- Formed in Austin originally as the Danny Barnes Trio (The "trio" was in fact whomever he could get on the phone in time to make the gig,) Bad Livers played their first gig under that moniker March of 1990. The group included fiddler/accordionist Ralph White, who left the touring lineup in late '96.
-Danny Barnes and Mark Rubin had worked together, briefly touring with an ultimately lame Dallas based rock/bluegrass attempt (Killbilly) and Ralph was the weirdest guy at a regular Wednesday night Cajun music jam at a bar near Danny's house in south Austin.
-They played the stock "acoustic music" scene in Austin and the surrounding areas with little to no notice. The local "music business professionals" objected to the name, the presentation (performing in casual clothes,) instrumentation (accordion, tuba) and the material (whatever the hell they felt like playing.) In 1991 the local punk rock scene got hip to their wide ranging set lists, which included material from Monk, Mississippi John Hurt, Roky Erikson, Merle Haggard, and welcomed the band with open arms. They were invited to tour as an opening act for their neighbors the Butthole Surfers. It was the "novelty" of non-bluegrass material that first drew the attention of the music "critics," who had a field day coming up with dumb names to describe the group. In response, their first commercial release was a respectfully somber Gospel cassette ("Dust On The Bible," re-issued on CD by Touch & Go.) They hit the road without a record on the shelves, shilling only T-shirts and their live show.
-Creating quite a buzz at the 1991 SXSW conference, the obvious choice acoustic music labels all balked on a recording contract when they actually met the band. They instead turned to Chicago's Touch & Go records; home to the Buttholes Surfers who’s Paul Leary produced their first CD "Delusions of Banjer." An ill advised tour as Michelle Shocked's back up band sealed the decision to ignore the established folk music community, who wasn't snapping to it anyway. Another CD, the brooding "Horses In The Mines," followed in 1994, with lots and lots of touring in between.
-Jump ahead to 1996: The boys decide maybe now's the time to check in with the straight acoustic crowd and see if they've caught up. Ralph gets fed up with the legion inequities of playing live music for living and splits. Old pal and one time part time Bad Liver Bob Grant steps in at the last minute to tour behind their first Sugar Hill release, "Hogs On The Highway." It moves off the shelf pretty well, but the asteroid Bad Livers broadcast from is still evidently out of range for most radar systems, and numbers like "Falling Down the Stairs" offend the sensibilities of the festival crowd.
-In between tours in 1997, Mark gets hired to be the Music Supervisor for Richard Linklaters' Newton Boys. He in turn hires Danny to compose the score. The movie eventually tanks at the box office, but the music is badass. With Mark conducting a 13 piece jazz band and Danny writing for the Seattle Symphony, the boys get the idea that anything is possible. 1998's "Industry and Thrift," produced with the help of old pal Lloyd Maines, was the product of this new found confidence. The wide-ranging and ambitious CD, Blood & Mood, is released and promptly falls off the edge of the earth. Evidently "they" hadn't caught up.
-That brings up to 2000, and "Blood and Mood," to date the worst selling title in the catalog. The Austin Chronicle did a big cover story on the making of this CD, as well as in-depth interviews with both Danny and Mark. You can gain a good insight to the eventual parting of ways along with lots of extra biographical material in those articles that I'm sure I'm leaving out here.
-These days, Danny now lives in rural Washington state where he leads several combos, releases his own material on his own label and tours nationally. Having moved way beyond his earlier work, he's collaborated with jazz heavies like Bill Frisell and Buell Niedlinger. Follow his progress at his website.
- Mark still lives in Austin where he works at a violin shop, leads an acoustic klezmer ensemble, plays tenor banjo in a old-time western swing band, and collaborates from time to time with old friends (Don Walser, Frank London, Kevin Russell from Gourds to name but a few.) Find out more at his site.
- After 12 years of one nighters all over the US, Canada, Norway, Holland, France and the UK, the "touring" part of the Bad Livers story has concluded.
However, Bad Livers are currently accepting select engagements. Simply drop a us a message and we would be happy to share with you our performance requirements.