I am morbidly entertained by the music myth Hollywood writers love to foist upon moviegoers who see films about bands “making it.” A couple of scrappy kids get together in a garage with instruments they mowed lawns to obtain, practice for a weekend, churn out a single, play at the local club and end up in a multimillion-dollar record contract performing for thousands of roaring fans at a stadium in just one month.
Movie magic ignores the harsh reality of the late nights, the brutal work, the long years and the buckets of sweat it takes to survive and succeed as a musician in the world as it really is.
Rumble King formed during the swing revival of the early ‘90s, coming together in the summer of 1996. “We were always fans of rockabilly and blues music, but we felt that our version of this style was not being represented in nightclubs or on the radio,” says Aaron Deilly, lead vocal and pianist for the band. ”Everything was guitar, bass, and drums, the traditional trios. We needed to hear piano and saxophone, so we started doing it.”
The band practiced in an old office building every night over the summer, baffling the drums with couch cushions and hanging microphones from the ceiling to record the music. Their first live gig was at the 60/60 Club in Riverside.
“I remember being very nervous performing that first show because even from the beginning we were writing our own songs and we were the only band I knew of in the scene that brought a real piano to a show and didn’t have a guitarist.” Aaron says. ”I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received. After we finished the first song, it seemed that everyone in the joint was into it and nervous turned to fun real quick. I think my whole band split $150 that night. Best thirty bucks I ever made.”
After more than a decade of late nights, brutal work, long years and brow sweat Rumble King have not only survived but succeeded long after their contemporaries rode the swing wave and died when it went back underground. Not that the group considers itself to be just a swing band.
“For us it has always been about the live music scene.” Deilly says. ”Sure, you can swing dance to a lot of our music, but we also have a lot of music that you just need to listen to. We were never really accepted in any particular scene. We were never rockabilly enough, or swing enough, or blues enough, or country enough for anyone to put a single label on us, and that’s always been fine by me. So the live music scene is fantastic. The swing scene is going strong. It’s just back where it was before corporate hacks tried to bleed it dry of its soul.”
The sound of the five-piece band is best experienced live. That’s where their energy romps, stomps and howls free above the clatter of beer bottles and the restless live humanity sweating under the neon in the dim and din of a crowded bar or nightclub. This is where the blues was born, evolved and lives today. The longevity of Rumble King comes from the indisputable fact that they are just as good performing live as they are playing in the studio.
Rumble King released their first album, When I Get There, in 1999. They followed it up with a second album, Rockin’ Kind in 2002. The band has performed damn near everywhere including The Derby, The House of Blues, B.B. King’s, The Coors Amphitheatre and the Hard Rock Café. They also are regulars at Downtown Disneyland and have played with numerous living legends like B.B. King, Chuck Berry, James Brown and The Blasters.
Under their independent label (Poor Magician Records), they’ll be releasing a third album, One More for the Road on December 14, and will play a homecoming gig on January 12 at Raxx Barbecue in Riverside.
“Our musicianship, songwriting, and confidence in who we are and what we do had been elevated to a new place that was not necessarily represented any longer by our previous recordings,” Deilly says, pointing out that surrounding the themselves with the right kinds of people was important. “This is our art and our business, and we’re fortunate to still be around after ten years. We didn’t cut corners on this album, and we’re proud of the results.”