The Jungle Dogs are back for their much-anticipated annual Labor Day reunion concert Saturday, Septe
The Jungle Dogs are back for their much-anticipated annual Labor Day reunion concert Saturday, September 3 in the Pinch Penny Pub Beer Garden. (The rain location is in the Copper Dragon Brewing Company.)
It’s been almost thirty years since the group came out of the ranks of the SIU School of Music with the goal to make people happy playing music. Originally the plan was to play Cajun music. But the serendipitous mistake of spinning a calypso album at the wrong speed captured the budding band’s attention and heart, and changed the group’s musical direction. It would prove to be a momentous decision, both for the group that would soon christen themselves the Jungle Dogs, and for the audiences that would soon flock to hear them. The group’s music, a red-hot mix of calypso, ska, reggae, and funk, caught on with college audiences like an out of control wildfire, and within a year the Jungle Dogs had built a dedicated fan base that would follow them for the next twenty-eight years.
“I love the Jungle Dogs!” eagerly cries long-time dedicated fan Carol Conley. “I have always loved them! They are one of my favorite memories of my Carbondale days! I’ve ‘jumped up ‘cause I like cold beer’ more times than I can count! Who wouldn’t love that eclectic mix of rock, reggae and calypso funk?”
Conley’s sentiments perfectly describe the adoration that grew between the Jungle Dogs and the scores of fans they drew to live shows during their reign over SIU’s golden party era.
Then, in 2004, growing families and changing career directions led to the band retiring from public performing. After a six-year break, the nine men (saxophone player Klaus “Rock the House” Bank, bass player Eddie Chapa, trombone player Larry Daly, trumpet and keyboard player Keith Huffman, drummer John Hunter, percussionist Matt Linsin, trombone and keyboard player Jim Owens, guitarist Dan Schingel, and trumpet player and frontman D. Ward) who made “Cold Beer” Carbondale’s unofficial anthem came back together for a reunion. Original Dogs fans from the eighties came, some with children (gasp) old enough to enter Pinch and party alongside their parents, and new SIU students exploring the Carbondale scene for the first time had a chance to come out and enjoy a taste of what made Carbondale a party town in the best sense of the word. The Jungle Dogs’ Labor Day reunion has taken place every year since.
Find out more at <http://www.JungleDogs.com>.
Recently, Nightlife had a chance to catch up with original Jungle Dog, guitarist extraordinaire, and tall-tale-teller Dan Schingel for the inside scoop on this year’s show, what it’s like to be a part of such a long-lasting brotherhood, and some exciting new developments for this year’s concert.
It’s hard to believe another year’s gone by and we’re almost ready for another reunion show. Are you excited?
We are definitely looking forward to a big time! This is the sixth year we’ve done a reunion concert. It’s always great, always a lot of fun. This one is especially going to be a lot of fun because we’ve actually got a couple of studio musicians and singers from California coming in to sit in with the band on a few songs to kind of spice up the old Jungle Dogs! [laughing] You know, some of us guys in the band are kind of getting up there in age, and it’s tough to keep singing like a young man, so we’ve brought in a couple of new guys to sing with us. These are big-time California musicians and singers. They’ve sung with Michael Jackson and Don Henley as backup singers.
That’s exciting! How did that come about?
These guys are kind of friends of the band. They were in a band back in the late seventies and early eighties with a couple of guys in our band, and they went on to fame out in California as really good rock ‘n’ roll singers. They are stars in their own right, and we thought it would be a lot of fun to have them sit in on a couple of songs. Without revealing too much, their first names are Darryl and Dorian, and they’re coming in to help us polish out a few things. It’s gonna be great.
For your fans, ranging from the eighties to the present, your music and concerts have given birth to so many great memories. Is it the same way for the guys in the band?
I would definitely say one-hundred percent. To this day, there isn’t one single show that we do that we don’t have multiple people come up to us and tell us about.... There’s nine guys in our band, and at every show, different people come up to every one of us and say, “I remember this,” or “I remember that.” And it’s to the point now that some of them bring their kids along so they can see the stuff that we did. That’s always a lot of fun, too.
One of the legends that has grown out of the reunion concerts is the now-famous practice and jam session you guys do the night before the show. Is that going again this year?
It’s definitely happening on Friday night, in an undisclosed location in Southern Illinois. And of course, there’s always people that find it. And of course, I’ll make a great big pot of gumbo or something equally as good and we all sit around going through the songs. At first we all roll our eyes and say, “Oh, boy,” but then when the pedal hits the metal on Saturday night, something just clicks. It’s always good.
Good is definitely the feeling that a Jungle Dogs show leaves its fans with. Something about that calypso/reggae/ska sound just makes you feel good. Was it that way from the beginning for the Jungle Dogs?
