An Interview with Jane Rose: Rockabilly with a Sonic Side Order of Blues and Attitude
“I step onstage like I own it. Like I’ve got something to say and with a little bit of authority,” says Gretsch-endorsed artist Jane Rose.
And for more than a decade, Rose has been fronting Jane Rose & The Deadend Boys, a high-octane rockabilly, blues, and alt-country band based in Nashville, Tennessee. Described as “a force to be reckoned with that you’ll hear coming from a state away,” Rose has been wowing audiences with her powerhouse vocals and a tight backing band featuring some of Nashville’s finest musicians. One listen and you’ll know why she names Wanda Jackson and Ruth Brown as two of her biggest musical influences. And why Jane Rose & The Deadend Boys is one of the most beloved live bands performing on the rockabilly festival and hotrod car show circuit.
Born in Houston, Texas, Rose grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio for the most part, and has a vivid memory of seeing her first Gretsch guitar (and musical future) on TV at a young age. “I was twelve and playing with our dog, a husky named Ginger, and she suddenly stopped and starts watching TV, which she never did,” recalls Rose. “And it’s the Brian Setzer Orchestra. And I said, ‘What is this magnificence? This is amazing. Look at that guitar. Listen to that music!’ It was like old school stuff because I grew up listening to 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll and loving the rawness of it. I never knew people were still playing it.”
After moving to Kentucky, teaching herself guitar, and playing a lot of open mic nights, Rose had her second seismic tremor moment with rockabilly and Gretsch guitars by happenstance. “One evening I went to my favorite café and almost died,” says Rose. “There was a local rockabilly band, The Jive Rockets, playing and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, there are people in my town playing this music.’ And I noticed the guitar player was playing a Gretsch and I said, ‘There’s that guitar again.’ I fell in love with that band and ended up taking lessons from their lead guitarist. I remember walking into his studio and there was this wall of different-colored Gretsch guitars, and I was, like, I want all of them!”
In 2008, Rose took her first big step into rockabilly world. She switched from fronting an Americana, folk-rock acoustic band to playing authentic hardcore rockabilly. “I bought a Gretsch Electromatic, a walnut-finished 5120 that I call Rozalyn, dyed my hair black, got some bunnie bangs and a tattoo, and started playing rockabilly music. As cliche as it may sound, it’s pretty much what happened,” shares Rose. “Finally, I told myself that this is what I wanted to do. This stuff makes me move. This music is fun.”
But after a year of playing rockabilly in the St. Louis area with bandmates who only wanted to play occasionally and on weekends, Rose decided she wanted more and set her sights for Nashville. She moved to Music City in 2010 and formed Jane Rose & The Deadend Boys in October of that year.
Three albums, numerous videos, and hundreds of live shows across the United States later, Rose (affectionately known as “The Boss Lady”) continues to dish up her unique blend of powerhouse rockabilly and rhythm and blues with a side dish of toe-tapping sass and attitude. We caught up with Jane at her Nashville home for a phone interview to talk about her newest Gretsch guitar, why she loves living in Nashville, the story behind the title of her new album, Over It, and lots more…
For starters, what kind of music do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy a wide variety of music. I grew up listening to 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll around my home because that was considered the “acceptable” era of rock music. And I also listened to a lot of bluegrass. But when it comes to playing, I’d say rockabilly, steeped in blues with a lot of attitude, ends up being what comes out of me. That’s what I enjoy playing the most.
How did your band get its name, The Deadend Boys?
I went through a lot of names in my head, then I remembered the Dead End Kids, who I used to watch on TV growing up. I watched a lot of old black and white movies growing up, so it’s sort of a nod to my childhood.
Who makes up your current lineup of Deadend Boys?
Wayne Harper plays stand-up Gretsch drums because we feel that the band that Gretsches together, stays together. Jeff Moon plays upright slap bass and Steve Shaffner, a really good friend from Louisville, is my main guitar cat. It’s not always the exact same group of guys because Nashville is a plethora of musicians. If one of my friends isn’t able to make a show, I have four other friends that are familiar with the music and knows the style. They’re more like brothers to me. Like family.
What made you decide to move to Nashville?
It was close enough to my friends and family in Louisville, and, hey, it’s Music City! The first time I visited Nashville was on my birthday and I got to see Harry Fontana and Mark Winchester and their rockabilly band perform at Roberts Western World. Harry, who didn’t even know me then, invited me up on stage to sing a Wanda Jackson song. So, that was my first night in Nashville. Pretty good, huh? I said ‘Yep, this is my kind of town. I want to live here.’
What is it about Nashville that inspires you?
There’s so much going on. Pre-Covid, you could go anywhere and hear all kinds of amazing music. From modern country to going to Printer’s Alley and hearing blues. I mean, some real good blues. There’s just so much going on, so much creativity, so much talent, so many amazing musicians that really stick together like family. You find out pretty quickly who the people are that are just in it for the money, or in it for the love of music. It’s so inspiring and invigorating to meet people that are like-minded like yourself. You don’t feel so all alone.
How did you become a Gretsch-endorsed artist?
