Big Sky Mudflaps

The Big Sky Mudflaps are celebrating their 40-year history with a series of concerts in August.

Staying on stage for four years can be tough for any band. The Big Sky Mudflaps have done it for 40.

This August, they’ll celebrate that history with a series of concerts covering their distinctive mix of swing, rhythm and blues, jazz and Americana. The first show is at Bitterroot Brewing in Hamilton on Aug. 16 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The Mudflaps close Missoula's Out to Lunch concert series on Aug. 26 with an 11 a.m-2 p.m. performance. And they’ll welcome some of their many alumni and fellow players at the venue where they first performed – Missoula’s Top Hat Lounge – on Sept. 19.

Guitarist David Horgan said the band members were at a loss for how they’ve stayed together so successfully.

“The only answer we can come up with is we started it for fun in the beginning, and somehow it remained a fun thing to do all the way along,” Horgan said. “We still have a really good time, and there’s a sense of humor built into the whole thing. We don’t take ourselves terribly seriously.”

Even the band name is a non-serious attempt at publicity. Paul Stanton, notorious as the creator of the “Duckboy” postcards, thought the band should take advantage of all the pickup truck mudflaps that read “Big Sky.”

“We needed a name for some gig that came along,” Horgan said. “We said what the heck, let’s try that.”

Bass player Beth Lo said the band’s approach to music has a similar freewheeling style.

“We started with folk music and bluegrass and western swing, and moved on to big-band swing, early R&B and Chuck Berry, then to soul and more contemporary rock,” Lo said. “From then on, we moved from the swing era to jazz and bebop – we were writing lyrics to bebop tunes.”

The goal has always been finding something that the audience responds to and dances with. Mudflaps shows typically start with an instrumental tune, followed by pieces that allow each member to solo or lead.

“We have all those pieces of the puzzle to draw from,” Lo said. “We do everything from rock 'n' roll to swing to Bessie Smith or Van Morrison, the Talking Heads or Bob Dylan. Or our originals.”

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.