It Shined: The Saga of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils
by Michael “Supe” Granda
Publisher – AuthorHouse
Rating – 6.5/10
Summary – Michael “Supe” Granda had his 15 minutes of fame as the bassist for ‘70s band The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. It Shined recounts the band’s 70s heyday and its long slide into irrelevance afterward. The book is pretty good, but overly long. I’m glad that I read it, but cannot give it a strong recommendation.
Review – Of all of my vices, rock star bios have to be among the worst. Through the years, I’ve read books on most of the big names in rock n’ roll. One of the weaknesses of these books – as with all biographies – is that they tend focus on the huge successes. Minor bands often have great stories to tell about both the ups and downs of the music industry.
Back in the early-1970s, Michael “Supe” Granda was a hippie college dropout in rural Missouri when his band, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, scored a recording contract. Shortly thereafter, they had two sizable hits – 1974’s “If You Wanna Get to Heaven” (#25) and 1975’s “Jackie Blue” (#3). Though the band never had another hit single, they made several additional albums and lived the rock star life throughout the seventies.
The Going Up &…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, drugs pervade the book. And – inadvertently – drug dealing was central to the band’s success. A Daredevil friend, Steve Canaday, was flying a load of pot back from Mexico when he became paranoid that he was being followed. To evade his pursuers, he ended up flying to northern New Jersey. While hiding out, he went to Manhattan where he delivered a tape of the Daredevils to famed record producer John Hammond. An impressed Hammond was soon on his way to rural Missouri to hear the band.
Granda has some great stories to tell about the band’s rise. One vivid story concerns the time the band became stranded in its van during a snowstorm. Eventually the van’s heater failed and the band members sat in the dark and cold before the Missouri Highway Patrol saved them from freezing to death.
Another time, The Daredevils went to the UK to record an album. They stayed in a house called Headley Grange that had a recording studio where the band worked. Led Zeppelin had just moved out of the house. Daredevil Buddy Brayfield went to sleep in a bed at Headley and woke up with crabs.
Another time, the band recorded an album @ the famed Caribou studio high in the Colorado Rockies. Wanting to entertain themselves, the band paid for infamous groupie “Sweet, Sweet Connie” to fly in from Little Rock to party with them. (Connie’s fifteen minutes of fame came from her mention in the lyrics of Grand Funk Railroad’s hit “We’re an American Band”). The Daredevils billed their record company for Connie’s expenses.
…The Coming Down (with apologies to Kris Kristofferson)
But, what goes up must come down, and so it was with the Daredevils. After “Jackie Blue” hit, the band slowly slid into the nostalgia circuit as the public’s musical tastes changed. At times, the story of the band’s fall is fascinating as well.
By the 1980s, the band had been reduced to taking low-rent gigs. Granda tells a terrific story about a gig in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada. The band played a cinder block club that did not have a stage or even a dressing room. (The band made a mad dash for the stage from the van that was parked outside the club). Once the band began to play a beautiful Indian (“native Canadian”?) woman danced with all of the men in the club, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend who was stuck outside because he could not afford the club’s cover. The band’s set ended for the night when the boyfriend smashed the club’s “power box” with a rock. Clearly, the Daredevils had fallen a long way.
Though Granda often is upfront about his failings, he pulls some punches on his personal life. Unsurprisingly, his marriage did not survive the Daredevil’s popularity. He doesn’t go into any great detail about his divorce and notes that – after his ex-wife moved to Florida – he participated little in his kids’ lives. The reader feels that Granda is being less than forthcoming on this topic and wants to know more.
Fuzzy Memories, Blunt Opinions, & Meandering Prose
Even a casual observer will notice that It Shined has many errors. For instance, Granda recounts how a fellow college student played a Bruce Springsteen record for him in 1969, when Springsteen did not release a record until 1973. The book includes numerous chronological errors of this sort and they combine to undermine Granda’s credibility. Perhaps “if you can remember being a rock star, you haven’t really lived the rock star life” but the reader wonders how much of Granda’s purported nonfiction is true.
Granda also surprised me by insulting many other performers. I’m not sure why Granda has such high opinion of himself. After all, while The Daredevils were a decent band, they weren’t the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin.
A final gripe is that the book is too long at 508 pages. The story loses momentum as events – new lineups, recording, touring – tend to repeat themselves. A wordsmith could have helped Granda improve his presentation.
The Final Curtain
This is a decent rock-star bio and fans of this genre will enjoy the book. However, at 508 pages of uneven prose, It Shined demands a lot of effort in exchange for its inconsistent rewards.