Band Bio

Dirty River    

Traditional blues done right! Done tight.

Dirty River, one of the best Cincinnati blues bands, plays the whole gamut of blues including originals and was one of the first blues bands featured on Cincinnati radio live. Putting together, hosting and performing at the earliest outdoor blues festivals to be held in Cincinnati and then closing summer with a blues performance that was televised from Cincinnati's "River Fest" …in the same year!

Dirty River features the best show, class and all blues!

Prior to the Cincinnati Blues Society, Dirty River was instrumental in starting the first blues festival in Cincinnati and getting the Blues Society rolling.

Our purpose is to have fun, explore the blues and share an engaging hi-energy performance that connects with the audience. A band that is not afraid to try new things but still play the old delta and front porch blues style as well.

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





Jeff Bonta: Lead and bottleneck guitars, vocals; Jenelle: Drums and vocals; Mark Clifford: Keyboards and vocals; Jocelyn: Vocals; Matt Hayden: Bass and vocals




Dirty River headlines 'Blues Night' at "Lawrenceburg Fall Festival", 2012


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.

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 Aronolf, 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

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.

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




Gig Schedule

Promo Photos

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Past players, no longer a current regular player:


Malkum Gibson: Harmonica, lead vocals

Malkum Gibson: Harmonica, lead vocals

A longtime vet of the music scene, Malkum does an excellent job on harp and accordion, and his vocals are both playful and soulful.
Gibson's harmonica playing has been reviewed as good harp tone by Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records and passionate harmonica by Bill Kisliuk, Blues Access magazine.

From A. Grigg, Blues Bytes - Graham Clarke, June, 20 2007:
Malkum Gibson started his musical journey by impressing Mr. B. B. King enough that he produced and published his early recording. Touring became a way of life playing and performing with the best bluesmen from opening up for the Allman Brothers first tour at Cincinnati’s Ohio’s Ludlow Garage and Taj Mahal’s first tour at Kelly Hall in Yellow Springs, Ohio to performing with Guy Davis on tour in Ireland. From coast to coast, north to south and several tours overseas; one thing rings clear, “music inspired by tradition” and the tradition is BLUES!

Malkum Gibson has had a very interesting life, to say the least. He started playing Blues Harmonica over 40 years ago, so he is truly one of the White Blues Pioneers in the U.S.A. But, besides his pioneering, Malkum is probably the only Bluesman in the World who had his debut recording produced by B.B. King! Yes, that's right: B.B. just happened to hear Malkum and Chris (Kleeman) right at the time Bob Thiele's Blues Time Records was getting underway and the resulting album for Blues Time: "Malkum & Chris: Just The Blues" remains a collectors' classic. Malkum & Chris were together for nearly 30 years as a duo, releasing some fine, mainly acoustic blues albums on their own labels.

Many fans and critics referred to Malkum & Chris as "…the White Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee" and it was totally complimentary as both had become masters of their respective instruments. Malkum may be Hohner's longest-standing endorsee for Blues Harmonica. Now that they've gone their separate ways after many years based in Vermont, Malkum has decided to go all-out. Moving to Ohio, a State with a long Blues History and a rabid Blues audience,

Malkum's harp sound is unique; he sounds like a cross between Junior Wells (1950s), James Cotton and Snooky Pryor with those high clear notes. His many years as an acoustic harp man show through with the occasional Sonny Terry-like melodic passages. He's got more stuff in his bag-of-tricks/styles than just about anyone else on today's scene. Malkum's harmonica work is enough to prove he's one of North American's Top Ten.
Malkum is one of the better vocalists out there too, so the main Achilles heel' for White bands is not an issue at all.



 Rick Rock: Bass and vocals

Rick Rock

Rick "Rock": Bass, vocals



Sondra C Lead vocals


John Faris Keybaords, horns, Lead Vocals

Former close friend and band mate of Tommy Bolin who after these two formed the band Zephyr, was the guitarist in Deep Purple, James Gang, Billy Cobham (That's Tommy on the "Spectrum" album) and others besides his solo work.

John Wrote some songs that Dirty River performed live. With his passing, we lost not only a very talented keyboard player but a very good person. Sondra, who had married John, decided she didn't want to sing any longer, so Dirty River lost two of it's best talents ever.



Jim Thaxter ---bass, lead vocals

Jim is a very solid bass player and a great lead vocalist, Jim can really shake 'em down and cook up a hot tune for your pleasure. He just loves to play and entertain! He was in a band before they made it called "The Trashmen". Jim left that band for another called "The Travelers". He didn't like the direction they were headed- surfin' music. The Trashmen went on to have a national/international hit called "Surfin' Bird" in 1964.

Mike Tucker Guitar, Keyboards, Lead Vocals


J Scar Tucker Bass, Guitar, Lead Vocals


John Redell Guitar, lead vocals

From Left to right: John Redell, Jenelle in back, unseen, Sondra C, Kathy Murray, Bob Chain, unknown

Dick Buchholz---guitar player, lead vocals

Dick is a Cincinnati-area native who plays a mean lead. He is well known as being "the best guitar player in the known universe"! He is a guitar teacher and his other band, "Dick and the Roadmasters", came in first place in the Cincy Blues Challenge!


Sherry Runyon Guitar, Lead Vocals


  Tom Lee Bass, Lead Vocals


Brad Hatfield Blues Harp, Vocals

 Brad Hatfield


Greg Thomas---Lead guitar, lead vocals

Former lead guitarist and singer of Blues Persuaders, Now Greg plays and is a main part of "Leadfoot Johnny".

Greg was one of three Cammy nominees in the Blues/R&B/vocalist category and separately, so was Blues Persuaders in the Blues/R&B/band category. Greg was one of the primary writers in Persuaders.

His influences range from Freddie King to Ron Jeremy and he first became interested in guitar when skipping class in high school, hearing Jimi Hendrix play Red House.


Charlene Sinclair---Sax, vocals

Charlene Sinclair

"I am many things....throws most guys into a tailspin...I do NOT refuse to be myself." (..singin...I gottaaaa be meeeeeee)

Char is a writer, photographer, model, musician, in medical management, President-elect of PAHCOM (national organization local chapter) and a medical software management rep for a computer company in Dayton and last but certainly not least, MOTHER ("...geezzzz how do we juggle all these hats")?

Charlene is a model but hasn't done any modeling in NY or LA since not being able to travel out of state and stay overnight any longer.

Char gets a kick out of performing, especially the first time somewhere as guys automatically assume she is a doo wop girl. She does do that too, but she also has that classic look when she picks up the sax; as it is rare and almost never seen. She has a very rich sound and has been told, the best some have heard.


Bob Chain Bass, vocals


Paul Corrello Guitar, Lead Vocals

  Paul Carello

Wendy Lee Oakley Keyboards, vocals

Where and when it started:

Left to right:

Bill Kennedy, Derrick Ellis, Jenelle, Kevin Wooten, Ted McConnell



September 3, 1992

Performance by Billie Coleman, Jeff Bonta, Jenelle and Gary Mitchell (televised).


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