Johnnie Bias and Chuck Dunn first met in the ‘90s when they were both working with the Truckee Alignment for Musical Arts (TAMA) in of all places, Truckee. TAMA was a charitable organization that put on musically oriented events to raise money for music scholarships.
Johnnie and Chuck were performers for TAMA. They hit it off together and played a bit back then, but time moved on. Years later they bumped into each other at a party and that got them to playing together again. They’ve been at it ever since.
I met up with them Saturday before their show at Reno’s Peavine Taphouse and Grill. While Johnnie was busy making sure all was in order with their stage and equipment set up, I talked with Chuck about their duo, and his experiences with the COVID-19 shutdown.
Besides his partnership with Johnnie, Chuck has been a member of The Blues Monsters for over 20 years. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, he said that it was not unusual for him to have about 26 shows per month between The Blues Monsters and Bias and Dunn.
That all changed pretty quickly.
“I started getting texts and emails almost daily from venues cancelling shows,” he said. “We had signed contracts for many of them, but I’m not going to throw that at them. It wasn’t their fault. I’m not a ‘contract’ guy. One venue did pay us anyway. I can’t say who, but they were great.”
Full on bands like The Blues Monsters have pretty much been wiped off the calendars for now, but duos have been able to find gigs here and there.
COVID-19 restrictions for performers have been different everywhere since they’re mandated by local jurisdictions. Chuck shared a story of an episode at a venue where he was told that they had to wear masks while they played. He argued that they were 20 feet away from anybody; most people in the bar were not masked up. And how can he sing or play harmonica like that?
After that night, he called the local health department to get their feedback on the situation. He was told it was up to the venue, but the health department did not mandate it.
On another occasion, he was told to not let anybody dance.
“Not my job,” he said. “You tell them they can’t dance.” After thinking about it, the bar manager agreed with him, and there was peace in the kingdom.
This was my first time hearing Bias and Dunn. In this setup, they are both playing acoustic guitars and singing. I would say Johnnie is a baritone and Chuck is a tenor, but I’m not really sure exactly where things cut off. Bottom line is they are both great at what they do and they blend well together.
The vibe is an easy country western/folk sound with artists like John Prine, Lyle Lovett and Johnny Cash, and some soft versions of rock with Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Poco and Tom Petty, plus more.
It was a wonderful show with two very professional players. The sound and lighting were great, too. The Peavine staff were very efficient and pleasant, and properly masked up, as were guests as they walked around the room. Masks were not required while at your table. It was a safe and satisfying evening of music, food and drink.
It’s getting better all the time.