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Danny Flanigan Still Has a Passion for Performing After 35 Years

Writer / Rick Redding
Photography Provided

Danny Flanigan keeps a record of every gig he’s played in more than three decades of performing in and around the city. It all adds up, he says, to more than 4,000 gigs, at places both current and long-shuttered, large and small, as front man or able guitarist.

For instance, you have to have a few years on you to remember Dutch’s Tavern in St. Matthews, where he spent a decade hosting a songwriter showcase. More recently, before it shut down in October, he and his quartet LittleBand were playing a weekly gig in the same building, then called Street Grub and Hops.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “I’ve been playing around this town for 35 years. I’ve been gigging out for 35 years. I’m so fortunate to have my hands in so many things.”

The hardest-working man in local music learned early on that the best way to keep getting gigs was to, well, keep getting gigs. When he’s not organizing sets for his original band Danny Flanigan and the Rain Chorus, or his mates in LittleBand, Flanigan plays guitar for a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, Back 2 Mac, or a Rolling Stones tribute band, Tattoo Babylon – or just helps out fellow songwriters on their performances.

Danny Flanigan

“I love the guitar gigs because I just show up with a guitar and amp, I plug in, I don’t choose the songs and I don’t write the songs,” he says. “I don’t know how much we’re getting paid and I don’t care. It’s stress-free music for me. There’s a lot that goes into gigs.”

When he started playing local bars back in the 1980s at places like Dutch’s Tavern (four blocks from his family home on Chenoweth Lane) or the old Rudyard Kipling, Flanigan may have imagined himself playing all over the world before giant crowds. Today he’s thrilled with his life, playing gigs a few miles from his home in St. Matthews, the place where he grew up, went to school and raised a family.

“I still live in St. Matthews – very blessed to grow up here,” he says. “I didn’t grow up with money but I did grow up in a nice neighborhood.”

You might think all this music is all-consuming – in August alone he played on 18 of 31 days – but Flanigan has another career. He’s a nonprofit administrator, first at New Directions Housing and for the last six years at St. Vincent de Paul. He proudly boasts that St. Vincent de Paul is the city’s oldest charity, serving the needs of the homeless and hungry. On his LinkedIn page a photo depicts him in a sharp bow tie and closely cropped beard.

These days Flanigan sports a scraggly patch of facial hair, a likely ode to the pandemic that certainly curtailed his ability to perform live. Somehow he managed to play 44 gigs in 2020.

Danny Flanigan

“I got buddies who play a lot, and some of them didn’t play a single day in 2020,” he says, explaining that many bands, including his own, released new studio recordings. “That’s what you do during the zombie apocalypse – you make a record,” he says. “A lot of bands did that.”

LittleBand released a debut record in 2020, and Flanigan thinks the world will be filled with new music in coming months.

“A lot of bands made a record and they still couldn’t tour, so they went back in and made another record,” he says. “We’re going to be awash in new music. There will be all these albums released over the coming year. It might be like a renaissance – like a digital distribution Woodstock.”

Flanigan plays a lot of covers with all the acts he plays in, but takes a special pride in the songs he writes and records. You can find five albums of his music with the Rain Chorus online, in addition to the one with LittleBand.

“There’s a distinctive Louisville sound that hatches from our unique location – a mix of Nashville country, blues, rock and folk,” he says. “ I just love songs, and I love the words to songs. I’m not going have any more children, but if I did I’d name it Song. I love promoting songs and songwriters. I love the two-legged performance.”

Ultimately, Flanigan’s claim to fame may be his association with well-known singers and songwriters. His songwriter showcases, featuring Flanigan and another performer on stage, were a big local attraction for two decades, moving from an original spot at Dutch’s Tavern to Anthony’s by the Bridge, the Rudyard Kipling and finally Clifton’s Pizza Co.

Among those who played regularly were the late, great Tim Krekel, Alan Rhody and Carter Wood, all of whom signed publishing deals in Nashville.

“I got to play with those cats on a regular basis,” Flanigan says.

Danny Flanigan

In music terms, a lot of what Flanigan plays pays tribute to folk-rock artists, going back to the 1970s. He has a unique ability to play requests on demand, and knows material from a full library of folk-rock artists whose works from those early days are still recognizable and popular today.

“That’s how we pay homage to these folk-rock cats,” he says. “I’m never going to be as big as Neil Young or Bob Dylan, but I sure respect the hell out of them. I want to be that good. I don’t need to be that famous, and of course I’m never going to be, but it would be great to be 1% that good.”

There’s no end in sight, it seems. Live music has survived the pandemic and is thriving. With two tribute bands, his own LittleBand, and friends in the business who can always use an ace guitar player, it’s hard to imagine Flanigan not working in front of an audience.

“I’m going to keep on writing songs and maybe one day I’ll write one that doesn’t suck,” he says.

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