Attached are a few documents — fliers, ads — from our friend Frank Roland Verstappe. Again, it fills in some 1993-94 blanks in our Red Devils timeline (also, our “Red Devels” timeline). That includes the UK release of the “Blackwater Roll” EP in 1993.
One of the treats hanging out with Mike Flanigin last year was watching vintage Red Devils video live from the King King more than two decades earlier.
We watched half of the Nov. 30, 1992, video in his Austin living room. Essentially, we got the DVD commentary from one of the members of The Red Devils himself.
Flanigin held the guitar he played in the Devils as he watched a younger version of himself, sparking many more memories and stories.
Two things stuck out: That Flanigin wasn’t entirely impressed with the King King mystique, which even in 1992 was thick around the band. Watching the video, the band in living color under stage lights, is surreal. How many of us have listened to the “King King” record and imagined the whole night in grainy black and white, dimly lit and gritty?
This is video of the Devils in their prime, road-tested and ready. Sure there are festival videos out there, scattered TV appearances. But this is three sets of classic Red Devils with their prototype setlist of the time (“Who Do You Love,” “She’s Dangerous,” “Blues in the Morning,” “Blackwater Roll,” “Checkin’ Up On My Baby,” plus Hook Herrera sits in, too).
The other thing was his sense of belonging in the band. As he mentioned, his kids never knew him as a guitar player, and certainly not as a member of one of the hottest blues acts of the second half on ’92. Many Red Devils fans don’t even know his role in the band; this video proves it.
Mike: But I do have this videotape from the King King. You probably never saw it?
Mike: Well, this was the King King and I don’t know if anyone has any video of us playing like that whole American tour. In the video the quality is not that great. But this is when we got back and they were like, “Man, we’re going to play the King King!” Well this was the night. Like this was our first night back from being on the road and Billy Gibbons was there and Rick Rubin was there and that’s the night. And so the guy had taped it , they had the camera, so they run that tape. And then when we got down with the gig, he had the VHS tape and Lester was just like, “Hey Mikey, you take this,” and gave it to me and I hung on to it … I would feel like everybody else had just went by the wayside at some point …
I held on to like little scrapbook or little things that it might got lost. And so this videotape is — I had to dig it out man. I knew I had it. …
And that’s a whole night, like it’s not just 30 minutes. I mean it’s like all night, all the whole thing. …
And so, it gives you an idea of like where we were and what the band sounded like that you remembered from like when you saw us. Because it’s the only thing that really exists. There’s no live recordings and all that or like anything professionally done or see the band. I never have seen anything with me in it. Even though I was in the group a long time really. I mean of the working life with that band.
Tina: It’s got to be out there though, right?
Mike: Well, what’s funny is that he took this tape out of the machine and gave it to Lester and Lester gave it to me. I think it’s the only existing copy.
And I’ve never given it to anybody, like I never show it really and I hadn’t seen it years. I just pulled this out because I knew you were coming.
Interviewer: Yes, yes. That’s very kind of you.
Mike: We’ll see what’s up with it. I mean it might be a complete mess.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
There 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.