Electronic Press Kit

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“As good as Larsen is on record, it’s a must to hear his music in a live setting, the atmosphere where he really lets loose.”

Citizens Voice

 

“…either the most progressive R & B Band in the country or one of the most original rock acts around, or both.”

Pennsylvania Musician

 

“Larsen has drawn critical praise for his humorous lyrics and electrifying stage presence, which reportedly never fails to get an audience dancing.”

International Musician

 

“…blues for this generation: hard, funky, soulful. This thing is fierce.”

The Retriever

 

“Can white men sing it blue? Try Tom Larsen.”

The Aquarian • New York City

 

“This blues trio generates enough raw power to light up the whole east coast.”

Guitar Player Magazine

 

“…Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy Band, J.B. Hutto & New Hawks, Tom Larsen Band: The first “Killer Guitar Thriller” saw all three guitarists turn in incendiary performances.” 

Blues Revue Magazine

 

 

Introductory Letter

Tom Larsen here, of the Tom Larsen Band. I have a popular Blues band that plays the East Coast region. We play an upbeat, funky, danceable style of blues that appeals to all age groups and ethnicities. I have 10 CD’s out of original material and when we do a concert, that’s what we play. When we’re added to the bill it will not be business as usual, it will be fresh and different from anything anyone else at your venue is doing.

In addition to the vibrant and distinctive music, there is a show that accompanies our performance that reaches out to engage the audience and make them part of the festivities. Each member of the band is a featured show-stopper in his own right, and inevitably the Tom Larsen “walk-through-the-crowd slide guitar performance” is always the highlight of the event and the one everyone is talking about for months to come!

Berlin Blues Jazz purple girl 1

 

I am an Eastern Shore of Maryland native and have good name recognition and a good draw on the whole East Coast. I have been playing the blues in the DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York areas since the early 1980′s.

We regularly play blues festivals, wine festivals, outdoor concerts, casinos, and corporate parties. We headline most of these shows but we are also occasionally utilized as the support act, generally the last act to go on before the national headliner.

This is a big year for me as it will mark my 35th year of playing blues full time, with no day job. Please allow me tell you a little about what’s been going on with us recently.

I have released my 10th CD of original music and have had a number of my songs recorded by national artists, including Roy Buchannan and Johnny Winter. My song publishing partner is none other than Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records in Chicago! I have also released my second book. The 2012 Tom Larsen calendar was a holiday sell-out!

 

Berlin Blues Jazz 2012 purple girl 2

 

The highlight events of 2011 were headliner appearances at the prestigious Cape May Jazz Festival in New Jersey and a main-stage appearance at the iconic Hot August Blues Festival in Baltimore, Md. HAB founder and CEO Brad Selko said “You guys blew us away! If any festivals need a reference, tell them to call me directly!”

We have headlined the Berlin Blues and Jazz Festival in Berlin, Md., headlined the Spyglass Ridge Winery Blues Festival in Sunbury, Pa., as well as the Bordeleau Winery Reds, Whites and Blues Festival on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We were the featured support act at a recent Brigg’s Farm Blues Festival up near Scranton, Pa., where the festival’s founder, Richard Briggs, announced to the crowd that we were the most requested act ever in his festival’s 13 year history!

We have also played numerous other festivals and shows in the region, including the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, the Baltimore Blues Festival, the DC Blues Festival, the Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival, the Columbia Pike Blues Festival (Va.), the Carolina Beach Seafood and Jazz Festival (NC) and other high profile events at venues such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and Longwood Gardens up in Pa. Our regular casino shows include Delaware Park in Wilmington, De. and Dover Downs Casino in Dover, De.

 

Berlin Blues Jazz  2012 Purple Girl 3

More festivals are listed on my website, but some of the recent highlights were appearances at the Brandywine River Blues Festival up in Pa., a special performance during the Rehoboth Jazz Festival in De., an appearance at the Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, De., a headline slot at the New Jersey Wine Grower’s Association Wine and Blues Festival (25 wineries!), and another headline spot at the Gettysburg Wine and Music Festival (20+ wineries). We also performed numerous outdoor concerts at regional wineries, including Moondancer Winery, Twin Brook Winery, Black Walnut Winery, and at Chatham Vineyards in Machipongo, Va. We were recently featured at the Berk’s Jazz Festival in Reading, Pa. and the Pork in the Park Barbeque Festival in Salisbury, Md. In addition we had a headliner slot in last year’s Roosterpallooza, a 12 band hard rock concert in York, Pa. and were also a headliner at York Bike Night for over 1,000 bikers.

