It’s nine in the evening at Robinson Rancheria. The Kentucky Jugglers have finished warming up and kick into their first song, “Keep on Rockin’ me, Baby.” On the left of the stage, Danny Hogan, a black cowboy hat on his head and cowboy boots on his feet, plucks away at his bass. It’s been a while since he’s played; about a year ago, he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. But now he’s back, and stands tall, thumping away to the beat. Tonight is special, and not just for Danny. Once the band found out about Danny’s illness, instead of replacing him, they decided to stop their gigs and wait until he got better. Tonight, they are playing together for the first time in quite a while.
Seth Desimone, guitarist and vocalist for The Kentucky Jugglers, puts it this way: “When someone says they’re not feeling good, it’s a concern, but then we found out how bad it really was.” He pauses for a second. “Something didn’t feel right doing shows without him. The first thing on our mind wasn’t ‘What’s going to happen to the band?’ It was ‘What’s going to happen to our friend?”
While Danny went through treatment, lost weight, and lost his voice, the band waited. “I’m cancer-free,” Danny says during a break, “But I’m still not fully recovered.” He pauses. “I can’t talk that much ‘cause I gotta save it.” He motions towards the stage. “And I’ve got a lot more singing to do.” With that, he heads back up, picks up his guitar, and starts the second set.
Right now, Danny’s full of life. “How many country girls are out there?” He asks the already excited crowd. “How many of you got somethin’ to shake?” Without missing a beat, the band starts up Steve Miller’s ‘The Joker:’ “I’m a picker,” Danny sings into the microphone, “I’m a grinner, I’m a lover, I’m a sinner.”
The dance floor, still full, revels in the up-tempo twist The Kentucky Jugglers put on the classics. They hop around genres, moving from rock to country to reggae seamlessly, yet always staying true to their classic roots.
Halfway into ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,’ the dancers slowly begin to leave the dance floor. Danny, his bass slung low on his hips, picks out the last notes. “That one was a little too slow,” he drawls. “Y’all need some dance music.” Immediately the rest of the band launches into an upbeat version of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry.’ Halfway through the song, lead guitarist Tracy Fey plays a tasty lick and the song transitions to Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise.’
“Baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise,” Danny and Seth pitch in. The dance floor fills again, and the band seamlessly transitions from reggae to country. The song winds down, but not long enough for the floor to clear.
“It’s that time of the evening, that time of the night,” Seth talks into his microphone. “Some of y’alls hips aren’t what they used to be. I wanna see you go. . .” The band immediately launches into “Brick House,” Danny accenting the funkiness of the song on his bass. “Shake it down, shake it down now,” Seth sings, “Shake it down, shake it down now! “
“Shake it!” Seth cheers from the stage, strumming on his guitar. “If you can’t shake it, fake it!” The dance floor undulates, everyone showing off their groove.
After the song finishes, the band takes a short break. Seth catches his breath and sips on a glass of water.
“We took a break from our gigs when Danny got sick. We finished our already booked gigs with a fill-in bassist—it was only two or so. But it wasn’t right without Danny,” Seth says, his face framed by his goatee and black-rimmed glasses. “We tried to keep it on the down-low because places will just drop you if you can’t play. But in Lake County it’s different. We honestly couldn’t have done it without the venues here. When we told them one of our members was sick, they said, ‘Do what you gotta do, and let us know when you’re back.’ Robinson Rancheria even kept in touch with us, telling us that they’d book us as soon as we’re ready.”
“We had all the hard work to build up our fan base, and then had to put the brakes on. It’s insane. But Danny’s doing better, and that’s what matters.”
“I wish it was different,” Seth says, taking a sip of water. “I wish it never happened. But you have to roll with the punches.”
To find out more about The Kentucky Jugglers, visit their Facebook Page.
Special thanks for this article goes to Mike Guarniero, author of the Lake County Music Guide, for the article suggestion, and to Robinson Rancheria, whose belief in The Kentucky Jugglers exemplifies the best of Lake County.