James Harman R.I.P., and Gene Taylor tribute in Austin

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2021 by J.J.

Everybody was cheering for 2020 to end, but the first six months of 2021 have been a letdown, too.

Last year at this time, James Harman and Gene Taylor, were still with us, which meant that good music couldn’t be far behind.

I’ve written extensively about both musicians and lifelong friends, and their place in the Red Devils Universe.

Harman died on May 23, 2021, just shy of his 75th birthday in June. The raconteur had been battling esophageal cancer when he had a fatal heart attack.

James Harman at the Zoo Bar, Lincoln, Neb., June 5, 2016. (Photo by J.J. Perry)

You can check out what I said here, or go to Facebook, where friends and fans from around the globe have honored Icepick James with photos, music and memories since his passing.

Harman considered Lincoln, Nebraska’s Zoo Bar as one of his key stops, immortalizing the joint in the 1995 cut “Everybody’s Rockin’ (At the Zoo Bar).” That’s where I last saw Harman perform, in 1996. As always, he was superstar.

Check out this remembrance of Harman from A&E writer L. Kent Wolgamott from the Lincoln Journal Star.

Taylor died about three months before Harman, on Feb. 20, 2021, during a power outage in the massive southern winter storms. He was 68; still too young to go, and in such a needless way; guitarist Steve Freund on Facebook said the cause of death was hypothermia.

Now, with COVID on the run and clubs opening up, Austin will gather July 3 at Antone’s for a tribute to Gene Taylor. Get more details here.

‘Footprints on the moon’: Paul Size looks back at The Red Devils

Posted in paul size with tags , , , , on May 16, 2021 by J.J.

With his solo debut out now, the guitarist knows that the band he was in three decades ago will always be a part of his life. “There’s too many extraordinary things that went down that it’s not going to go away,” Paul Size tells nofightin.com.

Paul Size performs with The Red Devils at the BlueFunk Club in Poynton, UK, 2017. Photo © Tina Hanagan

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of an interview with Paul Size. For more, read Part 1 here.

The Red Devils legend is about so much going right, and so very much going so very wrong.

Paul Size was there for it.

Fans still think of Size as “The Kid,” as the 20-year-old was known in the band and press materials, a baby-faced bluesman juxtaposed against the roadworthy Bateman, Butler and Bartels.

Today, Size has 30 years of experience under his strap and a debut solo album called “Can’t Lose Playing The Blues.” He has come to appreciate his time in The Red Devils — and his persona as the have-gun-will-travel guitar hero from Texas.

“I mean, I have to admit, I like it. I used to want to kind of run away from it,” Size said during a recent interview with nofightin.com. “But I realize now that, you know, I’m grateful I did it and I was part of it. Like, I’ve always said, it’s a footprint on the moon … there’s too many extraordinary things that went down that it’s not going to go away.”

“Extraordinary things” is one way to put it.

On the plus side: Right place, right time, and right guys. The band’s magic — incendiary live shows — was incubated in weekly gigs in a bar in an old Chinese restaurant in Hollywood. The King King club had an energy, a vibe, Size said: “There was always somebody famous there. So it had this kind of the ‘in thing’ kind of thing to do on Mondays.”

And that other side: Failed team-ups and recording projects, fights, drugs and financial battles turned the blood bad. The sad, untimely death of Lester Butler made it impossible for the Devils to truly reconcile, or ever bring together their classic lineup one more time. 

Until 2017.

Conditions were right for “The Return of The Red Devils”: Their cult status had grown over the years, and the 25th anniversary of “King King” was a great hook for fans, festivals and clubs.

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It also caught the attention of one Rev. Billy F. Gibbons, the mad scientist of blues-rock. The legendary ZZ Top was going on tour of Europe that summer. And Gibbons was a fan of The Red Devils. After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Devils were tapped to reform and perform.

In the ensuing 25 years, the former Devils had spread out around the U.S., from one end to the other, and all points in between. Size was living in Martha’s Vineyard, and had settled into a routine of day jobs, local gigs, family life and a stint with the combo Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish. 

“It was ZZ Top!” Size recalled excitedly of getting the gig. “… I mean, I just couldn’t pass that up. And I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I was kinda doing really nothing where I was, I had this really, really boring job doing water treatment, so I was in basements of houses and I was just bored, you know?”

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1993 tour contracts show work behind Holland tour

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2021 by J.J.

Note: This post was first published on Feb. 20, 2017, and updated May 2, 2021.

As the reunited Red Devils prepare to return to Europe for the first time in almost 25 years, a series of contracts, riders and correspondence show just how much work it took to get the band on the road in 1993.

The documents are primarily between concert promoters and booking agents for the band’s 14-date Nov. 14-29, 1993, tour of Holland (some details redacted by nofightin.com):

devils_tour_091093

1. This document, from Sept. 10, 1993, details a proposed itinerary for the band for two weeks in Holland. Of interest are protential gigs that didn’t seem to materialize, such as on Nov. 16, 19 and 24.

2. The band’s tour rider, dated Oct. 9, 1993, breaks down what The Red Devils needed to stay on the road. Soundcheck, security, billing requirements and backline (the kind of gear the venues or promoters would provide for the band) were all outlined. If you wanted to know what amps the band was using, this document lays it out.

Most folks will be interested in the last page: What the band required in their dressing rooms. Nothing fancy — beer, soda, water, sandwiches. And a bottle of Jack and two packs of Winston 100s.

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Bukowski, drug busts and blues: Inside Lester Butler’s ‘lost year’ (1995)

Posted in lester butler with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2021 by J.J.

This post was first published on March 23, 2014, and was updated April 24, 2021. — No Fightin’

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.

One story that has come back around is by Rob Neighbors, called “My Time with Blues Legend, Lester Butler,” 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 (or ’96) — 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.

Neighbors, a writer-director, among other skills, says he lived with Butler and “the family” of artists in a sort of bohemian flophouse on Chandler Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.

“I was 32 years old at the time but hopelessly lost after the departure of my family and was looking for something to hang on to,” Neighbors wrote. “This new home that I had moved into seemed to be it. We partied hard almost every night. We would read Yeats, Bukowski, and Carlos Castaneda aloud, anything that validated what we were doing. We would do humiliating acting exercises like the primal scream, etc., and have crazy jam sessions.

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Paul Size fuels solo debut with unearthed blues and old friends

Posted in paul size with tags , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2021 by J.J.
Paul Size performs with The Red Devils at the Borderline in London in 2017. Photo © Tina Hanagan

If you are getting ready to pick the songs to record for your first solo album, where do you start?

If you’re Paul Size, you go to YouTube.

“I went on YouTube and punched in ‘rare blues,’ you know, ’cause I didn’t want to do all the songs that everybody’s done,” Size told No Fightin’ during an April 3 phone interview. “Like the T-Bird’s first record, nobody had heard of those songs, but they were covers. So I kinda tried to do that. … Just kind of get some obscure songs that no one’s ever heard that I dug and that’s kind of, that was the start, you know?”

So thank the Algo-rhythm Gods of the Internet for their contribution to Size’s new album, “Can’t Lose Playing The Blues,” and its stellar lineup of songs by B.B. King, Earl Hooker, Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor, Frankie Lee Sims and more.

Known for his fiery Chicago blues playing with The Red Devils, “Can’t Lose” presents a different Size. He doesn’t sing, plays a lot of rhythm guitar and works sympathetically with the other musicians for a true band sound. That’s not the usual “solo” album recipe, but that probably makes it the most “Paul Size” record it can be.

“I wanted to make it a good listening record too, not just a big guitar hero record,” he said. “And Jeff really wanted to show off my rhythm playing. He goes, ‘you’re a great rhythm player. Let’s show that off.’ … So I went with the flow.”