As you can see, a Tom Larsen Band show has a broad appeal, and we are equally at home in a wide variety of settings. If you were to need a referral, any of the above-mentioned venues would give us glowing reviews.

Feel free to check out the website for all the pics, music, and video. You can also follow the links above to Facebook and YouTube for additional video and highlights. If needed, I would be glad to send you promo and a demo.

Bluesman TL Biography

Bluesman Tom Larsen has been a major player on the East Coast music scene for the last thirty-five years. Originally a solo performer, Larsen specialized in the acoustic blues of the 1920’s and 1930’s, covering such artists as Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell and Blind Lemon Jefferson. His expanding love of blues music later moved him to take up the electric guitar and study the stylings of Muddy Waters, Guitar Slim and B.B. King. Tom became especially noted for his intricate, clean slide guitar playing and for his ability to play harmonica and guitar simultaneously. Besides performing his solo blues act, the late 70′s was a period of intense wood shedding as Bluesman continued to teach himself electric guitar by listening to old blues records from the 60’s and 70’s.

Tom’s first public electric guitar gig was a stint with a black gospel group in the late 70’s. In his travels to churches around Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, his exposure to gospel’s impassioned vocals was to inspire his singing forever. Then one night in June of 1979, Tom decided to spice up his solo act by inviting a couple of his gospel buddies to back him up on bass guitar and drums for a set of electric blues. The response was immediate and overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and that night the Tom Larsen Blues Band was born.

 

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In the late 70’s most people had not been exposed to blues, so from the start the idea was to present the music in an entertaining way that would get the audience to party and above all to make them dance. Tom’s performing developed during this era when a performer had to reach out and involve the audience in order to win them over and keep their attention. The Bluesman quickly became known for his showmanship, which included walking around the club playing slide guitar with outrageous objects.

As a bandleader, Bluesman realized early on that it was futile to try and get local musicians with no blues background to sound like the old records he grew up with. Tom developed a knack for getting the best available talent and showcasing each musician’s forte during the show. Eventually, the blending of Tom’s blues vocals, harp and guitar with the funk bass styles and aggressive drumming in vogue during the 70’s and 80’s evolved into what is now the signature Larsen sound: upbeat, danceable blues driven by a tight, funky, progressive rhythm section. Although his personnel have changed over the years, this highly original style has remained constant.

 

Band 80's

 

Along with this fusion of music styles came experimentation with original songs and by the mid 80’s Tom was writing and performing his own material. His repertoire had always included highly original versions of other artist’s songs, so the step to creating his own tunes was a natural one. Tom’s music has been covered by Johnny Winter and recorded by Delbert McClinton, Roy Buchannan, and Tinsley Ellis. His music has been featured in movie soundtracks, commercials, and many of his songs are in the repertoires of regional acts looking to perk up their shows with a Larsen tune.

With ten CD’s of his own songs recorded, the Bluesman has the enviable distinction of being able to perform a show on any given night that is predominantly, if not totally, all-original. He is constantly exploring new beats and styles of funky music and adding fresh, new rhythms to the pliable palette of old school blues.

 

Bio Current

 

In the past few years the Bluesman has also returned to his roots, paying tribute to his original influences by adding his unique versions of the classic blues, funk and soul songs he cut his teeth on, to the delight of the band’s many fans.

Starting in the late 70’s, continuing throughout the 80’s, 90’s, 2000′s and now into an astonishing fifth decade, Bluesman Tom Larsen has carved out an undeniable niche all his own on the cutting edge of modern blues. Never content to follow the rules and copy the old styles, Tom continues to forge his own distinct trail in the blues world.

