"Bolton's band is mostly a family affair"
An article from The Daily Gazette – LIVE IN THE CLUBS ~
October 22, 2009
Story by Brian McElhiney
THE BAND IS BILLED AS RICK BOLTON AND THE DWYER SISTERS with Arlin Greene, suggesting that Bolton is the leader of the ensemble.
But Bolton wants to make something clear: it's really all about Sharon Dwyer, Molly Dwyer and Greene.
"I'm just like some presidents; I surround myself with great, great people," Bolton said at a coffeeshop in his hometown of Saratoga Springs. Arlin, he's the son of Smokey Greene, famous bluegrass artist. ... And these two girls, when you hear their harmonies, it's like, they've got that family thing going – it's unlike anything you'll ever hear. Their mother was a world-class barbershop quarteter, so that's where they learned their harmonies.""Plus, with Arlin and I, we knew we needed something to attract people's attention to the stage, because our looks certainly weren't gonna do it." Bolton added, laughing. "It's always nice to put two beautiful girls up there."
One listen to the group's latest CD, "100% Recycled Material" – so titled because the set is basically the covers show the band plays in the bars in Saratoga Springs – reveals the musicians' close knit family chemistry. And it's not just due to the Dwyers. Bolton has been married to Sharon, whom he met at the O'Dwyer's open mic nights, for a decade, and Greene performs with Bolton in the six-piece rock group Big Medicine.
"You know, it works because we're all very good friends; we're all, the people in Big Medicine and all these people, even if we didn't play, we'd be best of friends," Bolton said.
The group is a regular fixture on the Saratoga scene. They can be found at Gaffney's Restaurant at least once a month, and will be playing there Saturday night. Although the group occasionally travels, Bolton prefers to stay local at this point in his career.
"It's just so convenient to go a mile down the road, play for all your buds, play with the people you love and then shoot back and sleep in your own bed," Bolton said. "I'm not as young as I used to be. I dug it when I was in my 20's, early 30's, but I'm close to 60 now, so I don't travel as well as I used to."
Although the band does play originals (Bolton's "I'm Only In It For The Beer," released about three years ago, features many of his own songs), for the most part it sticks to the covers on the bar scene.
"For the most part, I don't know how the hell we've done it," Bolton said of the band's repertoire. "Weve just been lucky, because most of the tunes we play we enjoy playing. I don't know how that's come to pass – I think maybe the alcohol's working these days."
Before being diagnosed with diabetes in the late '80's, Bolton was a road warrior, performing at honky-tonks in the south. He grew up in Hague, a small town on the edge of Lake George, and his earliest introduction to music came from his mother, who would play piano with Bolton in her lap, operating the pedals.
"We'd just sing and sing and sing, " Bolton said. "From there, I actually started playing the electric guitar first, and it's like everything – you start with the present and you move back, and in hearing The Beatles and hearing The Rolling Stones, you hear Howlin' Wolf in there, you hear Robert Johnson, you hear Chuck Berry."
Bolton's musical exploration eventually took him back to early folk artists. Through that, he became a fan of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and John Prine, whose "Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian" is covered on "100% Recycled Material."
"Sometimes I feel like I'm just a folkie in a rock'n' roll band with Big Medicine, but it's funny the way it works, " Bolton said. "You work back to it and, you know, I try to divide myself. With [the Dwyer Sisters and Arlin Greene] I play mostly acoustic; with Big Medicine it's all electric. But I really enjoy acoustic guitar."
In the mid-'70's, he landed a coveted spot as one of two guitarists for Marty Robbins' backing band.
"It was such a whirlwind," Bolton said. "I got put on a bus, and I only did it for a couple months, because I was filling in for a guy whose wife was pregnant; he went back to Nashville, so I was just a side guy. It was still a job, and I hate to sound like it was an episode of VH1, whatever that show is where they talk about their drinking days and their drug days, but a lot of it was just that. You know, you'd hop on the bus, you'd go play a gig."
After relocating to Saratoga Springs, Bolton met Sharon at O'Dwyer's, which was owned by Sharon's brother Tommy, and quickly discovered a musical and romantic chemistry.
"The music was there – very similar tastes," Bolton said. "And the romantic part wasn't far behind, and then that took the lead for a long time. And it still does; she's a sweetheart. I got lucky." •