The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are a Southern rock/country rock band formed in 1972 in Springfield, Missouri, USA. They are most widely known for their singles "If You Wanna Get To Heaven" in 1974 and "Jackie Blue" in 1975. The band began playing out in 1972 and 1973. On February 8, 1973 they played at Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City, Missouri. Later that month, on February 21, 1973, they played a concert at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. Two weeks after that, on both March 9 & 10, 1973, they played at Cowtown Ballroom again, this time with Brewer & Shipley accompanied by Loudon Wainwright III. Performances from the Cowtown shows later turned up on a CD called Archive Alive in 1997.
The group's demo tape eventually caught the attention of A&M Records staff producer David Anderle, who was looking for an Eagles country rock type of band to place on the label. Anderle and the Eagles' first producer, Glyn Johns, flew to Missouri to catch the band's aforementioned performance at Cowtown Ballroom on March 10, 1973. But the band, nervous about Johns and Anderle being in the audience, did not play their best. Later on, Paul Peterson invited the two men back to his place to hear the band give an unplugged performance by candlelight. This time Anderle and Johns were blown away and they were signed to A&M on May 1, 1973 and sent to England to record their first record with Johns at the helm during that June and July.
The first record, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (also referred to as "The Quilt Album"), was released in December 1973 and spawned the Top 30 hit "If You Wanna Get to Heaven" in the summer of 1974. The album introduced the band's unique mixture of rock, country, bluegrass and pop to the world and is still the favorite of many of the group's fans.
For the second album, It'll Shine When It Shines (October 1974), Johns and Anderle came to Missouri to record, utilizing a mobile recording truck set up outside of the band's rehearsal home. During the sessions, Johns overheard Larry Lee sitting at a piano playing and singing a song about a mysterious friend of his who sometimes dealt drugs on the side. Johns loved the melody and thought it could be a smash hit if the lyrics were altered to be about a girl and the drug references downplayed. Lee and Cash did as Johns asked and the song, "Jackie Blue", became the Daredevils' signature song and a huge hit (No. 3) in early 1975.
The Ozark's third release, The Car Over the Lake Album (Fall 1975), recorded in Nashville, Tennessee and produced by Anderle alone, featured their old compatriot, Bill Jones, joining them to play and arrange their songs. He also toured with them in 1975-1976. Another face from the past, Steve Canaday, also came back into the group's life at this same time as road manager and opening act before joining the band in 1976. The album sold fairly well but produced no hits. One reason why the band's fortunes began to falter might have been their reluctance to relocate to Southern California after being asked to do so by A&M co-head Jerry Moss. As a result, A&M might also have begun to lose a bit of their enthusiasm for the act at this point.
Personnel shifts within the group also began to change the chemistry. In April/May 1976, the band embarked on a tour of Europe. But by the time the exhausted troup hit Copenhagen, Denmark for the tour's final stop at Daddy's Dance Hall, they were confounded by a horrible sound mix for their show. An angry Randle Chowning responded by turning up his amplifier all the way which upset the other band members and resulted in a huge shouting match at the end of the night. Upon their return home, Chowning refused to speak to the others or take their calls. Norwegian musician Rune Walle, whom the band had met while on tour in Europe with his band The Flying Norwegians, was then contacted to replace him. Walle's first show with the group was at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on July 23, 1976 on a bill that also included The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Jeff Beck and Firefall. Chowning went on to form his own Randle Chowning Band
That same year the Daredevils headed west to the Rockies, to Caribou Ranch near Nederland, Colorado, to record their fourth album, which they had originally titled Nuclear Fishin ' but then changed to Men From Earth after A&M objected. The Nuclear Fishin' title was later used up in Canada for a greatest hits pack. Anderle was once again in the producer's chair and Evergreen, Colorado native Jerry Mills joined the band on mandolin and also served as the group's advance publicist.
In the fall of 1976, Buddy Brayfield departed to study medicine and Ruell Chappell (vocals, keyboards) from the popular Springfield group Spillwater Junction came in. But the band's next several releases -- Men From Earth (fall 1976), Don't Look Down (fall 1977, produced by David Kershenbaum, once again at Caribou Ranch) and It's Alive (September 1978) -- sold in lesser quantities than their previous records had. Jerry Mills and his mandolin were dropped from the group after It's Alive since the band was performing fewer acoustic numbers in their show by this time.
During the summer of 1978, the Daredevils went out for a short run of shows where they opened for Fleetwood Mac. Granda was not available since he was at home helping his wife with the birth of their second child. Springfield bassist Larry Van Fleet (from the Randle Chowning Band) sat in for 'Supe' for these dates. On August 26, 1978, the Ozarks appeared at Canada Jam on a large bill that also included Kansas, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Doobie Brothers, The Commodores and others.
In September 1978 the group flew to Hollywood to appear on the Merv Griffin Show and The Midnight Special. But when A&M's Jerry Moss witnessed the inebriated band members race through their sets on both shows, he decided not to pick up the option on their record deal and the Ozarks found themselves without a home in 1979.
During 1978, John Dillon and Steve Cash contributed to an album, White Mansions, which documented life in the Confederacy during the American Civil War.Waylon Jennings, Eric Clapton, Jessi Colter, Bernie Leadon and several other musicians appeared on this record as well.
Also in 1978, Larry Lee recorded a solo album for A&M that was not released. By 1979 the group had moved over to Columbia Records and put out the self-titled Ozark Mountain Daredevils in May 1980. This album was produced by famed country rock pioneer producer John Boylan and did not feature Chappell or Canaday, and Walle only appeared on two songs, since Boylan insisted on bringing in session players for a more typical "California country-rock laid-back sound", which was popular at the time. But the country rock sound's popularity seemed to be on the wane at the dawn of the 1980s as groups such as the Ozarks, Poco, Firefall, etc. saw their sales begin to slip away. Columbia dropped the group after only one record.
In 1980 Walle left the Daredevils to be replaced by Springfield guitarist Terry Wilson.
In December 1980 Brayfield, Chowning, Jones and Walle reunited with the band for two shows, one in Springfield and one in Kansas City. The first was atHammons Student Center on December 6 and the second, on December 31, occurred at the Uptown Theater in K.C. The latter show was later put out (in August 2006) on CD and DVD as 1980 Reunion Concert: Rhythm And Joy.
Larry Lee left the band and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a solo career in 1982. He also worked as a songwriter and country producer (forAlabama, Juice Newton and others) and would still play drums on occasion with other acts. In the mid-'80s he even did a stint with Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. Chappell also split in 1982, leaving the group a quintet