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Before celebrating 50 years, Ozark Mountain Daredevils have unfinished business

Before celebrating 50 years, Ozark Mountain Daredevils have unfinished business

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Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Ozark Mountain Daredevils

The members of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils are getting ready to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. But not just yet.

“There are some things that are gonna happen — some big things,” bassist/vocalist Michael “Supe” Granda says by phone from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. “We’re kind of sussing it out right now.”

But there’s also some unfinished business to attend to first. When the pandemic hit last year, the long-lived Springfield, Missouri, band — Granda is the only Daredevil who lives elsewhere — had all of its concert dates postponed but not canceled.

“So all of our 2020 gigs got pushed into 2021,” he says. The Sept. 18 show at River City Casino is one of those.

The Daredevils suffered a significant loss in 2019, when singer, songwriter and harmonica player Steve Cash died after a long illness.

The band decided not to try and replace him. “How are we going to replace Charlie Watts?” Granda says, referring to the indispensable Rolling Stones drummer who recently died, but was indeed — some would say inexplicably — replaced.

The Daredevils saw things more clearly. The band already has multiple vocalists and various band members play harmonica, so the solution seemed obvious. “Why don’t we just close ranks?” Granda says. “So we just drew closer, we covered his vocals, we covered his harmonica and his songs.

“Just like any family, we gathered, we grieved and we moved on.”

Cash was able to join the band for some final recordings, including the 2018 album “Off the Beaten Path” and the 2019 EP “If You Wanna Get to Heaven 20/20,” which features a rerecording of the titular tune, one of the band’s signature songs — the other being the 1975 hit “Jackie Blue.”

Regarding “Heaven,” Granda says: “Over the years, we’ve had so many people say, ‘You know, that could be a hit today if it didn’t sound so ’70s.’ So we went in and recorded it with the current band.”

At the time, Cash was severely ill and growing weaker. “But he went in and played his ass off,” Granda says. “After one take, he said, ‘I don’t know if I can do it again.’ And we looked at each other and said, ‘You don’t have to. Because, man, that was really, really good.’ And that was his last session.”

Besides original members Granda and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist John Dillon, the current lineup of the Daredevils features woodwind player Bill Jones, who was there at the beginning of the band but left and returned a couple of times, and keyboardist Ruell Chappell, a member in the 1970s and again since 2010.

The rest of the group includes guitarist Dave Painter and a trio of musicians familiar to fans of Springfield’s legendary Morells and Skeletons: drummer Ron “Rongo” Gremp, keyboardist Kelly Brown and guitarist Nick Sibley.

This lineup has been together since 2010 and “is kind of a small section of the big picture,” Granda says. “We really play well together — really tight and focused, which is where the Ozark Mountain Daredevils are these days.”

Something that could soften that focus — or take the edge off any number of situations, say, is a swig of the Daredevils’ own brand of gin, which launched in 2019 and is now distributed statewide.

“It’s an idea we tossed around for years and years,” Granda says. “When we went to England to make the first record (‘The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ in 1973), we got introduced to dry gin, and we loved it. And we just kind of said, ‘Let’s work on a recipe.’

“This isn’t just, ‘Let’s make some moonshine and slap our name on it,’ he adds. “The taste profile — we’re getting really, really good reports on it.”

Aside from the Daredevils, Granda is keeping busy with his own long-lived band, Supe & the Sandwiches, as well as Silly Grandpa, a children’s music project for kids. Come December, he’ll once again serve as a professional Santa Claus and in fact appears in that role at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

He’s the author of the 2008 memoir “It Shined: The Saga of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils” and is currently working on a book about his adventures as Santa called “Fat and Funny.”

It’s a full life.

“I’ve got the Daredevils, Silly Grandpa, Santa Claus and Supe & the Sandwiches,” he says. “And I’m still doing the same thing I did when I was 12 years old — still trying to play (the Rolling Stones’) ‘Get Off of My Cloud,’ as good as I can, you know?”

What The Ozark Mountain Daredevils • When 8 p.m. Sept. 18 • Where Event Center at River City Casino, 777 River City Casino Boulevard • How much $29 and up • More info

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