Jeff, Jenelle, Malkum and Rick :2012- Lawrenceburg Fall Festival "Blues Night" headliners

Band history (30 years on!)


Dirty River, a Cincinnati blues band

Jenelle at dirtyriverband dot com
513 477-7800 (Jenelle)

Traditional blues done right, done tight!

Our purpose is to have fun, explore all the blues styles and share an engaging hi-energy performance that connects with the audience. Dirty River plays modern, original and the old delta, porch-style blues.

A Cincinnati blues band now celebrating 30 years, Dirty River has performed for Weddings, Parties, Special Occasions, Corporate, Civic and Private Events as well as Clubs and Festivals!

Dirty River, featured on Cincinnati radio, together, hosted and performed the earliest and largest outdoor blues festival in Cincinnati and also has played Cincinnati's "River Fest", televised.

The first Dirty River band started in 1982, co-founded by Ted McConnell and Jenelle doing blues covers and originals, packing college clubs to the walls. Considered a blues, blues-rock act from the beginning, it disbanded in 1985.

Everyone went on to other things. Jenelle took a gig playing with Gradual Taylor who also brought in Jim Orwig, Ernie Waits and Sondra C, who Jenelle, at a blues jam she hosted at "Ms Caties" recruited to sing the blues in the second generation Dirty River in 1989.

Through another jam, Jenelle met Mike Tucker and with his two brothers, Alan and J Scar. This Dirty River was the house band at the Gay 90's, Burbanks BBQ and blues and The Township Fields and Tavern. The band played six nights a week.

In early 1992 Dirty River decided to use the large baseball fields at the Township Fields and Tavern they were playing 3 nights a week and use for Cincinnati's very first blues festival celebrating the best blues that Cincinnati had to offer then including such local stars as the Blues All-Stars ("Big Ed" Thompson, Ricky Nye, John "Hammer" Sampson), "Sweet" Alice Hoskins, and so many more.

This was also a time period Dirty River was a regular on blues radio playing with some very fine blues masters such as "Pigmeat" Jarret, Joe Duskin and others.

Dirty Rivers' 1992 Cincinnati "RiverFest" performance was featured and televised live.

The Cincinnati blues band tradition in now in another incarnation and Dirty River plays the whole blues gamut, originals too.

The Band:

Jeff Bonta: Lead and bottleneck guitars, harmonica, vocals

Jeff is one of Cincinnati's best guitar players/musicians and a great personality besides. Jeff sings and loves to play the blues! His favorite records are by the blues greats Albert King and Eric Clapton but he has a special love in his soul for Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lonnie Mack, a regional hero to the Cincinnati area who was featured on SRV's "Strike Like Lightning" record and most favorite of all, Jeff Beck. 

Jenelle: Drums and vocals

Jenelle has played the drums since 8 years old and has played in musicals, as a hired session player, and in popular rock, oldies and blues bands since the age of 15.

Her earliest influences are those Big bands that her father took her to go see and hear live. Sometimes she was able to meet the drummers and sit behind their sets when she was 9! Locally, she’s played in "Phoenix", a band featuring Jay Arronolf, at 16, a young guitar Phnom and son of Ohio's famous Senator, Stanley Aronolf. That band played modern sophisticated rock (Pretenders, The Who, Blues Oyster Cult, Aerosmith, etc). There was also Nightshift, preceding Dirty River and always featured on the radio.

She started the first Dirty River band playing to eager fans at local popular college clubs and on the radio in 1982. Dirty River wrote and performed many originals and their performance was very high-energy!

In 1986, Jenelle played with Gradual Taylor, who Gradual later called the best band he had ever put together. The band consisted of Ernie Waits on bass, Jim Orwig, keyboards, who later joined “The Menu’s” and Jenelle on the drums. Experimenting with electronic percussion for the first time, Jenelle used Linn Drum triggers on her vintage 1967 Ludwig acoustic set.

After that band, Jenelle put together a band called The Boyz, a “favorite oldies” group playing 50's/60’s, some Doo Wop, rockabilly and surf music. Then Jenelle resurrected Dirty River again playing the local circuit in a version that included Mike and Jay Tucker (“J. Scar”) and Jeff Bonta.

Mark Clifford: Keyboards and vocals

Mark Clifford, keyboards and a native of Pittsburgh, PA., Mark has been performing since under his father’s direction, with the Clifford Trio, doing weddings and then he went out on the road working the hotel circuit and doing specialty shows. He spent several years in San Diego, California where he put together a show band using San Diego Chargers, Lynden King and Kellen Winslow, did studio sessions, worked on the Merv Griffin show, and did pre-shows for country artists such as Alabama, Porter Wagner, and Hank Williams Jr.


Jocelyn: Lead vocals

"The band’s outstanding performance was greatly enjoyed by everyone in attendance.  The musicianship was great and your singer, Jaz, rocked the joint.  You even had them up dancing.  Kudos to you!"


Matt Heydan: Bass and lead vocals

From Huntington W.Va., Matt has played many different genres of music. Album rock for festivals, Contemporary Christian music, Rhythm and Blues, Classic Rock and has even played back up for an Elvis impersonation act.
After moving to the Cincinnati area, Matt has played in Classic Rock and Top 40 Bands and has made the rounds of open Blues jam sessions.
When asked why he enjoys playing Blues, "For me, music is such a pure form of emotion. What better emotional genre than Blues? I will give you the notes that are supposed to be there, but everything in between is from the heart and soul."


It is time for Dirty River to shake, rattle and roll!

Celebrating 30 years, rich in history, talent as strong as ever!




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