ALTON — Steve Schwegel of the Glendale Riders says his band’s affection for a classic country sound makes it a great match as Dwight Yoakam’s opening act on July 10.
“I am a very traditional country music guy,” Schwegel said as he chatted with AdVantage News on his birthday earlier this week, taking a break from yard chores and spending some dad-time. “I think that kind of music is almost gone, and that makes me sad. People are starving to hear some good traditional country, and that is why we are so excited to be opening for Dwight Yoakam.”
Gates open at 6 p.m. at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater on that Friday, with the Glendale Riders kicking things off at 7 p.m.
“I think Dwight is fantastic,” Schwegel said. “This is probably the biggest show we have ever opened for.”
The band was born from a love for music from the likes of Waylon Jennings, Alabama and George Strait. 2016 marks the group’s 10-year anniversary; a bittersweet occasion as one of the founding members, bass player Dale Batton, passed away in 2013.
“We are all very good friends,” Schwegel said. “We have grown very close in the last seven years or so. We enjoy each other very much, both onstage and off.”
Today, Schwegel, who sings lead and plays guitar, is joined by Jeff Bensman on guitar and lead vocals, Jim Bensman on drums and vocals and Chris Hammann on bass.
By the time he was 13, little Jared Bensman, Jeff’s son, proved himself a fiddle virtuoso and joined his father’s band. He is now grown but still a popular draw for loyal fans who have literally watched him grow up onstage.
“I still think most of the people come out to see him, not us,” Schwegel said, laughing. “Not many people have a fiddle player, though, so that sets us apart.”
The Glendale Riders also try to stand out by going above and beyond with every performance, only playing a handful of shows a year and making the most of each appearance.
“We always try to do more than expected, and the guys are very much into creating the very best show we can give,” Schwegel said. “We just did a 90-minute acoustic show that lasted three hours.”
While Dwight Yoakam might have something to say about it if that happens July 10, Schwegel says he is excited about the upcoming appearance.
“We always have great success playing at the amphitheater,” he said. “It is a great stage to play and I think this will be a great show for people to see.”
Dwight Yoakam, who owns the distinction of being the musical guest with the most appearances on “The Tonight Show,” rose to fame in the mid-1980s, eventually racking up 13 Top 10 singles on the country charts (including the No. 1 hits “Streets of Bakersfield” and “I Sang Dixie).
Throughout the second half of the ’80s and well into the 1990s, Yoakam’s unique blend of “hip honky tonk” struck a chord with fans who liked country to not stray too far from the genre’s roots. His 1993 CD, “This Time,” went platinum three times over. 2012’s “3 Pears” reached No. 1 on the Americana Radio chart, breaking the record for the most weeks at No. 1. He also has won two Grammys over the course of his career.
His latest release, “Second Hand Heart,” hit the airwaves just this past April.
Yoakam also bucked his reputation as an “aww shucks” nice guy with his acting roles as the sadistic Doyle in 1996’s “Sling Blade” and a psychotic killer in 2002’s “Panic Room.”