Name Dropping: Acts Tom Has Played With

BLUES

 

Albert Collins

Albert King

J.B. Hutto

Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphay

James Cotton

Johnny ‘Clyde’ Copeland

Bo Diddley

Bobby Rush

Buddy Guy

Clarence ‘Gatemaouth’ Brown

Roomful of Blues

Lonnie Mack

Sherman Robertson

Rod Piazza

Roy Book Binder

Roy Buchannan

Sunnyland Smith

Booba Barnes

John Lee Hooker

Leon Redbone

Jimmy Vaughan—Fabulous Thunderbirds

The Holmes Brothers

Otis Clay

Bobby Parker

Johnny Lang

Tinsley Ellis

Jessie Yawn

Nighthawks

Johnny Winter

 

Thorogoodjam

SOUL

James Brown

Junior Walker and the All-Stars

ROCK

Robin Trower

Alvin Lee

Elvin Bishop

Steppenwolf

Leslie West-Mountain

Guess Who

Outlaws

Molly Hatchet

Marshall Tucker

Wet Willie

The Band

Fog Hat

Dave Mason

George Thorogood

Jerry Lee Lewis

Kenny Wayne Sheppard

Jason Bonham

Pat Travers

Greasy: The Bluesman's Influences

I’m often asked who my influences are, who inspired me. Sometimes it’s a standard boiler plate question from a reporter for a story in a newspaper, and quite often it’s from a fan or curious fellow musician wondering where the heck I got some of the licks I’m playing.

I have to say a word or two up front about how things influence me. Style, attitude, and approach influence me, not particular guitar licks or harp or vocal phrases. When an artist blows me away, I don’t run out and go crazy trying to cop their licks and copy their style. My two favorite blues artists that influenced me the most, I don’t sound like at all- I don’t play their licks or sing like them, dress like them or want to be them. Their total approach and their music inspired me to be ME.

For acoustic blues my man is Blind Lemon Jefferson. One man, one guitar, a total, self-contained blues giant. His biggest influence on me was his songwriting. Every verse says something very real and to the point about whatever he’s singing about in a very bluesy and even poetic way. Great lyrics and you really get to know the man by his music. I love his attitude- he sings about the very things that I live and I know from my own life. My Man!

Plus, as a guitarist he was so unique that he is virtually un-copyable. To play one of his songs is a real challenge, and all anyone can do is take a stab at a general aproximation of his phrasing and licks and how it’s woven into his singing. That sums up the influence right there: he had a style that was all his own-he didn’t sound like anyone else, before or since. How cool is that?

He had a song called Catman Blues, where he was bemoaning the fact that the catman was sneaking into his house and doing his wife. I felt like he was singing it to me and I sat down and wrote my Catman song about the joys of BEING said Catman. (See, I told you life is interesting in TL World).

There’s an interview in the next tab below on this page by a reporter from the Baltimore Blues Society newsletter. In it I mention a story about when we played with Booba Barnes in Virginia Beach one night. Check out the article for the whole story, but the gist of it was what their guitar player said to me after our first set: “You don’t sound like nobody!! We play all over the country and festivals in Europe and when you hear a band, you can always tell who the guitar player learned from. You got something there- you don’t sound like nobody!”

I get some well-meaning criticism from folks occasionally about not going out to see more live music and not being up on the latest music out there by other artists. Point taken- I really should. The reason I don’t is that for years I was so busy playing five nights a week that I just didn’t have the time or energy to go out on a night off. The other reason was a conscious decision on my part back in the 80′s to insulate myself with my band and my playing and go out on stage every gig and expand, explore and experiment, stretching the boundaries, reaching for a lick that I heard in my head and never played before. I got the basics from the old records, but most of what I do I developed on my own, live on stage over the years.

For electric blues my man was Guitar Slim. The Things I Used To Do is my all-time favorite electric blues record. That one song is the epitome of blues for me. Excellent, soulful, heartfelt vocals, tight band, great songwriting, and a guitar style that, once again, is unique, original and instantly recognizable. His band was hip, uptown and almost jazzy (that particular session had Ray Charles on piano!!), but Slim was so GREASY and so COUNTRY (both compliments in TL World) that the song just kills me, even after all these years.

I really like his songwriting too- very raw, emotional and very real. No filler, no fluff- straight, no chaser blues, very direct and very powerful. MY MAN!

For harp, my man was Papa Lightfoot. Insane tone, unreal phrasing, very horn-like. And SO different and SO country! I love it!

More on this subject down the road- I got some chicken thighs cooking in my cast-iron dutch oven and they’re callin’ my name! -TL

Bluesman Interview from the Baltimore Blues Society Bluesrag

Interviewer: Bill Camp

The old saying states that the most fun to be had can be found in your own back yard. The adage can be applied to music as well. Maryland native Tom Larsen has been playing the state and the entire east coast for over 22 years, increasing a solid fan base due to a constant touring schedule. A breakthrough came in the spring of 2001, when he and his band were invited to play the Chesapeake Bay Blues festival, along with George Thorogood and Jonny Lang.

My first Larsen gig dates back to circa 1980, when he would play at the Washington College campus coffee house. Not only did the guitar playing blow the roof off, the performance matched it note for note! While playing, he would walk on the bar, into the ladies room and strut around outside, never missing a lick. Since those days, the skinny guitarist has bulked up from a strict weight training and power-lifting regimen, playing the role of performer and bouncer simultaneously.

The Baltimore area may not have the musical wealth of Chicago or New Orleans, but with Tom Larsen playing his Rickenbacher and Gibson all over the region, we can’t complain too much.

Q: You were originally inspired by the acoustic blues of Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. What about the music attracted you?

A: A good number of people of my generation, musicians and fans alike, got into the blues by listening to the rock bands of the 60s who played blues material, like the Stones, Cream, etc. I heard a lot of that music but at the time, I liked folk music. Along with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie there were blues musicians like Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy who were part of the folk music revival in the 50s and 60s. I really liked the acoustic blues guy and being the inquisitive type, I started searching out records of the generation before them, that they learned from. For example, Leadbelly was a “lead boy” for Blind Lemon Jefferson and cited him as a major influence. Well, when I got a hold of my first Blind Lemon record, that was it. That music hit me really hard – it was honest, direct and real, and it was just one guy with one guitar. I felt the same way about Robert Johnson – the depth of emotion really spoke to me, the women, the hard living, the traveling – it was right up my alley. It was how I felt. I already lived that life and had hitchhiked across the country several times, riding in box cars, played music in the streets, worked at odd jobs, fought forest fires out West and hustled to stay alive. Blind Lemon is one of my favorite lyricists and I learned how to play slide from the old Robert Johnson “King of the Delta Blues” records.

Q: Gospel was also influential, particularly in your vocals. Tell us about that period when you assembled your band out of the church.

A. After a long period of rambling, having lived in Austin, Texas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, New Orleans and Prescott, Arizona, I knew that I wanted to play music as a profession. I also knew that I needed to do some serious woodshedding and really get my technique together. I came back to the Eastern Shore and started putting in six and eight hour days practicing. I had a decent repertoire of acoustic blues by then and that’s what I played when I did gigs. By this time, I had also gotten into electric blues and liked Freddie King, Elmore James and especially Guitar Slim. There was no “blues scene:” on the Eastern Shore, no resident old-timers to learn from, no bands to jam with and no videos or instruction books at the local music store, I had to teach myself by listening to records. I was taking some music courses at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, a predominately black school that used to be Maryland State. I heard there was an opening in their gospel choir for a guitar player and since I needed to get out and play my electric in public, it was good for me at the time. I was raised in the Methodist Church but that was pretty tame with just an organ for accompaniment. These folks had organ, piano, bass and drums. Drums in church – that was a new one for me, and they were getting’ down! The really cool thing about it was that I was exposed to some great singing. We did appearances in black churches around Maryland, Delaware and Virginia and I got to see the Gospel Keynotes, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Consolers, Shirley Caeser and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. The vocal styles inspired me to work at being a vocalist in my bands (I had originally wanted to be a back-up in someone else’s band.)

I also came to appreciate good preaching. A good preacher is like a jazz musician: they state the theme, embellish it, riff on it, take it all over and build things up to a fever pitch, then jam the message on home. By that time everybody feels the spirit and is “getting happy.” Quite a bit different from the church background I came from and it was quite an experience. I’d like to think that our shows (Tom Larsen Band) have some of that energy and intensity that can leave an audience drained but satisfied. I eventually got out of gospel music because I didn’t feel I was living the life that went with playing the music. I made some good friends among the musicians and most of my bands always had black members – those were the guys I knew and started out with.

One of the first full electric blues gigs I ever did was with Pipsi and Reesy James, a couple of my gospel buddies. We used to jam blues in Princess Anne in the back of the “colored” barbershop, and word got around. Their aunt was having a class reunion and they had us come play some blues. It was the class of ’53 and since the schools were segregated back then, this was the black class of ’53. It was really a treat for me to be up playing B.B. King and Jimmy Reed and having a dance floor full of people jitterbugging and doing the stroll, etc. That gig brought home to me in a very real way that this music is not some dry, historical stuff from some old archives; it was and still is party music that was meant to be danced to. I never forgot that and in all my bands, I’ve always worked at making the music danceable.

We were a big hit at the reunion and had a lot of fun . As usual, I was the only white person around for miles but I was used to it by then and it certainly didn’t matter to them. There used to be a lot of discussion back then (the 70’s) about whether white people could play or sing good blues. Some of that still exists today, believe it or not, but that comes almost entirely from white people. I call them the Blues Police. They’re people who, for some reason, consider themselves qualified to determine what is and what isn’t “real blues”, how it should be played and who should play it. Later for them. I never got any of that from black people and I’ve played for many black audiences over the years. If it’s real and you really fell it and live it, that’s what counts and that comes across and you get over. If you’re just “frontin’” that shows, too.

Around that time, I was doing my solo act over in Ocean city at the original Talbot Street Café and thought I’d spice things up one night by bringing in bass and drums. Talbot Street was a sit-down and listen place at that time, but we changed all that. When Pipsi, Reesy and I launched into some Elmore James the place erupted! Everybody jumped up, knocked tables over and started to boogie! A light came on in my brain and in that instant, I saw my future. Instead of playing acoustic guitar in coffeehouses, I’d play electric blues in places where there was a dance floor. That was how I could be a musician and earn enough money to live on. Pipsi and Reesy had other commitments but I soon put together another trio. I had been working at a factory in Fruitland, MD and it paid well, but I made the ballsy move to quit and make a go of it as a full-time musician. The Tom Larsen Blues Band was off and running in June of 1979. While I’m not rich (and nobody left me any money) I can say that I’ve made a full time living playing music for almost 23 years.

Q: Establishing a career in the blues was difficult in the late seventies, when disco, new wave and punk were proliferating. To set your band apart from other blues performers, you added bass players with a funky groove, and drummers that did much more than keep a beat. How did audiences respond to that?

A. To continue the story line, I now worked on putting a trio together and working up a repertoire. I had an idea of doing a lot of classic electric blues and selecting the more uptempo numbers from B.B., Albert, Muddy, Junior Wells, etc. I also wanted to keep things true to the originals and sound close to the records. As I mentioned, there were no blues clubs around my home territory and to hear live blues I had to drive all the way over to D.C. to catch Son Seals at the ChildeHerolde or Muddy at the Bayou. I used to see Roomful of Blues when Duke Robillard was with them and I loved that approach. When they played a T-Bone song or a Guitar Slim tune you could hear the scratches on the record! Very true to the original, and I wanted to do something along those lines. However, it didn’t work out like that. This was the seventies and in my area, nobody knew any blues. The rock guys might play an Allman Brothers tune off “Live at the Fillmore” or something, but they didn’t get blues at all. I used to get a lot of flack about playing blues because I wasn’t good enough to play rock. On the Eastern Shore, if you couldn’t play Skynyrd note-for-note and didn’t play the current cover music, you weren’t doing shit. At least the black guys knew from playing in church that there is a time for playing different grooves in different music, so I had a starting place to build on. If I said, “Make this one ‘down home’”, or “make this one ‘fatback’” etc., they got it. But these guys were also into everything from Parliament/Funkadelic to Earth, Wind, and Fire to Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clark, so if I said, “Make this one funky,” it came out funk! Either way, nobody cared about listening to old records to cop the tune as it was originally played and my idea of doing a close copy went out the window. The important point was that I had talented musicians to play with and my trio was on the way. When we went to play, the fact that some of our grooves were more contemporary helped us get people’s attention and keep them dancing. I went on to accept this mix of styles and eventually embrace it and write around it. Aggressive rocking drums with slap/pop/funk bass mixed in with my blues guitar and harp became my signature sound, and that’s still true today.

