Archive for the related music Category

Keys to the Kingdom: Solving musical mysteries from ‘King King’

Posted in red devils, related music with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2021 by automatic32

The standing joke about blues music is that to play it you only have to learn three chords and be able to play in a corresponding number of keys. At your average blues jam on a random night in Anywhere, USA, one would expect to run into a whole boatload of songs in E, A and G with few tunes straying from this trio. On the cuts that made “King King” The Red Devils certainly leaned on some from that lot, but the variations are quite interesting.

King King

As follows in order of appearance (all songs listed are in the keys of the stringed instruments; all harmonica keys should be assumed to be in “second position” or “cross harp” unless otherwise noted):

  1. Automatic — E
  2. Goin’ to the Church — E
  3. She’s Dangerous — E
  4. I Wish You Would — A
  5. Cross Your Heart — B-flat, harmonica in key of B-flat/first position
  6. Taildragger — E
  7. Devil Woman — D
  8. No Fightin’ — B
  9. Mr. Highway Man — E
  10. I’m Ready — E
  11. Quarter to Twelve — E
  12. Cut That Out — B
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King Ernest rides with Lester Butler on 1997’s ‘Black Bag Blues’

Posted in lester butler, related music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2021 by J.J.

Of all of Lester Butler’s guest spots in the ’90s, his work on soul singer King Ernest’s 1997 “King of Hearts” (Evidence ECD 26084-2) stands out. Usually, Butler was just adding harp to someone else’s tune, but for California’s “King Ernest” Baker, he contributed an original song, “Black Bag Blues,” notable for being, to our knowledge, the only Butler-credited song not appearing on an official Lester Butler solo or band release.

And unlike some of the more unusual or experimental music he added harp to, “Black Bag Blues” is a straight-up, hardcore shuffle: No frills, no tricks, just soulful vocals, a stompin’ rhythm section and boastful lyrics that just fit the bill.

Over a mean Texas-styled guitar, Ernest lays it out in the first verse, coming out blowing hard:

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The legend of the Kid Ramos/Lester Butler ‘hard-edge blues unit’ Snake Snake

Posted in lester butler, related music with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2021 by J.J.

Of all of Lester Butler’s various bands and gigs, Snake Snake may be the most mysterious.

But its roots go back to California’s bubbling hot, early 1980s blues scene.

“When I first met Lester he was just a friend of Hollywood Fats that would come around in the early ’80s,” Kid Ramos told nofightin.com recently. “I didn’t even know he played harmonica.”

At the time, Kid and Fats were the 1-2 guitar punch in the James Harman Band, which also boasted Willie J. Campbell on bass and Stephen Hodges on drums.

Ramos and Butler would share the stage a few years later in The Blue Shadows.

“He contacted me in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, I think it was and asked me to come sit with them at the King King,” Ramos recalled. “At that time Smokey Hormel was the guitar player and sometimes other people would play guitar. But it was Jonny Ray Bartel, Bill Bateman and … (Dave Lee) Bartel.”

“Lester was too hard for those guys to deal with and it sort of imploded,” he remembered. “Paul Size went back to Texas and I played some more gigs with the band as The Red Devils. Went to Holland and played some gigs over there. But with a different rhythm section.”

A few years later, it was Ramos’ turn to call Butler for a band he was putting together: Snake Snake.

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ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, 1949-2021

Posted in related music with tags , , , , on July 28, 2021 by J.J.
Dusty Hill, left, and Billy Gibbons onstage July 21, 2017, at the Stimmen Festival in Lorrach, Germany. Hill died July 28, 2021, at age 72. (Photo copyright Tina Hanagan / nofightin.com)

Dusty Hill, the man who held down bass guitar duties and lent his unmistakable vocals to hits such as “Tush,” “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” and “Heard It on the X,” died Wednesday, July 28, 2021. He was 72.

He had been off the road for a short while, with ZZ’s guitar tech Elwood Francis filling in at recent shows.

But Dusty was so much more than the bass player. He was one-third of Tres Hombre, and 50% of the best facial hair in the business. That might not matter much in the long run, but ZZ Top’s distinctive look (and futuristic boogie) made them stars on MTV in the 1980s. Without that, they might have ended up being ’70s rock casualties, more radio stars killed by video.

He also played keyboards, and was a consistently entertaining presence in the ZZ Top experience.

In 2017, ZZ took The Red Devils on tour of Europe for a month, introducing the Devils to a whole new audience. The Red Devils will forever be tied to that little ol’ band from Texas (never mind that Devils guitarist Mike Flanigin also plays with Billy Gibbons’ various moonlighting bands).

They made an awful big sound for just three guys. Without Dusty, it won’t be quite the same.

READ MORE: ZZ Top on nofightin.com

REVEREND: Billy F. Gibbons touts The Red Devils on eve of tour

HARP: James Harman provided harmonica for ZZ Top

(Photo copyright Tina Hanagan / nofightin.com)

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.

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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James Harman needs our help. (Icepick’s Story 2021)

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2021 by J.J.

In a parallel universe, James Harman is a superstar.

An in-demand artiste who plays command performances for kings and queens. A poet laureate whose lyrics are studied in college courses. A giving mentor and bandleader whose roots have grown the fruits of generations of musicians. A vocalist whose records stop all diner conversation when the needle hits his latest song.

But in this here-and-now, James Harman — blues raconteur extraordinaire — is 74, without the means to earn a living, and beginning chemotherapy for Stage 4 cancer.

Harman is not a household name — unless your household is real hip. Those who know, know.

To the true believers of “The Red Devils, Lester Butler and California’s (and beyond’s) blues, rock and roots music,” James Harman is the Godfather.

Some of this is by talent, and some of it is by proximity. Harman is one of those threads of connective cool from his native Alabama, to the post-Woodstock Canned Heat California scene, to Big Joe Turner, Hollywood Fats, MTV, ZZ Top and a touring schedule in the 1990s that rivaled any act on the planet (“She wrapped my sandwich, boy, in an old road map”).

Harman has always surrounded himself with whipcrack musicians, and entire James Harman Band lineups have gone on to form or evolve into other killer bands, from The Blasters (Phil Alvin and Bill Bateman were early bandmates, as was Gene Taylor), to The Fabulous Thunderbirds (whose early ‘90s incarnation was a literal James Harman Band with Kim Wilson) to Lester Butler’s various 13s.

His most well-known ensemble was the early 1980s version of the James Harman Band … Those Dangerous Gentlemens: Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell and the incomparable Stephen Hodges on drums (you might know Hodges from the Tom Waits band). Yes, Hollywood Fats and Kid Ramos in one lineup, under the direction of one James Harman.

Recommended: Extra Napkins, Strictly Live … in ’85!, Thank You Baby, Those Dangerous Gentlemens

James Harman, The Blasters, X, The (original) Red Devils, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Canned Heat, Dwight Yoakam, Tom Waits, Los Lobos and many others shared common DNA, even if each leaned on nurture more than nature (punk rockabilly, experimental roots … or “American music”).

Harman would tell you (and has told me and my pals) that he is not a harmonica player. He is a singer and a songwriter who uses the harmonica when needed to tell his stories. And those stories are clever and compact in a way that demonstrates the craft and care he puts into his art. His musical ethos align more closely with artists and outsiders such as Waits and Los Lobos than the average “Tuesday bluesday” crowd — even though he gets the job done down behind that city dump, presiding over a real blues party.

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Zach Zunis on brush with Cash

Posted in red devils, related music with tags , , on February 25, 2017 by J.J.

Since our last post, we have been thinking about guitarist Zach Zunis. Like Mike Flanigin, Zunis could be a mere footnote in the Devils’ story despite filling a critical role in the band for several months.

And let’s be clear: For some people, the Zach Zunis version of the band was the one they saw live, and is the one they probably still talk about.

Zunis was featured earlier this month in a story in the East Hampton Star, focused around his Grammy nom with singer Janiva Magness. There were a couple of Devils-related comments, including passing by the late, great Johnny Cash:

The late Lester Butler, another harmonica player and singer, was often in the audience at Mr. (William) Clarke’s concerts — “Clarke was the man to see,” Mr. Zunis said. Mr. Butler signed with Def American Recordings, the label founded by the producer and music executive Rick Rubin, and asked Mr. Zunis to join his band, the Red Devils.

The group recorded at the famed Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood, the former United Recording, where legends including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, and Michael Jackson had cut classic tracks before them. “As we were walking through the door, I heard this ominous sound,” Mr. Zunis said. The sound was the inimitable voice of Johnny Cash. “We walked in the control room, and there was Rick Rubin recording Johnny Cash,” he said. “They finished their session, and we started ours. We got to meet him — it was so cool.”

Read more here.

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.

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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