In This Issue: The Blasters with Dave Alvin 'Fourth of July' weekend, The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute DVD, and all the latest news



The Blasters with special guest Dave Alvin

The American Music Fest at Fitzgerald's--Berwyn, IL

                         July 3-4, 2010           By Billy Davis





a song." Danny Bland ran backstage to find the C harmonica needed for SO LONG BABY GOODBYE. When I'm working for Phil, I always take his harmonicas from the backstage and place them onstage on his guitar amp. The previous night I asked him if he wanted the same routine. This time he said he would keep the harmonicas in his pocket. In fact, the previous night, Phil purposefully resisted removing his jacket during the set so could have the harmonicas close in his pocket. It was only when he had started SO LONG BABY with harmonica in hand, that he finally got relief from the heat and took his jacket off.
But tonight he forgot to put them in his red jacket. But these little surprises are my favorite moments in a Blasters show when they have to pull out a trick. Phil had an A harmonica ready so he called to the band: "Jimmy Reed in the key of E." We got to hear TAKE OUT SOME INSURANCE ON ME, my favorite Jimmy Reed song - one that Phil has played on rare occasions in the past. This time, though, Phil played a harmonica on the song instead of guitar - which I had never seen on that song.  SO LONG BABY was played next as promised, while Dave Alvin prepared to walk on stage.
Phil continued his talkative mood and introduced Dave to the stage: "At this time, ladies and gentleman, let me bring to the stage the pride of Los Angeles, the pride of Downey, California, the pride of Via Amorita St., the pride of the country, the pride of the hemisphere, the pride of all parallel universes. . .my brother David." Again they launched into CRAZY BABY - a great starter song.  TROUBLE BOUND was next. Keith and Dave had to decide in advance who would do the solo. They decided to both do solos, not at the same time, but concurrently. Dave took his first but as he was finishing and expecting Keith to start his solo, Phil made amotion to cut off the solo with the next lyric verse. Dave quickly patted him on the arm to stop, and pointed at Keith. Keith was able to get his solo in a new arrangement of the song - Perfect execution.
The set was the same as the previous day just in a different order. The only exception was I'M SHAKIN replaced DARK NIGHT. In Billy Boy Arnold's spot, he played the two previous night's songs and added one more: Willie Dixon's THE SAME THING.
ONE BAD STUD was longer tonight with more extensive solos. Dave Alvin led the band into a quiet down part in the solo like he has always done in Guilty Men shows during AMERICAN MUSIC. It's a technique used to bring a dramatic rise to the song when it returns to full volume and intensity. The Blasters never use that effect in their songs. They finished the show with Phil singing the Spanish lyrics to MARIE MARIE. They returned for their first encore and Phil dedicated ONE BAD STUD to Bill Fitzgerald.
Coming back for the second encore, Phil reached the microphone first and in a wise guy tone announced: "Yesterday was the Fourth of July (ed. note -- because by this point in the set it was after midnight). I heard this song on the 3rd of July and will now on the 5th of July." Dave chimed in: "And if you're lucky, Phil, you will hear it every God damn day of your life!" The crowd cheered on Dave's side so Phil added: "I'll sing it every God Damn day is right (as Phil affectionately patted Dave's shoulder)." Dave then faked an onstage argument and said: "Don't give me shit. I'm workin' here for you tonight. Tonight and last night and that's it and I'm done!"  Phil continued the fun: "Come on, David. You can't get upset because some people call you Phil sometimes?" Dave: "That's why I wear the hat." Phil looked at the audience and said: "I guarantee I get called Dave more times than he gets called Phil." Dave retorted: "Well. . . are you hanging out at schools for the blind?"
Phil looked at the audience and prepared to go into a story: "A guy the other day told me that. . . " Dave immediately cut him off in the mic and said: "No no no no no! You just stand right there." Dave knew this could go on forever. The audience was laughing and having a ball listening to this routine. Dave: "You just stand right there. You're the guy wearing the red suit!"  Everybody started laughing at that comment, including Phil, and they went into FOURTH OF JULY.
Dave got Phil to sing the chorus yesterday. Today he did it again but also was able to get the whole audience singing along to it.
Cocktail napkins flew everywhere like it was New Year's Eve led by Bill Fitzgerald. What a great weekend. It was truly a Blast with the Blasters.  --
AM         Thanks to Tina Hanagan for her great photos that accompany this story. You can see more of her photos and another review of these shows at Also check out a great website she contributes to called which covers The Red Devils, Lester Butler and California Blues Rock and Roots Music.



