The mid-1990’s represented a fruitful time for the blues scene in the Chippewa Valley. One of the most energetic bands of that era was the Kingsnakes. Founded by UW Eau Claire students Ryan Harrington (guitar) Nick Pettis (bass) and Aaron Bray (drums). After numerous unsuccessful tryouts, the group eventually found a diamond in the rough in Adrian Klenz (vocals) and eventually added keyboardist Jason Hedrington. They started making music and after just a few months in existence the band found themselves as a regular fixture (and eventually house band) at Houligans. Famous for their three hour, marathon sets, the band played every Thursday night to packed crowds.
The group was heavily influenced by Texas Blues, like the Vaughan Brothers, the Memphis sound of BB King and the Kansas City groove ala T-Bone Walker and Albert King. Lyle Lovett and Tom Waits also played a large role. The many influences began to mesh into one, cohesive sound, the Kingsnakes' sound, which can still be heard today. During the band’s residency at Houligans, the band began working with horn players regularly and the sound grew even bigger.
The Kingsnakes called Eau Claire home but were often found playing throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. At the height of their popularity, they were playing 150 shows a year. In 2000, The Kingsnakes released their first and only album “Foolin Yourself.” This record was recorded at Way West Grand Studios in Eau Claire and was received with great fanfare in the Eau Claire music scene. During the initial 6 year run of the Kingsnakes, they opened for national acts like Bobby “Blue,” Bland, Howard and the White Boys, and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson. They were also featured twice on the main stage at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
In 2001, The Kingsnakes took a break. An offshoot of the group (The Eau Claire Blues All-Stars) sprang into life and from 2001 until 2013, continued to play rockin' blues in The Chippewa Valley. A career move relocated Ryan to Germany in 2006 and the band continued to play at a much lower frequency. Then in December of 2012, a holiday visit to the States prompted a reunion of the Kingsnakes. That reunion happened again in 2013 at which time the members decided to commit to a string of shows in Summer of 2014.
Currently the band consists of Harrington, Klenz, Joe Gunderson (drums), Eric Thompson (bass), Paul Brandt (keyboards), Joe Coughlin (sax) Jeff Walk (Trumpet), and Eric Christianson (sax). You may also see some of the other folks who have played with the band along the way join them on stage for one or two, or an entire set.
Proof that the blues can’t be put down, The Kingsnakes decided to begin working on new material in the hopes of recording a new album sometime in the near future. The band is also in the process of planning a European tour in 2015 and hope to play as often as possible when Ryan is back from Germany.
The Kingsnakes reflect on a time when live music was based on raw talent and not computers. Every member of the band brings a dedication and passion to their instrument. This almost nostalgic feeling is transferred to crowds who frequent the shows to be charmed by the veteran Kingsnakes. The Kingsnakes are back and bringing rockin' blues back to The Chippewa Valley. Whether you are an old fan or a new convert don’t miss this high energy act. It is guaranteed to inject your soul with a powerful explosion of blues euphoria.