The return of Duckbutter
March 18, 2004
The buzz around town is right: Duckbutter is back.
So is their in-your-face, energized rock style.
After disbanding more than six years ago, the four men have returned to Steamboat Springs to give longtime fans a reunion show.
But don’t expect a sentimental, “we wanna capture our old glory days” performance, said bassist Turtle McClory: “We’re gonna rock.”
Some bands need months or years of hard, sweaty work to meld their separate instruments into one sound.
But for Duckbutter, that chemistry and connection was always there. And it’s still there, the musicians found Monday night during their first practice in years.
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“It’s one of those things where you don’t even have to look at each other, we just feel each other,” McClory said.
“Once you get something that’s that solid, it’s like riding a bike,” drummer Eric Barry said. “It just comes back.”
Duckbutter began in Steamboat in July 1995, when vocalists and guitarists Jon Gibbs and Scott Ramsay began an acoustic duo. They pulled McClory into the mix and finally brought Barry in for a New Year’s Eve gig. Barry, living in Boulder at the time, came for the show and stayed.
The musicians had all played mostly in cover bands, Ramsay said, and were ready for something more.
“We wanted to put something together that was original,” he said. “It immediately snapped to, ‘This is the sound it should have.'”
The covers a band chooses, and how well it plays those songs, can set the bar for its original tunes, band members said.
So Duckbutter picked good, challenging covers that fit a ski-town scene, taking songs from bands such as Phish and the Grateful Dead, and playing them Duckbutter style.
That means using a lot of energy and melding the songs into a seamless show, band members agreed. Many songs start with an acoustic flair, then crescendo from there.
“I’m a fan,” Gibbs said. “I play, but I’m a fan.”
Creating their original tunes would start with Ramsay coming up with words and a sound and then bringing it to the rest of the band.
“If you can play an original tune, and the boys just jump in, that’s chemistry,” Ramsay said.
As the band performed more, it drew larger and larger crowds, with some fans following it to Jackson Hole, Vail and Denver shows. Members of the band shared stages with big-name acts such as Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors, Sheryl Crowe and BB King.
Duckbutter released the album “Soulful Marination,” which sold more than 1,000 copies while on tour and was played across the United States and Europe.
In late 1996, McClory left the band to join musicians in Seattle and was replaced with another bassist. McClory recorded two albums, going on to work in the action sports industry and continuing with music in San Diego.
By 1998, the band reached its “pinnacle,” and Ramsay felt it needed to go to a bigger city to progress. Other band members could not leave Steamboat, so Ramsay went to Austin, Texas, and the band dispersed.
Ramsay recorded one solo album and is working on a second, which is being produced by the co-producer of the Dixie Chicks and Shawn Colvin’s latest albums. He also works as a graphic designer.
Barry moved to Boston for four years, playing with several bands and working as a sound engineer in venues such as the “House of Blues.” He returned to Steamboat in 2003 to work on his first original album, which he will tour with this spring.
Gibbs stayed in Steamboat, where he still plays with Worried Men and the Smokehouse Band, and works in a recording studio at his home, where he has produced three albums. Gibbs also runs his family ranch and has two children.
Don’t ask what their name means, unless you’re prepared for an embarrassed answer and something mumbled about a perfect powder day, free beer and gourmet dinners — all “icing on the cake.”
But ask about their reunion shows today and Saturday at The Tugboat Grill & Pub, the place where it all started, and they’ll say that the show will be tight, energized and a crowd-pleaser.
“I bought a new T-shirt for this,” McClory said.