Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Song for the Dreamers – Danny and Dusty

Song for the Dreamers

Performed by Danny and Dusty. Written by Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn. Click here to listen to the original recording. You can check out a 2007 live version here. You can buy the song on iTunes here and buy the album, The Lost Weekend, here.

It’s 1985 and there’s a music scene cooking in Los Angles dubbed the Paisley Underground, their sound ranging from pop to roots rock to psychedelia.  The leading bands included the Bangles, Game Theory, The Long Ryders, The Dream Syndicate and Green on Red. On one particular weekend, Dan Stuart (lead sing form Green on Red and Steve Wynne (lead singer from the Dream Syndicate) pulled some band mates and some friends from the Long Ryders into a studio for a weekend. Over the next 36 hours, they consumed combustibles by the bucket load and recorded a complete album put out under the moniker Danny and Dusty with the title, The Lost Weekend.

Thankfully, the recordings were not lost. In many ways, what they laid down in that studio exceeded what any of the bands did on their own. That album features some great songs, including “The Word is Out” and “Miracle Mile,” but nothing beats “Song for the Dreamers.”  A rollicking tribute to losers, hustlers, schemers an dreamers, Wynn and Stuart trade vocals as if they’ve been barnstorming roadhouses for twenty years while the band unleash a frenzy behind them that makes like a Thunderbird convertible flying down the highway.

Sing me a song for the dreamers

With Donnie Duck pounding the drums and smashing cymbals, Chris Cacavas looping piano notes in and around the beat, and Steven McCarthy driving his guitar, you can’t help but feel the surge of energy and enthusiasm. It’s a song that leaves you smiling and wanting to shout along. It’s about a carousing faith, a belief in dumb luck, a bow to the hard luck losers and the misfits that stick out. The bands having a great time performing and you want to join the fun.

The music is as improbably wild and idiosyncratic as the characters running around in this song. Danny (Stuart) sings the first half of each verse, with Dusty (Wynne) responding in the second half. The song opens:

Took a ride on the 505
Woke up in Fresno at Sarah’s dive
She’s got one eye and a way of talkin’ dirty that’s nice
Old Bill lives on the hill
He’s got 25 wives and a Coupe De Ville
Likes to hang out way by the still at night

You get the sense that Bill is holding a sweaty log neck in the midst of Sarah’s dive bopping to the band. It would be no surprise that Stuart and Wynne made up the lyrics as they went along in a hilarious game of “Can You Top this?” Danny starts the next verse by singing:

Lady Luck drives a pickup truck
She runs numbers for Pearl S Buck
She’s got a laugh like a wild coyote in heat

You could ask why Pearl S. Buck would be running numbers, but why bother. Dusty doesn’t beat an eye, he replies with the even more ludicrous:

My brother Rod must get some kind of nod
He fell asleep drunk behind the wheel of a ’56 Dodge
Woke up ten miles outside of Cape Cod the next morning

Dusty gets in the last verse, this time pointing at his singing partner and laughing:

Now one last verse about my friend Dan
He lucked in to one hundred grand
Blew it all at the MGM Grand in three hours

This verse may hit close to home as Dan Stuart has seen his ups and downs and has, at times, blown much of his money.

Throughout the choruses and through the end of the song, the singers name check various characters in a random pattern that defies explanation. Here’s the first rendition of the chorus:

Sing me a song for the dreamers
Sing me a song for Bobby Chacon and Al Capone and the boys
Sing me a song for the dreamers

I put together a key to their mad references:

Name Notes
Bobby Chacon A boxer with a tragic personal life, he’s known for his hard punches, wild lifestyle and sad life. His first wife committed suicide after she failed to convince him to quit boxing and his son was later murdered.
Al Capone Notorious Chicago gangster
Pearl S. Buck American writer who lived manly in China. She wrote the Good Earth and won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Fidel Castro Baseball loving, cigar smoking Cuban dictator
Jackie O. Fashion icon and lady about town, Jackie Kennedy, JFK’s wife became known in the press as Jackie O. after marrying Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis
Johnny O’Wynn They got me on this one. If you know about whom they sing, please drop me a line.
Fred Gwynne Large, loveable actor who starred in Car 54, Where Are You? and as Fred Munster in The Munsters. He later gained fame as the judge in My Cousin Vinnie.
Count Basie Big band leader
Ryne Duren A fireballing reliever known for his thick glasses and wild pitches
Jim Thompson Writer of dark pulp fiction novels. His best known include After Dark, My Sweet and The Grifters. Dan Stuart named a Green on Red album after Thompson’s novel, The Killer Inside Me.
Ryan Sandberg Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs

I first heard this song on Vin Scelsa’s radio show and it turned me on to a host of great bands. I tracked down Lost Weekend, then headed over to Green on Red, the Dream Syndicate and the Long Ryders, all worthy bands and worth the time to track down their music. You can find several live performances from Danny and Dusty recorded in 2007 when most of the original members got together again to perform.  You can find “The Word is Out,” “Baby We All Gotta Go Down,” and another live version of “Song for the Dreamers.”


6 Responses to “Song for the Dreamers – Danny and Dusty”

  1. […] wild rock band. You can check the blog piece on Danny and Dusty’s “Song for the Dreamers” here and catch a video […]

  2. […] The Long Ryders faced the same fate as their musical heroes. They churned out a series of great songs – State of My Union, I Want You Bad, I Had a Dream, Lights of Downtown, etc. – yet never reached the critical claim they might have deserved. By 1987, they had broken up, the four band members scattered across the U.S. and England. In addition to releasing several solo albums, Sid Griffin has written a biography of Gram Parsons (Gram Parsons: A Music Biography) and two books on Bob Dylan’s music. Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy also played on the one-off masterpiece Lost Weekend put out under the name Danny and Dusty. That album included the anthem, “Song for the Dreamers.” […]

  3. I played this song about 5000 times in 1985-86 while living in a remote house in the mountains near Blacksburg, Va. I don’t know what it was about it but it always gets me up and going. Never get tired of it.

  4. I think it is Johnny Owen, the boxer, and not Johnny O’Wynn!

  5. Best song ever. It’s Johnny Owen though not Johnny o’wynn.

  6. Pretty sure Jonny O’ Wynn is supposed to be Johnny Owen.

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