In 1995, a man named Dan Blakeslee was enjoying a job at Barnacle Billy’s restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine, when his boss refused to hire him back. According to Blakeslee, his boss told him “you’re supposed to be out there playing music.” Ever since, Blakeslee has turned his focus completely to his music career.
Blakeslee, a South Berwick, Maine native, played at Union Court at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) on Wednesday, Sept. 11. A different musician performs every Wednesday in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) at lunchtime.
Blakeslee compared performing at Union Court, the five-eatery hang-out spot on the second floor of the MUB, to performing at a subway station. With this being said, the New England folk musician explained he loves playing on the Durham campus and believes there’s good energy all around the university. He also recalled one of his defining memories playing at a subway station in 1995 in Boston where he performed music to a homeless man lying on a bench for hours. Blakeslee said the homeless man told him, “‘Thank you for taking me out of the world I’m living in.’” This was one moment that touched Blakeslee and showed him why playing music – no matter where you are – is important.
Blakeslee started his music career playing in dorms in Durham, in venues in Portsmouth and in the subways of Boston, but has never lost his passion through the journey.
“It’s a grind,” he said with a grin. His advice to new musicians: “Whatever you do, do everything from the heart.”
Some of Blakeslee’s biggest musical inspirations are Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Nick Drake, Michael Hurley and David Bowie. He also said one of his favorite hip-hop artists is Spose, from Wells, Maine, who worked at Barnacle Billy’s with him years before.
Junior mechanical engineering major Michael Tony said that he liked Blakeslee’s performance at Union Court and that it was a nice change of pace from the music usually played on the radio. Junior history major James Giusti said Blakeslee’s music was relaxing and nice to listen to while eating lunch.
Also in attendance at Blakeslee’s performance was UNH alumnus Derek Taylor, 41, from Dover. Taylor said when he was a first-year student at UNH in 1996, he saw Blakeslee play in the entertainment center for the first time and became a fan. Taylor said his favorite Blakeslee song is “Little Black Case.”
First-year communication sciences and disorders major Katie Lemieux said that she just came to Union Court to eat lunch, but that Blakeslee had a good voice and his show made the environment more exciting.
Blakeslee played most of his own songs at this performance, but also included some covers of other artists’ songs like Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.”
Blakeslee also spoke about his upcoming Halloween tour, which originally started when he played a song he wrote about Halloween and performed it at The Press Room in Portsmouth. There, a man in the back of the audience shouted at the end of his performance that he wanted to put the song out on vinyl next year.
Following the positive feedback. he started his side Halloween show, Dr. Gasp. Eventually, he put out three albums all about Halloween. One of his Halloween albums was recorded on campus at WUNH.
His biggest inspiration for his Halloween albums is the song “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett, which he first heard as a child when his father blasted it on vinyl to scare the children trick-or-treating at his house away.
Blakeslee said that he’ll be playing his Dr. Gasp Halloween show at The Press Room in Portsmouth again this year on Thursday, Oct. 31. His next show is at the 3S Artspace in Portsmouth on Friday, Oct. 4.
One of Blakeslee’s favorite songs that he’s written is called “My Lightning Valentino.” The story was inspired by a man from Alabama that he met in a bar during a blizzard in Jackson. The man was talking about a former lover he met in Montreal who gave him a white horse named Valentino as a gift. One day, when he was about to go for a ride, Valentino was bucking like crazy, warning him of a rattlesnake. Valentino saved the Alabama man’s life, yet ended up dying from a rattlesnake bite. This story still gives Blakeslee shivers to this day.
Blakeslee has recorded six albums over his career and said he is working on his first acoustic album in 20 years. He said he is recording songs from places all over New England that hold special meaning to him. The album he’s currently working on will probably be out next year, but he said he’s taking his time with it.