Cover Photo By: Meredith Kaminek
The BackYard Rockers…
Jim Price, from the writer to the Musician
By: Rachel Rocks
From a live music addict, to a Radio DJ, all the way up to a college professor, and even higher up to the one creating the music for addicts to listen to, Jim Price has done it all! Playing with The BackYard Rockers is just the icing on the cake. It’s hard to believe how one person’s life can change in the matter of 30 plus years, but Jim’s has definitely evolved. I’m sure 30 years ago as he was writing about and covering the live music scene he never thought that he would be the one being covered. Congrats Jim Price on all you’ve done for the music scene throughout your years writing for the PA Musician Magazine. We are proud to call you one of our own!
Jim has been covering Open Mic/Jam nights at Pellegrine’s for a long time. Thanks to the host, Adam DiFlaviniano (“Adam D”), Jim became not only a spectator, but a musician as well, starting out with crazy kazoo renditions, and eventually adding in some bongo drums. He jammed with many different musicians, but was most comfortable with the already formed duo, Rich Dasch and Harmonica Dave. After a few jam sessions they started talking about forming an official band and trying to get some gigs. Back in 2012 they decided they needed a name, Dave suggested “The Backyard Rockers” and it was perfect. I’m sure it helps that was the name of Jim’s old radio show. Jim has gained some notoriety throughout the years of all of his different “professions” you might as well take advantage of that. Plus it’s perfect because being a backyard rocker is exactly what they want to do. They love playing picnics and festivals in anyone’s backyard, just jamming out and having a good time.
Out of the three musicians Rich Dasch, has been playing the longest. He picked up a guitar in his early teens and it stuck with him over 40 years now. This is the first experience he’s had playing in a band. Rich used to spend his working career on the road with the railroad, he would take his guitar along, and just jam with various musicians throughout the years. The band that Rich liked the most growing up was Buffalo Springfield, and Neil Young is still his favorite musician to this day, and one of his biggest influences. Even though The BackYard Rockers know how to rock, Rich still plays the acoustic guitar and he is also the lead vocalist for The BackYard Rockers.
Dave Baird (“Harmonica Dave”) also started out his musical career as a music lover. He never played an instrument until he started playing Harmonica in 2006. He started playing the “harp” just as a hobby, but it wasn’t very long until it became his passion. Dave’s biggest musical influence has been Eric Clapton. He’s been listening to Clapton since his early teens, Clapton gave him an appreciation of the “Blues” and instilled in him a “Rock n’ Roll” heart. With The BackYard Rockers, Dave plays the harmonica, and it’s been known that he has a custom made giant harmonica, that thing must be at least 2 feet long! He also still plays percussion when it’s necessary and helps out on vocals.
Jim Price (“The Professor”) started dabbing into hand percussion about 4 years ago when he was coaxed by several friends to join the St. Francis University World Drumming Ensemble. He learned djembe techniques from the leader, Jim Donovan. He was also influenced watching Jacob Haqq-Misra from Mysterytrain. He has a wide variety of percussion instruments that he uses for his shows. More recently he’s learned a few tips from Bryan Fazio. He also pays a lot more attention to drummers everywhere he goes, you can learn from everyone! Obviously Whitey Noll is his biggest ukulele influence, jamming with Jim several times and showing him new tricks. Jim has been jamming with many different musicians at Jam Night, which has helped him grow as a musician. Also Felix and the Hurricanes have invited him to sit in with them several times, and every time is a major learning experience! With The BackYard Rockers he plays the bongos, djembe, backing vocals, and even some kazoo solos. Rich and Dave are glad they found Jim. He’s definitely the perfect fit to their puzzle to complete the band they’ve been dreaming about for years.
I unfortunately haven’t seen The BackYard Rockers myself yet, but I asked them what they think helps get the crowd excited about their performance. The biggest thing they all agreed on is how they take the great classic and vintage rock n’ roll and make it their own. A lot of their songs are meant for a full, plugged in band, since they take more of the acoustic approach they torque it and still make it a rock song acoustic style. One thing the crowd always appreciates is that you can still have a conversation even when The BackYard Rockers are rockin’. Don’t get me wrong they still get plenty loud, and they still use microphones and amps, it’s just a unique approach that people have come to appreciate. Some of their biggest “crowd-pleasing” songs are Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” where Harmonica Dave brings out his big harmonica for the first time. “Wagon Wheel” is also a popular favorite, and in Etlon John’s “Crocodile Rock” there are even some kazoo solos that always get people’s attention. “Copperhead Road” and “Folsom Prison Blues” are also big favorites. They do play some originals, “Tara’s Song” which Rich wrote for his daughters wedding, and another one written with area musician Brian Cupples that they like to call “Happy”. They are just getting started and they hope that there are more originals in their future. Until that happens they’ll just keep rockin’ to whatever makes the crowd happy.
The BackYard Rockers have already spread their wings and have begun to branch out from the Altoona area. They’ve played in Johnstown, and even up the mountain into Patton at The Thirsty Dawg, and in St. Bonaface there is Madhatters and the Blue Knob Ski Resort. Starting in November they will be breaking into State College. They have a few big shows coming up in November, one being the 3rd Annual Patched Together Benefit Concert at Altoona’s Bavarian Hall, where they will be raising funs and awareness for the Healing Patch Program which provides counseling services to young people who have lost loved ones. On Thanksgiving Eve, November 27th, they also will be debuting at the Heidelberg Country Club. They would love to continue to break into the Williamsport, Harrisburg, western Maryland areas and beyond in the months ahead. You can check out their ad in this issue for all of their upcoming shows. You can also contact Rich Dasch to get The BackYard Rockers booked at your venue, 814-330-1883 or e-mail Rich at email@example.com.
When I asked the guys about who they wanted to thank for helping them become the musicians they are and they continue to be, the names came by the hundreds. Unfortunately there is only so much space for my Cover Story and I can’t list them all, but hopefully you know who you are! Some of the few I can mention that they wanted to thank are all of their family, friends and fans, plus all of the musicians that have sat in with them, the venues and the events that have welcomed them on their stages so far, especially Pellegrine’s in Altoona and The Thirsty Dog Tavern in Patton. Thanks to Rich’s wife Ellen for not only her support of Rich for the past 40 years!!! But also for allowing them to practice upstairs, and even for cooking for them! Also a big thanks to Adam Diflaviano one of the best musicians in the Altoona area who runs the Jam Night at Pellegrines, without his support and knowledge of music they would not be where they are in their musical journey. Also all of the staff at Pellegrine’s for allowing the Jam nights to continue and for supporting live music every way possible!
The BackYard Rockers are only getting started and it will be awesome to watch where they go. I hope I can catch a show Out and About and see their unique band for myself. You can find them at facebook.com/thebackyardrockers. You can also call Rich Dasch directly at 814-330-1883.