BG: What’s the status of the Daredevils at this point?
Supe: We’re still playing. It seems that with the Daredevils, we always seem … we won’t go away. But we do take large chunks of time off, and I’m talking six months to a year. But this year we kind of put together yet another incarnation and, in 2010, we look to get out and play some more.