Los Lobos tour 1992: Butler on CCR, ‘King King’ and more

Nice basic interview with Lester Butler from the Tulsa World, on tour with Los Lobos in 1992 — (adjective deleted).

Red Devils Pour Out Blues With Rock ‘n’ Roll Spirit; Band Opens for Los Lobos
By John Wooley, Tulsa World
October 24, 1992

Lester Butler, lead singer and harmonica player for the L.A.-based Red Devils, knows about the roots of the blues. He can, and does, talk about blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter.

And on their first album, the live “King King” (Def American Records), the group mixes tunes by those gentlemen and Junior Wells with originals in the same kind of groove.

But don’t expect the Red Devils to respectfully recreate the originals. Instead, the quintet dives into them with a rock ‘n’ roll spirit, sharpening them to a keen edge and playing them hard and loud.

“A lot of blues players are such (adjective deleted) purists that they lose the whole idea of the music,” said Butler in a recent telephone interview. “The idea of the music is not to recreate it, but to make it evolve, like Muddy Waters did.

“It’s the silliest thing in the world for me to see a musician copy another song note for note, phrase for phrase. That’s crazy. It’s not real. If I sing words from a Sonny Boy Williamson song about being down on the farm picking peaches or something, people are just going to think it’s silly. Instead, why not sing about going down and trying to find one of your friends in Crack Alley?

“I definitely dig all the old records and stuff, but I feel that playing with feeling is what it’s all about,” he added. “If you sing about walking in the graveyard and how some of your friends are there, and it really happened to you, then the vibe goes out and that’s the truth.”

The band’s first album is named for the King King club in Los Angeles, where the Red Devils began holding forth on a regular basis since late December of ’88. Over the years, the group has developed a sizable following, which includes an impressive number of celebrities. One of them, Mick Jagger, likes the Red Devils so much that he’s recorded a number of as-yet-unreleased songs with them.

“I was just talking to our manager about that,” said Butler. “Probably what’s going to happen is that we’ll either have a couple of tunes on his solo album, or they’ll be putting out an all-blues EP with just Jagger and us.”

The “King King” album, with its rock ‘n’ roll approach, occasionally evokes images of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s swamp-rock grooves, or Jimi Hendrix’s searing solos — even the aggressive stance of Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones. That’s only natural, Butler said.

“I’m a big Creedence fan,” he explained. “As well as loving Little Walter, I love Hendrix, Aerosmith, Creedence. I grew up in the ’70s, and rock groups would come to town, and they couldn’t play as well as they played on their records. Then you’d go see the blues guys, and they’d be playing better than the records.

“You know what I’ve always liked about the blues? You go see rock guys, and they’re doing the same song night after night, the same order, they’re down to the rhetoric and stuff they say between the songs. They’ve probably got a manager in the back room, and he’s saying, ‘Now, you shake your hair here, during this part, and you wear this Spandex.’ That’s not the way it is with blues guys.”

And it’s certainly not the way it is with the Red Devils. On “King King,” you can hear Butler shouting chords and other information to the rest of the band before just about every song.

“We were just kind of making it up as we went along,” said Butler with a chuckle, “getting into a groove and seeing what was going to happen. What that record lacks in polish, I think it makes up for in spirit.

“To me, when we’re up there, it’s like calling a play. It’s like being on a basketball team or something, where everyone knows one another and knows how to work together. That’s fun. That’s the fun of it.”

Concert: Los Lobos, with the Red Devils opening
Date and Time: Saturday, 9 p.m.
Place: Cain’s Ballroom, 421 N. Main St.
Tickets: $11.25 including service charge; admission is $12 at the door.

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