Grateful Dead-inspired band gigs in Dover
From coast to coast, there’s a large fraternity of bands named after Grateful Dead lyrics. The Milford/Dover-based trio Stone Jack Ballers is part of that club.
Stone Jack Ballers is a jam band that cooks up originals while mixing in covers, especially for the Deadheads. The gang features members Brian McDaniel (guitar/vocals), Geoff Frazier (percussion) and Mac McIntyre (saxophone).
The Stone Jack Ballers’ next show is a free performance at Kent County Public Library Jan. 17.
McDaniel, of Dover, dished on the meaning behind the band’s name, relying on improvisation, and more.
What artist would you love to make music with?
The Grateful Dead. As old as they are, a lot of those dudes are still touring. They’ve John Mayer as their guitarist right now. Bob Weir, their lead singer, is in his 70s. They’re still doing it. In a way, I think I sort of envy that because they’re hard workers. They don’t need to release albums any more. They’re touring, making money off their merchandise and shows. That’s good for them. That’s what life is about. If you enjoy doing it and can get paid doing it, go for it.
Where does the name Stone Jack Ballers come from?
It’s a Grateful Dead lyric in the song “Easy Wind.” It’s describing the life of someone who’s like a prisoner in a chain gang and basically they’re breaking rocks all day.
Do you feel like a prisoner?
No [laughs]. It’s just a Grateful Dead reference. There’s a gazillion Grateful Dead cover bands across the United States and every lyric from a Grateful Dead song is the name of a band. We started off with the idea of being a Grateful Dead cover band and being heavily improvisational and things like that. The Grateful Dead covered a lot of songs, too. Over the years, we started picking up those songs. That started spreading out into a few other songs and into my own interests. Then the band turned into something all on its own, with us doing our own thing on songs and playing lots of different people’s music, to doing our thing with them and writing our own originals.
Your improv is similar to stand-up comedians. Sometimes big comics will go to small clubs to try out their material to see what sticks.
We totally do that at the smaller gigs. When it comes down to a smaller show and there’s only seven or eight people out there, we’ll get a little more out there with improv. There’s a certain risk involved to this. There’s the risk of a wipeout. No matter what, you have to keep going, obviously, because you’re playing live in front of people. But at the same time we each know if you start to hit a sour note and we can hear it, the difference between that and the right note is usually just a half-step away.
Can you talk more about your band’s sound?
We’re heavily influenced by the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, The Band and then from a songwriter’s perspective, there’s still the Grateful Dead. Robert Hunter recently passed away and he was one of the Grateful Dead songwriters. Bob Dylan, Robert and a few others are the cream-of-the-crop songwriters in my opinion, so we try to take a little bit from them, our own stuff, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and mix it all together in a pot and see what music comes out.
Stone Jack Ballers' Members & Guests
Brian McDaniel (guitar vocals)
Geoff Frazier (percussion)
Mac McIntyre (saxophone)
Recent guests include: Bob Carrico (trombone, vocals); Amanda Smoot (Bass, guitar, percussion, vocals); Tim Stearns (flute, sax, clarinet, keyboards)
Guests over the years: C.J. Plack; Chris Foltz; Stu Welch; John LeGuyader; Kirby Fitzgerald; John Ragonese; Paul Hanebutt; and many more.