Ryan first picked up a harmonica when at the age of 16, when he fortunately swapped tapes with his brother and heard Sonny Boy Williamson on the first cut of the Blues Volume 1. It would take years to get a handle on the instrument and despite the fact that the same brother once took his harmonicas and covered the mouthpieces with soap, to discourage his high pitched racket, he would keep at it.
In college he formed a folk and blues duo with guitarist Ed Hoffman, an English major and future literary professor with intelligent and thought provoking lyrics. They would perform at coffeehouses and small campuses in the capital region.
Soon after graduation, Ryan met up with the members of Wiley Dobbs, a bluegrass group which incorporated elements of original music and jazz influences. After several years of high pitched, fast paced fun, playing everything from the bars on Lark Street, to bluegrass festivals in Vermont and on the back of a train traveling through the Adirondacks, it was time to move on.
In 2003, Ryan would once again join forces with John Rice, reforming the Red Haired Strangers as an original acoustic music duo, recording their long over-due first album. Red Haired Strangers features a mix of acoustic music which reflected blues, folk and Americana influences.
In 2004, Ryan joined Iowa 80, a band led by former Ominous Seapods lead singer Dana Monteith. Playing “Truck Stop Love Ballads”, they played throughout the Northeast, putting a stamp on their own unique take on Americana.
In 2005, the Red Haired Strangers would once again take shape, this time incorporating fiddle, pedal steel and dobro and drums into the mix, thus expanding their sound and range. Drawing from old blues and country, as well as, original acoustic and Americana. The Red Haired Strangers continue to perform throughout the Northeast and the capital region, playing a variety of venues, events and festivals.
John has been playing electric bass ever since a successful bribe led him to try out for the 8th grade basketball team. Not long after that, acquiring a $25 electric guitar and a hand-me-down acoustic, he & Ryan Dunham began honing their skills.
It was in 1995 while living in San Francisco that he happened upon an upright bass. Shortly after–along with New York City sound designer and multi-instrumentalist, Chris Webb–The Tuan Connection was formed, and began stomping out raw & original acoustic music in the Bay Area.
Returning to the Hudson Valley, he joined up with The Melting Picassos, and later–along with Ryan Dunham, was a founding member of the upstate NY bluegrass band, Wiley Dobbs. In 2001 he found an opportunity to explore other areas of musical study after a damaging run-in with a musical saw that left him unable to perform for over two years. Switching to the Mac, he finished his degree in music technology and creative work in electronic music.
In 2003, The Red Haired Strangers duo recorded their long-overdue 1st CD. Also that year, he once again joined forces with the Alt-Rock trio, Lüt. During the Fall of 2003, playing bass, he and Dana Monteith formed an original Americana duo, Iowa 80 (later known as Dana Monteith & the Worthless Flying Jays). Performing throughout the Northeast–and sometimes with some interesting musicians–they gradually incorporated the fine players that now make up the Red Haired Strangers. In 2004, on upright bass–and with thanks to Ben Vigoda–he took part in the first Experimental Musical Instrument Workshop at MIT (EMI@MIT), guided by artist-in-residence, John Zorn. He also performed with The Musn’t Grumble—a New-England based gypsy jazz/jug band.
Rick “Have Steel Will Travel” Morse has been playing music in bands since he was a teenager after hearing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Starting out as “just another guitar player” in a series of bands in high school and college, he took up the pedal steel guitar after hearing Rusty Young of Poco in concert.
Even though he didn’t grow up listening to country music, he was drawn to the emerging country rock scene. He grew up listening to his parent’s music– they were really into big bands including Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, and R&B artists including Nat King Cole and Ray Charles. (his parents once brought Natalie Cole home for dinner after hearing her in a local club).
His early influences in addition to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, were the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, the Grateful Dead, the New Riders of the Purple Sage many other early country rock bands. His first professional gig was opening for Linda Ronstadt at a sold out Palace Theater show in the mid–70’s and from there he has worked with a host of national artists. Rick’s first “real band” was Badge where he literally learned his new found instrument on stage. After ten years of playing throughout the Northeast with Badge, the band disbanded.
Ever seeking to play crossover music that bridge the gap between country and rock, Rick went on to form the new wave country band Bovine, followed two of his favorite bands, the Rolling Blackouts and the Raging Buchanans, who would open for country rock bands, like the Pure Prairie League when they were playing in the area.
Rick has also performed with several other original music bands including the Coal Palace Kings and Brooklyn based Sea of Cortez. He also has recorded and backed a number singer/ songwriters including NYC based Paul Brill and more recently with Dana Monteith. Rick is currently playing with the Red Haired Strangers, Sidewinders, and Tern Rounders. In addition to the pedal steel guitar, Rick also plays Dobro and slide guitar.
Chris Scharl began his musical training as a classical percussionist in fifth grade and was named to the NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) sponsored “Area” All State Concerts during his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school. Chris was also a member of ESYO‘s (Empire State Youth Orchestra) Percussion Ensemble and received further instruction from Richard Albagli (Principal Percussionist with the Albany Symphony Orchestra). Chris was a member of the Syracuse University Marching Band and several other University orchestras/bands but opted to follow other pursuits while in college and continued his music study as more of a hobby.
Following graduation, Chris continued his musical education locally focusing his attention exclusively on the drumset; taking instruction from renowned Mapex Drum/Sabian Cymbal sponsored clinician David Calarco for several years. Chris joined the local band The Melting Picassos with John Rice in 1996 and played from Maine to North Carolina for several years.
After the disintegration of that band in 1999, Chris moved to Austin, TX with some of the members of the Picassos to pursue music professionally. Having a natural aversion to pickup trucks and high school football, Chris returned to the Capital District to pursue a career outside of music. In 2003, Chris was given the opportunity to play with Ominous Seapods founder Dana Monteith on several different projects along with the other members of Red Haired Strangers.
I began playing the bass shortly after hearing Berry Oakley and Allman Brothers playing Whipping Post. It was at moment that I knew the bass guitar was the instrument for me. The first bands in high school and college ran the gamut from a 3 piece horn band to a 50′s throwback band.
It was upon returning to Albany after college, I joined my first serious project Ariel and it was with this band that I got my first taste of the recording studio and in 1982 we released our first albums on vinyl.
Following this, my Irish heritage came a-calling and I started the The Wilde Irishmen– later on we became The Porters. The Porters played concerts and festivals all over the east coast where I had to opportunity to share the stage with popular acts such as The Clancy Brothers, Cherish the Ladies, and The Tannahill Weavers. It was with the Porters where I recorded “MTA”, “Raise The Roof” and “Ale House Fire” I followed these project with the Irish/bluegrass band Fire In The Kitchen and The Schettino String Band. In 2009, my 1952 Kay Bass and I joined the Red Haired Strangers, and the rest as they say…