Subdudes will duck into Park City for a three-night run
January 6, 2015
Back in the mid 1980s, a group of New Orleans-based musicians — guitarist Tommy Malone, keyboardist John Magnie, drummer Steve Amedée and bassist Johnny Ray Allen — formed The Subdudes.
"Most of it was that the band came together through luck and circumstances," Magnie said in an interview with The Park Record during a telephone interview from Fort Collins, Colorado. "We had been knocking around New Orleans for quite a few years, when we came upon this idea to go and play as acoustic as we could. We also decided we needed to harmonize a lot and that became it’s own thing."
The Subdudes, featuring original members Magnie, Malone and Amedée, will perform with long-time bassist Tim Cook for three nights at the Egyptian Theatre beginning Friday, Jan. 9.
Magnie said the concerts will feature Subdudes classics, mostly culled from the band’s first four albums.
"Over the two 10-year runs of the band we have eight records of stuff," Magnie explained. "For this tour, which is kind of a reunion thing, we will be playing a bulk of the music from most of our earliest records."
The idea started because of the band’s reunion with Allen earlier this year.
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"Johnny was our original bassist and it was his energy that got the original four of us coming back to play with each other again," Magnie said. "A lot of people didn’t know that he was one of our strongest songwriters. We were very collaborative, but Johnny wrote our best stuff.
"He was in the band during our first four records," Magnie said. "Then we all got mad at each other and broke up."
Here’s where The Subdudes’ history gets a tad complex.
"When we got back together six years later, some of us were still mad at Johnny, so we had two other bass players for the band," Magnie said. "That’s because we were based in two locations — New Orleans and Fort Collins."
Cook was in Fort Collins and another bassist, Jimmy Messa, hailed from New Orleans.
"They would trade off playing bass, guitar and percussion," Magnie explained.
Earlier this year, The Subdudes decided to bury the hatchet with Allen and began playing together.
"We played all of this early stuff, and that’s why we have gone back to that material," Magnie said.
Unfortunately, Allen died suddenly in August.
"After Johnny passed away, we didn’t know if we were going to continue, but we all felt it was something we wanted to do because we enjoyed it," Magnie said. "So, Tim stepped in on bass again, which allowed us to add some of the songs from the second version of the band, and that’s where we are now."
Although the band originally emerged out of New Orleans, the musical influences weren’t typical Bourbon Street fare.
"The acoustic sound actually was drawn from the roots of where the other three grew up," Magnie said. "They were all from a little sugar-cane town located 50 miles out of New Orleans. So, that was a lot different than what people think of a New Orleans-based band. Sure, there were the rhythms, but they were a little more country."
It was Magnie who suggested the band move to Fort Collins.
"We knew we needed to go somewhere else out of New Orleans and instead of going to New York or Los Angeles, I suggested we go to Fort Collins," he said. "I grew up in Denver and had spent a minute in Fort Collins at Colorado State University, before I moved to New Orleans."
Magnie moved south because he loved the sound of New Orleans-based pianists Professor Longhair and James Booker.
"I met them both and basically became James Booker’s driver and caretaker," Magnie said. "He didn’t have a driver’s license and needed someone to take care of him. In doing so, I learned a lot and he showed me many things on the piano."
Magnie made the shift to accordion when The Subdudes decided to go acoustic.
"That was when I said we needed to move," he said. "We did and six months later ended up on Atlantic Records."
Navigating through the music business over the years has been easier for The Subdudes than other more-popular bands, Magnie said.
"We’ve had a great run, and maybe it’s because we didn’t have a huge flash of fireworks and hits," he explained. "That has helped the band focus on the music and not worry about the presentation and hits.
"We’re not known universally, but our fans really like us," he said. "Now, we still have this opportunity to continue to play this music and keep going."
As of early January, The Subdudes have no intention of recording a new album.
"One of the reasons is because we all have different projects going on," Magnie said. "Tommy has a nice solo career going and myself and Steve have a band called the Young Ancients and we’re quite satisfied to go out and play some of the songs that Subdudes fans may have heard."
So the plan is to perform one series of dates per month.
"It will be like what we’re going to do in Park City," Magnie said. "We’ll change the set list every night. So the show is different every time we play, and that will keep things fresh for us."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present the New Orleans-based band The Subdudes on Friday, Jan. 9, through Sunday, Jan. 11. Friday’s and Saturday’s performances will start at 8 p.m. and Sunday’s curtain will be 6 p.m. Tickets range from $43 to $75 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .