||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
Dan Zanes plays mandolin on stage in 2007.
|Born||1961 (age 51–52)
Exeter, New Hampshire, USA
|Genres||Rock, Garage rock, folk, roots rock, children's, sea shanties|
|Instruments||Vocals, harmonica, guitar, banjo, mandolin|
|Labels||Festival Five Records|
|Associated acts||The Del Fuegos, Dan Zanes and Friends|
Dan Zanes was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1961, and spent his childhood in Texas and then in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Zanes ended up living on the outskirts of Concord, New Hampshire.
He started playing guitar when he was eight and began taking Lead Belly records out of the public library as soon as he was old enough to get a library card; according to his mother, "He was always very musical."
In 1981, Zanes went to Oberlin College in Ohio, where he was determined to start a really cool band. In the breakfast line on the very first day at Oberlin, he met up with former high school classmate Tom Lloyd. Zanes and Lloyd took their breakfast back to the dorm and immediately started a band and soon left school and headed to Boston ("It was between Boston and Austin," according to Zanes), where they became known as The Del Fuegos.
The Del Fuegos
The Del Fuegos played in lofts, bars, warehouses, small art galleries, clubs, barns, college dining halls, fraternity houses, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and, finally, big theaters.
Rolling Stone named the Del Fuegos "Best New Band" in 1984. Once, Bruce Springsteen jumped on stage to play "Hang on Sloopy" with them. With the Del Fuegos, Zanes made several records — The Longest Day (1984), Boston, Mass (1985), Stand Up (1987), Smoking in the Fields (1989) — and had a hit single, Don't Run Wild. In 1987, Zanes married Paula Greif, the director of the video for the Del Fuegos song, I Still Want You.
After Dan Zanes and his wife, Paula Zanes, had a baby, Anna Zanes, they moved to New York City. Zanes subsequently began playing music with a group of other fathers that he had met in West Village playgrounds who were also there with their kids. These fathers playing music together eventually became The Wonderland String Band, which played at parks and parties and on a tape of songs that Zanes recorded at his home.
The tape was a hit locally—i.e. on the playgrounds where he and his daughter played—and Zanes realized that he liked making music that families could enjoy together, as opposed to music that is just for children or just for adults. So, he added a small number of women to his band, renamed it the Rocket Ship Revue, and began making a full-length homemade album, enlisting the help of some people he had met when he was a Del Fuego--Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega, and Simon Kirke, the drummer for Bad Company.
The album, Rocket Ship Beach (2000), was also a hit. The New York Times Magazine called it "cool", and added, "Mostly, though, Zanes' kids music works because it is not kids music; it's just music—-music that's unsanitized, unpasteurized, that's organic even." Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega made guest appearances on the album. The second album, Family Dance (2001) is composed of dance songs from a wide variety of musical traditions and features Loudon Wainwright III and Rosanne Cash. The third recording, the more mellow Night Time! (2002), features collaborations with Aimee Mann, Lou Reed, John Doe, Dar Williams, and other established musicians.
The fourth album in the family series is House Party (2003), a rambunctious 20-song collection with a diverse instrumentation that, in addition to the usual guitars, banjos, upright bass and drums, includes such instruments as tuba, accordion, pump organ, djembe and saw. House Party was nominated for a Grammy in the Musical Album for Children category. Music video selections from the House Party album played during the Disney Channel's morning program suite known as Playhouse Disney from 2005-2007. New music video selections occasionally play on Nickelodeon's Noggin.
In 2007, Zanes received the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children for Catch That Train! (2006) and produced a children's reggae CD with Father Goose called "Its a Bam Bam Diddly", which also features songs performed by Sister Carol and Sheryl Crow. 
Through the late afternoon of July 7, 2012, Zanes performed at a free public concert at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the famous Maine retailer. Dan Zanes performs at L.L. Bean, Freeport, Maine. July 7, 2012 Performing with his band, he entertained children and adults alike with several sets prior to Chris Isaak's headlining performance and monumental fireworks display later that evening.
Zanes is a public supporter of several charities. Zanes donates some of the proceeds from Family Dance and Night Time! to the non-profit world hunger organization Heifer International.
With the Del Fuegos
- The Longest Day (1984)
- Boston, Mass. (1985)
- Spin Radio Concert (1985)
- Stand Up (1987)
- Smoking in the Fields (1989)
- Silver Star (2012)
- Cool Down Time (1994)
- Rocket Ship Beach (2000)
- Family Dance (2001)
- Night Time! (2002)
- House Party (2003)
- Catch That Train! (2006)
- The Welcome Table (2008)
- ¡Nueva York! (2008)
- 76 Trombones (2009)
- Little Nut Tree (2011)
- Turn Turn Turn (2013) with Elizabeth Mitchell
- Sea Music (2002)
- Parades and Panoramas: 25 Songs Collected by Carl Sandburg for the American Songbag (2004)