Deadheads in St. Louis know Jake's Leg. The band has been providing music for the scene for 47 years, playing thousands of shows to generations of like-minded fans who just wanna keep on dancin'. Maybe you've heard them in some dumpy little bar like the old Twenty North or at Busch Stadium: they've played 'em all and continue to do so on a regular basis. And the band keeps growing.
Started as a duo by guitarists and vocalists Randy Furrer and Tim Fahy in the mid-1970s, lead guitarist Dave Casper soon joined the fold. Players were added and the music grew, friends came and went. Some of them had 10-year-or-longer stints with Jake's Leg, which is a long career for most non-touring rock bands. Bassist Joe Trunko came on board in 1990, followed in 1991 by keyboardist Bill Noltkamper, completing the core four that have been playing and singing together for the past 30 years. Ryan Wilhite, after a short stint as percussionist, took over the drum kit in 2005. The sum of this is one of the longest-lasting bands in the country that plays a whole lot of your favorite songs and you'll find them playing in and around St. Louis.
It's not The Grateful Dead and it's not supposed to be. While they draw mainly on the repertoire of America's favorite psychedelic blues-rock jug band, Jake's Leg naturally bring their own sensibilities to each part. The introspective singer-songwriter, the jazz stylings of an improvising soloist, rock-solid dance grooves, mind-bending jams: all are in play at their shows. The music can take you anywhere you want to go. And with their long-term unity and very capable musicianship, Jake's Leg makes it a great-sounding trip.
What's happening at a show? Music. Joy. Love. Peace. Singing. Dancing. Good Times. Fun. While making the soundtrack with lots of dedication and practice, the band knows that the audience is an integral part of each show. People leave their troubles at the door and get down together in a celebration of life. The audience members come in all ages and from every background, each bringing their own energy to the experience. The band and their audience have an on-going dialogue based in their mutual love of the music. It wasn't planned, it just happened. And it's still happening after 44 years. If you're a fan of the songs of The Grateful Dead, do yourself a favor and see Jake's Leg. Your friends are there and the music never stops.
Joe Trunko – Bass,
Joe started playing the bass at age 10, partly as the result of the influence of his brother who played guitar and needed someone to jam with. The bass just seemed like a natural fit. Joe has held down the low end in Jake’s Leg since 1990. He has many musical influences, from Jazz to Classical, and of course the Grateful Dead. He was exposed to the music of the Dead at an early age and something just clicked. On why he is drawn to the music of the Dead: “the music has influences from so many different types of music – blues, country, folk, psychedelic rock and jazz. While the songs stand alone as is, they also are a perfect platform for individual interpretation and can be taken to so many other musical places. There also seems to be a certain connection that occurs both between the musicians in the band, as well as between the band and the audience, that doesn’t seem to happen with other types of music. It’s hard to explain, but is magical sometimes”.
Dave Casper -
Dave received his ﬁrst guitar at age 9 shortly after seeing and hearing the Beatle’s play on the Ed Sullivan Show along with countless other Americans who had the same musical awakening after seeing the show in 1964. He immediately became obsessed with the uphill climb to learn how to play. After struggling 3 or 4 years with a local teacher, he decided that he needed more than the traditional “Mel Bay by the numbers" approach that was typical back in the 60’s so he stopped taking formal guitar lessons and for the next 5 years destroyed almost every record he owned by picking up and putting down the needle sometimes hundreds of times to learn a guitar solo he loved. It didn’t come easy for him practicing in the basement by himself but once he started playing in an actual band things changed. He started to realize how collaborating with other musicians helped his understanding of a song and the roll the guitar has in creating music. At that time his main musical inﬂuences were all rock guitar players - Eric Clapton, Jeﬀ Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and Carlos Santana. But over the next several years he discovered a much wider range of musical inﬂuences like Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Robben Ford. Miles Davis, and the indescribable Jerry Garcia. He played in 4 diﬀerent bands over the next 6 years and started jamming with other musicians with dramatically diﬀerent styles and inﬂuences, which started to help shape the way he sounded and played. Then, at 21, he became a part of Jake’s Leg. He's still hard at work becoming the guitarist he wants to be. He can be in his car listening to almost any station on satellite radio and within 15 minutes hears something someone is playing on the guitar and wishes he could pull over and pick it apart and come away with every note perfectly in place, which is odd considering what Jake’s Leg does on any given evening is anything but “perfectly in place”.
Bill Noltkamper –
At 16, with the encouragement and support of his drummer father, Bill started playing in bands – it’s all he ever wanted to do. After graduating from the St. Louis Institute of Music he hit the bricks! Over the past 50 years, he has played in 33 organized pro bands, most for several years at a time, and also has done some studio recording. Being in such a diverse set of playing situations, he had to dabble into many musical styles, which is why playing in a “Dead” band is a perfect match. “I’ve found a home – it feels right! I love my band mates and am extremely appreciative of our fans. They come for the music more than for us. It’s beautiful. What a long, strange trip it’s been!”
Dale Ashauer –
Dale is an audio technician who probably spent way too much of his life listening to The Grateful Dead. He appreciates the nuances of the different periods of Grateful Dead music and the techniques that the Dead's audio crews used to achieve those sounds. After crossing paths many times throughout the years, Jake's Leg brought him on full time in 2013 to help create a better listening experience for their fans.
Ryan Wilhite - Drums, Percussion
Ryan inherited his love of music from his mother, a music lover who frequently filled the family home with the sounds of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and other country greats on vinyl. He started playing the saxophone at age 11. Upon acquiring his first drum set at age 13, he immediately set about teaching himself to play. With his headphones on, playing along to artists such as Led Zeppelin, he practiced for hours after school each day, and started playing in local bars around Illinois by the age of 17. After the first time Ryan saw Jake's Leg play - the first band he ever saw play the Grateful Dead - he was hooked on the jam/improv seen. Ryan eventually met Lee Kram (former Jake's Leg drummer) and began playing percussion with the band in 2002. Lee moved on from the band and Ryan was asked to join full time in 2005. "Not being a trained drummer, my approach is having a 'just play' attitude. The structure is there but every other part of the music is very in the moment. Nothing pre-thought out..." Ryan is grateful for his role in the band and humbled by the experience year after year.