Madison Roundabout: Bladen Rolls on in Madison

From Roundabout Madison

Home grown rock ’n roller Rusty Bladen will perform Sept. 8 for the final concert of the season for the Madison Main Street Program’s Music in the Park series, making it a true hometown event. The event begins at 5 p.m. with food vendors, with a 6 p.m. opening act by The Chestnuts, then Bladen’s band “The Unstoppables” at 7 p.m. His band consists of John Tasca on guitar, drummer Brian York, and Bladen’s 29-year-old son, Neil, on bass and his 16-year-old son, Jackson, on piano. Bladen’s wife, Andra, also makes guest appearances when he plays.

Music in the Park
• Friday, Sept. 8, at the Broadway Fountain in Madison, Ind.
• Vendors open at 5 p.m.; 6 p.m. Opening act with The Chestnuts; 7 p.m. Rusty Bladen and the Unstoppables
• Presented by the Madison Main Street Program
• Information: (812) 493-4984

Bladen said he really enjoys playing the special occasions like RiverRoots, Music in the Park, and Soup Stew Chili Brew, but the majority of his gigs are from out of town events, such as Gnawbrew Festival in Brown County, Ind., Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Fall Fest and a festival in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

“I have always loved music and realized in high school that was my calling,” Bladen said. “It was what I wanted to do.”
Bladen has fond memories of other well-known area musicians singing on some of the tracks of his first CD.

“Mark and Max Maxwell of Mom’s Music were on the song, “Are You Happy Now?”

“They sang backup and have a fantastic vocal range.”

The Maxwell brothers are now in the popular band, The Louisville Crashers, and have a strong regional following. When they played Music in the Park in August, the show was moved to Madison Bicentennial Park because of crowd size.

“Rusty Bladen is and has always been an amazing musician, entertainer and songwriter,” said Mark Maxwell. “Indiana should be proud to have him as their own.”

Bladen also plays some special very small venues.

“Nursing homes are now called health campuses,” observed Bladen. “They can be my biggest joy. Big shows are exciting, but if you want to pinpoint joy, play for seniors in a health campus. I remember seeing someone came into the room with a frown frozen on his face, but at the end of song he was smiling. That is joy. The biggest joy I get is when you know I am sharing joy, they are feeling joy from music.”

“Rusty’s a great guy and an awesome performer,” said local blues player Jimmy Davis. “He plays every show like it’s his last. That’s what I love about him. He works his butt off and he throws the kitchen sink at it every time.

Playing with well-known musicians like Davis and the Maxwell Brothers is always exciting for a performer.

“I got lucky enough to record with three members of John Mellencamp’s band,” said Bladen. “My most recent CD, called ‘For the Better,’ was produced by Thom Daugherty. He was the former guitar player for the Grammy nominated band, The Band Perry.

When asked how many CDs he has made, Bladen had to sit down with a pen and paper to count.

“All of my CDs are out of print except the new one,” he said. “The industry is changing. They are all are on itunes and Amazon now. Downloading is so successful, but I am now doing a few re-issues. Downloading has taken over CDs.”

Bladen is now working on a new CD that will be produced in a limited amount called “The Best of Rusty.”

“I asked my fans for their favorite songs,” he said. “I am not sure of the release date. It will be out soon because we have the master recording, hopefully before Christmas.”

Bladen has an unusual way to distribute his CDs.

“I don’t sell them any more,” he said. “I just set them by a tip jar. People are more likely to donate and show support that way. I have always said, I don’t seek fame or fortune. I want to just make enough to be able to retire at a very old age and keep people happy. Music keeps me going.”

Bladen said he wants to always stay in Madison.

“But it would be nice to have a winter home in Florida,” he said. “There are so many places to play in Florida, but there are so many guys with the same idea.”

Bladen said that in general, Florida does not pay as well as other states because they say part of the pay is the sunshine. However, he does remember one very good gig there.

“I did an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day,” he said, laughing. “I changed my name to Rusty O’Bladen. They treated me really well.”

Bladen doesn’t need huge crowds to be happy. “I don’t mind playing small places. You are able to connect with people.”

Bladen’s newest obsession with music is finding worn out guitars at flea markets and junk stores, then gluing mosaics on them. He hopes to eventually be able to put some of them up for sale at his concerts. The first one he did was for his wife, Andra.

“I won’t use guitars that still have any life in them. Only ones that can’t be played. To do otherwise would be wrong.”

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