Archive for john morgan

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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Alex Schultz on 13: “The songs were Lester Butler”

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by J.J.

It’s clear that his time with 13 and Lester Butler has had an impact on guitarist Alex Schultz.

When talking with Schultz at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival last year, he was open, engaging and honest. His experiences differ from some other musicians who worked with Butler over the years, as he fondly recalled the charismatic harp player and singer. And he was more than willing to talk about fleshing out the songs that would become “13 featuring Lester Butler,” his impressions of “Lester’s Legendary Last Gig” and his memories of someone who grew to be a close friend.

On that May day in 2011, Schultz had just gotten off stage where he performed several Butler songs with Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijm, Willie J. Campbell and Johnny Morgan. Schultz takes responsibility to be true to those songs and Butler’s memory.

“(The songs) were so unique, and they were so unique to this guy,” Schultz said. “The songs were Lester Butler, and he was such a unique person, unique character. So the songs and the music was kind of singular. They weren’t the type of tunes you would just say, ‘oh, let’s do a cover of that tune’.”

“We got very close as friends. And his approach to the music also was very, like, all-inclusive. You had to be like 110 percent into the music. That’s how he was … To play those songs was like very emotional. Imagine standing next to Lester Butler on stage every night. Some nights it was so incredible and he was so into the music and it was so real, and so I got drawn into it as well, and I played it that way.”

“So it became like an emotional experience to play that stuff. It’s not something you would casually do, and say, ‘oh yeah, let’s do ‘So Low Down.” If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to really feel it and go there.”

Listen to the Schultz interview here, edited for clarity and content:

MP3: Alex Schultz interview May 29, 2011 (26:01)

0:00-12:14: Playing songs from 13; the uniqueness of the music; working with Big Pete; contrasting Butler with William Clarke and Rod Piazza.
12:14-20:15: Writing the songs; demo sessions; “Plague of Madness”
20:15-26:01: How fans remember Butler; Schultz’s friendship with Butler; recovery; memories of Moulin 1998

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All photos by Tina Hanagan except the one with Schultz, Perry and Hanagan.

Johnny Morgan on 13: “It was a hybrid”

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2011 by J.J.

The versions of “Sweet Tooth” and “Black Hearted Woman” that ended up on “13 featuring Lester Butler” were actually the demo tracks, featuring the propulsive drumming of Johnny Morgan.

I spoke with Morgan back on May 29, 2011, at the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival, minutes after he got off stage playing behind Big Pete, Alex Schultz and Willie J. Campbell as part of a tribute to Lester Butler.

In the interview, Morgan talks about recording those demos and how the band was spurred on to get more aggressive, what Butler was listening to, and what he thought of his singing voice, among other observations.

MP3: John Morgan interview May 29, 2011 (8:30)

EDIT 2/26/12: Listen to an interview with Alex Schultz from the 2011 Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Fest.

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All photos by Tina Hanagan

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