expensive boots and Tom said: 'Do you want to help me dig these irrigation trenches?' (Dave hesitates sarcastically). . .Sure! So I lost a good pair of boots but he dug that trench right towards an adobe house. Water and adobe. . .not a good combo.
Tom: It used to be a three story house.
Dave (Laughs) That's a subterranean split level thing.
Dave: I was living in Nashville in a delusional state. Tom and I have a mutual friend, Katy Moffatt, who said to me, 'You have to hear this guy Tom Russell.'
The publishers had a cassette of Tom that I took home to listen to. The first song I heard was BLUE WING. It was such a great song I said, 'I'm gonna get out of this town.' I recorded it on my
King of California album and over the years many people come up to me and think that I wrote it. I have to be honest with you, Tom, a lot of times I do not correct them.
Tom: That's fine.
Dave: It makes me a little upset that a guy from Inglewood wrote it, but what the hell.
Tom: Now I have to be honest: when I wrote it and recorded it years ago, I did it as a country thing. When I came into Dave's
King of California recording session, I was blown away by the way he was doing it. Dave made this song his own, and now I do it the way Dave recorded it.

From The Editor:  -- The Blasters newsletter has discontinued the print edition /snail mail version in favor of a free web version only.  There is a limited number of print editions that go out to close out pre-paid subscriptions. No new subscriptions are being accepted.
-- The Blasters newsletter no longer has an official mailing address as the PO Box in Woodhaven NY is no longer valid. If you need to send something please contact me at and I will provide an address.
-- On a personal note, I apologize for the newsletter updates not being on time lately. I am in the process of moving the Blasters Newsletter headquarters out of New York City to Long Island. Hopefully soon I'll be back on a regular newsletter and update schedule. --   Billy Davis


AMERICAN  MUSIC: The Blasters / Dave Alvin newsletter
editor/writer: Billy Davis      editorial assistant: Craig Frischkorn   contributing writer Tom Wilk
Publishing 4 issues quarterly.

Phil Alvin records with Nick Curran

Nick Curran and the Lowlifes have released a new album called Reform School Girl (Electro Groove Records). It includes a duet with Phil Alvin on FLYIN' BLIND.
Phil Alvin: I met Nick six years ago at a jam session.  But more recently a friend brought him over to my house for one of our parties, and I remembered him. We immediately started playing some country blues and Gary Massey came over to play. Gary was gonna be the guitar player in the Blasters when we started the band, but I couldn't find him, so luckily we had David.
Anyway, Nick had heard of Gary Massey because Gene Taylor, who is also friends with Nick, told him that Massey played like Jimmy Reed. So after Nick had a Viva Las Vegas gig, he wanted to come back to Downey and jam with us and particularly Gary Massey -- and listen to old records.
In October 2009, Nick flew me out to Austin to record a song on his new album. We were driving over the Congress ave. bridge - It's well known that bats live under the bridge. I was thinking about bats (laughs) and just said out loud "Flyin' Blind." So I started writing a song around that title. The whole theme of the album was about the 'youthful I-don't-care-attitude' thing, so the song fit. I think it's a pretty good song.

Dave Alvin exclusive digital download tracks discography Part 3

In summer of 2007, Dave Alvin launched It opened up opportunities for Dave to further reach out to his fans. He began releasing exclusive bonus songs available only on the internet. It was Announced: "Throughout his career, Dave Alvin has periodically paid tribute to songwriters/performers that have inspired him by recording his favorite songs by these artists. Dave has many of these and other self penned gems hidden away in his personal archives. He is happy to now have the opportunity to make some of these tracks available to you exclusively through and To accompany each song's release, Dave has a few words for us about why he felt compelled to record it.."
Starting in American Music #54 (August 2007) Part 1 of this discography appeared for the first group of songs he released: PEACE, and HIGHWAY 61. Then Part 2 in #61 (January 2010). Here is part 3 of Dave's descriptions of the exclusive tracks available  on his website:
These digital singles are available for download on in the Yep Roc Web Shop for just $0.99.

Dave Alvin and Chris Gaffney - "Two Lucky Bums (Memorial Edition)"     Release April 2008
My other big brother, Chris Gaffney passed away Thursday morning, April 17, 2008.
I had another song prepared for this month's download but with the recent sudden and tragic passing of my best friend Chris Gaffney, it just seemed proper to re-release TWO LUCKY BUMS. Nothing could better express what Chris's friendship meant to me than this duet I wrote for the two of us.
This version is a bit different than the previously released one. Just a few days before Chris died, I added two old pals of ours to the track, David Jackson on the stand up bass and Don Heffington on the drums. Both musicians have played on various recordings and in various barrooms with Chris and I over the years so it made sense to fill out the track a little bit with their subtle but invaluable assistance. Our trusted engineer, Craig Parker Adams, did a beautiful re-mix that brought much more dynamics and color to the track while keeping its essential intimacy intact.
I really don't know what else to say right now, but I feel that I have to say something. First of all, I want to again thank everyone that sent messages to Chris and donated funds to his cause. It means more than you'll know to Chris, his family and me. We are still raising money at to help with the existing medical bills and other various expenses including a forthcoming memorial service.
After twenty-some years I have thousands of memories of Chris. Through those years of songs, laughs, countless barrooms, eternal highways, broken hearts, screw-ups, bail outs, close calls, busted strings, elusive dreams, flat tires, stalled engines, hard hangovers, bad gigs, great gigs, in between gigs, tragedies, triumphs,


