Lead Vocals, Lead and Slide Guitar, Songwriter
Johnny O’Neil fell in love with music at the age of five, begging his parents to buy him a guitar after seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, which they finally did when he turned eight years old. The stars aligned when his future Dare Force bandmate, Brian Bart, moved in across the street when he was nine. “We had a tussle over something silly in the front yard, then my mom invited us in for a piece of cake; we’ve been thick as thieves ever since,” O’Neil says. O’Neil and Bart immediately bonded over their mutual love of music (including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, Steppenwolf, and Creedence Clearwater Revival), and quickly formed a band together. One of their first gigs was at Sunny Hollow Elementary School in 6th grade, where Bob Dylan’s younger brother, David Zimmerman, was their music teacher and introduced their band to an audience of 500-some fellow classmates.
O’Neil has been in practice as a Ph.D.-level clinical psychologist for over two decades, quite a feat considering he dropped out of high school at 16 to focus on his burgeoning music career. After more than a decade of achieving many of his musical dreams, including the ‘80s with Dare Force, O’Neil decided to go back to school at the age of 28 to get his GED. He went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, followed by a Master’s degree and eventually a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Ohio State University. Now a solopreneur in private practice as a forensic psychologist, O’Neil conducts Independent Psychological Evaluations (IPEs) of claimants involved in workers' comp and personal injury cases, and provides courtroom testimony as an expert witness – a fascinating occupation to be sure. In fact, he found himself interviewing dozens of Minneapolis police officers who filed disability claims due to PTSD in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
Not surprisingly, for O’Neil, playing music is an invaluable form of therapy and expressing his emotions. “I don’t have a choice, I have to play music,” he says. “It’s how I’m wired and how I preserve my sanity. It’s therapy for me. I’ll be performing until my last gasp.” Infusing his songwriting with his personal values of tolerance, compassion and empathy throughout his career, O’Neil believes that an important part of an artist’s job is to not only reflect what’s going on in the world, but also to comment on it and influence it. To this end, O’Neil’s driving rock tunes go beyond being simply upbeat, feel-good rock ‘n roll, to songs that really have something to say to the world.
MEET THE BAND
Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Songwriter
John Funk received his first guitar at the age of 14. It was a classical, nylon string guitar that his father won in a poker game. At 15 he talked his mother into buying him his first electric guitar, the first of many black Gibson Flying Vs John has played throughout his musical career. As a beginning guitarist, John’s influences included Randy Rhodes, Michael Schenker, John Sykes, and Gary Moore, to name but a few.
John joined his first band at 15, and by 17 was playing exclusively in all-original bands. John cut his teeth playing rhythm guitar for Twin Cities guitar phenom Brett Petrusek. At 21 John began touring with the Minneapolis hard rock band Sinister Grin, a band he started with the highly touted lead singer Ben Zerr, formerly of Black Eden. John then went on to rejoin forces with Brett Petrusek in the Minneapolis rock powerhouse 57 Stitch, who were signed to Oarfin Records and recorded with the legendary Minneapolis producer, Tom Herbers.
After 57 Stitch John fronted a series of Twin Cities original hard rock bands, honing his lead vocals skills, guitar chops, and songwriting in Fast Back, Full Stack, Monster Zero, and The 221’s. John also recorded an album with each of these bands. In 2013, John joined the ranks of Minneapolis punk ‘n’ roll veterans, the GooDBarS, who released the album “More Than Nothing” in 2016.
John began his latest rock ‘n’ roll adventure after he was invited to join Johnny O’Neil’s band as Johnny’s partner in six-string crime, and backing vocalist!
In the mid-1980s, after spending several years touring the Midwest with various cover bands, percussion powerhouse Joachim Baecker joined forces with Minneapolis glam metal masters Obsession, just as they were morphing into a more straight-ahead, 100% original rock ‘n roll outfit called Funhouse.
Funhouse, backed by nationally regarded Manager Herbert Gart, gave the band much needed national exposure and allowed Baecker to be one of the first drummers to record at Paisley Park (under Producer Mick Ronson), as well as tour the coasts with record showcase gigs. As a result, band members relocated to New York City, the group changed its name to Rattling Bones, and a management change now saw them under the guidance of David Krebs (Aerosmith) and Bill Aucoin (KISS).
New York was certainly a game-changer for Baecker, as the band was now writing and recording grittier material with studio legends such as Rob Stevens and Jack Douglas. After several years of recording, but not landing a suitable record deal, the band dissolved and the members went on to recording projects with other musicians, and eventually returned to the Twin Cities area.
In 2019, Baecker teamed up with other Twin Cities music veterans to create Minnesota Music Machine, a tribute band to well-known Minnesota musical acts including Prince, and Dare Force. It was during one of their live sets that Minnesota guitar legend Johnny O’Neil joined them for a cover of Pushin’ Your Luck—a Dare Force fan favorite. With this experience, Baecker was introduced to Johnny, and shortly thereafter was invited by O’Neil to play drums and percussion on his debut solo album, “Truth or Dare,” and join his live band.
Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Twin Cities veteran bass guitarist Benny Craig founded the hard rock band Paradox in 1980 with guitarist John Eller, and the late, great drummer Tommy Alisides. Paradox released one album, “Reel Life,” played countless packed shows in the Twin Cities, and toured the Midwest and cities beyond from Denver to Houston before disbanding in 1988. Benny then played bass with Boneclub, who won the Minnesota Music Award (MMA) in 1994 for best hard rock record, “Bellow,” produced by the legendary Mike Clink (who also engineered Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”). Boneclub released three albums altogether, two of which were on Imago Records (label mates included Henry Rollins, and Aimee Mann). Benny toured Europe, Canada and the US with Boneclub throughout the ‘90s, sharing the stage with then-upcoming bands Green Day and Everclear, as well as opening for veteran rockers Social Distortion, The Flaming Lips, The Melvins, and Screaming Trees. A songwriter in his own right, one of Benny’s songs, “Everything’s on Fire,” also made it to film as the anthem for the “on ice bully” character in the 1994 Disney classic, Mighty Ducks 2.
Benny eventually settled in Minneapolis and for most of the 21st Century has slapped the upright bass in his own band, Stockcar Named Desire, releasing one album, winning MMAs for best rockabilly band 2005 and 2006, as well as performing shows with dozens of leading acts in the national rockabilly scene, including Hank Williams III, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Now, as the bass guitarist and backing vocalist for one of his favorite long-time rock influences, Johnny O’Neil, Benny is most excited to return to his hard rock roots!