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Onstage with The Red Devils and Zach Zunis at the Paradiso, 1993

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2021 by J.J.

Thanks to Harold Schreuder in Holland, we have some “new ” looks at The Red Devils in 1993 to share.

Harold tells us that he saw the band a few times that year, including meeting The Red Devils (with Zach Zunis replacing Paul Size) at their Nov. 29, 1993, performance at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (You can tell that he really met the band because he has one photo each with the players, and Dave Lee Bartel is nowhere to be seen.)

The first batch of photos are from April and May, 1993, Harold says, with Paul Size on lead. It certainly looks like the Paradiso here on May 2. The other gig is a little harder to tell … could it have been April 29 at De Haagse Koninginnenacht, Den Haag, The Netherlands?

And here are some cool pics of the band from November in Amsterdam, with Zunis on lead guitar:

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REVIEW: Paul Size tells it like it is on debut solo CD, ‘Can’t Lose Playing The Blues’

Posted in paul size with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2021 by J.J.

“Let the music do the talking” goes the old warhorse. On his debut solo album, “Can’t Lose Playing The Blues,” guitarist Paul Size lets his fingers tell the tale of his life in blues.

Size, most known as the white-hot soloist from The Red Devils, offers the record as a reintroduction to listeners. Free from the restrictions of someone else’s vision, Size dishes out nearly an hour’s worth of diverse, rollicking music that stands as his word on the blues.

With a sympathetic band and some tried-and-true musical inspirations, “Can’t Lose” is the sound of a live band communicating in real time, in an intimate environment shepherded by producer/engineer (and bassist/vocalist) Jeffrey Berg.

The album is bookended by off-the-cuff acoustic guitar numbers, “Welcome” and “It’s Been A While,” which act as the preface and afterword of Size’s musical biography. In between, like a good barroom meeting between old friends, everyone gets a turn to jump in.

And jump it does on “Do The Boogie,” Size’s take on B.B. King’s “Boogie Woogie Woman.” The band’s agenda is clear, with stellar playing for the good of the song. Jeremy Berlin (Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish) takes the lead on piano — in fact, taking the first solo on the record, supported by Size’s essential rhythm work. (For the record, the album’s first electric guitar solo starts at 1:53 of track 2.)

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Block 1993 interview with Lester Butler after Pinkpop festival (annotated)

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , on March 7, 2021 by J.J.

This week, we bring you an interview with Lester Butler from the July/August/September 1993 issue of Block magazine (#87).

There is a lot to take in from this interview, conducted May 31, 1993, after the band had already played its seminal morning set opening the 1993 Pinkpop Festival, and a gig that night in Doornroosje, Nijmegen, Holland. Basically, this interview was their last official activity at the end of an important month for the band, which kicked off May 1 with the legendary performance at the Moulin Blues Festival in Ospel.

The story, originally in Dutch, has been translated by nofightin.com (well, Google Translate, with some contextual edits by us), and appears in its entirety below.

In addition, we offer annotations throughout the story: What’s right, what’s wrong, more context and history. Look for the notes just under some paragraphs.

A band foaming at the mouth: The Red Devils

By Marion Wisse

The Red Devils started in 1988 as a jam session band at the King King club, a former Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles. The first time only nine skateboarders came to watch, but due to word of mouth, the number of visitors grew quickly. Among them: Peter Wolf, Lenny Kravitz and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Also always present was Rick Rubin, producer for the Def American label. But it wasn’t until they had seen his face about 60 times that Lester Butler (vocals/harmonica) and his mates knew what that man does in the business.

Much of this is detailed in the band’s official press kit biography.

The debut CD “King King” has been out for less than a year and resulted in a studio session with Mick Jagger. In addition, The Red Devils were allowed to close Moulin Blues and open Pinkpop. In the evening, after Pinkpop, they performed in Doornroosje in Nijmegen. There we spoke to the band.

