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)

Bateman drums: Old school, new ideas from Blasters legend

Posted in bill bateman with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2021 by J.J.
Bill Bateman in Drumhead [Photo by Kelly King]
Bill Bateman in Drumhead magazine No. 21, May/June 2010.

Note: This post was first published June 6, 2010. It was revised and updated July 24, 2021.

Bill Bateman is featured in the May/June 2010 issue of Drumhead magazine, mostly talking about the craft of drum building. Bateman began building kits for his own Bateman Drum Company a few years earlier, and he talks, in detail, with Drumhead about the why and how:

“I noticed that some of the drum companies have made choices in their production that aren’t geared towards a better instrument, but rather are a by-product of mass production. Some companies are good. Gretsch still does it the old 1940s way, which is great. Ludwig is kind of imitating what they used to do, but they have all butt joints. They didn’t have butt joints in the old days.”

Bateman is revealed as a true drum gearhead, with an astounding knowledge of styles and companies. He even talks at length about studying Civil War-era snare drums, eventually building two rope-tension snares in the 19th-century style, according to Drumhead. Much of the article is about how he and his brother-in-law experimented with making wood shells. But Bateman always keeps the player in mind, even when selecting hardware (which he gets from old drums): “All of that double-braced hardware isn’t going to fit into the back of your Toyota,” Bateman told the magazine. “Even if it did, your back would be pissed at you the next day.”

What are the odds of you getting a Bateman Drum Company set? Not so great, according to an interview in the August 2008 Blasters newsletter American Music:

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Groanin’ Lester Butler onstage in 1996

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2021 by J.J.
Back with The Blue Shadows, April 17 at Bar Deluxe (LA Weekly)

Look, putting together a weekly music calendar isn’t easy. It can be tedious, boring and frustrating. Sometimes, you have to find your little spaces of joy to keep the whole endeavor from completing sucking your soul away.

That’s how I would like to think the calendar editor at LA Weekly came up with “Groanin’ Lester Butler” back in 1996. I hope it brought him/her a little bit of joy in a thankless job.

Unwanted nicknames aside, the years between The Red Devils and 13 found Lester Butler playing locally around Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif., in various versions of Devils, Shadows and unlucky numbers. He found regular work in joints like Bar Deluxe, Jack’s Sugar Shack and, of course, the Blue Cafe.

Here is a collection of calendar clips and bar ads from L.A. papers in 1996, tracking Butler’s moves before his breakout ’97.

April 24 at Bar Deluxe with The Blue Shadows — “formerly The Red Devils, and now rejoined by Groanin’ Lester Butler” (LA Weekly)
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Listen: Red Devils climb ‘Mountain Stage’ for live radio show (1992)

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2021 by J.J.

Note: This story was originally published Oct. 18, 2015.

At the height of their powers, The Red Devils were heard live on the popular “Mountain Stage” radio program on Oct. 4, 1992, along with Leo Kottke, John Cale and Juliana Hatfield.

The recording captures the Devils between their opening stint on tour for Los Lobos and their first U.S. headlining club tour dates. In fact, it would be just about a week later that we would see the Devils at the old Jake’s nightclub in Bloomington, Ind.

Like so many other radio programs, “Mountain Stage” is often bootlegged and passed around, and The Red Devils’ set is no exception. The bootleg itself is short, with just four tunes and radio chatter. But, it is crystal-clear audio and a nice touchstone for the band during this time.

All four songs are available here on No Fightin’, including two courtesy of Dominik Ablamowicz on YouTube.

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Incident in Room 410: How The Red Devils were banned from Days Inn, 1992

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on July 5, 2021 by J.J.

“The Red Devils lived up to their name.”

That was the opening line of a review, of sorts, of The Red Devils’ stop in Chicago in 1992.

Certainly, the crowd at Buddy Guy’s Legends club on Sept. 27, 1992, appreciated the band more than Tom Nelligan did at the Days Inn Near North hotel.

The band’s stay at the Days Inn ended in destruction Sept. 28, according to a fax Nelligan sent to the band’s travel agency.

The problems started with a late check-out request, which caused late housekeeping service, which meant the damage was not discovered until the next day, when the band was safely back out on the road.

“In room 410 they broke an armchair that was part of a set of two armchairs and a round oak table, they broke a wall mirror in a oak frame, which they hid behind the dresser and they tore the drapes on the windows,” Nelligan wrote. “The housekeeper said that she can repair the drapes so we won’t charge them for the drapes.”

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10 years of Red Devils & Lester Butler gig posters

Posted in 13, lester butler, red devils with tags , , , on June 26, 2021 by J.J.

We’ve collected a lot of great posters, fliers and handbills for various Red Devils-related gigs over the years. Now we’ll start to put them all in one place.

Check out the new posters gallery on nofightin.com, with images from 1988 through 1998 (all of the pictures are not up yet).

Here’s a new image to kick things off from The Red Devils’ Nov. 15, 1993, gig at De Effenaar in Eindhoven, Netherlands:

For most of us in the early ’90s, the fliers and ticket stubs and promo pictures and newspaper clips were the only way to go beyond the “King King” record itself (remember, this was before the internet we all know and love). Most of these images came online only after The Red Devils and 13 were finished.

Get more history by checking out the timeline section on No Fightin’. (Thank you to Frank Verstappe, Vince Jordan, Paul Brown, Feelgood and others for their contributions.)

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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.

READ THESE:

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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