Archive for jonny ray bartel

‘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).
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 …

Reviews: Opening for the Allmans in 1992

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

Two new soundboard-quality recordings have surfaced recently to shine light The Red Devils’ 1992 opening slots for the Allman Brothers. The Sept. 1 Richmond, Va., and Sept. 4 Charlotte, N.C., recordings represent the band’s sixth and eighth opening spots (by our count) for the Brothers.

These recordings document the band working through their setlists, and winning over crowds with their hardworking blues. From the very top, the audio quality is quite high, making these discs an audio treat. That there is no crowd noise coming into the mix is unnerving, as it sounds as though the band finishes songs to complete silence.

Both shows begin with a sturdy shuffle, here called “Hey Baby,” but in reality a mad-libs version of the warhorse “Riding in the Moonlight.” The Richmond gig finds the band sounding quite tentative — solid blues to be sure, but no real fireworks. Just three days later, however, the same tune is crunchier and bouncier, with a pounding two-handed shuffle by Bill Bateman, hot turnarounds and leadwork by Paul Size and a much more confident vocal performance by Lester Butler.

Continue reading

Bateman & Bartel go back to “Church”

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , , on November 25, 2010 by J.J.

No doubt their paths have crossed a few times in the last 15 years, but here is video proof of Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray Bartel jamming together in October on The Red Devils classic “Goin’ To The Church”:

The video was shot Oct. 10, 2010, at a VFW post in San Gabriel Valley, California. The occasion was a 50th birthday celebration for DJ Art Martel. Guests included Nick Curran, Phil Alvin, Big Sandy, The 44’s and more.

Besides Bateman and Bartel, this “Church” included Kid Ramos on guitar, effectively a reunion of Blue Shadows members from the Devils’ early days. Adding to the merriment were guitar phenom Kirk Fletcher, and 44’s Johnny Main on vocals and Tex Nakamura on harp.

David Mac of Blues Junction Productions did a great write-up on this event, giving some perspective on the “wow” factor of these jams:

Blaster and former Red Devil Bill Bateman sat in with the 44’s on drums. Former Red Devil bassist, Johnny [sic] Ray Bartel played as well. By this time there were Blasters, Red Devils and T-Birds all over the stage and in the audience.

Orbitgal has a bunch of photos from the event on her Flickr stream, including this great pic of Bartel and Bateman, and several other videos from the event can be found on YouTube.

Rowdy morning on KCRW + 1 new song, 1992

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by J.J.

A great “new” tape has surfaced of The Red Devils performing live in the studio on San Diego radio station KCRW’s long-running program “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” showcasing a new tune, different arrangements, and an interview with the band.

Jon Miller up in Seattle dug the tape out of storage, and sent a copy along to nofightin.com, and it’s a good one. Though the recording is incomplete — picking up toward the end of a searing version of “I Was Wrong” — it is impressive for what’s there, including a rowdy trio shuffle new to nofightin.com.

LISTEN: The rare “Blues in the Morning” shuffle with Lester Butler, Mike Flanigin and Bill Bateman [MP3] [Updated March 4, 2016, to reflect correct personnel]

The airdate, as marked on the original cassette dubbed live from the radio, is dated 12/7/92, though host Chris Douridas mentions that the Devils’ segment was taped the previous Friday. The timeline is corroborated by the Dec. 7 Los Angeles Times review of a Friday evening gig in L.A.

Continue reading

DVD review: Red Devils at Moulin 1993

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2009 by J.J.

By the 1993 Moulin Blues Festival, the Red Devils had been touring for several months on end, and the wear and tear can be seen — but not heard — in the three bonus tracks on the DVD.

While the band looks beat up, they are as tight a musical unit as one could hope for. The devastating, muscular tunes show why the band became legendary in just a few short years, and why they imploded just as quickly.

Paul Size at Moulin 1993

Immediately, you see a different Lester Butler from the 13 era. He looks dirty and heavy, with a bandana failing to keep his long hair from his face. A baggy shirt drapes his frame, and he sways precariously from side to side. His eyelids are heavy, and he has a not-all-there smile on his face. It’s a wonder that he can stand up, let alone perform.

The mini-set starts off with “She’s Dangerous” in the now-familiar live style, with the stop-time riff gone in favor of a piledriving rock beat. Bill Bateman swings hard on the drums, flipping his wrist to emphasize the snare beat. Paul Size, shirt open, cigarette dangling from his lip, eyes half-open, plays aggressively. The Bartel brothers hold down the cool: Jonny Ray swinging his bass at his hip, while Dave Lee strums frantically at his Les Paul Goldtop.
Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: