Keys, Songs and Questions from “King King”

Posted in red devils, related music with tags , , , , on July 23, 2014 by automatic32

The standing joke about blues music is that to play it you only have to learn three chords and be able to play in a corresponding number of keys. At your average blues jam on a random night in Anywhere, USA, one would expect to run into a whole boatload of songs in E, A and G with few tunes straying from this trio. On the cuts that made “King King” The Red Devils certainly leaned on some from that lot, but the variations are quite interesting.
King King
As follows in order of appearance (all songs listed are in the keys of the stringed instruments, all harmonica keys should be assumed to be in “second position” or “cross harp” unless otherwise noted):

1. Automatic — E
2. Goin’ to the Church — E
3. She’s Dangerous — E
4. I Wish You Would — A
5. Cross Your Heart — B-flat, harmonica in key of B-flat/first position
6. Taildragger — E
7. Devil Woman — D
8. No Fightin’ — B
9. Mr. Highway Man — E
10. I’m Ready — E
11. Quarter to Twelve — E
12. Cut That Out — B
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Snake Snake at the Blue Cafe 1997

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , on May 21, 2014 by J.J.

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We have written about Snake Snake before, believing a band with that brilliant a name could only be a myth.

But here they are — Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell, Stephen Hodges and Lester Butler — on a June 13, 1997, at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach, Calif.

Funny that this was right after the release of “13 featuring Lester Butler” and several 13 dates.

“They didn’t play any songs from ‘King King’!”

Posted in red devils with tags , on April 27, 2014 by J.J.

Mike Mullahy in Wigan, England, cc’ed us on an email he sent to Paul Rees on the Classic Rock article. It would be great if Devils fans keep the conservation going in letters like this to Classic Rock.

Just wanna say thanks to you (and Billy Gibbons!) for the great article on The Red Devils in Classic Rock 195.

I bought the “King King” album the week it came out in ’92 (think I must’ve heard a track on Paul Jones’ blues show on Radio 2?) and was immediately blown away by its power and rawness. I think I played it every day for the next six months.

kingking_vinylMy mates were hooked too and so you can imagine our surprise and delight to see the band were playing at the 1993 Phoenix Festival that we already had tickets for. So on the Saturday afternoon of the festival we all stumbled into a tent where the band were due to play and waited eagerly along with only a handful of others to hear the “King King” album in all it’s live glory. However, the band didn’t play any of the songs from “King King” so we were slightly disappointed, but the band were still smoking’.

Then in 1994 I read in Sounds that the band were due to tour the UK so I bought a ticket for Manchester University — ticket number 0001! — only to hear on the radio that the band had canceled the tour. When I went to the box office to get a refund I asked why they had canceled and was told they landed in London, did a gig that night, fell out with each other and went back home. Should’ve kept a photocopy of the ticket!

Anyway, thanks for the article and thanks for the mention of the nofightin.com website, great resource.

Cheers pal,

Mike Mullahy
Wigan, England

PS: I’ve got the “Blackwater Roll” EP, if there is a dirtier blues riff out there than the one on “The Hook” then I ain’t heard it!

Classic Rock: Finding the real story in the grooves

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2014 by J.J.

Photo Apr 07, 8 56 57 PM

With Classic Rock 195 now out in the U.S. — the U.K. Queen cover replaced by Slash — The Red Devils’ story is being read by more people than ever before.

Seeing high praise from Billy Gibbons and Rick Rubin, not to mention the Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash connections, it is hard to fathom the band won’t belatedly pick up a few new fans.

Photo Apr 07, 1 10 56 PM

Reaction to the magazine last month, where it was first released in Europe, was strong. Seeing the band’s young faces, so vivid on glossy paper, tucked among rock royalty through the pages, was a treat.

Described on the U.S. cover as “cult heroes,” The Red Devils’ story is so much more than that. “King King” was just a moment in time; the lifespan of the “famous” Red Devils — Butler, Bateman, Bartel, Bartel and Size — was only about two years, the length of “The Kid’s” stay in the band.

The Red Devils’ legacy is built on woulda-coulda-shoulda: How many bands are featured in a book called “The Greatest Music Never Sold” and a magazine article subtitled “The greatest bands you’ve never heard”?

Unfortunately the band’s bullet points — a little neighborhood blues band gets discovered, finds fame, tours the world, breaks up, the singer eventually dying much too young — are almost too easy to tell. It doesn’t play as well for the real lives found in between the grooves. And a four-page article, or one chapter of a book, cannot contain the whole story.

