By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Sept. 16, 1999

St. Louis native Mike "Supe" Granda of Missouri's Ozark Mountain Daredevils says that it's good to be wanted.

For him, he says, that means, "I don't have a Lamborgini in the garage, but I've got new tires on the pickup truck and beer in the icebox."

Now in their 29th year, the Daredevils - whose big hits "If You Wanna Get to Heaven" and "Jackie Blue" are still staples of classic rock radio - go only where they're asked and play only when they want to.

In 1990, founding members Granda (bass), John Dillon (guitar) and Steve Cash (harmonica) had had enough of touring.

"The Daredevils just hit a wall," said Granda, 48, caught last week at his current home in Nashville, Tenn. "We were carrying an entourage, hauling equipment all over the place, having to work harder and harder to maintain the style of life we'd been used to.

"Dillon, Cash and myself looked at each other and said, 'Are you as tired as I am?' So we sold all our equipment and vehicles, and I made the move to Nashville."

But the telephone kept ringing with job offers from the state and county fairs and the music festivals where the band had been playing.

"So, basically, we took not quite a year off, and then we put it back together," Granda said. "We don't play as often as we used to, and we're really not into breaking into the Philadelphia market anymore. We go and play where the people want us to."

Their next show is scheduled for Saturday at Lions Lake at the Washington Fair Grounds in Washington, Mo. The Daredevils' free concert will cap a daylong celebration of the Washington Lions Club's 60th anniversary.

Granda is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who graduated in 1969 from Lindbergh High School and returns often to the area, with his various non-Daredevils projects, including: the Garbonzos (scheduled to perform Oct. 30 at the Venice Caf's Halloween party in St. Louis); Supe & the Sandwiches; and Supe & the Sheetrockers. His projects are also available on CD on his own label, Missouri Mule Music, at www.supeline.com.

"Those people who know me realize I like to stay busy," Granda said. "There are always lots of holes in the Daredevils' schedule. So I put together a couple of side bands. And when I moved to Nashville, I looked at my catalog; I've produced five discs. I said, 'Wait a minute - why don't I just start a little label? Missouri Mule! That's me.'"

Granda met several of the future Daredevils in 1969 at Southwest Missouri State University. The band was born in Springfield, Mo., in 1971 as an escape from cover-band purgatory: playing other people's music.

"Basically, everybody was doing nothing at the same time," he laughed. "We all used to hang out at this one tavern in Springfield, the New Bijou Theater. We were all tired of playing the new Doobie Brothers song. I could care less about the new Fleetwood Mac single. Phil Collins got a new record out - yeeha!"

The original lineup "didn't get together as a band as much as we got together as a writers' co-op," he said. "And from the very first nanosecond of the very first rehearsal, it was all originals (songs) all the time."

Fast forwarding the Daredevils' tale of overnight success: They play gigs, they write and rehearse, and they come to the attention of A&M Records, which signs them and puts them in the studio with Glyn Johns, an ace producer whose roster included a band called the Rolling Stones.

"We were very lucky," Granda said. "Oh, man, we are the luckiest group of artists ever. Of course, we had good material. We weren't coming to the table with peanuts. We came pretty well armed with some cool songs."

In Nashville, the headquarters of today's big-guitar, big-hat and big-money country music scene, Granda finds the freedom to be independent.

"I look real stupid in a cowboy hat," he laughs. "Down here in Nashville, you have your megastars, like Garth (Brooks), Vince (Gill) and Reba (McEntire). That comprises maybe the top 1 percent of all artists in Nashville.

"But bubbling under these megastars, there is a plethora of people just as talented, but they aren't publicly successful - like myself. I make a good living writing and pitching my songs and with my little side bands."

A single guy with two grown daughters with families of their own - "It's the Daredevils first foray into grandparenthood!" - Granda is a little more than a year way from another milestone birthday.

"I'll be 49 in a couple of months, on Christmas Eve!" he said. "Thirty didn't bother me. Forty didn't even bother me. But 44, for some reason, just devastated me for a few days. But I like being middle age. I like the wisdom that comes along with it."

While Granda is staring at 50, the band is staring at 30. "When we got together, we had no idea it was gonna last this long at all, not six months, never mind 30 years," he said. "We've had some ups and downs. But we're very, very proud of what we've done and what we're doing."

And where are the other founders? Granda reports that drummer Larry Lee is living in Nashville and has produced "quite a few Alabama albums."

Guitarist Randle Chowning recently moved to Nashville from Springfield.

And keyboard player Buddy Brayfield? Granda laughs.

"He went to medical school!" Granda said. "He's a doctor in Kansas City and has more money than all of us!"