I fell in love with Gretsch when I was 12 when I saw the Brian Setzer Orchestra performing on TV. I finally bought my first one in 2008 and started playing rockabilly. About six years ago I reached out to Joe Carducci from Gretsch Guitars on Facebook just to let him know how much I loved Gretsch, how happy I am that they are still in business and still making guitars, and how much I appreciated them. I also just wanted him to know that Jane Rose existed.
So, when did you get the good news?
Well, it’s like a dream but I remember every second of it. In 2019, on the Fourth of July, I’m at home and I get a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer it because I thought it was spam, but a voicemail was left. When I listened to the voicemail, I started jumping up and down and squealing. Joe Carducci said Gretsch wanted to talk to me, and the rest is history. I mean, I was floored, and I still have to pinch myself.
How many Gretsch Guitars do you currently have?
Five. My latest is a magenta pink Setzer Hot Rod model. When they came out with that pink sparkly guitar I just died. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, I need that. That’s me!’ I also have my first Gretsch, a walnut-finished 5120 Electromatic, a Gold Dust Streamliner, an orange Jumbo Rancher, and a 5420 Electromatic with a high-glitter blood orange top. I’d love to own a White Falcon one day. It’s a guitar that I’ve loved forever but, of course, the pink Gretsch takes superiority for now.
Why the attraction to Gretsch guitars?
I’ve played other hollow bodies through the years, but they just didn’t feel right. I love the tone, I love how it feels, the weight, the f-holes, and I love the history behind it, too. You just can’t beat that sound. You can try to imitate it but it’s not the same.
How would you describe That Great Gretsch Sound?
It’s like a beefy, gritty, ballsy tone. It’s a Gretsch. It has its own tone. Every single one of my guitars has a whole different sound, they have their own tone to them. And I like how versatile it is. I can clean it up if I need to or I can amp it up and get that grit.
What does the endorsement mean to you?
It means that I’m kind of like a brand ambassador. I’m out there spreading the Gretsch love and making sure people listen and hear them. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me questions and my opinions about Gretsch guitars. And they’ll message me back and say, ‘Look at the Gretsch I just bought’ and I’m, like, ‘Yea!’ I feel like it’s more than just Gretsch helping and recognizing me. I want to help them and make sure they stick around by promoting them.
I’ve heard that you’ve become sort of a role model for other women. Is that true?
Yes, I’ve had women tell me that they look up to me and I say, ‘Wow. Thank you.” I guess there’s some female empowerment going on in seeing a woman taking control of a band, playing guitar, and playing this music that I write from my life. And I’m seeing young girls, pre-teen and mid-teens, that tend to look up at me, too, and I’m thinking that now I guess I’m a role model. Can you believe that? Wow, that’s kind of scary.
Speaking of songs that you’ve written, what are some of your personal favorites and ones that really connect with your fans?
When we perform, we try to play as many original songs that I’ve written as possible. “Bitten” from our first album has really taken off. Like, holy cow, I’m not sure why, but it has taken off and now has over 1.3 million views on YouTube. “Mopar Car” as well as a song, “Long Gone,” from the new album are popular too. And people really seem to dig “Hot Rod Daddy” and “Bad Lil’ Betty.” Those two songs are always fun to perform onstage.
Tells us about your new album that just came out.
Over It is our third album and covers a lot of genres, which is kind of like me. I’m a little bit of everything. I wouldn’t describe me as just rockabilly and only rockabilly, I definitely have a little bit of honky-tonk, and a little bit of the blues. So, there’s a little bit of rockabilly, some blues, some Motown, believe it or not, and even some surf music. I asked my good friend Chris Casello to co-produce it with me. It was wonderful to get his input and his guitar playing, which he added to several of the songs. We got to record it in Memphis at Memphis Magnetic Studios. All analog, all put onto tape. It was great fun.
Is there a story behind the album’s title?
Oh, yes. Over It pretty much summed up how I felt about 2020. I was coming off of a relationship and recovering from knee surgery when Covid hit and shut everything down. 2020 was set to be a big year for us. We had shows booked from New Mexico to even New York City, where I had never played. With each show that was cancelled, it was like a little piece of my heart just died. So, I made the executive decision to sell our old tour van and put that money into making a new album. Since we weren’t touring, I felt we’d benefit more from putting that money towards making an album. And I’m so glad I made that decision. I had this album to focus on last year; it helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel for sure.
Do you think people will appreciate the unique experience of live music when it returns?
I hope so. Some people take live music for granted. Sometimes we’re background music and that’s okay, or people will say, ‘I’ll go to their next show.’ Well, we may not have a next show. It can be taken away and gone really quickly, as Covid has shown. So please don’t take us musicians for granted. We play for our sanity and for yours as well. As soon as we get the green light to get back on the road, I’m going to be booking as many shows as possible to support this album and to see everybody. I’ve really missed seeing everybody. All the rockabilly festivals, the fun car shows, and sharing it all with the Deadend Boys. I can’t wait.
Enjoy these featured videos:
The rollicking “Bitten” from Jane Rose & The Deadend Boys’ first album, Moonshine, Murder, and Poultricide, has over 1.3 million views on YouTube.
Classic rockabilly featuring Jane’s powerful pipes in this filmed performance of “Long Gone” at the Nashville Boogie Vintage Weekender in 2019.