Rusty’s show is a high-energy, freewheeling tour-de-force of homegrown rock and roll. A veteran of the Indiana music scene, Bladen has played many of the clubs, theaters, bars, and festivals in the midwest on his way to building his fanbase. Nine albums and 5,000 shows in his back pocket make him truly one of the road warriors of Indiana’s music fraternity. Rusty’s original music, his every-night-a-great-time live show, and the pile of encyclopedic rock and roll and country history that he can play have made him an artist that can be counted on to turn a performance into a party.
For the past 30 years, Bladen has been writing music and building his audience, stacking show after show of heartland rock and roll to gain the reputation as one of the midwest’s most engaging live performers.Roots Rock and Roll Review
Bladen currently tours with the Rusty Bladen and The Living Daylights, with Brindel on drums and his son Jackson Bladen on keyboards (they are billed as Rusty Bladen and The Drivers as a three-piece band), with Marty Miller (formerly with Louisville country/folk legend Mickey Clark) on bass, with some shows including longtime bandmate, Indianapolis’ Tony Burton, on guitar, and Michael Fortunato on sax.
Sure, he worked a couple of jobs to support himself just after high school – a stint at the Madison State Hospital was one – but it didn’t take long to find his way to a stage. His guitar lessons as a 10-year-old laid the groundwork. Memorizing the Neil Young songbook gave him a start. His frontman chops were honed by five years as the lead singer for a turn-it-up-six-nights-a-week Indiana hard rock/Top 40 band (Aura) in the 80s.
After the breakup of Aura, Rusty joined the Roadwork Band, trading in the 80s spandex for straight-ahead rock and roll. For a four-year stretch, they were mainstays of Madison-area bars and clubs, with treks into Louisville and nearby towns. While Rusty was strictly the lead singer with Aura, he strapped on the electric guitar for Roadwork, and with that band, he built his chops as a midwest rocker, with early videos showing the energy and ability to get a crowd rocking that would become Bladen’s trademark. / Roadwork video
Late in 1991 and into 1992, Rusty started to work on a debut solo album that would become Are You Happy Now? He also left Roadwork to begin a solo career that would see him playing mostly solo shows and hitting the road for nearly 200 dates a year throughout Indiana and Kentucky. He held a legendary sold-out album release party at the Evergreen Room in Seymour, Indiana upon the release of the record in 1993, performing with the Rusty Bladen Band that consisted of longtime Madison drummer Berry Burleson (and later, ex-Lonnie Mack drummer Dennis O’Neal), Louisville guitarist Rob Johnson, saxophonist Rick Debow (also from Louisville), and bass player Tim Halcomb. He later added Louisville keyboard player Dave Barickman / Rusty Bladen Band video
After recording and releasing Live at the Hoosier Theater, Rusty formed what would become the legendary Rusty Bladen and The Shakin’ Jakes in 1997. He coined the term “homegrown rock and roll” to describe the music made by the band and Bladen as a solo performer. With Tony Burton (formerly with Roadmaster and Larry Crane) on guitar, Jon E. Gee (now with John Mellencamp) on bass, and Ed Gaus (formerly with John Prine) on drums, the crew (with keyboardist JW Smith for many of the big shows) provided a rock and roll blast for Bladen for more than five years. They also played on (and Gaus produced) the Everything for Everybody album. They also recorded the Ride That River EP, with Mellencamp drummer Dane Clark behind the kit. Bladen recorded the title song for the MGM motion picture “Madison” in 2005, and is featured in the film about the 1971 underdog, city-owned, Gold Cup-winning race boat in the town of Madison. / Rusty Bladen and The Shakin Jakes video
All through this period, Bladen was writing music and playing hundreds of solo shows. As an independent artist, he sold out of his albums, one CD at a time, via small record shops, at shows, and outside his van as the crew packed up the stage gear.
After the run of the Shakin’ Jakes, Bladen put together a new band, Rusty Bladen and The Designated Drivers, with Louisville’s Mark Hamilton on guitar, Madison bass player Vernay Reindollar, and drummer Kevin Burkett. Again, JW Smith played keyboards, including a digital-only release of One Live Night, recorded at the historic Scott Theater in Scottsburg, Indiana. They captured 18 Bladen originals, American rock and roll, recorded live with his band – a true live album. A well-greased band makes the night turn into a country-rock haze of a good time. That band would carry him into the early 2010s.
Bladen recorded arguably his best album ever in 2014 – a Midwesterner’s take on country and rock and roll. The mixing of Bladen’s writing (he penned all the songs) and finding the sound with producer Thom Daugherty (former guitarist for The Band Perry and The Elms) made for a sound both familiar and original. Recorded in Indianapolis, the album, in addition to Bladen’s acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals, features Daugherty playing electric guitar. “Where Did I Go Wrong” music video
Much of the 2010s was spent as a solo performer, with band gigs for festivals, a few club dates, and New Year’s Eve. An enduring piece of Bladen’s catalog is a countryfried homegrown rock and roll Christmas album he recorded called Feels Like Christmas, produced by longtime Indiana musician and Mellencamp drummer, Dane Clark. The title track is a Rusty Bladen original. The other 12 songs are roots-rock versions of favorite traditional Holiday songs.
Tony Burton came back into the fold for a couple of shows, while Bladen’s oldest son, Neil Bladen joined on bass from 2015-19, and drummer Tyler Brindel started touring with Rusty in 2016 for both the solo and band shows. During this time, guitarists John Tasca, and then Ray Bowling, as well as drummer Brian York, played shows with the band in the middle of the decade.
Bladen currently tours with the Rusty Bladen and The Living Daylights. / Rusty Bladen and The Living Daylights video
The guarantee between Rusty Bladen and his audience is this: if you take the time to come out for a show, you’ll sing, might get up to dance, and come away from it all pretty darn happy. Homegrown rock and roll, right?