Dave Hanson  (Harmonica-Keyboards-Vocals) was a teenager when he began playing harmonica. He has been a professional piano tuner/ technician  and musician for over 30 years. Dave has been the concert piano tuner at the Rockford Metro Centre for over twenty years. He has played with various groups including Weezer Lockinger and Red Bud Thunder. He is the founding member of the Blues Hawks.  
 

 

 

A Lifetime at Music

Mark Thompson / Blues Eye

President Crossroads Blues Society

Northern Illinois

Dave Hanson of the Blues Hawks talks about his career and the Rockford music scene.

Currently playing harp and keyboards plus adding some vocals to The Blues Hawks. Dave Hanson has spent most of his years on the planet, working with music. His story is similar to many other musicians, playing for the love of the music and working to get that one chance to "make it". It is an interesting tale with some surprises. Dave was born in Madison, WI, to parents who did quite a bit of singing. His father often listened to a local radio station that played a jazz & blues mix. Dave quickly learned to like Ray Charles and the boogie woogie piano players. Then one day his dad carne home with a small, hard case. Curious, Dave asked his father what was in the case. The response was, "It's a licorice stick." His father explained that the jazz musicians referred to the clarinet with that phrase.

The family moved to Oregon, IL, in 1955 when Hanson was 7 years old. The schools had band programs for children in elementary school and Dave started  playing cornet. Later his family moved to Rockford, where the schools did not have band at the lower grade levels. Dave drifted away from music into sports. At the age of sixteen, Dave married his wife of thirty-eight years, Cheryl. Two years later, Cheryl won a guitar as a door prize at an event. Dave found himself to be the proud owner of an electric Goya guitar, which rekindled his love of music. The Beatles were an early influence, at least until a friend introduced Hanson to a John Mayall record, which was the catalyst for Dave exploring blues music and beginning to learn to play the harmonica. Soon Dave and some friends opened the Red Whale, one of Rockford's largest boutiques/head shops. Hanson started meeting plenty of musicians that regularly frequented the store, including members of the Grim Reapers, an early Rick Nielson band. Dave quickly found himself jamming with different groups, playing harp and adding vocals. He also began to learn to play keyboards,

After making the decision to leave the head shop business, Hanson began an apprenticeship as a piano tuner technician for Nielson's Music World, owned by Rick's parents. This growing career did not keep Hanson from getting heavily into the rock & roll scene. He eventually headed for Philadelphia along with 3/4th’s of the future Cheap Trick - Rick Nielson, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson. All were looking for that big break. But before it happened, Dave returned home to Rockford. He missed his wife and two sons, Troy and Trent. He went back to work at Nielson's Music City, where he did it all- sold, tuned and rebuilt pianos by day. At night, he went looking for a new band. The mid -70's found Hanson in Weezer Lockinger, a band that once opened for Fleetwood Mac at a show in Belvidere!!! The group did mostly original songs, which inspired Hanson to get interested in song writing. The highlight of his three-year tenure was night that the band opened for Humble Pie. From there, Hanson went to Red Bud Thunder, a southern boogie rock band. Gradually, rock music lost its appeal and Hanson made the decision to search for the opportunity to front a blues band, where he would be able to feature his harp playing and vocal talents.

After several attempts with a couple of bands,. Dave formed the Blues Hawks in 1996. Dave describes the group's music as classic contemporary & original blues-rock. You might hear everything from Muddy Waters to Jonny Lang in the course of an evening. He is proud of the fact that typically 1/3 of the 40 or so tunes played in an evening will be original songs written by current or former band members. The group likes to be known as a party band. Their shows feature a high energy level that encourages the audience to get involved. Hanson adds, “We like to get people up and dancing. It is particularly rewarding if we can get the crowd dancing during our first set." The latest version of the Blues Hawks was formed several months ago. Guitarist Tim Roe has been a member of the band for 5 years. Drummer Roger Wylie recently rejoined the band. He had previously been a member for a three year stretch, which included being on the band's first three CD’s. Steve Barcelona, formerly of No Dice, took over as the bass player. Mike Novak handles the lead vocals. He joined the Blues Hawks after a miraculous recovery from a double aneurysm. He has added vocals to bands whose styles ranged from art rock (Albatross) to rockabilly (the Corvettes). They just added a sixth member to the group. Jam Design did such an outstanding job at a recent live session that the members decided to add a soundman to the band. Hanson commented "We hope it pays for itself, that the much-improved sound will help us attract new fans."

Highlights of the group’s history include playing “On the Waterfront”, in 1999, being named Best of Rockford in the Blues Band category and winning a RAMI Award in 2000 as the area's blues band. The group has released four CD's over the years, featuring a mixture of originals and covers. The band sent two of the discs to Alligator Records, receiving two nice rejection letters from label President Bruce Iglauer, who felt that the band was not in the Alligator mode. Recently the Blues Hawks recorded two nights at The Stables in Cherry Valley. They recorded over 50 songs, which they are working on cutting down to enough material for a live CD, possibly a two disc set. The group is hoping for the opportunity to play some blues festivals later this year. Dave would be happy if a national act or musician started playing one of the band's original songs. His ultimate dream is to get a record label interested in working with the group and getting their recordings out to a larger audience.

Hanson estimates that the Blues Hawks have played about 325 dates in the last six years, an average of one show per week. He adds "Business is good, especially the piano tuning business. It's nice to get out once or twice a week and play. Blues bands aren't the most popular with the biggest crowds but they draw a very responsive audience." Hanson feels he is carrying the blues torch along with other 50- something musicians like J.B. Ritchie and Steve Ditzell, all of whom have devoted their lives to blues music.