When the band arrives at Doornroosje a little later than planned due to a minor collision, their Pinkpop performance of that morning has just been broadcast. Great is the hilarity among the band members when Bram van Splunteren does not seem to know who Little Walter was. And when the cameraman of the NOS then switches bass guitarist Jonny Ray Bartel and guitarist Paul Size during the announcement, the boys are really laughing. Immediately afterward we talk with Lester Butler, Paul Size (or was that Lester Butler?), and drummer Bill Bateman.

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Roll ’em, Gene: Boogie woogie master Gene Taylor dies in Austin, Texas

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2021 by J.J.

Gene Taylor, whose fiery boogie woogie and classic blues piano graced decades worth of classic albums and stages around the world, died Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.

According to social media posts from family and friends, Taylor, who lived in Austin, Texas, had been without heat or water for days during the devastating winter storm this month. Associates are saying that Taylor, 68, died in his sleep Saturday but, at this time, there is no obituary posted or any official cause of death published.

With his death, we lose a vital throughline to a half-century of what Taylor’s Blasters brothers termed “American Music”: That brew of R&B, blues, country, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll that has defined much of the world’s popular culture. 

For faithful readers of this site, Taylor’s journey includes his guest spot on The Red Devils’ 1992 album, “King King” — though an (intentionally?) unsympathetic mix makes Taylor’s contribution one of the least in his catalog. (The times that his piano parts are audible is a reminder of how little spotlight this “special guest” has on The Devils’ only record.)

Taylor will best be remembered for his incredible, authentic contributions to classic albums by The Blasters; his association with long-time running buddy James Harman, and his stint in the 1990s edition of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Any musician would gladly sell her/his soul for a spot in just one of those situations. But add associations with Canned Heat, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Gary Primich (a favorite here at No Fightin’), Doug Sahm and Amos Garrett, and dozens more … that’s legendary. (And don’t sleep on the various solo, duo, trio and small band ensembles under the “Gene Taylor” brand.)

There is much to say about the man, but it is best to let him say it himself, for now. Here’s “Gene’s Boogie Woogie,” with the late, great Richard Innes on drums:

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Paul Size solo album pre-order up + Bateman/Bartel streaming live tonight

Posted in bill bateman, jonny ray bartel, paul size with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2021 by J.J.

Lots of Red Devils-related stuff going on this weekend. Let’s jump into it:

‘Can’t Lose Playing the Blues’

The debut solo album from Paul Size, “Can’t Lose Playing the Blues,” is available for pre-order now on Bandcamp. The digital album will be up on March 5; physical CDs will be shipped March 5. Both are at the recommended price of $15.

Based on the little song snippet previews, this promises to be a great blues release. It pairs Size with a small ensemble (featuring Hash Brown and Jeremy Berlin) on a series of tried-and-true, good-for-you blues. (I’ll be most excited for “Universal Rock” and “Sadie.”)

Really intriguing is this nugget from the album summary: “Throughout 16 tracks, the record tells a story with purely improvised acoustic blues and studio banter woven throughout giving the listener a glimpse into the mind and heart of Paul’s musicianship.”

We’ll have a full write-up here on NoFightin.com when the record arrives, and more.

Order now at paulsize.bandcamp.com.

Blue Shadows streaming live from L.A.

The Blue Shadows assemble tonight, Feb. 6, with past and present members reuniting.

The band will be Javier Matos, Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray Bartel (filling in for John Bazz).

If you recall, it was Bateman, Bartel and Dave Alvin, as The Blue Shadows, that in 1988 started the Monday night King King tradition that eventually morphed into The Red Devils.

Tonight’s gig from The Redwood Bar in Los Angeles begins streaming live at 8 p.m. Pacific Time (for our friends in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, that’s 5 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7).

The show will stream live on Twitch as a “pay what you can show,” and will be available later on YouTube.

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