Cleaver Smith & Swenson first came together in 1983 in Carrboro, North Carolina as an acoustic folk/pop group that emphasized ORIGINAL music showcasing their strong vocals and tight harmonies. Bill Cleaver, Robert Smith and Joe Swenson form the group's core. David McKnight joined the band a few years later on a chance meeting during a break at on of the band's early gigs.

All the band members, except for Joe, grew up in North Carolina, representing the cities Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and Rockingham, giving them a panorama of Southern experience.

"I've watched the whole group go from a "garage band" of friends playing singalong covers to a mature collection of musicians and songwriters.  It has been fascinating to me to see how they've taken diverse music genres -- from country to rock to folk to bayou to acapella harmonies -- and synthesize their own style that crosses over all the boundries!"

"You just can't push this music into one "style" category.  The vocal harmonies, instrumental wizardry, and obvious diverse influences make this such a fun collection!!"

"I like it that there is more than one lead singer and songwriter in the group. Each has his own distinct direction to lead the band, and yet they all join in with such unanimous delight that it is pure musical synergy!"

-- A long-time fan

Joe's hometown in Upstate New York is Philadelphia, named after its big sister. Adding his Northern perspective seemed to do no serious harm to the group's Southern style. Joe now resides in Livermore, California, but still prefers calling North Carolina home.

You will find the band's musical interests and style of songwriting are as diverse as their individual backgrounds. Groups like Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, Chicago, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, and Bill Monroe all had their place in shaping the soul of this band.

As the trio played the "Triangle" area of North Carolina, (Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill), they developed their own musical style which could best be described as an organic blend of folk, pop, and country, with a little 60's Rock 'n Roll thrown in for good measure. With a repertoire they liked to describe as "Old Wave," the songs they performed focused on strong vocals, acoustic guitar, with electric bass and keyboards adding the finishing touches to their on stage mix.

David McKnight, an experienced violinist and fiddle player, joined the group in 1984 during a break between sets at a club in Durham, NC. After literally just passing by on the street, the music drew him in and he asked if he could sit on the next set. That was all it took. "Everything just clicked." David's many original songs and upbeat instrumentals, which showcase his versatile fiddle and guitar playing, added yet another facet to the bands sound and "down home" persona.

Karen Nicholson brought her energy and vibrant violin to the group a year later and is featured on the first CD. Other local musicians regularly joined the band on stage. One such versatile and seasoned musician (and long-time compatriot of McKnight's) is David Spencer, who offered his guitar, banjo, dobro, and clarinet, as finishing touches on many songs on the first CD. "Spence," as he likes to be called, will be heard from even more on upcoming projects and performances with the group.

Various other local artists have joined in on their projects. Their first CD, "Back Home Again" which was release in 2000, is a rich collection of original songs demonstrating the wide range of individual songwriting and playing styles. Local Livermore CA drummer, Mike Serafin, was featiured on several songe on this CD.

After much considerartion and negtiation, the band changed their name in 2005 to Cleaver Smith Swenson & McKnight. The change "just made sense to us" as David McKnight has always been more than just a contributor to the core band's sound. The fourth dimension that McKnight's songwiriting and performace skills bring to an already diverse array of talent, was somthing that has been there since the very beginning and now has been fully and officially recognized.

CSS&M's second CD "Changin' My Mind" demonstrates the bands new found synergy with an ambitious 16 song set, with five songs from McKnight, including three instrumentals. The list includes covers of four well known songs, including Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." This acoustic folk-swing arragnement is performed by David Spencer. In addition to being featured on his own track this time around, Spencer adds his versatility ans mastery of the aciustic guitar, electric guitar, clarinet, accordian, and bass guitar to the many tunes in project.

Other local Research Triangle area artists who are featured are Bill Erchul, Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University and premier pedal steele guitar and dobro player. Mary Greiner, former oboist for the North Carolina Symphony , lends her mastery on two songs. Gary Siems, bassist for the David Spencer Band takes hi turn on a new CSS&M rocker "Sun and Rain and Heaven". Rounding out this ensemble is Raleigh's Tim Rae a.k.a. "the drum dude," percussionist extraordinaire, who pulls together this wide range of musical styles with his rock solid performances.

An enormous amount of time work went into the recording arranging and production of this latest offering. I think listeners will hear that in the final product.

You can download and listen to tracks from both CD's on the Discography pages as well as purchasing CD's online.

Both CD's are also available in North Carolina at local Research Triangle area independent music retailers including Schookids Records in Durham and in Raleigh, the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, and Offbeat Music in Durham.