By Diane Sieker

Musicians of Anza: The Illegal Sweedes


Last updated 6/27/2018 at 1:24pm


From left to right, The Illegal Sweedes are Dan Henderson, James Hilzman, Rick Bonanno, Larry Brown and Danny McBride.

The Illegal Sweedes are a band comprised of some of the most dynamic talent available. Their fans follow them faithfully, and venues look forward to booking them again and again to packed houses. Specializing in contemporary R&B, classic rock, dance music, rock 'n' roll and country music, they do not disappoint their audiences.

The group is the creation of five musicians, who just got together to jam once a week. Before long, the "Sweedes" were playing paid gigs and thrilling audiences at every single performance.

The band consists of Dan Henderson on guitar and vocals, Rick Bonanno on guitar and vocals, Larry Brown thumping the bass, James Hilzman playing keyboard and vocals and Danny McBride on drums.

Guitarist Rick Bonanno has a long history in the music industry.

"I started playing guitar at age 11 and formed a band in the late 60s," he said. "My influences were the bands of that time period. I played professionally until 1978 and went to work in the film industry in 1979. After retiring from Hollywood in 1999, I became involved with music again as a hobby but soon found myself forming another band called Ricky B and the Stingers and started playing local gigs. The Stingers dissolved about five years ago, but the Sweedes are still active today. I became a member of the Sweedes when all of us formed the group together. It was automatic."

Mostly known as a guitarist, Bonanno has also played keyboards and bass. And as a talented vocalist, he has always taken the lead in the singing department but also likes to feature the best singers to belt out most of the lead vocals, he said.

"In the present case we have Jimmy Hilzman in the Sweedes, who is one of the best singers in the business, besides being a man of many music-related talents. We do, however, have three other singers in the band to share the vocal load," Bonanno said.

Dan Henderson got his start in music from his mother who was a singer with the big bands, and she worked with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Tex Beneke, Woody Herrman and Glen Miller. 

"My earliest memory is of the speaker cloth from our stereo. My mother would play classical and swing albums and said that I would sit motionless, listening for hours at a time." 

At age five, he expressed interest in learning the guitar, and his first guitar heroes were classical musicians Andres Segovia and Christopher Parkening. At age 10, he was exposed to Hendrix, Clapton, Leslie West, the Doors and others.

Henderson plays steel string acoustic guitar, nylon string and electric guitar, bass and performs vocals for the band. He first became aware of the group when he heard about a jam session taking place and was invited to attend. The chemistry followed, and he became an important member of the group.

"I'm passionate about my craft, grateful for the chance to practice it, and I hope we are able to bring pleasure to our audiences."

Danny McBride started playing drums at age 10 and also comes from a musical family, with a rich history spanning more than 50 years. He had recorded two albums by the time he was 14 years old.

From 1987 through 2012, McBride toured the U.S. and Canada with various groups and landed in Southern California, where he found himself sharing his immense talents with the Illegal Sweedes.

Larry K Brown, also known as Brownie-Brown, is a bassist and singer. In the late 1960s he played with the band The Other Half, recorded some records and performed with other bands during that period. In recent years, he was the bassist and vocalist for Ricky B and the Stingers and is currently with The Illegal Sweedes. 

Writer, singer, performer, producer and sound engineer James Hilzman has been creating music from about the tender age of 12. He was also influenced by his mother at an early age to understand the wonders of the piano. 

It was clear then that Hilzman had an ear for music. He ventured forward and began to learn and to acquire other instruments such as guitars, basses and eventually drums. For the most part, he is self-taught and very gifted.

As a sound technician, he is hard to beat. He has created several self-recorded CDs as well as some studio albums with many different tracks with many other great artists and performances with artists like Grand Funk Railroad, Fog Hat, Zebra and the Steve Morse Band.

"I enjoy every minute of it, and I wouldn't want it any other way," Hilzman said. 

Well diverse in the field of digital recording and laying all of the instrument and vocal tracks down in his California home studio, Hilzman brings many talents to the group. He joined The Illegal Sweedes after many great years in the band 502, a power trio with Jerry Bonanno and Joe Berry.

Current performances are posted online on their Facebook page at

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]


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