Archive for jonny ray bartel

Portrait of a Knitter

Posted in jonny ray bartel with tags , , , , , , on June 4, 2015 by J.J.

Jonny Ray Bartel

Tom Harold took this portrait of Jonny Ray Bartel when he performed with The Knitters Dec. 2, 2007, at the Music Mill in Indianapolis.

Some other fan photos from that gig can be seen on Flickr.

Classic Rock: Fear and loathing in The Red Devils

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2014 by J.J.

The Red Devils in Classic Rock #195

Classic Rock #195

From their amazing music to the devastating effects of drugs, The Red Devils’ story is told this month in a compelling piece by writer Paul Rees in the new issue of Classic Rock Magazine.

Issue #195, with Queen on the cover, is out in the UK and in digital editions now.

Rees has done a stellar job on the Devils’ tale. The article, part of an in-issue series on “the greatest cult bands of all time,” is a worthy companion to Dan Leroy’s chapter on the band in “The Greatest Music Never Sold.”

Driving the Classic Rock story (titled “Fear and Loathing in Hollywood”) are fresh interviews with Jonny Ray Bartel, Bill Bateman, Alex Schultz, Billy Gibbons, Rick Rubin and Lester Butler’s sister, Ginny Tura.

And new facts and side items are unearthed. Never before have the band members talked so openly about the troubles that destroyed the band, and led to Butler’s horrible — if inevitable — death.

The story is well worth picking up. Here are some impressions:

  • Rees traces The Red Devils beginnings to earlier than the Blue Shadows in 1988. He says that band was initially called The Stumblebums in 1986.
  • Rubin’s two edicts for signing the band: Change the name, and hire a guitarist. Enter Paul Size.
  • Though “King King” sounds like the best set of blues ever, it was recorded over three successive Mondays at the club.
  • “That session is incredible. You’d have to ask Mick why he never chose to release it.” Even Rick Rubin can’t get the Jagger sessions released. If they were, they would likely lead, even at this late date, to recognition for the Devils, and new critical and commercial assessments of Jagger’s solo career.
  • Bateman claims Butler “had actually clinically died four times in previous years.” His account of Butler waking up in the morgue under a sheet is almost impossible to believe.
  • Dave Lee Bartel dropped out of the band in Dallas in a dispute over pay. Meanwhile, Butler was trying to hire all new band members. This all happened before their legendary European tour in early 1993.
  • The details of the night of Butler’s death, Bateman’s role in the night and the aftermath, are harrowing.

Rees included a comment by me in the article, giving some perspective from a fan. I made that reference to Brian Eno’s Velvet Underground comment before. To me, it fits here.

When I talk with people about “King King” — granted, the results are biased because I often meet them through this blog — they agree that it is essential and, for some, life-changing (or, at least, blues-changing).

Even all these years later, that passion continues to speak to the chemistry and abilities of five guys at a Monday night blues show in an old Chinese restaurant.

The usual suspects?

Posted in red devils with tags , , on February 12, 2014 by J.J.

The usual suspects?

Jutta Härkönen shared this pic she took of The Red Devils from Kungsgatan, Sweden, with Jonny Ray Bartel surrendering. That’s guitarist Zach Zunis fourth from the left.

Jutta does not remember what the occasion was — she did say the band was not in the men’s room! — and we have no confirmed dates for the Devils in Sweden, though surely they have played there.

Given the look in the pic, and Zunis in the lineup, we would guess this was taken in the fall of 1993 or summer of 1994, when we know the band had European tours. By ’95, the band would morph into “Lester and the Devils.”

If anyone has more info, please share in the comments.

‘King King’: There’s only one

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by J.J.

reddevils_kingking_sleeve2

I’ve been thinking a lot about “King King” the last few weeks, what makes it special in a way other albums — of any genre — rarely are.

The success of The Red Devils and the “King King” album come down to three things, very simple but so elusive.

It’s those five guys (plus one on the record), playing those 12 songs in that club with that producer.

kingking_vinylThat’s it.

