Madison’s Homegrown Rocker Rocks On

bladen_madisoncourierFrom Madison Courier

When suggested to Rusty Bladen that few musicians in Madison could match the sheer breadth and legacy of his career, he was taken aback for a moment. But then he said, “You know, with the passing of Don Youngblood, you may be right.” Arguably Darryl Hewitt and some others have been at it just as long, but none with the consistency and determination of Rusty. He hasn’t had a “day job” since 1981, and today he plays over 100 shows a year in the tri-state area.

“The bigger gigs are in Cincy, Indy and Louisville, as you might expect,” he says, “But a lot of my best jobs are in the smaller towns. The crowds are often bigger, the paychecks better, and they just seem more appreciative somehow.”

Asked how he keeps his act fresh, he points to his extensive working song list. He selects from nearly 400 cover tunes, plus about 50 originals to create a unique mix virtually every night. “You’re never gonna hear the same show, no matter how often you see me,” Rusty says. (Check out RustyBladen.com for complete song list … it’s pretty fascinating)

His professional career spans four decades, starting with his time as lead singer for the band Aura, a name that will bring a smile to many of a certain age. In its heyday, Aura would sometimes play six nights a week at the legendary Hereford Lounge. “We were the Kings of Madison” Rusty reminisces.

In 1986, he quit Aura and struck out on his own, playing guitar on stage for the first time and writing original songs. Things really jelled for Rusty with the release of his first solo album, which included the songs “Just for Awhile,” “Don’t Blame It On Me,” and (one of my personal favorites) “Are You Happy Now.” His discography now counts nine albums, with more to come. “I’m about ready to start working on a bunch of new original songs,” Rusty said.

Rusty still does a lot of solo work, but he’s also been experimenting with his version of a White Stripes style, adding simple drums with his guitar. Drummer Tyler Brindel has become a mainstay in Rusty’s band, plus he’ll add sons Neil Bladen on bass and Jackson Bladen on keys, when needed.

Asked about eventual retirement from music, Rusty was adamant. “There’s no plan B. I’m gonna do this ‘til I can’t anymore, just like Mickey Clark did. Until my fingers won’t move or I lose my voice.” Rusty turns 60 in December. And, as his old Aura mentor Rick “Termite” Walters once told him, “Stick with rock and roll son, it’ll keep you young!”

You can catch Rusty with a full band performance scheduled November 25 before the Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium.