By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Bluedog is a five-member blues/rock band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Initially formed in 2001 by Joni (Weston) and Eric Buffalohead, it includes their daughter Alexandra on keyboard and backup vocals, Tom Suess on bass, and Greg Mans on drums.
Bluedog has released original albums and singles to multiple award nominations from the Native American Music Awards and the Indian Summer Music Awards.
Alexandra Buffalohead was awarded a 2018 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership program on behalf of the band.
With the influence of powwows and cultural dances, the Buffalohead family’s blues music is Native first. Life experiences, lived and absorbed, flow out in a way that lets their audience know Native people are still here. Their music celebrates life — the good and bad.
“Depending on the song, it can be uplifting, sad, resilient,” lead vocalist Joni says. “Tons of emotions go into it.”
Setting out in 2001, Joni and her husband, lead guitarist Eric, formed Bluedog.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play with legendary people,” Eric said. “It’s been incredible.” The band has fronted notable blues acts including: The Robert Cray Band, Indigenous, Los Lonely Boys, Corey Stevens, John Mayall, Kenny Neal Band, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Coco Montoya, Ana Popovic, Walter Trout, Shannon Curfman, and the Jerry Garcia Band.
They coaxed their daughter, Alex, into putting her piano lessons to good use by playing keys for the band and singing backup for Joni. The family travels together, supporting each other through ups and downs on the road. They have gotten to know one another even more, especially through interactions with audiences. Bluedog takes the opportunity to be a role model as a family seriously.
“It’s scary sometimes because you see other musicians get burned out. They seem empty and can resort to drugs,” Joni says. “It can be lonely on the road. We look out for each other as a family.”
Alex applied for the First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership program on behalf of Bluedog, and they were awarded in 2018. The band is working on their next album with support from their ALB.
Writing and recording original songs, Joni’s greatest struggle is remaining true to herself. Thankfully, she had aunties still alive who advised her on this when she and Eric first set out with Bluedog. She takes their advice above all others.
“We’re trying to get our foot into mainstream,” Joni says, “but we don’t want to give up who we are to do that.”