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High Plains Drifter/Jono Manson Band

The project known as "High Plains Drifter" had very inauspicious beginnings as an assortment of projects in the NYC area that served as a means for Chan and Bob to play in the rare spaces of time when Blues Traveler were not playing. One early incarnation called "Is This For Real?" is known to have played a show in early 1992 prior to the band's departure for Europe; while the lineup is not entirely known, it did include Bob, Chan, Eric Schenkman, and doubless several other New York-area musicians. In 1993, the band teamed up with fellow New Yorkers Pete Kovachevich and Dave Schlossberg of First House and headed out to Colorado, where they had always had a warm reception. The conglomeration played at least one show there in late August, billed as "High Plains Drifter", the first show on record under that name.

Sometime between that 1993 gig and early 1995, Bob and Chan recruited old friend Jono Manson, formerly of Joey Miserable and the Worms, the Dogs, Smokin' Section and various other NYC-area projects. Manson lent his rhythm guitar and Joe Cocker-ish voice to High Plains Drifter, and the core of the band was complete. It was decided that the band would return to Colorado and finance their ski trips by playing a mini-tour there. In what is now a widely-circulated show, the band played for several hours on February 6th, 1995, to a packed house at Boulder, CO's Fox Theatre. Manson would soon get a one-album deal with A&M Records, and the lineup of Jono, Bob, Chan and drummer Mark Clark recorded a dozen songs under the name of "Jono Manson Band". The High Plains Drifter name was not available, as former Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith's band is known as the High Plains Drifters, but Jono, Chan, Bob and Mark generally toured as the High Plains Drifter.

Upon Manson's signing with A&M, the band toured as Jono Manson Band all across the country on a couple dozen dates in January and February, mostly concentrated in the east. The highlight of the tour was playing their old haunts in New York City, when in the span of a week they shook the walls of the Wetlands Preserve and Irving Plaza. Despite this, however, Manson was not re-signed with A&M Records and instead released a disc with Rain Song Records in 1998. He then signed with an Italian record label, relocated to Italy for a number of years, and still tours regularly up and down the Italian peninsula. Jono now lives in New Mexico, where he has carved out a living recording and producing music at his studio, Kitchen Sink Studio, and playing the occasional local show.

The band's heyday was in 1997-98, when a series of gigs through Colorado and neighboring states included a few accompanied by John Popper. During one particularly raucous opening to a show, Jono had to ask the crowd to not jump around so much because the floor was swaying. In early 1998 the band recruited Eric Schenkman to play guitar in place of Chan Kinchla, whose wife had just given birth to their first child, and played both coasts, first in an epic, 4-hour romp at the Wetlands Preserve that featured guests Noel Redding, Chris Barron [in his first public appearance with Eric Schenkman since a nasty split in 1995], Neil Thomas, and a Blues Traveler four-song mini-set that constituted their first appearance there since 1992. Two days later they played the west coast at Bimbo's 365 Club in a benefit concert for the US Olympic Ski team a few days prior to their departure for Nagano. This show was not without its special guests as Bob Weir hopped on stage for a song or two.

The band's last public appearance came in February of 1999 at a show at Tipitina's in New Orleans, Louisiana; Bob, John, Jono and Mark were joined by a few members of local band Royal Fingerbowl and rocked into the wee hours of the morning. With Chan Kinchla's departure from High Plains Drifter to spend more time with his newborn son in 1998, and after Bob Sheehan's untimely death in August of 1999 (not to mention Jono's shuttling between his current home of New Mexico and his touring base of Italy), it is not known if High Plains Drifter will ever tour again, but to this day the Drifter shows remain a side project done purely for the fun of it and well worth remembering and counting among the most successful side projects in Blues Traveler history.

Setlists & Tour dates | Posters & Memorabilia | Jono Manson Info