Dave Steen

 

   A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Dave Steen first received national stature as guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for HAWKS, an Iowa rock quintet that released two albums for Columbia Records in the early 1980s. Steen’s song “Right Away” rose to #63 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart in April of 1981. 

   Steen retired from the road after the band’s breakup to join Warner Brothers’ music publishing arm as a staff songwriter, and in 1986 scored a #70 Billboard Hot Country Single with The Bama Band’s recording of his song, “I’ve Changed My Mind”.  Steen says, “It really wasn’t a country song, but  country radio at that time didn’t mind a little R&B flavor in the music, and ‘I’ve Changed My Mind’ was really just an updated version of a Fats Domino song, with a gospel chorus & a honkin’ sax solo.” 

   Energized by another recording of the same song, this time by Ringo Starr for a Chips Moman-produced album (still unreleased), Dave found himself drawn more & more to his blues and soul roots.  “I had always put on blues or classic soul records to relax and groove to,” says Steen, “and I decided that I’d keep writing in the styles that were closest to my heart. I figured then at least I’d have a trunk full of tapes I could listen to for my own enjoyment, if nobody wanted any of the songs I was writing.”

   The results of that focus, however, were recordings by Solomon Burke, Junior Wells, Son Seals, Maria Muldaur, James Cotton, Terry Evans, Jo-El Sonnier, and The Cate Brothers, as well as modern blues torch bearers Coco Montoya, Sherman Robertson, James Armstrong, Larry McCray, D.A. Foster and others.  Over a dozen Dave Steen songs, and a dozen more songs co-written with Montoya, have appeared on that artist’s albums.  Steen played guitar on Coco’s 2000 Alligator Records release, “Suspicion”.

   By this time Dave was living in Lincoln, Nebraska, and had found a musical home at the world-famous blues club The Zoo Bar.  He started sitting in with house band Jimmy Valentine & The Heartmurmurs in the 1980s, eventually joining the band and backing up Lincoln-based Magic Slim on countless occasions.  

   In 2010 Dave was recruited by famed producer Tony Braunagel to set lyrics written by rock legend Eric Burdon to music.  The result was the song “Water”, which opens Burdon’s 2013 album ’Til Your River Runs Dry’.  The song was performed by Burdon on the Jimmy Fallon show in early 2013. 

   In 2013 Coco Montoya’s recording of Steen’s “Beyond The Blues” was featured in director Mark Nistico’s hard-hitting indie film, “Blue Collar Boys”.   The film won a Best Picture award at the Toronto Independent film festival. 

   To date, Steen’s songs, either as singles or as album cuts, have charted in Billboard over 15 times.  He has had over 60 songs recorded & released on over 80 albums. 

   In early 2015 Steen released “Town Full Of Secrets”, credited to Dave Steen & Jailhouse Tattoo.  “After many years of writing for other people, I didn’t want the constraints of whether or not this producer or that record company would ‘approve’ of the songs.  I just wanted to go into a real studio with a bunch of great players and lay down a collection of gritty roadhouse dance songs that would make a great CD to slap on at a party.  I think we accomplished that.”