JD & the Straight Shot are a group of super musicians from New York, New York. Led by front man and business mogul, Jim Dolan, the group consists of several established musicians including Marc Copely (B.B. King) on guitar, keyboardist Brian Mitchell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), drummer Shawn Pelton (Rod Stewart, Pink, Daryl Hall, Buddy Guy), bassist Zev Katz (Aretha Franklin, Elton John), violinist Lorenza Ponce (Sheryl Crow, Ben Folds, Bon Jovi) and Jim’s son Aidan on guitar. The group’s New Orleans-flavored roots/blues songs about moonshine and voodoo take you back to simpler times.
JD & the Straight Shot are currently promoting their 4th studio album, Midnight Run, which they recorded with legendary producer Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel) in New York’s famed Avatar Studios. The group plans on releasing their 5th studio album in the spring of 2014, consisting of the already released single, Fall From Grace.
You may have never heard of JD & the Straight Shot, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard their music, which has made its way onto several movies and television shows including their song “Midnight Run” which was re-recorded by Willie Nelson for the movie Lawless (2012), and their song “Can’t Make Tears” which was used as the theme song for AMC’s hit show, Hell on Wheels. The group has not only had success on TV, but the band has toured with and opened for several big named artists including The Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, and ZZ Top. They are currently on tour opening for The Eagles.
It is always interesting to learn about how bands formed or came about, and I can assure you that JD & the Straight Shot is not your typical band. Front man, Jim Dolan, is business magnet by day and rock star by night. Jim’s day job is President and CEO of Cablevision and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, Inc. where he also oversees New York Sports teams such as the Knicks and the Rangers.
Dolan formed JD & the Straight Shot in 2000 with friends from the office, but the hobby quickly became a serious project and he began to replace members with some of New York’s finest studio musicians. If you’re like me you’re probably thinking, why would such a successful businessman add one more activity to an already hectic schedule, but after interviewing Jim the answer is simple. He’s following his dream. Jim didn’t get into music for the money, he’s got plenty of that from his business ventures. He plays and writes music because that’s his passion. Jim had a dream of pursuing music in college, but switched his major to business and life took him on a wild ride, but he never let go of that dream. Now Jim is living that dream, and he’s sharing it with some of the best musicians in the world.
It was fascinating listening to Jim talk about music. Everywhere he goes he carries an old rhyming dictionary and a notebook where he writes down lyrics as they pop into his head. When I asked Jim what it’s like balancing his work and music, he laughed saying “It’s easy when you have a private jet” but I don’t see anything easy about playing a show in St. Louis, hopping on a jet to New York the same night to be at work the next day, only to fly out again in the afternoon to meet up with the band in a new city. That takes pure dedication. Touring is hard enough already; Jim is taking it to another level.
I could have sat and talked to Jim for hours but I didn’t want to keep him from visiting with his St. Louis relatives. As we were walking out of the dressing room Jim gave me these words of wisdom, “If you want to get into the music industry, you have to take a leap of faith at some point.”