secret jokes, bad TV, worse food and now, tears, Gaffney always had my back. I never had to worry about nothing or nobody if Gaffney was with me. I don't know what I ever did to deserve it but, God, I was blessed to have Chris Gaffney as my best friend.
Chris's and my friend, B.J. in Omaha, said it best for me in a email yesterday. She said that I now have a "wild angel looking out for me." Yeah, I do believe that's true.   
I'll still see you in Cuervo, brother.               Dave, April 20, 2008

Dave Alvin - "Man Walks Among Us"                 Release: May 2008
The first record I ever owned was "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. I was four or five years old and forced my mother to buy it for me after hearing the song on the radio. The first mechanical thing I ever learned to operate was our family record player just so I could play "El Paso" over and over and over and over again. To this day if I'm in a barroom or a diner, and "El Paso" is on the jukebox, it's a damn safe bet what the first song I'm punching in will be. I often wonder whether the reason that I'm drawn to writing narrative style songs is based on the fact that "El Paso" (perhaps tied with Chuck Berry's "Memphis") is my favorite song of all time. A perfect piece of songwriting.
Many people tend to think that "El Paso" is a traditional old West folk ballad or was written by some extremely talented yet anonymous Nashville songwriter. Nope. It was written by the man who sang it, Marty Robbins. He was not only one of the greatest singers/performers in country music history but he was also one of country music's (or any kind of music's) greatest songwriters. Born and raised in Arizona, Marty had a deep emotional feeling for the West and its history, myths and landscape and that connection was expressed in the lyrics he wrote in some of his best songs. Which brings me to my second favorite song that Marty Robbins wrote, "Man Walks Among Us." Originally released on his 1963 album, The Gunfighter Returns, "Man Walks Among Us" is a bittersweet meditation on the tragic changes mankind was bringing to his beloved desert and it's non-human inhabitants.
When I first heard the lyrics to "Man Walks Among Us" years ago, I was completely blown away. Not only was someone expressing thoughts and emotions that I'd always felt but, what really floored me, was that these very personal sentiments were coming from Marty Robbins. Marty Robbins, country music icon and... tree hugger?!?! Or cactus hugger to be perhaps more accurate. While I may be exaggerating the tree hugger thing a little bit, Marty's wise and tender lyrics predate the modern environmental movement, and our society's slow acknowledgment of the damages to our fragile ecosystems, by several years if not decades. I'd always admired Marty Robbins not only for his songwriting prowess and stunning voice, but also because (like Ray Charles, Elvis, Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan) he was always wiling to explore various musical styles and not be hemmed in by musical genres or people's artistic expectations of him. Honky tonk, rock-a-billy, cowboy songs, pop ballads, blues, spirituals, even Hawaiian and calypso songs are all part of his recorded legacy. But after hearing "Man Walks Among Us," I also admire him for composing, in my opinion, one of the best environmental songs ever written.
Joining me on this track are some fellow tree huggers of one sort or another. Former forest ranger and current musical visionary, Greg Leisz on pedal steel and electric guitar, former Guilty Man Rick Shea is doing the pretty acoustic guitar work and harmony vocals, former Roger Miller/Hoyt Axton musical co-conspirator David Jackson plays the acoustic bass while former drummer for the likes of Emmy Lou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Big Mama Thornton and Bob Dylan, Don Heffington is keeping everything in time with his unique and sensitive drum styling. The track was recorded and mixed by the always patient and sonically astute, Craig Parker Adams at his Winslow Court Studio.
Normally I don't do this kind of thing but if you want to check out some environmental groups I support, I sincerely recommend looking into The Nature Conservancy, The Center For Biological Diversity and The Wildlands Conservancy to name a few. If you ever do run into me out on a hiking trail in the desert or in the hills, it's a damn safe bet what song I'll be humming to myself.    - Dave Alvin, April 15, 2008

Dave Alvin - "Who Will Buy The Wine?"               Release: June 2008
"Who Will Buy the Wine?" is an outtake of sorts from West of the West, my tribute CD to California songwriters. Its composer was Billy Mize, who is one of the true pioneers of West Coast country music and the Bakersfield sound in particular. A true unsung honky-tonk hero.


