Red Devils make Indiana debut
By Marc D. Allan, Indianapolis Star
Oct. 12, 1992
“You really don’t write blues tunes,” says Lester Butler, singer and harmonica player for The Red Devils. “There’s grooves and there’s shuffles. The lyric is what you make up on your own. And I’m having no problem doing that at all.”
The Los Angeles-based blues band, which makes its Indiana debut Tuesday night in Bloomington, has developed a loyal following at home by playing fiery original and cover tunes every Monday night in a tiny, always-packed club called the King King. (They recorded their first album, “King King,” live at the club.)
Playing with Jagger
The Red Devils have been invited to open for the Allman Brothers, Little Feat, Dixie Dregs and Los Lobos. They’re so hot (and so good) that Mick Jagger invited them to play on his forthcoming solo album.
With Jagger singing, they recorded 14 songs in 12 hours, all covers of blues tunes by Muddy Waters, Slim Harpo, Little Walter and others.
“Mick isn’t hurtin’ for musicians,” Butler jokes. “He said it had that same feeling that the early Stones had. So I instantly got a gigantic head and went home and thought about it a hundred-million times. It felt really good.”
Butler doesn’t know how many of the songs, if any, will end up on Jagger’s record, which is due out in November.
But he felt honored to record with one of his childhood heroes.
The 32-year-old Butler grew up in Los Angeles listening to the Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and blues.
Influenced by Paul Butterfield and John Mayall, he started playing harmonica at an early age.
Although Butler describes himself as “the ultimate Spicoli,” a reference to the Sean Penn druggie/surfer character in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he has concentrated on music.
“I’ve studied my music since I was a small child and I’ve lived through some incredible, intense experiences,” he says. “I almost died. During the ’80s, the reason I didn’t play music was I was severely addicted to heroin and cocaine. I had to learn to get off that, you know?
“I think people who come to near-death experiences do learn a little bit from that. Hopefully, I can pass a little of that on through my music to everybody else who’s either at that point or might be going to that point in their life.”
Butler finds music, and the blues in particular, cathartic. It gives him “hope, strength and inspiration.”
“The blues has so much really rockin’ music that makes your body move,” Butler says. “People say to us, `You’re roots-rock’ or `You’re rock hybrid.’
“We are in the sense that we’re picking out the tunes that were hard-core blues tunes. We stay away from the jazzy ones or the slow ones. The steak and the potatoes on the plate and not the parsley and lettuce. We threw that off. We’re just the ribs and the fries.”
The Red Devils
Opening band: The Chosen Few.
Where: Jake’s in Bloomington.
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Tickets: $2; (812) 332-0402.