IF YOU WANNA GET TO HEAVEN: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils embark on a two-year goodbye run starting in 2024. From left, Ron Gremp, Dave Painter, Ruell Chappell, Bill Jones, Molly Healey, Nick Sibley, Supe Granda, Kelly Brown and John Dillon, (Courtesy group)

Opening date to feature Topeka Symphony Orchestra

After 52 years, original Ozark Mountain Daredevils John Dillion and Michael “Supe” Granda wanted to control how they would handle one last hurrah.

The result is a final bow from this long-running, bluegrassy rock and pop outfit from Springfield, Missouri, with five dates announced, starting March 23 at the Topeka (Kansas) Performing Arts Center. Another 20-plus shows are confirmed, but not yet announced.

The opening show and a rehearsal the day before will be performed with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.

“A couple years ago, our horn player Bill Jones wrote orchestra charts for 17 of our songs. We’ve done three symphony collaboration shows,” said Dwight Glenn, who promoted the band from 2010 to 2017 and is now their manager. “They’re so well-received. It’s brilliant work that he did.”

The other announced dates are April 4 at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri; April 5, with 38 Special, at the West Plains (Missouri) Civic Center; and May 4 at the Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, Missouri; May 11 at Diamond S Arena Missouri Beef Days; and back at Wildwood Springs Lodge on Oct. 26.

Plans to mount the final tour came about after a meeting in July with Glenn Dillon and Granda, Glenn said.

“We were the headliner for the Smithsonian Folk Festival on July 4, and the next day, we went to dinner,” Glenn said. “We needed to have a meeting, because Supe lives in Nashville and the rest of us are still in the Springfield, Missouri, area. It’s sometimes hard to get face to face. If you’re on the road doing a gig, you can always get in a green room and talk about business. We wanted to have an end game, the ability to control our own destiny. At the end of 2025, John will be 78,  Supe will be 74. We wanted to dictate how we exit the stage, while everybody’s playing well, enjoying playing with each other and everybody’s relatively healthy.”

The Daredevils have enjoyed a resurgence in in recent years, thanks to enduring hits like “Jackie Blue,” “If You Want to Get to Heaven,” “Chicken Train,” Standing on the Rock” and “Walking Down the Road.”

There are nine members in the band, including Dillon, Granda, Jones, Dave Painter on lead guitar, Ron Gremp on drums,  Kelly Brown on keyboards Ruell Chappell on piano, Nick Sibley on harmonica and Molly Healey on fiddle. Healy also sings lead vocal on Jackie Blue.

Sibley does a good job of filling the spot of iconic harmonica player Steve Cash, whose immense talent contributed to the group’s trademark sound. Cash died in 2019 at the age 0f 73.

“You can’t replace Steve Cash, but Nick does a great job,” Glenn said. “The current lineup has been together 10 years or longer.”

STILL WALKING DOWN THE ROAD: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were signed by Herb Alpert’s A&M Records in the early 1970s. (Courtesy group)

When they formed in 1971, the Daredevils’ lineup included Larry Lee, who co-wrote “Jackie Blue” with Cash; Buddy Brayfield, who went on to become a doctor; and Randle Chowning.

The band was”discovered by producers Glyn Johns and David Anderle, who heard them play at Kansas City’s Cowtown Ballroom. It led to a record contract with Herb Alpert’s A&M Records.

“You didn’t know what was coming next, because it’s a long ways between ‘Chicken Train’ and ‘Jackie Blue,'” Glenn said of the band’s diverse catalog. Over the years most members were songwriters and poets in with each bringing a unique sound to the group.

Glenn said the band is ideal for theaters and performing arts centers. Tickets are priced between $49 and $79, with an occasional golden circle offering for a slight premium.

“Dareheads,” as the band’s most passionate fans are known, won’t have many more opportunities to catch one of the Daredevils’ final tour stops before the chicken train sounds its last cluck.

“After 2025, we might do an occasional show locally if something comes up, but we’re not going to be on the road any longer,” Glenn said.