Best Bets: Stone Jack Ballers roll to Dover Public Library show

The local musical trio Stone Jack Ballers will play the Dover Public Library’s monthly In Harmony series Friday night at 6:30. (Submitted photo)

Ever since he can remember, Brian McDaniel wanted to play the guitar.

“I was obsessed with the guitar from an early age. We have pictures of me when I was young where I am holding a baseball bat like a guitar,” he recalls.

The Milford native and now Dover resident who manages the Dover restaurant Where Pigs Fly, has made music a passion throughout his life. He says he’s already teaching his young child pitch recognition.

For the last six years, his musical trio Stone Jack Ballers has been a popular area band, playing an eclectic mix of “jammable” music from artists such as The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Mayer, along with some originals in the same vein.

Stone Jack Ballers will play the Dover Public Library’s In Harmony series Friday night at 6:30 at the library on Loockerman Street.

Stone Jack Ballers started when Mr. McDaniel’s previous band The Greater Good dissipated, leaving Mr. McDaniels and drummer Geoff Frazier looking for another outlet.

“Geoff has been involved in everything I’ve ever done musically ever since we were in school together,” said Mr. McDaniel, a 2000 graduate of Milford High.

The two found “Mac” McIntyre to play saxophone and they carried on as the trio of Stone Jack Ballers, named after a lyric in The Grateful Dead song “Easy Wind,” describing someone who breaks rock in a chain gang.

Their arrangements of songs that fit their instrumentation with unique harmonies and improvisation became an instant hit. These days, they can be found doing about 80 gigs a year in varied venues such as wineries, nightclubs and the Delaware State Parks summer series.

Despite his experience in a few different bands over the years, this is the first time Mr. McDaniel has taken the reins of a group, acting as the band’s lead singer and general manager.

“It’s a new experience but it’s been a real confidence builder for me. We’re lucky now in the sense that places are now contacting us instead of us having to go out and find gigs,” Mr. McDaniel said.

He attributes that popularity to a few things.

“I think we have a great lineup of musicians with a very pleasant sound that doesn’t fit in any one genre. We are not easily described,” Mr McDaniel said.

“It’s a bit of easy listening with touches folk, jazz and blues. We sort of fit into a lot of gray areas. Once they hear us, people tend to like us.

“The songs themselves seem to transcend so many different genres all at the same time. People from all kinds of different musical backgrounds can appreciate that music because the songs tell stories. If you listen to the lyrics, there are clear cut stories being told. There’s always a little bit of something for everybody.

“We also get a lot of support from Deadheads. There aren’t many bands around here that do Grateful Dead songs, which we love to do.”

For Friday’s performance, Mr. McDaniel said the group will focus on story songs.

“Songs that tell anything from happy endings to tragedies. There are very interesting stories in these songs,” he said of the tunes that will be both covers and some of their originals.

SJB will perform tonight at the library with the basic three musicians but often they can be found with special guests sitting in.

“I am fortunate to have a lot of good friends who are good musicians as well. They come to play with us whenever they can so it’s never the same show twice,” he said.

Rotating guests include Stu Welch (harmonica); Bob Carrico (trombone); Tim Stearn (flute, sax, clarinet, keyboards); John Ragonese (tenor sax); Paul Hanebutt (trumpet); Chris Foltz (percussion); and Amanda Smoot (bass).

SJB has been hard at work on their first album.

“We have a handful of songs written for it and we’re working on more all of time. We’re working out of a private studio in Milford, owned by a guy named Kirby Fitzgerald, who has been a longtime friend of mine,” Mr. McDaniel said.

“We have two songs online and should have a third out soon.”

Mr. McDaniel said he isn’t sure how many songs will be on the finished product.

“It’s a work in progress. We don’t have anything set. What we do we do for fun. We don’t do it to be locally famous or whatever. We do it for the love of the music. We just put our heads down and chuck along. That’s always how it’s been and it’s been working out great,” he said.

First Friday

Friday’s concert is part of First Friday activities in downtown Dover.

Earlier in the day, The Wet Bandits and Reunion will take the stages to perform live, as Loockerman Street closes to vehicular traffic from 3-9 p.m. and activities begin at 4:30. Food trucks and lots of vendors will fill the streets.

“We are excited to continue the energy from last weekend’s OktDoverFest event,” said Cameron Llewellyn of Destination Downtown Dover. An estimated 10,000 people attended the signature street party through the course of the day. OktDoverFest drew people from as far as 200 miles away to enjoy live music, craft beverages and food.

Many downtown merchants will be open late and are getting in on the action by preparing shop windows reflecting the theme of “arts and harvest” to welcome more than 25 artists into downtown for the inaugural Paint Dover! outdoor painting event, competition and exhibition. An estimated 40 or more paintings of Loockerman, State and nearby streets, as well as The Green, completed during the day today will be on display and for sale on Loockerman Way Plaza at 126 Loockerman Way from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Artwork is being judged by artist, Dennis Young of New Castle, and by sponsors including PAM Rehabilitation of Dover and Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen. The public is also invited to vote for People’s Choice from 4:30 to 6 p.m.. Awards will be presented at 6, when the mayor will also announce winner of the downtown merchant window decorating contest.

Keyboardist Joe Connor of JMC Production will provide lively jazz in the plaza. These arts and music activities will take place rain or shine.

