Archive for def american

25 years of ‘King King’

Posted in red devils with tags , , on July 28, 2017 by J.J.

On this day in 1992, The Red Devils’ debut album, “King King,” was released on Def American Records.

The party will be on tonight as the reunited Red Devils open for ZZ Top at 3 Arena, Dublin, Ireland.

The death of Def, 1993

Posted in red devils with tags , , , on November 9, 2011 by J.J.

A couple of articles in the Los Angeles Times give a little detail of the “Ciao Def” party Aug. 27, 1993, which featured The Red Devils as entertainment at the “funeral.” And with the funeral, Rubin’s Def American became American Recordings . (“King King” was issued as Def American 9 26795-2 and American 65660.) [EDIT: Updated 12/4/11 with mention from Sept. 1, 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram]

By Bill Higgins, Los Angeles Times
Aug. 30, 1993

The Scene: “The Death of Def,” Friday’s publicity stunt/funeral service for the first word in Def American Recordings’ name. The company will now be known as American Recordings.

The “ceremony of honored entombment” was held at Hollywood Memorial Park’s Chapel of the Psalms. The after-party was at Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley. In a rock ‘n’ roll way, it made complete sense: First you go to a funeral, then you go bowling.

The Cause of Death: Def began its brief life as rap-culture street slang. The deceased adjective once meant “excellent.” But, in an all-too-common story, the word started hanging around with the wrong element-suburban kids and record company executives. This led to inclusion in Webster’s dictionary. Nothing kills a hip word like mainstream respectability.

New York’s Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy, said def meant, “more than excellent. Like, defiantly excellent with a bang. Now the bang is out of def. It lost its exclusivity to the in, defiant crowd. It died of terminal acceptance.”

An invite to the "Ciao Def" party, from reader Rackauskas

The Buzz: It’s not like Elvis. Def is dead. Surviving relatives include fresh, fly and dope.

The Last Rites: In an open casket were relics from friends of the deceased: hats, press releases, albums and harmonicas. Alongside were floral tributes. Beret-wearing Black Panthers stood guard with prop shotguns and AK-47s. After Sharpton’s eulogy, in a rare funeral appearance, the Amazing Kreskin did his mind-reading routine using Tom Petty and Rosanna Arquette. He also sent four mourners into spontaneous hypnotic trances.

Overheard: “Are you guys cremating or burying?” asked a male guest. That question was soon answered. Mourners followed a 19th Century-style horse-drawn hearse and a six-piece brass band playing “Amazing Grace” past the mausoleum that holds Rudolph Valentino’s remains to a freshly dug grave with a simple black granite slab inscribed DEF.

Who Was There: About 500 mourners at the cemetery, plus 2,000 more at the bowling alley. Guests at the chapel were older, the ones at Shatto Lanes more the Tattoo Generation. They included Petty, Arquette, Bushwick Bill, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Swell’s Monte Vallier, Warner Bros. Records chairman (and pallbearer) Mo Ostin, Mike Bone and Depeche Mode’s David Gahan.

The After-Party: Let’s just say the mourners bury better than they bowl.

Dress Mode: Was there ever a record-company party where black was more appropriate? For women, a typical outfit was an all-black combo of veil, miniskirt, lace stockings and cowboy boots. American Recordings’ bereaved founder, Rick Rubin, wore a floor-length black cassock, Ray-Ban sunglasses, a white Sikh turban, strands of red Hindu rudraksha beads and left a thick wake of incense aroma as he entered the chapel.

Most Persistent Afterthought: What kind of people are running this cemetery that they let rock ‘n’ rollers run loose in it?

And then, from Sept. 5, 1993:

ROCK ‘N’ BOWL WILL NEVER DIE: The L.A. rock community is collectively nursing bowlers’ elbows after two major bowling parties last weekend. First, there was Rick Rubin’s combination wake for the term Def and birth of the new name for his company, American Recordings. With the mob scene at the Shatto 39 lanes-including Rosanna Arquette, the band Raging Slab and even Heidi Fleiss (at least those were the rampant rumors)-the actual sport quickly degenerated into inebriated stunt bowling, with people sending two or three balls down lanes at a time as the label’s Red Devils played rockin’ blues numbers.

Finally, from the Sept. 1, 1993, Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Besides (Heidi) Fleiss, the party, which was held in L.A.’s Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley, featured appearances by American Recordings founder Rick Rubin, Tom Petty, Rosanna Arquette, Warner Bros. Records chairman Mo Ostin and R.E.M. and Nirvana producer Scott Litt, and about 2,000 other people, which, as it turns out, is a lot of people for a bowling alley. Entertainment was provided by the blues demons, the Red Devils and the ’70s-style rockers Raging Slab, who instantly entered the What’s Hot! Hall of Fame with a version of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”

13 years later: Another look at “13 featuring Lester Butler”

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by J.J.

“When you’re talking about blues, you’re talking
about storytelling. … You have to bring something to the table.
You have to have a story to tell.”

13 years ago tonight, Lester Butler and his gang took the stage at the Bar Deluxe in Hollywood to celebrate the release of the album “13 featuring Lester Butler.” [*]

Fans of The Red Devils’ “King King” were in for a surprise with this new disc: While “King King” was raw, buzzy and live, “13” was sharp and edgy. “King King” was a tight ensemble record; “13” sounded like a blues band riot. “King King” relied on classic blues shuffles; “13” pushed the envelope into punk, rock, boogie, R&B and jam. “King King” celebrated women, cars and booze; “13” was a junkie travelogue, documenting the seedy side of life as seen by Butler in the five years since The Red Devils’ triumphs.

For all their differences, “13” and “King King” still go hand-in-hand; if you love one, you probably love the other.

But 13 was a mission statement by Butler, with one foot firmly in blues and the other somewhere in space. Distribution on the small independent blues and roots label Hightone seemingly gave Butler carte blanche to follow his muse (check out the psychedelic cyber-tarot nightmare album cover and confusing labeling for proof).

The album he crafted is filled with tales of chaos, desperation and regret, the music stripped raw in the studio — simple, pounding drums; barrelhouse piano; snaky, funky guitar; and Butler’s vocals in front, the singer damn near ingesting the mic and screaming in your ear.
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Rubin bio gives hints of producer at work

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by J.J.

Simply calling Rick Rubin a “producer” misses what has made him such an important modern musical figure: He has been a guru, shaman, caretaker, curator, therapist and friend for many artists, coaxing some to produce their greatest music ever. What he does simply cannot be reproduced.

Using already-published interviews as a backbone, author Jake Brown constructs a discography-based look at Rubin’s career in the recently released book “Rick Rubin: In the Studio” (ECW Press). Not a tabloidy tell-all, “In the Studio” instead is a gearhead’s delight, giving some insight into the famed Rick Rubin recording process.

Red Devils fans, however, will be let down — the Devils’ Rubin-produced “King King” is not mentioned save for a discography at the back of the book. The lone mention of the Devils in the text is a graph about the Mick Jagger blues sessions, not even noting that this “Los Angeles blues ensemble” was a Def American band.

However, there are some insights that can be gleaned into “King King” by studying Rubin’s other works and his philosophy — his less is more, or “production by reduction,” style.

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Show souvenirs

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2009 by J.J.

Christmas came a little early here at, thanks to some cool memorabilia shared by Andrew Rackauskas.

Rackauskas, who tells us he ran a ’90s fanzine called Spinal Column (his 13 review can be found on Jasper Heikens’ site), sent us an e-mail, relating stories about seeing the Devils every week at Jack’s Sugar Shack in L.A.:

I can’t tell you how lucky I felt getting to watch them virtually every Thursday for so long! Once Jack’s moved to the Hollywood/Vine location, the vibe was killed, and the Devils started playing far less. I was also really lucky to see them play as the house band at the “Ciao Def” party where Rick Rubin’s label got rid of the “Def” and made it “American Recordings.” They played in a bowling alley off Olympic in Koreatown in L.A. that is no longer there. It was quite the party! I remember waiters walking around w/ wheel-barrows of beer and booze!

Check out these photos he’s passed along:

Rackauskas has a harmonica signed by Lester Butler, "but I'm never going to part with that!"

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Found! ‘Louisiana Blues’ rare promo tape 1992

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by J.J.

After years of myths, faded memories, lost opportunities and cold trails, the rarest of Red Devils recordings is discovered, recasting the band as a semi-acoustic traditional blues combo.

Even after the package arrived in the mail, it was still hard to believe the search was over. In our hands was the much-rumored “Louisiana Blues” promo tape. It existed and was ready to be played.


“Louisiana Blues” is the alpha and omega of The Red Devils’ legend: It is both the first cut released on Def American in the early ’90s, as well as the last remaining musical mystery in the band’s official discography.

Twelve years of Internet queries, e-mails with friends and collectors and several wild goose chases had finally lead to prize: The cassette turned up in Nebraska as a listing on before coming to

There are many reasons why this particular song has eluded collectors and been such a source of confusion for so long:
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Red Devils 1992 Def American press kit

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by J.J.

def_american_onesheetNot knowing much about The Red Devils in 1992, the Def American press kit was pretty much the only source of info I had for the band. I got this press kit while working at the Indiana Daily Student, before the band came to play a gig at Jake’s Nightclub. I’ll write more about that experience later, but for now, let’s crack open the envelope:

The main piece in the kit was the Red Devils’ one-sheet, a pretty detailed bio of the band, with nods to Hollywood Fats, Junior Watson and more. This is still some required reading for Devils’ fans — it sort of fills in the mythological blanks, and pegs the trio of Lester Butler, Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray Bartel as the three founding members.
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“Automatic” / “Devil Woman” promo CD single

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , on January 26, 2009 by J.J.
"Automatic"/"Devil Woman" promo single

"Automatic"/"Devil Woman" promo CD single

Picked up a cool little item on eBay a month or so ago: a promo-only CD single for The Red Devils’ “Automatic” and “Devil Woman.” Though it only contains two songs that you should own by now, there are still several notable things about this little single:

THE TWO-SONG PAIRING. After having memorized just about every sound and pause on “King King,” it is cool to hear these two songs back-to-back, out of sequence from the album. The promo disc is nicely mixed, with no edits, so the “live” feel carries over between the two songs, as though they were next to each other in the set.
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