A Decade of Decadence: Whiskey Daredevils Frontman Reflects on (What he Remembers of) the Last Ten Years

The Whiskey Daredevils 10th Anniversary, Death by Rodeo

9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24

Beachland Tavern | 15711 Waterloo Rd.

216-383-1124 | beachlandballroom.com

Tickets: $8

When the Cowslingers finished, singer Greg Miller assumed he was probably done with music. He had accomplished more than he ever thought possible, given what he refers to as his "thin talent set." The Cowslingers had issued 11 full-length records in 14 years and played everywhere. When Daredevils drummer Leo P. Love and Miller's bass-playing brother Ken came to him four months later and wanted to start a new band with guitarists Bobby Lanphier and David Bowling, he was into it. "I still had stupid songs popping into my head, and frankly I missed doing it," he says. "I was back in. This country punkabilly we make is music we believe in, and at any one time a bunch of other great people out there do too. The lifestyle gets in your blood.  I get edgy if I am in one place too long after so many years of constant motion. This ridiculous life we have carved out for ourselves is part blessing and part curse." Courtesy of Miller, here's a recap of the band's last decade; the group celebrates its ten-year anniversary this weekend at the Beachland Tavern.


This was the Bobby Lanphier/David Bowling era on guitars. Bob and I discovered quickly we could write pretty good songs together, which we did to amuse ourselves more than anything.  We quickly released a couple internationally well-reviewed full lengths and played a lot of rock shows with like-minded bands. This was a fashionable time to play the kind of music we play. There was a real sweet spot in 2006 where every other show was with Uncle Scratch and Hogscraper, a self-described Satanic jug band from Cincinnati. When Larry, the singer for Hogscraper, lapsed back into heroin addiction and stole all their band's gear for junk, that proved to be a real issue for their band chemistry and our package show. These things happen.

Rock 'n' roll stardom in those years was mostly slight misfortune and adventure. We played every filthy punk rock club in a nine-hour radius. We came in contact with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys a number of times during that era, before their ascension into the stratosphere. These interactions usually ended in disaster as on each occasion I was shitfaced after a gig, which resulted in him looking at me blankly like one would a mumbling drifter. I would imagine that I am now on some sort of watch list and the Black Keys team of goon bodyguards will pummel me on sight. Based on history, this would be logical as I always seemed like a dangerous degenerate whenever meeting Mr. Auerbach. Sorry Dan, I always had the best of intentions.

We went to Europe for the first time as the Daredevils in 2007 in a well-documented disaster of a tour that was still a hell of a lot of fun. There was a legendary night in Hamburg's Reeperbahn that is not fit for a family publication like this. We played an insane show on the Polish border. Wild at Heart in Berlin found the local Hells Angels out in force. Good guys. Well, to us anyway.  I think Dave [Bowling] was phased out of the band shortly after his move to Buffalo in the early Spring of 2008.  He was mad at us for that.

We went back to Europe again in May 2008 to support a release after I shot my mouth off to our German label at a gig in Stuttgart on the '07 tour. As the PA played a bunch of punk "hits" before our show, I said to our label head, "Oh, this one would be great as a blues. And that one would be good as a truck driving song." When asked if we could make a full-length like that and have it ready in three months, I said "Oh yeah!  No problem!" Let me be perfectly honest and say that was the Rothaus Pils talking, and not me. I hadn't slept properly in days, and was existing completely on a diet of gas station sausages and giant bottles of beer. I would have agreed to anything. When we got home, we busted our ass with [local musician and producer] Clint Holley at the board and did it.  Our fourth-full length "Old Favorites" is still our best selling. Folks like how we do the Misfits "Skulls."

2008–mid 2011  

Gary [Siperko] started playing guitar with us in 2008 when Bob [Lanphier] moved to Nashville. Gary is a monster guitar player that basically learned how to play country and Americana music on the fly in front of crowds. That was a tightrope act. He did it though. His first show was in Chicago with a promoter that tried to stiff us. When we started to load the club PA into our van in lieu of our cash, some money magically materialized, and Gary got an idea of the glamor to come in the Whiskey Daredevils. By 2009 we cut our fifth full-length "Introducing the Whiskey Daredevils," and we went back to Europe, this time from the Netherlands through Germany/Switzerland/France and into Spain. It was an absolutely crazy amount of shows in that time span. We saw a 7-year-old [kid] getting tattooed in Belgium. We played a tiny basement in France the size of a college dorm room. We played with the British late-'80s "new wave" band the Godfathers in Vitoria, Spain. Their singer crushed someone in the skull with the mic stand. We finished the tour in Bilbao, Spain in front of 1800 people. Afterwards, a soccer riot broke out in town. Tear gas has a nice sweet aftertaste once you get used to it.

June 2011–now  

Sugar joined the band on bass when Ken[Miller] moved to Austin after cutting The Whiskey Daredevils. Her first show was in a big room in Milwaukee opening up for Southern Culture on the Skids. Besides being nervous, she had to go on stage after we "won" a contest by eating more Scotch eggs than Southern Culture. Sugar has fit in so well and so easily, it's hard to remember when she hasn't been part of the band. She rolls right along with great enthusiasm despite traveling with three clearly disturbed men. She always brings "it" onstage. Sugar's first full-length is our current Whiskey Daredevils III, recorded by the ever-Zen John Smerek in Detroit. It's really good. Seriously.   

We keep jumping into the van because it is what we do. In 2012, we drove down to Texas and back to showcase at SXSW with a bunch of Ohio bands. There are now 2500 official showcases at SXSW with God knows how many other bands playing anything even resembling a venue. How anyone knew who we were or how to find us, I'll never know. They all came out though and went kinda wild. We didn't get a lucrative record deal like Zeppelin after the show though. We drove home instead.

We went back to Europe in 2013 again for our best tour there ever. This is also well documented on my Nurse the Hate blog if you want the seedy details. Once again, we spent time with great people and continued to feel the support of folks that like the same type of American music we do. It's like Jerry Garcia once said. We are kind of like licorice. Some people don't like it. But the people that do like it really, really like it. It's been ten years now. We have released nine full-length records. We have a new one written and ready to record. We owe our European label another one. That's written too. We have played in ten countries and 15 states. We'll go back to Europe in 2014.  I imagine we'll keep doing it as long as we can. After all, it's what we do.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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