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4/16/2010 10:30:00 AM
Get in the groove
With almost 100 Prescott gigs under their belt, MuddGroove has found its home
DUO DUTY  Stuart and Linda Gale Rhodes of MuddGroove work The Spirit Room in Jerome during an open mic night on Wednesday. Muddgroove, the complete band, will be in Prescott at the Drunken Lass tonight and at the Gurley Street Sports Pub on Saturday. To see a sample of their acoustic music, visit TheAzEdge.com.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
DUO DUTY Stuart and Linda Gale Rhodes of MuddGroove work The Spirit Room in Jerome during an open mic night on Wednesday. Muddgroove, the complete band, will be in Prescott at the Drunken Lass tonight and at the Gurley Street Sports Pub on Saturday. To see a sample of their acoustic music, visit TheAzEdge.com. Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
By Doug Cook
The Daily Courier

Nearly 10 years ago, Linda Rhodes was working at the Rose Port Tavern, a modest home-turned-bar in Langley, Okla., when she and her future husband, a guitarist named Stuart, had an epiphany.

They decided to turn the place into a music house and put on live shows there most every night.

For a while, business went well for the couple, but there was one nuisance. A long dirt driveway that led to the house and where patrons parked collected mud during rainstorms - leaving their vehicles stuck in the slop.

It just so happened that Stuart, who has played guitar since age 10 in 1969, wanted to start his own rock band and was looking for a unique name.

"Anytime it would rain, everybody would go outside to help get the cars out of the mud grooves," Linda said this week. "So Stuart woke up one morning and said, 'I've got the name of the band!' And I said, 'What?' And he said, 'Mud Groove.' Then I said, 'Yeah, that's cool!'"

Stuart and Linda Rhodes went on to form MuddGroove in 2002 and relocated to Prescott about two years ago. Stuart, who once lived in Phoenix, had been a sideman for many bands until he decided to head up his own with Linda - a vocalist in the range and raspy style of pop icon Melissa Etheridge.

"It's been a blessing to watch her develop over the years into an incredible singer that I would put up against anybody," said Stuart, whose stage signature is his long, curly brown hair. "A lot of times she doesn't need a microphone."

Today, MuddGroove does four or five gigs a month at small bars and taverns, primarily in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley. On Friday night, the band will play four 45-minute sets at The Drunken Lass Irish Pub, 218 W. Gurley St. It will make an appearance at the Gurley Street Sports Pub, 801 E. Gurley, on Saturday.

***

MuddGroove alternates drummers, but often features Jon Pool of Prescott behind the kit. Mark Voigt of Phoenix, a past band mate of Stuart's, plays bass. On Wednesday night, the band grooved The Spirit Room for a couple hours in Jerome.

The band sticks to classic and hard rock covers, including everything from the Eagles and Led Zeppelin to Journey and Heart. Linda also enjoys singing Janis Joplin tunes, such as "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Mercedes Benz," and some Etheridge tunes.

"We go way back on some songs, and we have our originals that we do, which are a crossover alternative," Linda said.

MuddGroove has nine original songs. On Friday, they expect to play "Essence," the group's popular duet.

"I love our originals, and the cover tunes that we do we kind of make our own," said Stuart, who alternates between electric and acoustic guitar.

***

Linda met Stuart in 1996 in Oklahoma while Stuart was playing with another band called Related to Ned. When that group fell apart, the couple began doing music together, with Linda on lead vocals.

Linda, 45, did not pick up a microphone until 2001. She delved into karaoke here and there but labored hard to gain respect.

"I was told by a singer that I couldn't sing, so I took it as a challenge that, 'Yes, I can,'" she said. "So I started practicing more and really stared to enjoy it more and got my confidence built up."

Linda and Stuart complement each other well on stage, feeding off of each other's strengths. Stuart, who has a background in jazz guitar, was not interested in playing classic rock until a decade ago.

"I have kind of a jazz fusion approach to all of our tunes," he said.

Linda said she quickly fell in love with Stuart, 50. In the mid-1990s, he was in Oklahoma helping his parents find a house after they had moved away from California. Stuart had a job in construction.

"A lot of people can't stand to be around each other 24 hours a day, but we've never had that problem - it's natural for us," Linda said with a chuckle. "If I want a break, I go for a walk or go out with a friend or something."

In October 2008, Linda and Stuart came to Arizona so Stuart could work construction for his cousin. A foreman, he's in between jobs right now, while Linda does housekeeping for the apartment complex where they live.

The couple loves the music scene in Prescott because of the talent and diversity of its artists. Linda said the bar owners have been nice to them. Over the past year, MuddGroove has played more than 90 gigs in the Prescott area alone.

"I feel comfortable here," said Stuart, who two decades ago played small shows in Phoenix and Prescott. "We've found some really good musicians."

Linda and Stuart say they hope to eventually catch on in Phoenix and Flagstaff. Lately, bars such as the Bird Cage Saloon on Whiskey Row have been calling MuddGroove inquiring about booking dates.

On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 30, the band will play most of the day at the Bird Cage.

One of the group's main goals is to tour. They have mentioned traveling in a loop through northern California, Oregon and Washington - visiting places many musicians don't reach.

In this area, MuddGroove is building up a following based on word of mouth. Linda and Stuart have a home studio and they are planning to record 10 original tunes, including "My Love Is Real," "Back in Time" and "Knife in My Heart," which crowds sing back to them.

"We don't have any CDs yet, but I've got a list of 100-people-long from Oklahoma to here saying, 'We want CDs,'" Linda said.

Related Stories:
• VIDEO: MuddGroove plays the Spirit Room


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