There is no substitute. There is no sequel. All the magic is captured on that disc, starting with the blurry cover with the hipsters outside, to the steam and smoke on that piece of plastic in the player.

At this point, “King King” is old enough to buy a drink, but still sounds as fresh and powerful as it did 21 years ago. And it would have played 21 years earlier, too, in 1971, a muscular rival for the broader explorations of Butterfield and Canned Heat.

It’s easy on paper to peg The Red Devils as a harmonica band. But in reality, it’s a rhythm band. Built on Bill “Buster” Bateman’s impeccable timing and dynamics. Jonny Ray Bartel’s thick bass swagger, so evident on the groovier cuts like “I Wish You Would” and “Devil Woman.” Dave Lee Bartel’s essential rhythm, so unselfish, so signature (listen to recordings of the band with other rhythm guitarists … just not the same).
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Dave Alvin remembers Butler and Red Devils

Posted in bill bateman, lester butler, red devils with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2013 by J.J.

Dave Alvin posted his thoughts to Facebook Dec. 4:

Got to thinking today about the late, talented Lester Butler and the short lived but tough little blues outfit, The Red Devils, so I found a good clip of the guys playing some European festival over a decade ago. Yeah, that’s Blaster Bill Bateman on drums and Knitter Johnny Ray Bartel on bass backing up Lester as he blows the hell out of his harp. In those days they battled their demons while dancing damn close to the edge but for a few shining hours they played some great damn rocking blues. I’m glad some film remains of Lester and the guys before things ended as ugly and sad as anything could.

Alvin, of course, is essential to The Red Devils, basically a spin-off band to The Blasters. Dave Alvin played in the original Blue Shadows trio with Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray Bartel, and teams still with Bartel in The Knitters.

As of this writing, the post has 422 likes, 64 comments and 86 shares.

And he posted this video, from PinkPop, more than 20 years ago:

And here it is … The Red Devils 2012 reunion

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by J.J.

They started from a jam, so it makes sense they would return at a jam, under the cover of darkness, unannounced and just as powerful as when they burst on the national stage with “King King” in 1992.

The surviving members of The Red Devils reunited May 27 at an afterparty for the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Music Festival Memorial Day weekend.

Bill Bateman, Dave Lee Bartel, Paul Size and Jonny Ray Bartel. Courtesy Jonathan T. Lovitt

Lead guitarist Paul “The Kid” Size was playing the fest with Big Pete Sunday afternoon, and later that evening found himself reunited on stage at the Grand Vista Hotel with drummer Bill Bateman, bassist Jonny Ray Bartel and rhythm guitarist Dave Lee Bartel. By our count, this was the first time the four had been on stage since at least the middle of 1993.

Filling the all-important harmonica role was nofightin.com friend Johnny Mastro, who evoked the classic Red Devils sound. We all wondered how it would sound if it would happen, and who would be breathing into the bullet mic when it did. Now we know.

Johnny sent us an email this week telling us how it all went down:

Well it was pretty cool as the whole original band had not played together in a long, long time. It was not really planned and [Jonny Ray] kinda casually asked me to go up to Simi Valley after I played a 5 hour gig all day in Long Beach! Thank god my wife was kind enough to drive me and we had a blast.

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Red Devils open Hollywood House of Blues 1994

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , on February 23, 2011 by J.J.

Jonny Ray Bartel sent this Daily Variety article on the opening night at the Hollywood House of Blues April 22, 1994, featuring Aerosmith and The Red Devils:

Bartel also shared his recollections from that show:

We were offered the warming slot for Aerosmith on the opening night of Hollywood’s House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. We’d already played at our good friend (and HOB investor) John Paul DeJoria’s wedding in Malibu the prior year (that’s a whole ‘nother story as Cher & Roger Daltry jammed with us). Anyway, we got the gig mostly because of John Paul and partly because Joe Perry had heard “King King” and liked us. It was a great night.  I remember playing fearlessly even though Aerosmith was up next. Sadly, I’ve never been able to track down any audio or video of it …

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