From the beginning, we always wanted to make people happy. We wanted to be a group of guys that pleased people with our music. We started out thinking that we would be a Cajun band. Then we realized that we were playing too many chords and were too complex to be a Cajun band. Then, in the mid-eighties, this guy brought an album to us, a folk album from Jamaica. He said to check it out because we might like it. We put it on the turntable, and we screwed up. We put the speed on forty-five instead of thirty-three, and all these folks tunes from Jamaica were sped up. We were like, “This is really cool! We should do this!” and then we figured out what a mistake we’d made. But then we thought, “Keep with it, man. This is our future!” There you go. That was that. It was nothing anybody was doing. Nobody else was doing anything like it at the time. Call it luck or whatever, but we landed on it.
Do you remember that first gig you all played together officially as the Jungle Dogs?
I do. And when we played it, it was so much fun that even though we made absolutely no money, we were like, “That’s okay.” At the venue we played, they said they would either give us $300 or we could take eighty percent of the door. We said, “Screw it, let’s take eighty percent of the door.” We made $12 apiece. Everybody loved it, though. From that point on, it was over the top. We had a lot of fun from that point on.
The first Jungle Dogs concert was in 1988. In 2016, you are two years away from the thirtieth year of all of you playing music together. Is that hard to fathom for all of you?
Yes and no. When you get to be my age, you say that about a lot of things. We stopped ten years ago, and then started again six years ago. For every person in the band, life had changed so much. Children, jobs, everything. You blink your eyes and it feels like yesterday. Yet in some ways it feels like a million years ago. But that’s what’s great. At these shows you’ve got college kids hangin’ with people twice their age. I had a woman from Murphysboro tell me, probably four years ago, that at the end of the night she was dancing, and some college girl came up to her and said, “I wish my mom could be like you!”
That’s the most impressive part of these reunion shows is that you have layers of generations that are now coming out to enjoy the music. Is the atmosphere something you as a group have intended to cultivate, or would you attribute it to the feelings inspired by the music itself?
It’s absolutely the music. There is music that is intended for each generation, niche music that doesn’t make it after ten years or so. But calypso music, that infectious music and the rhythms that we play, seem to keep perpetuating themselves, all the way from Harry Belafonte all the way up to Bruno Mars. If you tap into that rhythm, you’ll find that it’s not in a time capsule. It spans such a long time period. That kind of groove is infectious, and you can’t put it down. Trends come and go, but I think that particular kind of music is just there for eternity.
What is it like to be a part of the musical brotherhood that is the Jungle Dogs, and has stood the test of time?
You put it on the back burner sometimes. But then, I’ll have a total stranger come up to me and mention the band. For me, that’s really heartwarming. I know, in my heart, as a Jungle Dog, my best days are over. I don’t pretend to be anything special. I mean, I’ve got a day job. But yet I know that we put such a timestamp on what we did. I’m always thinking, “Well, it’s surely got to stop somewhere.” But then every year, inevitably, I’ll have at least two or three people come up to me and mention a great memory. That is so humbling, because I know we made them happy, for at least one night. So many people spend their lives doing things that don’t make anyone happy. I’ve made happy, people I don’t even know. That makes a big difference to me. I’ll take that to my grave.
How do you see the future of The Jungle Dogs? Do you think it will continue for years to come?
[laughing] To be honest with you, I hope they will. But I will also tell everybody, in all honesty, if you really want to see the Jungle Dogs, by all means, come see us this weekend. Who knows for sure? Our drummer is moved out west, about halfway to Japan, so it’s getting more and more difficult to get everyone together. I definitely hope it will go on, but you just never know. We’re all getting up there in age. Who knows what next year will bring?
Do you have a favorite memory, or a gig that stands out?
There are so many, but I do have a very favorite. It was the year we actually got to play on the stage of the Du Quoin State Fair Grandstand. My father and mother and all my brothers and sisters-in-laws were there. It really meant a lot to me because my dad always kind of shook his head like, “Why is this kid trying to be a guitar player? I want him to be a banker or an accountant or something.” My father just passed away this year, but that gig stands out in my mind because he was just so proud of the band and what I was involved in. To see that ear-to-ear grin on my dad’s face was just huge for me. My dad came to see a few other gigs, but playing on the main stage at the state fair and seeing my dad with this look on his face that said, “Yeah my son was a little crazy with that guitar thing, but by god he made something out of it” was just huge.
What is your favorite song to play live on stage?
So many bands try to get serious about social issues or love, but without a doubt, the Jungle Dogs thing is about fun and humor, even when we try to get serious. There’s no doubt that “Cold Beer” is our anthem and I definitely enjoy playing it. But I really love “Be Careful What You Wish For.” That’s my favorite song that I’ve written. Probably my favorite song that the Jungle Dogs do that isn’t “Cold Beer” is “Why, Why,” that Dan Ward wrote. Those three are the strongest songs that I like to play, definitely.
If you were to issue an invitation to this weekend’s reunion concert, what would you say to our readers to get them to dig into their pockets for that cover charge and enjoy a night out with friends?
I would say come to a Jungle Dogs show because you will not see any local band in America doing this kind of upbeat music as good as we do it. There’s no doubt in my mind. Come out and see us!
who: Jungle Dogs reunion
what: funk, reggae, ska, calypso
where: Pinch Penny Pub Beer Garden / Copper Dragon Brewing Company
when: Saturday, September 3