At the young age of sixteen, Dan Stevens' romantic streak was ignited by his first guitar teacher in small town central Pennsylvania who told him stories about the lives of traveling blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt and Fred McDowell. After being inspired by Woody Guthrie’s book, “Bound for Glory”, the magnetic lure of the road captured his imagination and he hitchhiked and hopped freight trains - guitar in hand - across the United States five times, eventually covering over 100,000 miles.
Always seeking diverse experiences, he has worked as a teacher in Pennsylvania and Arizona, a rock-climbing instructor in New Mexico, broke his collarbone riding bulls in Colorado, and sailed schooners for a living on the Eastern seaboard. He lived full time on his own wooden sloop in Mystic, CT for a couple of years while performing solo up and down the East Coast. A high-light of this period was sailing throughout Central and South America as mate aboard David Crosby’s (Crosby, Nash, and Young) sailboat, the Mayan.
Musically, Dan continued to hone his guitar skills taking lessons from renowned acoustic guitarist and W.C. Handy Award winner Paul Rishell, who taught him how to play slide. Later, he was blessed to study with Greenwich Village based folk/blues icon Dave Van Ronk during the last years of Van Ronk’s storied life. Dan’s repertoire reflects the influence of his revered teachers who knew and performed with many of the legendary blues masters. His tastes include delta blues “bottleneck slide” tunes, the more carefree piedmont style, and arrangements comprised of complex orchestration in the spirit of Dave Van Ronk. Dan’s originals remain true to the traditional forces which powerfully shaped his early musical development and prompted listeners to praise the authenticity of his approach.
As a full time professional musician since 1991, Dan continues to tour along the East Coast, U.S. Virgin Islands, U.K., Canada and Germany. He has appeared with such artists as James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Charlie Daniels, Livingston Taylor, and Ronnie Earl. An irrepressible guitar collector, Dan surrounds himself with vintage and custom instruments acquired in his many travels. Usually packing three guitars, any given performance may find him choosing to play a 1950’s Sears Silvertone, a 1931 National Steel, and a retro lime green Resophonic.
Dan’s most critically acclaimed CD, “Broke Down and Hungry”, features “Sugar Ray” Norcia, of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones and Roomful of Blues, on harmonica. Original songs such as “Broke Down and Hungry”, “Driving Fool”, “Open Road”, and “Ramblin’” give a sense of what it was like for him to travel 165,000 miles in three years in an ’88 Chevy Van. Art Tipaldi, Senior Writer for the Blues Revue magazine, in his review of this CD, offered, “His stylish fingerpicking and warm vocals shade these tunes with fresh, penetrating nuances.” Several of his traditional offerings include Big Bill Broonzy’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and “Long Tall Mama”, as well as Reverend Gary Davis’ “Light of this World”. In live shows, Dan often pauses between songs, offering historical trivia or relating incidents from his personal experience.
Termed “Connecticut’s hardest working bluesman” by the New York Times in 2002, he plays over 200 engagements a year, including concerts, clubs, festivals, coffeehouses, community and private events, and educational programs. He has appeared at Long Island’s Riverhead Blues Festival, the Berlin Blues Festival in Connecticut, and was the closer in the acoustic section of the Fleet Blues Festival in Albany, New York. Dan was a finalist at the International Blues Challenge '08 on Beale Street in Memphis, TN with partner Chris D'Amato and has been chosen to be included on the roster of the Music Under New York program enabling him to perform in prime locations throughout the MTA system such as Times Square and Grand Central Station. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut with his wife, Gail, and daughter, Haley.