Over the last 30+ years, The Nighthawks have earned a reputation as one of the best and hardest working bands around. They have gotten their widest acclaim for being one of the first and best white boy blues bands of their generation, and for putting on a great live show. But their acclaim and accomplishments go far beyond that.
They are among the top musical acts to come out of the Washington, D.C. area—and are still based there. They were a roots rock band before there was such a thing as “roots rock.” They play a wide variety of music that has appeal to a diverse audience, mixing the blues, rock and soul—along with rockabilly and swing. They’ve played all over the U.S., with the East Coast and Midwest being particular strongholds. And they’ve toured around the world, establishing especially strong followings in Germany and Japan.
Three of the four band members have been playing together for 30 years, a stretch that few in rock or blues can match. They continue to bring great musical skills and energy to all that they do—it’s a remarkable road they’ve traveled and story they have to tell.
The Nighthawks were founded in 1972 by vocalist/harmonica player Mark Wenner and guitarist Jimmy Thackery, and joined early on by bass player Jan Zukowski and drummer Pete Ragusa. Based in Washington, D.C., they built on their Chicago blues roots to create a unique musical repertoire that features blues, roots rock, rockabilly and soul. They became known as one of the hardest working and most popular blues bands as they toured nationally in the ‘70s and ‘80s, playing 300 shows a year from the mid-‘70’s to the mid-‘80’s.
They played as the opening act or backing band for such legendary blues artists as Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Big Walter Horton and Elvin Bishop. They also played in the Rosebud Agency's blues all-star tours with Pinetop Perkins, John Hammond, Charlie Musselwhite and John Lee Hooker. Some of the guitarists who have played with the band over the years include Bob Margolin, Steuart Smith, Warren Haynes, Jim Solbery, Pete Kennedy, Phil Petroff and Ratso (Jim Silman).
Thackery left the band in 1987 and has pursued a successful solo career since then. In the late '80s and early '90s The Nighthawks lineup went through multiple changes—including Jimmy Hall on vocals/sax/harp, Jimmy Nalls on guitar, Mike Cowan on keyboards, Danny Morris on guitar/vocals and Pete Kanaras on guitar.
The Nighthawks have released over 20 albums and have toured the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. They have played over 200 shows a year for 20 of their years together. They continue to tour actively and put on an energetic live show that has featured the same lineup since 1995—Mark Wenner (vocals/harp), Pete Kanaras (guitar), Jan Zukowski (bass) and Pete Ragusa (drums)