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Dowd: 20 years on stage

Musician David Dowd is one of Juneau's best-known performers

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2001

Dave Dowd's daughter, Lyndee, danced on the dog kennel as her dad's band rehearsed a new song Thursday night.

The bass player's son, Kristian, watched the band, and Dowd's other daughter, Margo, was bustin' moves nearby. Actually, the whole Dowd family was in the garage with the band. Dave Dowd and the Soundboyz have played every venue in Juneau over the years. They may not bring their families to the gigs, but they're regulars at the rehearsals.

"All these kids are going to be in a band together when they're older," Dowd said, half joking.

Dowd, 38, is one of Juneau's most familiar musical faces. He has played guitar and sung in bands for 20 years in a passel of different groups - Mary's Igloo, Chrome Forest, the Casual-tees and the Blitzkrieg Brothers.

Dowd's wife, Suzanne, said Dave and his bandmates are like brothers, and their kids share the easy familiarity of cousins. Dowd and drummer Allan Peters have been friends since grade school. Dowd and bassist Brad Imboden have played music together for 14 years.

Peters, 41, actually hired Dowd for his first gig 20 years ago when Dowd was still at Juneau-Douglas High School.

"He started playing bars before he was old enough to be in bars," Peters said. "He was as tall as he is now, and he didn't drink, so no one asked any questions."

"We were a three-piece," Dowd said, pulling out an old band picture featuring a bassist with a Mohawk haircut. "We had no pride. We did stuff no one would touch. Devo, Gary Newman, Foreigner 'Urgent' - could you imagine that without a sax and keys? I didn't know what a keyboard player was."

"I'm so glad to have you as a friend," he said quickly to keyboard player Paul Carlson.

Chrome Forest played every bar on Franklin Street, and there were more then. The musicians used to haul a 300-watt generator out the road and play the sand pits at Eagle Beach. Hundreds of people would come.

"The police would come, and they'd come up to the band, of course," he shrugged. "Who else would they talk to? I worked at the post office and I knew all the police."

Dowd has worked at the post office for 18 years. He's proud to have had the same window for 13 years, and he's seen plenty of folks come and go. As a musician, he's worked with a number of full-time professional players, and he's happy to have a day job. It helps him keep perspective when things get weird.

He once played in a duo and said his partner fired him five minutes before they were to open a concert for REO Speedwagon. The other guy wanted all the glory, he said. To make matters worse, he told the members of REO Speedwagon that Dowd chickened out.

Dowd winces when he tells the story, but adds that he learned a lot about performing from that guy.

"Musicians can be ruthless," he said. "That's what he did for money. I sell stamps."

Another time a bandleader fired Dowd, but the entire band followed him out the door. They immediately got a gig two blocks down the street.

The friendship and camaraderie, and the sheer joy of playing music and performing, outweigh a few misadventures. His fans are loyal, and one, John Stetson called him "a legacy of local entertainment."

Dowd's grandfather, Ike Cropley, lives in Juneau, and he's also a fan. He likes the vintage rock Dowd plays, but pushes him to play more country - Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Dowd called him up the other night and played him a song off Napster, the Internet song-sharing network. It was Johnny Cash - backed up by the rock band U2.

Music is in Dowd's blood. His father was a professional drummer and music brought the family to Juneau from Petersburg in 1967. Last weekend, when the Soundboyz played at the Imperial Saloon, Dowd was reminded of a gig there 33 years ago when he was 5 years old.

"I remember when they had a hotel above the Imperial," he said. "I can remember lying on the couch watching 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' there, and falling asleep listening to my dad playing music downstairs."

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.



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