In the early days the drinking age was 18 and a lot more clubs had bands on a lot more nights. I pieced together a circuit from Virginia to New York and we played 25, 29 and even 30 nights a month. I did all the bookings myself; I had to, because all the regional agencies worked with cover bands and we didn’t fit in with that scene. Typically I’d wake up around noon and grab the phone and do bookings and promotion until around 4:00, grab a shower and head out to the night’s gig. That was the daily routine, over and over: bookings, drive to the gig, do the show, pack up, drive to the next gig, crash, get up and do bookings, etc. All that work meant that I could offer my band members a chance to go full time with no day job, which is every musician’s dream. That right there got me some great musicians over the years. It also helped to give them plenty of room to shine an display their talent and not just keep them in a background role. All my guys get solos throughout the night. I got that from the jazz guys I knew. Back in the 70s I did a record with Joe Byrd, the stand-up bassist in his brother Charlie’s band. His record was jazzy blues, kind of like Moses Allison, and I played harp on it. I’d go hang out and hear Charlie Byrd trio play and each member of the band took a solo on every song. I don’t take it that far but rhythm section solos have always been a part of my shows and it’s one of the things we’re known for. It’s not about the “Wonderful TL” showcasing his mighty talent and taking endless guitar or harp solos on every song. To me the band is the instrument and the overall sound the unit puts out and how it moves the audience is the point. We’re all in it together and without the support of the guys that have played with me over the years, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I started out pretty raw and I’ve learned something from every one of them. Everyone in the band contributes ideas and it’s always been that way.

My parents’ generation came up in the Swing Era and I used to think it was quaint when one of their friends would describe my profession as “bandleader”. Their frame of reference was either classical or big band and I guess they thought I was Tommy Dorsey or somebody, touring with an orchestra. Funny thing is though, in a way it wasn’t far off. I’ve put together some really tight bands over the years and I’m really proud of my guys and what they’ve accomplished. Typically they play with me for four or five years and go on to form their own groups. Some years back I was headlining a small blues festival in Delaware that had five bands in it, and each band had members who used to play with me. That’s pretty cool. I do occasional band booking on the side and I only work with guys I used to have in my band. I know they are professional, show up on time, stay sober and put on a good show.

I’ve been asked many times over the years why I don’t add a horn, keyboard or another guitar. Coming from a background of playing solo and having to carry the whole show alone, to me, having bass and drums is like having a whole orchestra. We’re known for having a full, fat sound for three guys and I’ve never exhausted the possibilities of what can be done with a trio. I still find this format challenging and exciting.

Getting back to your question about how it was starting out, it was tough. I’ve lived through all the musical trends from the seventies until now. There was country rock, southern rock, disco, punk, new wave, urban cowboy, heavy metal, big hair rock, alternative, grunge, etc. etc. with me out there playing blues. I did get gigs at some places where blues was accepted like Charlie’s West Side in Annapolis and No Fish Today and later the Fat Chance Saloon in Baltimore, but mostly we were out there in the rock clubs, going toe-to-toe with all the popular bands of the day. For example, I had one of the only blues bands to every play the old Hammerjacks, the hard rock capital of the east coast. We did four or five SRO shows with Johnny Winter in the 80s. I developed my performances in that environment, and with a nod to Guitar Slim, that’s where I added the 200 foot guitar cord with me walking around the club playing slide with beer bottles, chairs, tables, etc., walking out into the parking lot and throwing snowballs – whatever it took to get people’s attention and keep it. The band played aggressively and I was aggressive, taking the blues out to a rock audience that knew little or nothing about blues. One night we‘d be playing at a college frat party, the next night we’d be at a yuppie G. Q. blahblah bar, the next at a headbanger (heavy metal) bar, the next at a redneck roadhouse or backwoods fire hall dance; the next at a beach bar in Ocean City, all the while playing music 90% of the people had never heard before. I played in gay-owned discos in the 80s and played so many biker functions that the police in my own state heard I was a member of the Pagans. All the prostitutes, strip club dancers, drug dealers, and heavy characters of all descriptions knew and supported us. We were outside the mainstream and so were they and they recognized us a fellow misfits. We played up north regularly and had a following up in New York. Some of the “wise guys” knew us too. Vinnie Pastore (starred on “The Sopranos” and many other gangster roles) had a nightclub in New Rochelle, NY and we were favorites there. After hours we’d go out to some pretty heavy places that I can’t go into.

Although we had a big cult following we never managed to break nationally. Some people didn’t dig us because we weren’t rock enough and of course, the Blues Police dissed us because we weren’t traditional. But I have no apologies to make; my blues reflected and reflects the time and place I came up in. This isn’t 1955, I’m not from Chicago or Mississippi and I’m not going to pretend I am. While I’m on the subject let me put it in print once and for all: to the Blues Police I say that Muddy came up to Chicago playing like Robert Johnson, but to adapt to his new time and place he went electric. He developed a new style and did what he needed to do to take the blues to the people and get over. That process is the true “blues tradition” – learning to play by studying the masters who came before, adding your own personal style and coming up with something your own. Blues is rooted in tradition, but it evolves. That is what I’ve done and I’m proud of it –I got my own groove.

One of the coolest memories was crossing paths with Booba Barnes once in Virginia Beach. We were booked on a Thursday night and were all set up and kicked back eating dinner before the show. In walks Booba and his band, who were scheduled for Friday night. They’d had a cancellation, and being out on the road a long way from home, they decided to blow in early and hang out, jam and maybe build up some advance buzz for their show on Friday. After some friendly introductions and musician chit-chat the club manager came up to me with a proposition: Booba and his band wanted to open for us. They open for us?!? I said no, if anything we should open for them. This guy is the real deal, has been around forever paying his dues, owns his own juke joint in Mississippi and plays all over – it didn’t set right with me that they open for us. I was voted down however – the guy that pays you always wins. Booba and his guys did a set of raw blues that was really great, with Booba wandering around the room playing harp. He did a Howlin’ Wolf imitation that was spot-on. They really did a number on the crowd then we went up and turned up the heat from the first tune and played our hottest stuff, all ours because by then (late 80s) we were playing mostly originals. When we came off for the break the guitarist from Booba’s band was very enthusiastic and talkative. What he said ranks up there as one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten:” You don’t sound like nobody! We play shows and festivals, all over the country and over in Europe, and when you hear other bands you can always tell who the guitar player learned from; one guy sounds like BB, one sounds like Albert – you don’t sound like nobody ! Keep on doing it your own way, ‘cause you got something there.” That was great encouragement at the time and it helped me to keep going during tough times.

Being different has meant a long, hard haul, but now it’s starting to pay off. These days a lot more people know about blues; there are blues bands all over the place. (In fact, a lot of the rock guys who used to put me down in the 80s for playing blues now have blues bands! ha ha!) Being different now makes us stand out and sets us apart from everyone else, and that’s a good thing.

Q: Slide playing is a talent that isn’t seen as much as it was a decade ago. What inspired you to pick up a bottleneck?

A. As I said earlier, I picked slide from the old Robert Johnson records. Once I figured out that he was using a different tuning for slide (open G), it started to come together. I worked at it until I could do some of his tunes fairly closely. When I later moved into electric slide and started working on open D tuning my background from acoustic slide made it easier to pick up on Elmore James, Hound dog Taylor, etc. I heard a lot more music in my head than those guys played and I worked for quite a while on the technique that would enable me to play what I felt inside. Slide is very comfortable for me and I probably express my wild side best there. Whatever rep I have as a guitar player is usually tied up with slide. I play acoustic slide on a metal body dobro I got in the 70s and I play electric on an old SG junior. The SG is great because it has a double cutaway and I can play really high notes on it when I feel like taking it up there.

My slide has a pretty cool story to it. It’s a bottleneck from an actual bottle of wine. I bought the wine in a liquor store in Dallas, Texas just because I thought the neck would make a good slide. I broke the bottle and ground the rough edges off on a sidewalk curb. What amazed me was that when I put the slide on my pinky to see how it fit, there was an imperfection in the glass that I hadn’t seen when I bought it. It was a little ridge or edge in the glass on the inside and it lined up exactly with the last joint of my pinky, securing the slide like a handle. It was an exact fit, like it was custom made for me. I call it “the slide from God” and I knew that I was destined to play some rowdy slide with it. Of all the bottles in that store, and all the stores in the world, I chose that one; and of all the ways that bottle could have broken off, it broke just right. It was a gift – it was meant to be. With all the whacked out playing I’ve done over the years, that perfect fit has kept the slide on securely. Slide on!

Q: Your songs have been covered by Johnny Winter, Delbert McClinton, Roy Buchanan and Tinsley Ellis. Has that helped solidify a reputation on the blues scene?

A. I’m not sure how widely known I am nationally. We’ve played in Boston, Buffalo and Memphis and people always show up and know who we are. The songwriting has certainly helped. When I first started out Alligator was one of the only blues labels around doing current artists. I sent them some songs hoping to get signed. We weren’t traditional enough (sound familiar?), but Bruce Iglauer liked my writing and took some of the songs to his artists. That’s how Johnny Winter ended up recording “Looking For Trouble” on the “Winter of ‘88” release. That was a real thrill for me because Johnny was one of the guys whose records I worked out on guitar with. His acoustic slide on one of his first albums on a song called “Dallas” was just blazin’, when he recorded my tune it put me on the map as a songwriter and was a real honor. I’ve done a whole bunch of shows with him over the years, the last one in the mid-90’s up in Scranton, PA. He took me on the tour bus after the show and said, “Keep on doing what you do – you’re one of my favorite guys.” That was intense.

As far as songwriting goes I have a lot of tunes that would be great for other artists and I should try harder to get them out there. I haven’t sent Bruce anything for a while although he has said it’s always welcome, He’s still trying to interest people in “Too Old to Rock and Roll.” Tinsley Ellis recorded it with Duck Dunn on bass and Tom Dowd producing but it didn’t make it on the last CD. I enjoy coming up with new tunes and that’s all we play when we do gigs. People know my music and request their favorites by name. That’s a great place to be as a songwriter and you can’t ask for much more than that.

As to why we’re not a national act that is a question I get a lot and there’s no simple answer. Too much, too soon, wrong place, wrong time, it’s hard to say. I don’t make excuses. Too blues, not blues enough, too progressive, whatever. Doing all originals puts us even further into the “where-the-hell-do-we- put-them?” category. The other reason is one I’ve never mentioned in an interview because I’m very protective of my private life. I’m a single dad and have a 15 year old son that I’ve raised since his mom split when he was two. Although opportunities came up, I passed because it was important to be there for him. I didn’t want my wife to go, but there was nothing I could do about that. But I was damned if I was going to give my son up. I had to go to court and fight for him but I got a good lawyer and won 50/50 custody back in the days when men typically got only visitation. I stayed on a circuit that was 3 to 5 hours away so I could get home and take care of the home routine every Monday. It’s difficult being out on the road with a nighttime schedule from Thursday –Sunday and then getting up at 6:30 during the week to get him to school, but we make it work. Now that he’s older I’m able to travel more and I’m staying on top of the business so when the next break comes we’ll be ready to roll.

Q: Give us your opinion of the state of blues today, and the direction you want to take.

A. The current state of the blues is very positive. There are lots of blues festivals, blues societies forming all over, more clubs running blues and more people playing blues than ever before. It’s great to see the younger people getting into it and more women too. There’s room for everybody. The traditional-oriented groups provide the important function of keeping the older styles alive in a live setting. The houserockers are coming from a more rock direction and are out there raising hell. The progressive guys are updating the blues with R&B and making the music more contemporary.

As for myself, I’ll continue on the path I’ve always been on, which is to do all three styles. The mix depends on the audience we have. Every show we do has some down-home, traditional tunes and definitely some rockers mixed in. But I’ve always leaned towards the progressive side and the tunes I’ve written for our upcoming CD are definitely expanding the boundaries of blues with fresh grooves. A songwriter’s best workshop is a live audience and if the response we’re getting is any indication, we’re onto something hot. I’m working to get the music out to more people by playing more festivals. Closed the show on the 2nd stage on Saturday, May 18th at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival; that was the first step. We’re being flown out to a big festival at the California-Oregon border in September to headline the Friday night show and that’s cool to go nationwide. We’re ready for it, and finally, I think the blues world is ready for us.

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