Dan Zanes, The Disney Channel’s Del Fuego

24 Mar

The Disney Channel used to be a morning staple for The Hangover children.  The kids have grown out of it now, and for the most part, that’s a good thing.  But there is one drawback:  Dan Zanes and Friends no longer appear in the living room, providing musical interludes between shows.  One might ask:  Why would a grown man bemoan the loss of videos starring a funny looking, colored-suit-wearing, gangly musician?  Because Dan Zanes was formerly the lead singer of one of the best bar bands on the planet–The Del Fuegos

A few years ago I was reading the morning paper and the kids were watching television (the horror, the horror).  To fill time during breaks, the networks showed music clips, usually featuring some goofy singer strumming an acoustic guitar singing about dinosaurs or bunnies.   My eyes never left the page.  And then I heard a raspy voice backed by a Stratocaster and drums.  I put down Doonesbury and there was Dan Zanes.

“Kids,” I said.  “Watch.  This guy is awesome.” 

The Del Fuegos came out of Boston in the early ’80’s.  They weren’t musical virtuosos, but the drums snapped and the guitars churned.  Dan Zanes’ vocals suggested gravel more than velvet.  Ten seconds into a song, you knew they meant it.  They sang about the usual rock and roll subjects:  girls, relationships, failed relationships, music, and making it through the day.  The music had integrity and cajones.

The Hangover first saw them in a San Diego bar in ’84 on a recommendation–more an order–from a friend in Boston.  They took the stage and howled, sweat, and jumped through their set.   People danced.  It was music made for beer drinking and letting loose.  Eventually, Miller tapped them for a commercial–a grainy, shadowy bit that is nothing like the slickly produced ads seen today.  Most of their videos looked like they were shot in 8mm and created for black and white.  That’s the kind of band they were. 

The day their second album, Boston, Mass, came out, we drove to Newberry Comics and then listened to it straight through on a portable CD player in a ratty Camaro.  A show at the Channel a few weeks later was a masterpiece.   The next time they played the venue, it was so crowded that no one could move, never mind dance.  Personal space and fire code violations were rampant. 

Two  more albums and the Del Fuegos were done.  That’s the music business.  Great bands disappear practically on a daily basis, with no logic or voodoo to explain it.  Had things fallen right, the Del Fuegos might have been a contender for the “American version of the Rolling Stones” crown.  Instead, they are a footnote. 

Dan Zanes is now on a mission to play a folk-rock-world hybrid that entire families can enjoy.  He believes in this the same way he did his earlier music.  It’s not the Del Fuegos, but we like it.  The Hangover will miss seeing the Dan Zanes videos in the morning.  They never failed to bring back bars, Buds, and great times, at least until someone spilled Cheerios all over the floor.


4 Responses to “Dan Zanes, The Disney Channel’s Del Fuego”

  1. george in the sticks March 25, 2008 at 12:04 am #

    There is something delightful about seeing your interests reflected in your children. I remember being pleasantly surprised when my oldest (then 4) came walking along through a store singing Tennessee Jed. I’m not sure if I’ll still be delighted when social services inquires why my youngest keeps repeating the phrase “high on cocaine” in daycare from the “train song” (otherwise known as Casey Jones).

  2. aaron, of course March 25, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    How about another Boston Rocker who’s on the Disney Channel. My girls had Winney the Pooh on a few months back, the theme song came on, and I instantly recognized the voice singing–Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo, and former Hard Rock Hostess Extraordianire! Apperently she does all the music for the show and also tours with Hannah Montana! She still looks and sounds great, too.

    …and I saw the original guy from Blue’s Clues rockin’ lead guitar with the Flaming Lips…

    It’s a crazy mixed up world.

  3. george in the sticks March 26, 2008 at 10:56 pm #

    There is no doubt that “steve” is the cooler owner of blue.

  4. aaron, of course March 28, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    George, no doubt. He’s great with the kids and all but you get the feeling that if Blue’s girl-cousin spent the week-end then Steve would break out his pimp game!

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