Photo by Matt Stensland
Worried Men members, from left, Willie Samuelson, Randy Kelley, Jon Gibbs and Pat Waters are pictured in their rehearsal room.
¤ Worried Men, classic rock covers
¤ 10 p.m. today
¤ Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill
¤ Worried Men's versions of "Whiskey River," "Shakedown Street" and other songs are streaming at www.worriedmenban...>
¤ Worried Men at the Yampa Valley Autism Program's Masquerade Ball fundraiser
¤ 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25
¤ Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel ballroom
¤ $75 for individuals; $130 for couples; $1,500 for a corporate table; tickets available at All That Jazz or online at www.yampavalleyau...>
Steamboat Springs On a Tuesday night near Stagecoach Reservoir, the Worried Men are playing timeless music in a room time forgot.
Lining the walls of a lofted practice space in a barn at guitarist and lead singer Jon Gibbs' Bar GS Ranch are posters from former local acts Duckbutter and Hard Poor Corn; pictures of the members of Worried Men donning mountain man beards and playing 1980s stages; tapestries and sheets for insulation; and a wall panel cryptically declaring, "Jerry's dead. Phish sucks. Get a job."
None of the members of Worried Men is responsible for the panel, and Gibbs isn't sure where it came from. For a cover band that dedicates at least 40 percent of its set to Grateful Dead tunes, shunning the group's followers wouldn't make much sense.
It's not often that Gibbs, bassist Willie Samuelson, guitarist Randy Kelley and drummer Pat Waters get to the loft to practice - with decades of experience playing in other bands, eight years performing as the Worried Men, and several years as Mahogany Ridge's Friday night house band, they don't really need to.
All the band's members have toured with other groups, some of them playing shows from Tennessee to Australia since taking up music sometime in the 1970s. That makes starting a song as simple as Gibbs nodding his head, and it gives Worried Men plenty of options to stay entertained as it cycles through songs by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and the Dead.
"We've had some people say, 'You guys should do originals,' but we just never got into doing that," Samuelson said. Occasionally throwing in a Black Sabbath tune - or inserting Bach lines or AC/DC riffs into unsuspecting songs - keeps the set list fresh, Kelley said.
"As Willie says, they're all original songs. Somebody wrote them at some point - just not us," Kelley said.
At this point, playing in a rock band is not about being rock 'n' roll, Kelley said. Instead of playing a Halloween night party, the band members plan to take their children trick-or-treating. Thrills these days come from using Worried Men's level of musicianship to up the ante of more obscure Jerry Garcia originals.
"We've had about all the wild times we're going to have," Kelley said. "We're over all that. Now we just kind of play music."
The group tries to avoid the pitfalls of a cover band with jam influences - solos are common but not extensive, and some song requests are met with a few bars from Gibbs, and then a different song from the rest of the band - but the musicians are willing to give anything they know a shot.
"We're not playing Grateful Dead tunes because we want to. We're playing them because they ask for it," Gibbs said about a typical night's song selection. The members of Worried Men are flexible with audience requests, but years of playing music has taught Gibbs, Kelley, Samuelson and Waters there are some songs they just can't, or won't, play.
"We've pretty much crossed off 'Shout,'" Gibbs said. "'YMCA' and 'Shout' are never going to make our set list."