The Doo-Wah Riders cover a lot of territory – musically and geographically.
The country-cajun quintet from Southern California is in Sedalia through Monday at the Missouri State Fair then will drive back to the West Coast for a series of dates before hitting the road to play in Ohio. After that, it’s another cross-country journey to Washington state. For a band that puts on a tight, high-energy show, all those miles can have an impact.
“The travel can wear you out,” said Kenny Lee Benson, one of the group’s founders. “We drive ourselves; we don’t have a bus driver.”
Doo-Wah Riders came together 38 years ago, spawned from a parking lot conversation between Benson, who sings and plays accordion and keyboard, and guitarist/vocalist Lindy Rasmussen. The band includes drummer Phil Roach, fiddle player Tim Weed and bassist Freddie Johnson. Their sound is a musical gumbo, melding lots of different genres into a cohesive style that is enhanced by the band’s fun and fast-paced presence on stage. Its set lists have included everything from Buckwheat Zydeco and Van Morrison to the Dropkick Murphys.
“That is what we go for, we like it that way,” Benson said. “We enjoy what we do and try to do songs we enjoy playing.”
Sunday afternoon’s set started with “The Boys Are Back In Town,” the Bus Boys’ hit from the movie “48 Hours” done with a creole kick. Next came Jeffrey Steele’s “A Girl Like You” and the original “The Great Outdoors,” written and sung by Rasmussen. Throughout, the band displayed nice harmonies to complement solid musicianship. Other crowd favorites were a “bluegrassed up” version of “Proud Mary” and the closing medley that included “Riders in the Sky” and the theme from the TV show “Bonanza.”
“We try to draw a little bit from everywhere and work it in. It makes it more interesting for us and the audience,” Benson said.
Macheznie Aggeler and Mary Wood, both of Otterville, agreed with that sentiment. Aggeler especially liked how band members came out into the audience to involve the crowd in the show.
“I loved it. I like the energy that they have, the way they spiced up ‘Proud Mary.’ It’s just really fun,” Wood said. “They incorporated a lot of styles into one big ol’ bundle. It was really awesome.”
While they are based in California, the Doo-Wah Riders do have a tie to Sedalia in local country music legend Leroy Van Dyke.
“He has been a real positive influence and a great friend,” Benson said. “He is always free with his advice and it is always great to see him and Gladys.”
After 38 years together, Benson said, “The music is still the best thing.
“Right before we left (for Missouri), we were in the studio recording three (original) songs and that is always the best for me – writing new stuff, getting in the studio together.”