Archive for kid ramos

The legend of the Kid Ramos/Lester Butler ‘hard-edge blues unit’ Snake Snake

Posted in lester butler, related music with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2021 by J.J.

Of all of Lester Butler’s various bands and gigs, Snake Snake may be the most mysterious.

But its roots go back to California’s bubbling hot, early 1980s blues scene.

“When I first met Lester he was just a friend of Hollywood Fats that would come around in the early ’80s,” Kid Ramos told nofightin.com recently. “I didn’t even know he played harmonica.”

At the time, Kid and Fats were the 1-2 guitar punch in the James Harman Band, which also boasted Willie J. Campbell on bass and Stephen Hodges on drums.

Ramos and Butler would share the stage a few years later in The Blue Shadows.

“He contacted me in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, I think it was and asked me to come sit with them at the King King,” Ramos recalled. “At that time Smokey Hormel was the guitar player and sometimes other people would play guitar. But it was Jonny Ray Bartel, Bill Bateman and … (Dave Lee) Bartel.”

“Lester was too hard for those guys to deal with and it sort of imploded,” he remembered. “Paul Size went back to Texas and I played some more gigs with the band as The Red Devils. Went to Holland and played some gigs over there. But with a different rhythm section.”

A few years later, it was Ramos’ turn to call Butler for a band he was putting together: Snake Snake.

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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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James Harman needs our help. (Icepick’s Story 2021)

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2021 by J.J.

In a parallel universe, James Harman is a superstar.

An in-demand artiste who plays command performances for kings and queens. A poet laureate whose lyrics are studied in college courses. A giving mentor and bandleader whose roots have grown the fruits of generations of musicians. A vocalist whose records stop all diner conversation when the needle hits his latest song.

But in this here-and-now, James Harman — blues raconteur extraordinaire — is 74, without the means to earn a living, and beginning chemotherapy for Stage 4 cancer.

Harman is not a household name — unless your household is real hip. Those who know, know.

To the true believers of “The Red Devils, Lester Butler and California’s (and beyond’s) blues, rock and roots music,” James Harman is the Godfather.

Some of this is by talent, and some of it is by proximity. Harman is one of those threads of connective cool from his native Alabama, to the post-Woodstock Canned Heat California scene, to Big Joe Turner, Hollywood Fats, MTV, ZZ Top and a touring schedule in the 1990s that rivaled any act on the planet (“She wrapped my sandwich, boy, in an old road map”).

Harman has always surrounded himself with whipcrack musicians, and entire James Harman Band lineups have gone on to form or evolve into other killer bands, from The Blasters (Phil Alvin and Bill Bateman were early bandmates, as was Gene Taylor), to The Fabulous Thunderbirds (whose early ‘90s incarnation was a literal James Harman Band with Kim Wilson) to Lester Butler’s various 13s.

His most well-known ensemble was the early 1980s version of the James Harman Band … Those Dangerous Gentlemens: Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell and the incomparable Stephen Hodges on drums (you might know Hodges from the Tom Waits band). Yes, Hollywood Fats and Kid Ramos in one lineup, under the direction of one James Harman.

Recommended: Extra Napkins, Strictly Live … in ’85!, Thank You Baby, Those Dangerous Gentlemens

James Harman, The Blasters, X, The (original) Red Devils, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Canned Heat, Dwight Yoakam, Tom Waits, Los Lobos and many others shared common DNA, even if each leaned on nurture more than nature (punk rockabilly, experimental roots … or “American music”).

Harman would tell you (and has told me and my pals) that he is not a harmonica player. He is a singer and a songwriter who uses the harmonica when needed to tell his stories. And those stories are clever and compact in a way that demonstrates the craft and care he puts into his art. His musical ethos align more closely with artists and outsiders such as Waits and Los Lobos than the average “Tuesday bluesday” crowd — even though he gets the job done down behind that city dump, presiding over a real blues party.

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Kid Ramos tears it up in 1989 Blue Shadows videos

Posted in red devils with tags , , on February 1, 2017 by J.J.

Back in December, Kid Ramos posted three very cool videos a version of The Blue Shadows from 1989 — Bill Bateman, Jonny Ray Bartel, Dave Lee Bartel, Lester Butler and, well, the first “Kid” on guitar. Well, videos of videos.

Is this the earliest recording out there of the core of The Blue Shadows/Red Devils, before Paul “The Kid” Size joined? Until now, the earliest I’ve seen was The Blue Shadows from 1991, with Size.

Not a ton of info out there … hope the Kid can come through with details!

More after the jump …
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Snake Snake at the Blue Cafe 1997

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , on May 21, 2014 by J.J.

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We have written about Snake Snake before, believing a band with that brilliant a name could only be a myth.

But here they are — Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell, Stephen Hodges and Lester Butler — on a June 13, 1997, at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach, Calif.

Funny that this was right after the release of “13 featuring Lester Butler” and several 13 dates.

Spare bands & one-and-dones

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , on September 2, 2013 by J.J.

Blues musicians will know … get a group of guys together, come up with a name, and you are a “band” for a night. Might have those same four guys another night, new name. Use a different drummer for a pickup gig, and that’s three. One of those bands, likely, was called the Blues Meisters. Law of averages.

The Red Devils had a fairly monogamous relationship during the prime ’92-’93 years: Butler, Size, Bartel, Bartel and Bateman — save for Mike Flanigin taking North American duties for Dave Lee Bartel in late 1992. But once Paul Size left the band in mid-’93, all bets were off.

Here are some of the random situations featuring Lester Butler, primarily between The Red Devils and 13.

THE BACKSTREET CRAWLERS: “Tonight at 9 [at the Blue Cafe], the Backstreet Crawlers, featuring Lester of the Red Devils on harmonica. The Crawlers are an L.A.-based blues outfit who often have non-musician celebs dropping by to jam.” — Long Beach, Calif., Press-Telegram, July 25, 1992 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.

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