Rusty’s show is a high energy, freewheeling tour-de-force of Bladen originals, songs from the radio, and some excellent hippie country-rock tunes. A veteran of the Indiana music scene, Bladen has played many of the clubs, theaters, bars, and festivals in Indiana on his way to building his fanbase.
The road and live show have been Rusty’s career, playing throughout Indiana and the Midwest, because there was never really a doubt that Bladen would make music his job – and life. 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 Rusty one of the artists that can be counted on to turn a performance into a party.
Sure, he worked a couple 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 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 80’s 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 new band that consisted longtime Madison drummer Berry Burleson (and later, ex-Lonnie Mack drummer Dennis O’Neal), Louisville guitarist Rob Johnson, saxophonist Rick Debow (also from Lousiville), and bass player Tim Halcomb. He later added Louisville keyboard player Dave Barickman / Rusty Bladen Band video
After a live album recorded at the the Hoosier Theater in Vevay, Rusty formed what would become the legendary Rusty Balden and The Shakin’ Jakes in 1997. He coined the “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. / Rusty Bladen and The Shakin Jakes video
All through this period, Bladen was writing music and playing hundreds of solo shows. He was building his audience. He was stacking show after show of heartland rock and roll, gaining the reputation as of Indiana’s most engaging liver performers. As an independent artist, he sold out of his albums, one CD at a time, doing it 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, with Louisville’s Mark Johnson on guitar, Madison bass player Vernay Reindollar, 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 2010’s.
Much af that decade was spent as a solo perfomer, with band gigs for festivals, a few club dates, and New Years Eve. Tony Burton came back into the fold for the one-off shows, while Bladen’s oldest son, Neil Bladen joined on bass in 2015, and drummer Tyler Brindel in 2016. During this time, guitarists John Tasca and Ray Bowling, and drummer Brian York also played shows the band in the middle of the decade.
Bladen currently tours with Brindel on drums and son Jackson Bladen on keyboards. The band shows (Rusty Bladen and The Living Daylights) also features Marty Miller (formerly with Louisville country/folk legend Mickey Clark) on bass, Michael Fortunato on sax and Roz Kelly on violin.
An enduring piece of Bladen’s catalog is a countryfried homegrown rock and roll Christmas album called Feels Like Christmas, produced by Dane Clark. The title track is a Rusty Bladen original. The other 12 songs are roots-rock versions of favorite traditional Holiday songs.
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?