Gerald Haslam, the noted California novelist/essayist/ historian and Bakersfield native, told me that local folks, back in the early 1950s, thought Billy Mize was supposed to be the Bakersfield kid that would make it big in country music. Not Merle Haggard or Buck Owens. Handsome and multi-talented, Billy Mize was a singer, songwriter, sideman and television personality (I still remember seeing him on Cal Worthington's old Saturday evening country music shows and on the Town Hall Party back when I was a boy) who seemed to have all the right ingredients for big time stardom. Despite his success on the west coast country music scene, Billy Mize never became as big a star as Merle or Buck would become in the 1960s.
Who can say why some people become big stars while others don't? I certainly have no idea why, believe me. All I know is that Billy Mize wrote one of my favorite (if not my favorite) drinkin' and cheatin' songs, "Who Will Buy the Wine?" It was a big country hit for Charlie Walker in the late 50s and has been subsequently recorded by a Honky Tonk Who's Who including Jerry Lee Lewis, Ernest Tubb and Merle Haggard.
Besides paying tribute to Billy Mize by recording his song, I also wanted to tip my hat to a world that has vanished to a great extent. From the 1940s up into the early 90s, there was a thriving country barroom scene on the southeast side of Los Angeles County where I grew up. Joints like The Tumbleweeds in Bell Gardens, Nashville West in El Monte, The Dodge Saloon in Norwalk and The Blue Bayou in Bellflower. Long Beach had more than it's share of clubs with places like George's Round-up, Hollywood By The Beach, Nashville Beach and, up on Signal Hill maybe the greatest of them all, Bonnie Price's Foothill Club. For many years Billy Mize and The Tennesseans was the house band at the Foothill and more than once, after I turned 21, I stopped by to catch one of his sets and have a beer or two. These were neighborhood clubs that catered to the local blue collar factory and oil field workers and what was left of the old dairy and agricultural workers in the area. As tastes changed in country music and the customers and jobs moved on or, sadly, as the old timers passed away so did these honky-tonks and the music scene they supported.
Many of the musicians I've worked with over the years (Chris Gaffney, Greg Leisz, Rick Shea and Gene Taylor to name a few) cut their teeth in these joints as young sidemen to countless, nameless bandleaders. I was fortunate to have Greg (pedal steel) and Rick (electric guitar and harmony vocals) join me in recreating a lost world that they were a small part of. The superb rhythm section of David Jackson on bass and Don Heffington on drums (no strangers to the honky-tonks) added the necessary country shuffle groove while Craig Parker Adams did his usual stellar job recording this at his Winslow Court Studio. While I consider myself a rock and roll/folk/blues guy, country music, and especially the kind played by Billy Mize in the local bars of my youth, has always had an immense influence on me and my songwriting. So, anyway, who is going to buy the wine? See you at the Foothill.    - Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin - "Albuquerque"                     Release: July 2008
This version of "Albuquerque" is a tribute of sorts to my best friend and spiritual advisor, the late Chris Gaffney. For many years this old Link Davis Sr. song was a staple of Chris's barroom gigs with his great band, The Cold Hard Facts. I dug this funky, little blues song so much that Chris and I talked through the years about recording it together but, sadly for whatever reason, we never got around to it. Oh well.
During a recent rehearsal with my band, The Guilty Men, we started reminiscing about Chris and before long we were jamming on "Albuquerque" just for fun. Fortunately, we were practicing at Craig Parker Adams's Winslow Court Studio and Craig recorded the whole thing. Drummer Steve Mugalian and bassist Gregory Boaz are the rock solid rhythm section and Jack Rudy is blowing the tough harmonica. Guitarist Chris Miller is playing some soulful R+B licks while I'm doing my Freddie King imitation on the wah-wah guitar.
Unfortunately, Joe Terry, the keyboardist for The Guilty Men, wasn't able to be at the rehearsal. Also, sadly, Gaffney wasn't there either.
"Albuquerque" was written by Link Davis Sr. He was a veteran musician/singer who started out playing western swing but, throughout his long career from the late 40's until the 60s, he cut records in just about every roots music style from Cajun (his biggest hit was the Cajun classic, "Big Mamou"), blues, rockabilly, folk and country. My kind of guy. Most of the bars mentioned in the song are long gone except for the Caravan East on Central Avenue (the old Route 66) on the east side of Albuquerque. Maybe some night, I'll run into you at the Caravan East and we can have a beer or two and raise a toast to Link Davis Sr. and Chris Gaffney.
- Dave Alvin, July 16, 2008