James Funk has been attending the Whispering Beard Folk Festival since the second annual event, but this is the first time he and Red Beard’s Revenge get to take the stage. A well-known Beardo in the community of west side musicians, there are few people who could quite represent what Cincinnati music has to offer like James Funk. To him, everyone in the music industry is a part of a brotherhood/sisterhood, and his depth of knowledge has become a resource to area musicians for his advice on sound, recording, promotion, and the fundamentals of the music itself.
James Funk started hosting a Musician’s Showcase in April 2013 to draw bands to a stage where they can share their exposure to each other and to a different audience than they may be already used to. The showcase continues to be held every Tuesday night, with three different acts on the bill. From April 2013 until August 2014, the Knotty Pine Sportsmen’s Club in White Oak, OH was home base to the Showcase. The recent change has moved the weekly event to Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY with the goal of better accessibility for musicians and listeners. Funk’s tireless playing, writing, rehearsing, and jamming makes the Musician’s Showcase a natural outgrowth of his personality, and like his personality the lines between genres, styles, and audiences are constantly blurred.
As referred to in his song, “Country Blues”, Funk got out of the US Marine Corps in 1997 and found himself back in Cincinnati. He had a guitar, which he did his best to teach himself to play, but his interest and skill did not begin to elevate until he met John Reddell, a local blues player. Over the next two years Reddell and Funk would frequently get together to jam. It was with this mentorship that Funk started to form an identity not just as a musician, but one who places a strong value on mentorship and community among other musicians. He is never finished learning or satisfied with whatever plateau he has found, and surrounds himself with others who have similarly driven mindsets of every skill and experience level. He is seen everywhere from open mics to festivals, and frequently records and performs with other area bands.
Like the Musician’s Showcase, Red Beard’s Revenge credits the Knotty Pine for giving them the space and time to grow into the band they are today. The band’s weekly gigs as the resident band gave James Funk an opportunity to practice his sound and presentation skills. Funk would host an open mic on the back deck from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. and then play as the house band from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. every Thursday for a year. Playing mostly covers at the time, Dallas Moore of the Dallas Moore band would take notice and offer his feedback for Funk. Moore was the first to suggest naming the band “Red Beard’s Revenge”, and in time helped the band connect with their record label Sol Records, which they have been with since January of 2013. Red Beard’s Revenge went into the recording studio in the winter of 2013 and spend 14 studio hours in a weekend to record the songs that became Red Beard Revenge’s debut LP, Jim, Jimmy, James. Sol Records has allowed the band to get air play on radio stations and internet radio, reaching audiences all over the world. One order the band received for CD’s called for 10 units of their LP to be sent to Australia, which Funk credits to the increased exposure of being on a record label.
James Funk runs his band and operations around his music as a business, and he staffs his business with professionals who come prepared to adapt to a variety of settings. It is not surprising that Funk used his networking to find musicians to play with him, usually suggested to him by friends he played with in other bands. The players he selects must have versatility to adapt to many settings and styles, such Dan Baechele on a full drum kit or stripped-down percussion Jason Wilcoxen playing bluegrass or rockabilly on an upright or rocking out country rhythms on a bass guitar; Jason Gay can play whatever he picks up with strings on it whether it is acoustic guitar, electric electric, pedal steel, or mandolin. As the newest member of Red Beard’s Revenge, Danielle Kuntz will play off of James Funk and the new set of songs they have been playing together as the duo “Moonshine & Wine”. Like Funk himself, all of Red Beard’s Revenge’s horizons will stretch and reshape as the individual members continue to find talents to contribute. James Funk continues to manage recording, promoting, merchandising for the band, and like Funk himself, the Red Beard logo is everywhere from shirts to lighters to beer cozies.
Being the nucleus of his own musical career path has helped him gain tremendous experience that shows in everything James Funk does. The Musician’s Showcase and Artist-in-Residence events he hosts take the presentation of performance to another level. Where other performers practice their sets to hone their musical craft, Funk expands his vision to include the perfect balance and positioning of sound, recording, lighting, and photos of the event. The amount of thought, instinct, and work ethic that go into selecting just the right lineup has yielded some very creative bills and will continue to do so. As James Funk puts it, “If you want it done right, hire a Marine”.