Archive for stephen hodges

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.

Continue reading

Intveld on Butler: “Taking something beyond where it’s been before”

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , on May 20, 2015 by J.J.

13_new_band2
Lester Butler and 13 were supposed to play their first gig at the Dixie Belle Restaurant in Downey on June 27, 1998.

Butler never made it, but a tribute show was held for him that night. (An article that day noted Smokey Hormel, Steven Hodges and John Bazz all playing).

Here are the details by Theo Douglas from the June 26, 1998, Long Beach Press-Telegram:

HARMONICA PLAYER MEMORIALIZED IN CONCERT

The late Lester Butler may be gone, but a group of his friends and peers in the Los Angeles music world intend to make sure the harmonica player’s intense music lives on for at least one more night.

Memorial flier, courtesy Enrico Crivellaro

Memorial flier, courtesy Enrico Crivellaro

That would be Saturday night, which is when Butler and his band, 13, were scheduled to perform at the Dixie Belle Restaurant in Downey.

Faced with the harmonica player’s untimely death May 9 from a heroin overdose, Butler’s friends decided to fill in for him Saturday at the Dixie Belle with a set list of his own original songs.

“I felt there was some kind of irony that he didn’t play there. He didn’t make it, but his friends can make it for him,” said Dixie Belle promoter Ed Boswell who booked Butler’s Saturday night show several months ago.

“Maybe he could be there in spirit,” he said.

One thing is certain: Butler, who was 38 when he died, won’t be sitting in on a harp. Recognizing that no one can fill the silence he leaves, the evening won’t be an all-harmonica spectacular.
Continue reading

Snake Snake at the Blue Cafe 1997

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

20140520-231701.jpg

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.

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.
Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: