Contrary to the many biographies that were cranked out at the height of his success, Dana Countryman actually began his creative life more interested in amateur filmaking and drawing cartoons than making music. Music hadn't kicked in yet.
At age 15, with his friend Pat Farley, he made 8 millimeter movies, using his paper route money. These landmark films are still shown at the Singapore International Film Festival, in the category of "American 8mm Films That Are Really Dumb And Don't Make Sense."
He also drew cartoons, and was the cartoonist on his high school newspaper at age 17.
Countryman never considered himself a threat to Charles Schultz or Hank Ketcham, and he lost interest in drawing once the "Love Is" cartoons became popular.
In the middle of his senior year of high school, he became obsessed with music, and with writing songs. From this point on, music would become his lifelong friend. It is here that the Dana Countryman Musical Legacy truly begins.
As a songwriter, Countryman was heavily influenced by The Beatles, Richard Carpenter, Jimmy Webb and Harry Nilsson.
The songs he created during this period are considered rare gems of songwriting, but only by his mother.
At age 19, in late 1973, he moved to Mt. Clemens, Michigan and formed his first band The Sparklers, with three friends, Chuck Lawson, Kevin Hoover and Jim Cooper. The band only performed songs by two bands: The Beatles and Wings (!)
Oh, and the band only made TWO live performances: for the brats of Air Force personel at Selfridge Air National Guard base. Countryman played electric bass, to emulate his musical hero Paul McCartney.
The band fell apart in late 1974 when they foolishly tried to branch out into performing Frank Zappa, John Denver, Gilbert O'Sullivan and Hare Krishna tunes.
At age 25, Countryman formed The Swingaires: a Manhattan Transfer-style '40s vocal group, that played in the Seattle, Washington area during 1979-1981. Countryman was the leader, arranger and bass player, as well as a vocalist.
The group played in restaurants and lounges. Their first performance at Rosellini's 410 in Seattle was marred, when two of the singers began giggling uncontrollably onstage and lost the ability to sing!
One of their last gigs was a disastrous
New Year's Eve performance at a Holiday Inn in Reno, Nevada
in 1981, where they were requested to play disco songs (they refused.)
Then at midnight, they were promptly sprayed with champagne by
Good times, good times.
Shortly after, the group nearly became a Top 40 band, when a local Seattle impresario began grooming them to play Playboy Clubs in the Bahamas. Fortunately, before this could happen, an angel appeared before them and rubbed smelling salts under their noses. The group came to their senses and quickly quit showbiz.
When The Swingaires disbanded, Countryman half-heartedly attempted a solo act as a singer/songwriter in 1982, but was too shy to perform live. Instead he temporarily delved into photograpy, silkscreening and designing electronic art sculptures.
Here, he is seen in his "Kenny Loggins" period:
In 1985, former Swingaire Bob Kaiser returned to the Seattle area, and together he and Countryman came up with the concept of their newest group, The Amazing Pink Things. (When Kaiser and Countryman first thought of the name for the band, they laughed so hard that the milkshakes they were drinking came out their noses.)
The Pink Things were a comedy vocal group/cabaret act and originally started performing in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Eventually the group got an agent and manager, and toured mostly on the West Coast, but also in New York City.
Bob Kaiser left the group, as did 6 different altos, leaving the final combination of Tricia Meier, Bob Overman, Tami Martin and Countryman. The group appeared on national television, opened for country pop songstress Crystal Gayle, and received rave reviews from the press.
Weirdest gig: a Safeway convention, where during our show, drunken revelers began conga-ing to our music. (The Pink Things were a SHOW, not a dance band!)
Despite 6 years of touring, the group never rose above novelty act status, and broke up in 1991. Still, hardcore fans loved the group, and after all these years, requests for the Pink Things two CD's are still strong.
Just before the Pink Things broke up in 1991, Countryman released his first album (in late 1990)-- on cassette only: "American Pop." Again, he was still too shy to perform, so no one ever really heard the album, except, you guessed it -- his mother!
Despite Countryman's habit of secretly dropping the tape into the bins at Wherehouse Records, the album was not a hit. (It still occasionally shows up in thrift shops!)
Countryman married former Pink Things' actress/singer Tricia Meier in 1991, and in 1992 they formed a jazz vocal group, Moonlight Express. The group performed a wide range of jazz standard material, and unlike The Swingaires, did songs not only from the Forties, but also more contemporary material, as well.
The group was also more theatrically-oriented than The Swingaires, but not as goofy as The Amazing Pink Things. Sadly, aside from performing at a Seattle Hotel on a monthly basis, and at occasional private parties, Moonlight Express was not a hit. (The group also never recorded an album.)
Their most interesting gig was a private perfomance for Mass Mutual Insurance Company at the Seattle Convention Center for an audience of 5000, backed up by the Seattle Seahawks 10-piece rock band.
Strangest performace was a private party for the Sheik of Dubai, where the band was searched with metal detectors, and the women in the band had to wear ankle-length dresses, so as to not offend the Muslim partiers (!)
Despite having a lot of fun, Moonlight Express disbanded in 1996.
Here's another shot of the band.