By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
After his surgery, Swenson returned to Minnesota, where he got sober and slowly returned to the music community. Now the leader of Cocktail Stevie and the Tablerockers, a roots-rock band that plays casinos, fairs and conventions in the Midwest, he's served as a bandleader for a number of '50s and '60s rock acts, including Bobby Vee, and continues to back vintage artists on tours in the States and in Europe. He also books shows in casinos and music rooms around the region. He's remarried ("My wife, she's my rock," Swenson says of his wife, Cindy) and remains cancer-free today.
"I'm living the American dream," Swenson says. "I'm 52 years old. I've been a bandleader ever since I was fourteen. All my life, I've made a living doing what I wanted to do."
But he can't help being bothered by the way things shook out for his beloved Dusters.
"It was a great time back then," he says, "and there was great music going on. We were really doing stuff that was ahead of its time -- maybe too far ahead of its time.
"When the album wasn't released," he adds, "it shot us dead in the water. We had nothing to show for our efforts. It was heartbreaking. I spent probably the last 25 years trying to forget about it, because the things I remembered were bad."
Some of that is changing now. Last fall, a friend of Swenson's discovered a reel-to-reel copy of the Dusters' unreleased Columbia record; he duped the tape to disc and shipped several copies to Swenson. "When I opened them up, I nearly fell on the floor," Swenson says. "It's such a profound deal for me. Here, after 25 years of not having any product, I've got product in my hands."
Swenson has reproduced a number of the discs to pass out to old fans and friends -- and to sell to newcomers at the Dusters show this weekend. What he's really looking forward to is getting back on stage and reliving a few glory days. The good times, he adds, will sound better this time around.
"Two of our biggest offenders as far as drinking goes are now AA guys," Swenson says. "It'll be kind of funny looking around on stage and seeing everybody sober. We always had the fun meter on ten, and it'll still be up there. Maybe this time we'll be able to actually see it."