Mike Flanigin on tour 1992 with The Red Devils: “We were a gang … mowed everybody down”

Posted in red devils with tags , , , on December 4, 2016 by J.J.

IMG_0577In the spring of 2015, Mike Flanigin opened his Austin, Texas, home and opened up about his time in The Red Devils.

Flanigin became the band’s second guitarist during its critical club tour through the U.S. In 1992, replacing Dave Lee Bartel.

But his connection to the band started before he was drafted one night in Dallas: Flanigin had already been associated with lead guitarist Paul Size, who he reunited with again in Texas after The Red Devils imploded.

Today, Flanigin is the go-to Hammond B3 player for Jimmie Vaughan (the two are off to New York Dec. 9 for a show with Steve Miller honoring T-Bone Walker) and Billy Gibbons (Flanigin toured and recorded with Rev. Gibbons’ solo BFG Band). He also has a sprawling musical travelogue called “The Drifter,” released last year, which is an all-star tour through American roots music.

But more than 20 years earlier, he was a key part of keeping the hottest blues band in America chugging up and down the highway.

In a nearly two-hour interview, Flanigin talked about his own musical journey, his relationship with The Red Devils members, road stories — including the infamous “destroyed hotel” story — and so much more. The Q&A is edited only for space and clarity; further comments will publish later with more photos, audio and video.

It was a laid-back, familiar conversation that was exciting to be a part of. We bounced from topic to topic; hope you can keep up.

[Apologies for the ridiculous delay on this … life and all. All photos by Tina Hanagan.]

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Mike: I was fairly old when I started playing. I think my first gig was 24 or something like that.

Interviewer: Really? So and you’re from Denton?

Mike: My dad was in the Air Force, and so we were in California when I was young and then we moved to Louisiana — Shreveport. Then we moved to Michigan and then ended up in Denton. My dad retired and so my sisters were going to school in Denton. So that’s how we ended up there. I think when I was about 13 we moved there.

Interviewer: But had you been in music? Had you been playing instruments when you were a kid or how’d you­­ …

Mike: I wasn’t really in a musical household. I always liked music but, I worked at a pawn shop in Denton and it was kind of a music store too, so I’d strum on the guitar or something. But, everybody else in the pawn shop, they were in bands and I thought well they’re good. They seemed like musicians.

I was never that guy. It wasn’t until — I didn’t really know people in bands, I was just kind of out of it — really it wasn’t until I met Johnny Moeller and Jay [Moeller] and Paul Size, they would come in the pawn shop and I had met Anson Funderburgh. Somehow I had stumbled onto a gig for Anson Funderburgh in Dallas. And I talked to Anson and then those guys came in. And so we started talking about Anson.

Of course then they sat down and started to play. I was like, “Well, who are these kids?” Because they were just kids. I don’t know how old they were but 16, Jay was maybe 13 or 14 or something. Paul and Johnny were little kids when I met them. They were in high school. I remember I use to go over to Johnny’s house and his mom would check — I would bring over some cassettes or something — she’d check. She thought I was selling them drugs, going through my cassettes.

Interviewer: Like, why is this older fellow coming by …

Mike: Right, yes. Who is this? Well you know at that age just a few years seems a lot older.

Interviewer: Right, right and why are you hanging out with him?

Mike: Especially their kids are that young. It’s weird because music bonds you but I probably wouldn’t have been hanging out with a kid in high school at that age, and it’s not that I was super old but those were guys were talented. Even then, you knew these guys were the best. What was great about Paul — Johnny — everybody knew Johnny was the guy. And Paul idolized Johnny. But Paul just had this natural thing, I think he sounded like Buddy Guy and I don’t even think he had heard Buddy Guy. He just does this stuff and then it all just comes pouring out and it’s this. You’ve seen it right?

Interviewer: Right, right. Yes.

Mike: No hesitation. He’s not preoccupied with trying to sound like a particular guy or whatever.

Interviewer: Just presence.

Mike: It’s just pouring out and Paul was always real natural like that.

Interviewer: Yes, yes. So, your first instrument, was it organ or was it guitar?

Mike: No, I was playing guitar back then. I didn’t play the organ until, I was 30 maybe was when I started?

How that started was, I was playing at Antone’s. Me and Johnny Moeller and I can’t remember if Paul — I guess Paul was maybe here still before he moved­­ a little bit. But there had to B3 on stage.

Well, I was playing guitar, Johnny’s playing guitar and I was like, “Well Johnny, he’s got the guitar covered. I’ll go try and play the organ.” But I didn’t know how to play keyboard but I would try and play while we had our little gig. Someone said, “Well, find the key and then count up three, that would be a minor. Count up four, that would be a major.” So, that’s how I started. And then when the other bands were playing, Derek [O’Brien] and the house band, I would sneak up there and just try and play the organ. But Doyle Bramhall Sr. hired me after about three months, saw me.

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DVL resurrects Red Devils in 2016

Posted in related music on April 23, 2016 by J.J.

DVL is the name of a “supergroup” of musicians uniting to revive the spirit of The Red Devils in 2016.

The band is Austin blues player Guy Forsyth (Asylum Street Spankers) and three members of UK’s The Hoax — Jon Amor, Robin Davey and Mark Barrett. The Hoax was known for having been inspired by the Devils; DVL’s European tour takes that inspiration full circle.

DVL_2016Let’s let them tell it:

In 2013 after a brief dressing room discussion at the Bluesrock festival in Tegelen NL, Guy Forsyth joined The Hoax on stage for a riotous version of Going To The Church by The Red Devils. “We should do this again” was the inevitable discussion post show. Fast forward a couple of years and after a few emails back and forth DVL was born.

What stands out to me about this tribute vs. some of the others out there is that it focuses on The Red Devils, rather than only Lester Butler, who has become a significant cult figure in Europe 18 years after his death. The landmark “King King” album is too often forgotten in Butler’s cult of personality.

DVL also feels like a complete presentation and band, rather than any type of all-star lineup.

Forsyth emailed me a few weeks ago. I don’t think I am betraying a confidence to say he is a true Red Devils fan since running into the gang in Texas in 1992 and again in Holland in 1993.

The tour runs through August and September. Audiences in the UK, Netherlands and Denmark, take warning.

Tamines 1997 reissue is a miss

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , on December 20, 2015 by J.J.

A new album with the “Lester Butler” name on the cover is a rare thing, but “Live at Tamines 1997” misses the mark for both hardcore fans and newcomers.

From the song selections, to the notes, to the packaging, so little care seems to have been put into this release. While a new disc could both satisfy and fuel Butler fandom, the release by RockBeat Records likely won’t find the audience to justify any more reissues.Live at Tamines 1997

IT’S OLD: The Tamines festival gig has been floating around bootleg circles for years. Most Lester Butler fans — this online and on early tape-swapping lists — have had this recording in their collections for years.

For them, there is nothing new here. Even a bonus track, “Automatic,” from the 1998 Moulin Blues Festival in Ospel, has been widely circulated and seems to be here just to fill out disc two.

IT’S DAUNTING: A double-album like this naturally costs more. That’s a barrier for new fans, who aren’t going to spend more for an artist they aren’t familiar with, and won’t commit to two discs of unheard live material from nearly 20 years ago.

The run times for this live show, helpfully listed on the CD’s back cover, would scare off even the most sturdy blues fan: 9:57, 8:47, 8:30, 6:17, 12:59, 10:39 …

IT’S LAZY: Though there are production and mastering credits, the disc is clearly bootleg-rific. The drums — especially the kick — are too high in the mix. The entire sound is trebly, with very little bass. The crowd participation, which usually helps justify a live release, is inaudible. Clearly, the recording was from a soundboard mix and was not meant to be heard in recorded format.

The laziness extends to the packaging.
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Blow like a Devil

Posted in red devils with tags on November 7, 2015 by J.J.

promo_harpThere is some funky-weird Red Devils merch out there in the world.

If you have 60 Euros you could be the proud owner of a promo Red Devils harmonica, of dubious origin.

Pasi Rytkönen found this harp in a European store. From the pic, it’s hard to tell the make and model of the harmonica, but it looks off-brand with the red band logo on it. The harp appears to come with a little red felt bag with a black “Red Devils” logo on it.

On the Devils Facebook group, Jamie Cassius, who toured with the band and continues to work with The Blasters, said the full-size harp is a fake. “The only promo harps were miniatures, anything else is exploitation,” Cassius said.

1997 Tamines bootleg given mainstream release

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2015 by J.J.

Lester Butler is back — sort of — on the above-board release of the long-bootlegged Tamines show from Aug. 29, 1997, at the 7th South Blues Festival in Belgium.

Live at Tamines 1997The two-disc set “Lester Butler featuring 13 Live at Tamines 1997” comes from RockBeat Records, the same folks who reissued “13 featuring Lester Butler” more than four years ago, with bonus tracks from the Tamines festival, clearly taken from the bootleg that had been circulating for a decade by then.

Here’s the back-cover info from the new release:

Lester Butler was a brilliant harmonica player. He rejuvenated the LA blues scene with his group The Red Devils. After they disbanded, Lester formed a group on Hightone Records featuring a back up band he called 13. The live intensity of this show demonstrates how adept he was singing and playing the blues. He died not long after this show from 1997. The blues was hot and Lester was on fire.

Though Amazon shows a release date of Oct. 2, our copy is already on backorder.

So though we don’t have the physical package in hand just yet, there are a few things we know already:
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Red Devils climb ‘Mountain Stage’ 1992

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by J.J.

At the height of their powers, The Red Devils were heard live on the popular “Mountain Stage” radio program on Oct. 4, 1992, along with Leo Kottke, John Cale and Juliana Hatfield.

Thanks to YouTuber Dominik Ablamowicz, the oft-bootlegged radio program is a little more available.

Ablamowicz uploaded two songs, “Have a Good Time” and “Shake Your Hips,” from that session.

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The Drifter Speaks: Mike Flanigin remembers his time with The Red Devils

Posted in red devils, related music with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2015 by J.J.

  

[Above photo by Tina Hanagan; others courtesy mikeflanigin.com]

A key time in The Red Devils’ history was their U.S. club tour through the U.S.

Holding down guitar duties — and altering the Devils’ sound — was guitarist Mike Flanigin, filling in for rhythm guitarist Dave Lee Bartel. With Flanigin came Texas swagger, a third soloist and a friend to fellow Texan Paul Size.

Back in May, we went to Austin to meet Flanigin, who graciously let us into his home to spend a couple of hours talking about music, The Red Devils and more.

In the coming weeks, we will have several posts from that interview, along with some really cool Red Devils recordings — live audio, live video and studio cuts never-before-seen-or-heard.

Screen+Shot+2015-08-15+at+2.28.53+PMWe caught Flanigin at just the right time: His debut solo album, “The Drifter,” is out Aug. 21. It’s a labor of love for the musician, featuring many of his idols and friends such as Devils fan (and guitarist in that little ol’ band from Texas) Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Alejandro Escovedo, Kat Edmonson and more.

Pick it up here. Or here. Or read cool stuff about it here. And stay tuned to nofightin.com for more.

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