I still believe the real story lies somewhere on those nights, playing for a barroom full of friends and fans, creating music and memories that would still be as vivid nearly a quarter century later.

Red Devils at Red Rocks, 93/94

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on April 6, 2014 by J.J.

The Red Devils performed two times at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the famous Colorado open-air venue built into a rock formation. Most famous (for guys my age, at least) for an iconic performance by U2 for 1983’s “Under a Blood Red Sky,” Red Rocks hosts concerts regularly.

From the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in Denver:

“The Blues on the Rocks series on Sept. 5 has a full circle of blues: Legends B.B. King, Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy will mix it up with young guitar slinger Eric Johnson and newcomers, the Red Devils (a band that is a favorite of Mick Jagger).” (April 16, 1993)

“Blues on the Rocks at Red Rocks (Sept. 21): B.B. King, Dr. John, Little Feat, the All-Star Tribute to Muddy Waters and the Red Devils heat up the rocks starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 at TicketMaster, Sound Warehouse and other locations.” (May 22, 1994)

Notable is that, if the timeline holds up, the Sept. 5, 1993, date was one day before the band recorded its session with Johnny Cash and for its second album.

1995: Inside Lester Butler’s ‘lost year’

Posted in lester butler with tags , , , on March 23, 2014 by J.J.

In the wake of the Classic Rock article, there seems to be more talk and memories about The Red Devils than there has been in years. Much of it is happening on Facebook, and nofightin.com has seen a surge in visitors.lester_moulin_promo

One story that has come back around is by Rob Neighbors, called “My Time with Blues Legend, Lester Butler.” It was posted last week on the Delta Groove website, but was first posted on Neighbors’ site, Hollywood or Die, in October 2011.

The account fills in the day-to-day about what could be thought of as Butler’s “lost year,” 1995 — lost at least in terms of national prominence. It was clearly after the heyday of The Red Devils, and before the formation of 13 and his renaissance in Europe. Time when he was playing pickup gigs and local shows.

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Classic Rock: Fear and loathing in The Red Devils

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2014 by J.J.

The Red Devils in Classic Rock #195

Classic Rock #195

From their amazing music to the devastating effects of drugs, The Red Devils’ story is told this month in a compelling piece by writer Paul Rees in the new issue of Classic Rock Magazine.

Issue #195, with Queen on the cover, is out in the UK and in digital editions now.

Rees has done a stellar job on the Devils’ tale. The article, part of an in-issue series on “the greatest cult bands of all time,” is a worthy companion to Dan Leroy’s chapter on the band in “The Greatest Music Never Sold.”

Driving the Classic Rock story (titled “Fear and Loathing in Hollywood”) are fresh interviews with Jonny Ray Bartel, Bill Bateman, Alex Schultz, Billy Gibbons, Rick Rubin and Lester Butler’s sister, Ginny Tura.

And new facts and side items are unearthed. Never before have the band members talked so openly about the troubles that destroyed the band, and led to Butler’s horrible — if inevitable — death.

The story is well worth picking up. Here are some impressions:

  • Rees traces The Red Devils beginnings to earlier than the Blue Shadows in 1988. He says that band was initially called The Stumblebums in 1986.
  • Rubin’s two edicts for signing the band: Change the name, and hire a guitarist. Enter Paul Size.
  • Though “King King” sounds like the best set of blues ever, it was recorded over three successive Mondays at the club.
  • “That session is incredible. You’d have to ask Mick why he never chose to release it.” Even Rick Rubin can’t get the Jagger sessions released. If they were, they would likely lead, even at this late date, to recognition for the Devils, and new critical and commercial assessments of Jagger’s solo career.
  • Bateman claims Butler “had actually clinically died four times in previous years.” His account of Butler waking up in the morgue under a sheet is almost impossible to believe.
  • Dave Lee Bartel dropped out of the band in Dallas in a dispute over pay. Meanwhile, Butler was trying to hire all new band members. This all happened before their legendary European tour in early 1993.
  • The details of the night of Butler’s death, Bateman’s role in the night and the aftermath, are harrowing.

Rees included a comment by me in the article, giving some perspective from a fan. I made that reference to Brian Eno’s Velvet Underground comment before. To me, it fits here.

When I talk with people about “King King” — granted, the results are biased because I often meet them through this blog — they agree that it is essential and, for some, life-changing (or, at least, blues-changing).

Even all these years later, that passion continues to speak to the chemistry and abilities of five guys at a Monday night blues show in an old Chinese restaurant.

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