THE BURDONS: Legends in TIme

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 654   By: Robert E Martin

07th February, 2008     0

In terms of forging a formative role defining the 'original' music scene in the tri-cities, the Bay City band known as The Burdons can certainly be regarded as living legends.

When the group first formed 27 years ago in the Spring of 1981, New Wave, Punk, and Rockabilly were shaking fresh signals into the airwaves, and The Burdons (along with The Flies) were two very singular groups filling clubs with set lists heavily laden with original material, and shedding an entirely brilliant light on what a local music scene could be and was destined to become.
Mind you, this was before the days of CD's and the Internet, when it was an uncommon occurrence for a local band to release a vinyl album of 12-original songs, which The Burdons seemed to effortlessly accomplish with their landmark self-titled album, paving the way for national road trips and dance floors packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that The Burdons shared many qualities in common with The Beatles back in their pre-Brian Epstein period performing in the clubs of Hamburg - a propensity to incite mass hysteria & constant dancing among their legion of fans; a joyous & remarkable ability to write jubilant and infectious songs that were 3-minute wonders, all fueled by teenage hormones and tightly woven 4-part vocal harmonies.

Talk about cool, The Burdons were even given Madonna's 'Key to the City' when the Diva thumbed her nose at her old hometown, refusing to return to accept the award.  At that juncture, then Mayor Sullivan gave it to The Burdons instead, noting they were 'more deserving.'

With fundamental bonds dating back to childhood when the 'dynamic duo' of brothers David Davenport and bassist/songwriter/singer Jim Davenport hung out together with guitarist Paul Schultz and drummer Scott Causley as 11-year olds in the parks and neighborhoods of Bay City, today the band is still intact - with only one personnel change - and spreading their gospel of unabashed joy and enlightenment from the discovery of up-tempo interplay to a second-generation of newfound fans. Recently, I had the pleasure to catch up with co-founder Jim Davenport to discuss what its like to be making music for close to three decades, and still goingŠ.steady and strong.      .

Review:  You've been at this a long time. Is it still fun or does it start to feel more like a job after that much time?

Jim: I'm not sure if it ever really has. Maybe sometimes back in the day when we released our first album there were times when it might have felt a bit of a chore, but I promise you that it never feels like that now. It feels like the reason why we were put on this earth!

Review:  The group was always known for its great mix of covers &
originals. Are you and the band still writing fresh material?

Jim: As a band we haven't released anything in quite some time, but individually myself, my brother Dave Davenport and current keyboardist Bob Charlebois have. In fact Dave just released his newest solo project titled "One Brother". His first solo release was titled "The Big Machine". Bob is always writing which he usually performs with one of his other bands called the Bare Bones Blues Band. I still write and in fact recently recorded 11 songs but haven't released them yet. I think The Burdons are well over due for some fresh recordings.

Review: What do you feel is the most challenging thing about keeping a group like The Burdons going through the decades?

Jim: Well, really the only challenge is scheduling. Our lives have taken on so many more responsibilities other than the band. But the band really doesn't need much motivation to stay together because we're basically married to each other and it's almost like without each other we would suffer from some sort of dementia or mental illness. These boys are absolutely my best friends in the world and I will never let them quit the band.

Review:  Do audiences still respond in the same way as when the band was in its 'prime', so to speak; and how do new audiences & generations react to the group? Do you still get the same kick out of performing live, or is it different now that you're older?

Jim: Frankly, we still get the genuine appreciation, which humbled us in the beginning, and that reflection never gets old. It seems to mean more now because we feel we've improved "skill" and "talent" wise.

I mean, back then we were shooting for the stars and we really never used our peripheral vision and never stopped to soak anything in. Getting older we now know it's all about the note, the melody and the joy of the music. It's become who we are instead of a means to an end, whatever that end was!

We do play for the children of our earlier audiences and there couldn't be a more fulfilling feeling. It's a wonderful circle. 

Review:  Do you perform strictly locally right now, or are you touring the state & region somewhat?

Jim: Right now the shows are pretty much local, but we are really looking for some type of manager or agent to get us back out on the road. It's real hard to book the band when you are in the band and it's real hard work. So, if there is anyone out there ready to step up to the plate for us in that sense, you can e-mail us at or check us out at

Lately we've been performing at White's Bar and recently played with this Detroit band called The Singles, who's bass player's father used to come and watch us regularly up in Bay City.  The circle is a "Zen" like thing eh? 

Review:  To my mind, groups and individuals that qualify for 'legend'  status earn their reputation because of the creative mark they make coupled with longevity in the business.  What do you feel it is about The Burdons that set their creative standard and did you ever think you'd still be doing it after all these years?

Jim: We never wanted to do anything but play music that we wrote. You can call it ego, brashness or whatever type of self-centered motivating kind of thing you want; but that is what excited me the most was to write a song on Monday and play it on Friday.

It takes guts to expose yourself like that, to open yourself up to the criticism and ridicule that people lay on you. There is even a lot of pressure from your peers, maybe more. It's kind of like a preacher preaching to a church full of preachers. You never feel more naked in life than when you have your heart and soul offered up and ready for exposure. It's exhilarating!

There really isn't anything else I can or want to do, so I don't see myself ever not playing music with Paul, Scott and now Bob. I'd rather be dead!   

Review:  Creatively, have you noticed growth and evolution in the band; or does the magic come from following a formula that you don't want to mess or experiment with, lest you jinx the mojo?

Jim: There really isn't any formula other than trust. It's almost like we are all stuffed in a single pair of shoes on the same path. I know that if I have an idea for a song, Paul, Scott and Bob are going to be right there with what the song deserves.

There has been growth and a bit of an evolution in the sense that certainly in the past we had less to draw from and a smaller pool of experience with which we could share with our listeners. Of course, ten years from now I will look back at these words and think "how little I new". I guess what I'm really trying to get at is, if there isn't any growth than why the hell are you doing it?   

Review:  What would you say are the 'high water' and 'low water' marks for the band during the expanse of its career?

Jim: I will start with the "low water" mark because I can only think of one, which is the 'robbery'.  We were playing down in Detroit at a club and got held up at gunpoint. I'm still trying to get past that gun in Jeff Todd's ribs. I'm still trying to write a song with as much anger as I feel for that event. It still hurts and it won't go away.

We have been blessed with so many wonderful fans and friends all over the country, but we can truly say that in the beginning it was Old Town Saginaw. That will always be our "high water" mark. Denny Munger gave us a chance at the Old Town Saloon in the Fordney Hotel and for us the rest was history. It was also then that the Bay Area Review embraced us, making us the first "Songwriter of the Year" in its inaugural music awards. Those early years in Saginaw helped shape us for a future of many, many "high water" marks.  

Review:  What does the future hold for the Burdons? Do you see yourself rocking from the wheelchair, or do you feel like Grace Slick does, that 'old people should be heard and not seen'.

Jim: Well, we will be recording a whole new album before the end of summer and I'm sure we'll do a couple gigs around Bay City and Saginaw this spring and summer as well.

We aren't going away. In fact, I think we are as committed as ever. I think Grace Slick is wrong. Look at Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Neil Young, Paul MacCartney and on and on. Of course if I looked like Grace Slick it would make sense about not being seen!

Review: Any other thoughts or comments?

Jim: Readers and fans should feel free to e-mail us to get on our mailing list and send us comments and please visit our myspace page where you can view pictures and listen to a rotation of Burdon tunes.


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