A Marilyn Monroe bobblehead perched atop a cymbal quivers with each drumbeat as Ramblin’ Dan Stevens picks up his trusty cigar box guitar and diddley bow and starts to sing.
His voice is coarse, yet classic in the same way an old leather jacket becomes marked with age and years of travel.
Steven’s music often speaks of travel, of life lived sailing the seas or rambling across the country as a free-spirited traveling musician.
With each note and vivid detail, Stevens has the power to stir one’s sense of wanderlust, yearning for adventure and new experiences.
On Sunday evening, the International Blues finalist will ramble from his home base near Old Lyme, Conn., to the rolling hills of Millheim and the Elk Creek Café for an evening of blues-infused tunes and tales from his travels and tribulations.
The following night finds Stevens, cigar box guitar in hand, at the Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport for an encore performance.
“I started playing when I was a teenager but have been a full time traveling musician for last 23 years,” Stevens said. “Last week I believe I had 14 gigs alone and this week looks to be close to that.”
With a hard-driving sound he calls classic Delta blues, Stevens creates a musical experience that is totally and distinctively different, complete with a mix of covers and original tunes, a few stories from the road, a few jokes and even a light show provided by a few sets of Christmas lights.
“I just took my daughter to see a Justin Bieber concert and if you’re expecting to see a show like that at Elk Creek, you are going to be very disappointed,” Stevens said with a laugh. “I don’t use a crane or pyrotechnics, but my show is pretty decent and I even have some lights too.”
Joining in on the blues adventure will be a fellow musician who is quite the character, both literally and figuratively. Bob “Wizard of the Blues” McCarthy, a character actor, will provide his intricate bass playing and vocals for the Elk Creek and Bullfrog gigs.
“Bob is amazing. I have been playing with him for about six months and he is simply excellent,” Stevens said. “He is a character actor and plays characters that look like they would be something you would see in a Harry Potter film. As a musician, he is the real deal so people coming out to see us will get double the entertainment.”
For Stevens, a native of Bellefonte, entertaining people is his life and passion.
In addition to playing countless gigs as bars, clubs and festivals across the upper east coast, for the past five years, Stevens has performed regularly in the New York City subway system as part of the city’s Music Under New York experience.
“I meet interesting people all the time in the subway, which is the main reason I love to do it. I am often photographed or filmed by people who sometimes stop to listen and talk then vanishes into who-knows-where,” he said. “One of my favorite spots is Union Square and I once played in Harlem in the subway near the Apollo Theatre — on the day Obama was inaugurated. That was fun. I have met or seen up close several celebrities. My favorite was bumping into, literally, actor and comedian Martin Short who I have always loved.”
Stevens also takes his music and skills to hospices once a week and in events for developmentally disabled children. This provides him the opportunity to share the power of music with as many folks as he can.
Working with kids gives him the chance to share his skill of making instruments from a collection of unusual items, such as cigar boxes, tin cans and odd pieces of scraps and junk.
“It’s also fun making these instruments and I’ll be bringing my cigar box guitar to both gigs. It’s just another way for me to do something different and to make music,” he said. “I love what I do and hope people will turn out for the gigs at Elk Creek and the Bullfrog. At Elk Creek I will have a very special guest, JT Thompson, a fellow musician and a friend I grew up with. We were both in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, so the crowd at Elk Creek will get to hear two blues finalists and the Wizard of Blues.”