The public can also see artists at work throughout the day by participating in Go Pink! (And Go Healthy!), self-guided walking tour of downtown for Health & Pleasure which will begin at the Bayhealth Women’s Center, 540 S. Governors Ave. at 11 a.m. For information, contact Fran Riddle at frances.riddle@comcast.net.

Through the charitable giving program, First Friday Gives Back, a portion of sales from 5 to 8 p.m. on First Friday will go to the Dover Fire Department in honor of National Fire Prevention Month. For a list of participating merchants, visit TinyUrl.com/DoverFirstFriday

Indoor evening activities, taking place rain or shine, will include:

•Biggs Museum of American Art – Exhibits continue with “Rebecca Raubacher: Drawings & Paintings and “Biggs Body: A Juried Competition of Figural Art”. Visit BiggsMuseum.org or call 302-674-2111 for information.

•Delaware Store and Parke Greene Gallery – Live music by Mollie Raley Hall, singer/songwriter on guitar, ukulele and mandolin, providing an eclectic mix of mostly folk and pop; and singer/songwriter Leilani Wall playing everything from quiet ballads and classic rock to table-thumping Irish drinking songs.

•Grey Fox Grille and Public House – Live music by keyboardist Darin O’Neill playing acoustic pop music from the 90s, as well as a DJ beginning at 9 p.m.

•House of Coffi – Live music by Mike Miller on acoustic guitar playing Americana-themed pieces.

•Simaron Steak Shop – Featuring live music by Earl Reed, acoustic guitarist/singer with a low-key, relaxing blend of classic rock and pop.

•Tina’s Timeless Threads – Dendarah Nar belly dance troupe at 111 W. Loockerman St. from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

In the event of poor weather, art and related activities will be moved to the Dover Art League at 21 W. Loockerman St. Live music and dance inside shops, as well as busking on the sidewalks, will take place despite weather conditions.

Race weekend in Dover

Grand Funk Railroad, the top-selling American rock group of the 1970s, will perform a free concert on the Xfinity Stage at Victory Plaza on Sunday at noon, before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 playoff race at Dover International Speedway, part of the Monster Mile’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

Grand Funk Railroad will bring hits such as “We’re An American Band,” “Locomotion,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)” to Dover International Speedway Sunday. (Submitted photo)

Known as “The American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad, also celebrating its 50th anniversary, features founding members Don Brewer and Mel Schacher, joined by veterans Max Carl (38 Special), Bruce Kulick (KISS) and Tim Cashion (Bob Seger).

With 13 gold and 10 platinum albums, and sales topping 25 million worldwide, two of Grand Funk Railroad’s 19 charted singles reached No. 1, including “We’re An American Band,” and “The Loco-Motion,” both of which sold more than 1 million copies each.

The Budweiser Clydesdales will appear in Dover International Speedway’s FanZone throughout the Monster Mile weekend.

The Clydesdales will be on display throughout the weekend, including during special photo opportunities at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and noon on Saturday in front of the Monster Monument at Victory Plaza following parades around the property.

The Budweiser Clydesdales, America’s most famous marketing icon, first appeared in 1933 following the repeal of Prohibition. The famed horses, hitch and wagon, along with the traditional Dalmation mascot, visit dozens of events across the country each year.

Other Dover fan activities include:

• Harlem Globetrotters: The legendary basketball team will bring its ball skills, trick shots, comedy and more, will hold free performances at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

• Micro Wrestling: Showtimes are 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Formed in 2000, the Micro Wrestling Federation features an entire cast of athletes and performers under 5 feet tall

• Winston Cup Mobile Museum: Features classic race cars, artifacts, photos and mementos from more than 30 years of NASCAR history. Winston (R.J. Reynolds) was the primary sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series from 1971 through 2003. Cars on display will include Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 Chevrolet from his rookie season, a No. 3 Chevrolet driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr., a No. 43 Pontiac driven by Richard Petty, a No. 24 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon and a No. 11 Chevrolet driven by Terry Labonte.

• Bear Hollow Wood Carvers: Chainsaw artists create sculptures, both small and large. The creations will then be auctioned off throughout the weekend in Victory Plaza. Auction times are 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1:15 p.m. on Sunday.

• Fireworks: Presented by Kent County Tourism, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday. Visible from all areas of the property.

• Expanded Monster Mile Youth Nation: Designed for NASCAR fans age 12 and under, this free area is filled with fun and games for the next generation of fans to explore and enjoy on race weekend.

Tickets for children under 12 are free for today’s and Saturday’s races and start at $10 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Sunday.

For tickets and more information, call. (800) 441-RACE or visit DoverSpeedway.com.

Historical marker dedicated

Kent County Theatre Guild soon will be honored with a new Delaware historical marker.

Formed in 1953, the guild first held its shows at the old Dover High School, other area schools and the Hinkle Building at North and State streets, Dover.

In 1972, St. John’s Lutheran Church donated a former sanctuary for a permanent theater. The marker unveiling, with the public invited, is at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at 140 Roosevelt Ave. in Dover.

That will be followed by the guild’s monthly Patchwork Whoopee event catered by Sui Tempo.

During Patchwork Whoopee, actors read short original plays written by area contributors. Audience members determine the best written play at the end of the evening.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the highly anticipated “Joker” film; Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland in the biopic “Judy.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Toy Story 4” and the horror films “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Midsommar.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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