has been blasting away with his 1956 Gibson for decades now, and can rattle off more than 400 vintage tunes – from the blues to ‘50s rock and even the archives of ‘40s swing.He was born in Providence, Rhode Island the year Roy Brown recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and that song must have gotten into Steve’s soul. He grew up on the sounds of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Eddie Cochran on the family phonograph and Carl Henry’s local radio show, which featured the music of blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and Count Basie. As a teen Steve discovered a gold-mine at Carl Henry’s record store (known as Carl’s Diggins: The Best of the Blues) and quickly became one of its most frequent customers, buying the 45 records of Muddy, Little Walter and Jimmy Reed.
By the time he was 15 he was traveling by bus to New York City and Boston to frequent the Café A Go Go and Club 47. It was at the Café A Go Go in Greenwich Village, where Nardella met his idol, Muddy Waters and the great piano player, Otis Spann. He would sit right next to Spann watching every movement; he was completely immersed in the blues of Muddy and his band. He was hooked. He now became very proficient on both guitar and harmonica.
By age 17, he was hanging around Providence blues legend, Ken Lyons, and soon was playing the harmonica. He was in a short-lived band called Black Cat, with a guy they called “Honeybear”, who was actually Duke Robillard on lead; John Nicholas on rhythm guitar, Nardella on harp; and Fran Christina on drums. For the next six years he would play all around the East Coast. He was now meeting and playing with many of the blues’ greats.It was in 1970, that Nardella and his two friends John Nicholas and Fran Christina, drove to Michigan for the Ann Arbor Blues Festival. They couldn’t believe that all their heros were in town that weekend. Within a year the three of them moved to Ann Arbor.
Nardella and Nicholas began performing as a duo and then as a band known as the Boogie Brothers, along with Christina on drums, and Sara Brown on bass. They were featured on the ‘72 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival album on Atlantic; backing Boogie Woogie Red and Johnny Shines. They also began backing many of the blues artists that were coming through town. By 1973, he had a group called the Vipers which included Christina, Brown and guitarist, George Bedard. They recorded the very first record for Blind Pig Records (001). In 1974, Nardella, along with Christina and Brown, backed up Detroit bluesman, Bobo Jenkins on his “Here I Am A Fool In Love Again” album.
Then came the Silvertones, which also included guitarist George Bedard. They were a big influence in the roots-music rival that was happening in the mid-1970s. They traveled to Austin, Texas to California, many times as opening act for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. This was before such groups as the Paladins and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, (which included Fran Christina). The Silvertones released an album, also on Blind Pig, called One Chance With You, in 1977. It was well received by the critics and still retains a following of fans. In addition to his lively harmonica work, Nardella began playing more guitar and assuming more of the singing chores.
By 1978, Nardella reformed the band bringing his vocal and musical skills to the foreground, and it was now called the Steve Nardella Band, and included Bedard and boogie woogie pianist Mr. B (Mark Braun). An album was released on Blind Pig called “It’s All Rock & Roll”. But by 1981, that band was history.
Nardella continued to play the blues and roots rock & roll with various musicians passing through his band. The Steve Nardella Trio recorded a CD called Daddy Rollin’ Stone for Schoolkids Records to much acclaim by the critics all over the U.S. and parts of Europe. The trio backed Detroit’s blues legend, Eddie Burns on a Scandinavian tour in 1993. Nardella also did a stint as guitarist and band leader for rock & roll legend, Jack Scott, and traveled the world with him.Legendary American music critic, musician and music scholar, the late Cub Koda, said “Strong, American roots-music performer, equally adept at rockabilly and low-down blues.”