7 Smart Fellers return to old stomping grounds
November 10, 2009
Fifteen years ago, a group of aspiring musicians and dedicated ski bums called Park City home.
Not a novel concept in this town, but what makes this group different is, more than a decade after abandoning their laid-back lifestyles, their dreams of infiltrating the music scene have spontaneously come to fruition.
This week, the 7 Smart Fellers, an Americana band borne out of longtime friendships and a love for music, will return to their old stomping grounds. The group will perform at O’Shucks at Quarry Village on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m.
Of course, back when the band mates were trolling Park City, they weren’t the 7 Smart Fellers. They simply shared the same reality: eat, sleep, ski and play music.
It wasn’t until about four years ago, when the group reunited at a Fourth of July parade in Polebridge, Mont., that they discovered an infectious chemistry on stage.
In the back of a ’59 Ford pickup truck attached to a sawed-off trailer, the Fellers traveled the parade route performing as a jug band, playing any and every song they knew the words to.
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That was the catalyst for a long-distance musical collaboration. The musicians returned to their respective towns but planned a string of shows together across the West.
Pete Rude, the sole member who remained in Park City after all those years, was enthusiastic about the development as long as it was a summer gig. This winter, he’ll start his tenth season as a ski patrolman at Deer Valley Resort.
"I definitely have a hard time living without skiing," he says. "That’s why I moved here, and that was why I stuck around. Music has always been the icing on the cake."
At the time of the band’s inception in Polebridge, there weren’t actually seven members. There were four, but Four Smart Fellers just didn’t sound as good, says Rude. The band picked up its seventh player earlier this year. "We finally filled out the name," he says.
The seventh member arrived just in time for a five-state, 5,000-mile tour during the summer and a gig as the headlining act for Farm Aid Eve, a musical benefit for America’s family farmers, in October.
This month, before the snow falls and beckons Rude back to the slopes, the Fellers are squeezing in a few more shows at some of their favorite tour stops. The band members haven’t seen each other for several weeks, but everything comes together once they get on stage, Rude says, adding, "It’s pretty crazy. Not too many bands do that."
The band isn’t only unique in the far-flung locations of its members. The musical styling of 7 Smart Fellers is hard to describe. "We try to have a unique sound," says Rude. "We call it Americana, ’cause we like to leave a little mystery to it, but I couldn’t tell you what that sounds like."
The band members play the typical array of instruments as well some unusual pieces such as a slide guitar and a washbasin bass fashioned out of a broomstick and a bucket. One member is known for playing the washboard and the saxophone although not at the same time, says Rude.
"Country is not quite right, although that’s a lot of our heroes," he says. "We definitely pay tribute to those guys as much as we can, but in our original music you wouldn’t be able to hear that necessarily."
The Fellers play covers from what Rude calls their "big influences," among them Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and Gram Parsons. They also throw in a healthy dose of original tracks penned by band member Dan Freund.
Tickets for the 7 Smart Fellers Concert at O’Shucks at Quarry Village are $10 and can be purchased at the door. To sample the Fellers’ music before the show, log on to http://www.myspace.com/7smartfellers .