Archive for the related music Category

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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Windshield72dpi

The Blasters in The Cities

Posted in bill bateman, related music with tags , , , , , on July 5, 2015 by J.J.

There was no cooler place to be in Minneapolis on June 17 than Lee’s Liquor Lounge.

We were piled in there, too, pressed against the stage for The Blasters‘ return to the Twin Cities.

Phil Alvin, John Bazz, Keith Wyatt and the powerhouse drummer “Buster” Bill Bateman played a greatest hits show for hipsters, rockers, punks and squares in the little corner tavern.

Here are photos by Tina Hanagan, including a couple of openers Javier and the Innocent Sons (you remember Javier Matos from a latter-day version of The Blue Shadows w/Bateman & Bazz).

The Blasters back in Midwest

Posted in bill bateman, related music with tags , , , on May 14, 2015 by J.J.

The Blasters. Photo by Blurry Lens

The Blasters. Photo by Blurry Lens

The Blasters are storming through the Midwest U.S. again this summer.

It’s always a good thing to see the gang, and this short run has some added incentive for Red Devils fans.

Opening a series of shows will be Javier and the Innocent Sons. The Minneapolis-based group features Javier Matos, who many might remember from the resurrected Blue Shadows with Bill Bateman, as well as the Doghouse Lords.

We caught The Blasters at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, Ill., a few years ago, and they will be back there again for a two-night stand.

Here are some relevant dates:

  • June 17: Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • June 18: Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • June 19 & 20: FitzGerald’s Chicago, Berwyn, Ill.

Check out the whole lineup, including several in California stops, here.

Keys, Songs and Questions from “King King”

Posted in red devils, related music with tags , , , , on July 23, 2014 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
Continue reading

Lester Butler remembered at Simi Valley Cajun & Blues festival

Posted in lester butler, related music with tags , , , on June 2, 2011 by J.J.

For one afternoon only, Lester Butler was back on stage.

A portrait of Butler — blowing harp, arms covered in tats — by artist Theo Reijnders rested on an easel stage left May 29 at the 22nd Annual Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival for a performance by Big Pete and his Lester Butler Tribute Band.

It was the American coming out party for Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijm, and he was tapped to pay tribute to his primary inspiration, as he has done numerous times in Europe. It was clear there was anticipation to see this big blond kid from Holland everyone had heard so much about — the area in front of the stage was filled with musicians, Lester’s friends and family and serious music lovers.

Big Pete

Alex Schultz

Johnny Morgan

[All photography by Tina Hanagan]

As Delta Groove CEO and Butler friend Randy Chortkoff said when he introduced Big Pete, “When I close my eyes, I hear Lester Butler.”

Pete and his band — 13 veterans Alex Schultz on guitar and Johnny Morgan on drums, along with Willie J. Campbell (replacing Rick Reed) on bass — used Butler’s music as a jump-off point to showcase their own incredible talents, performing a series of songs and grooves unlike anything else heard all weekend. That the music sounded as fresh Sunday as it did 14 years ago is testament to Butler’s foresight.

More photos and video after the jump  Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: