The Blasters – in conversation with Joe Benson – The Local Music Show – November 1981 – KLOS – Mike Devich Collection
L.A.’s very own Blasters, in conversation at KLOS with Joe Benson and The Local Music Show from November 1981. By now, The Blasters have become an institution. A much loved and revered band who did a lot to bring Los Angeles to the forefront during the heady days of the late 1970s, when everything was up for grabs and music was coming out of every storefront and alleyway between Northridge and San Pedro. But in 1981, when this interview took place, The Blasters were just starting to get a nationwide and worldwide buzz going – part of a genre steeped in 50’s Rockabilly (for the most part) but extending to a much wider playing field of Roots Rock and Rural Blues, The Blasters were perfects fits for the L.A. scene – having huge appeal with the Punk audience, while maintaining a loyalty with the hardcore Rockabilly audience. It was possible to straddle two totally different sets of audiences while keeping it all together with music that was urgent, pulsating and drenched with energy.
A little background for those of you just getting acquainted (thanks Wikipedia):
The Alvin brothers (Phil and Dave) grew up in a household filled with music and parents who exposed their sons to different kinds of American music. They made friends with John Bazz and Bill Bateman, and together the boys were brave enough to go into Los Angeles blues clubs to watch their musical idols. They learned firsthand from the likes of Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker. Phil Alvin recalled how his mother would drive the boys anywhere, and around 1965 or 1966, she took Phil to see Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. At Phil’s request, Big Joe Williams introduced him to Terry, and Phil wound up taking a number of harmonica lessons from Terry. Another mentor was tenor saxophonist Lee Allen, who later joined The Blasters.
Phil Alvin explained the origin of the band’s name: ” I thought Joe Turner’s backup band on his Atlantic records–I had these 78s–I thought they were the Blues Blasters. That ends up it was Jimmy McCracklin. I just took the ‘Blues’ off and Joe finally told me, that’s Jimmy McCracklin’s name, but you tell ‘im I gave you permission to steal it [laughs]”
Gene Taylor joined after the release of American Music (1980), performing boogie woogie-style piano (he remained with the band through late 1985). Later on, Steve Berlin joined on baritone sax, forming a horn tandem with Lee Allen.
The Blasters’ energetic live performances gained a local following, and they became fixtures of the early 1980s Los Angeles punk rock scene. They performed alongside X, Black Flag, The Gun Club, the Screamers and others. The L.A. scene of the time also featured the cowpunk genre, and a notable example was how The Blasters helped country artist Dwight Yoakam get established. They toured together in 1985.
Hit the play button and they will explain it all themselves.
Enjoy the interview. (Special thanks to Mike Devich for the cool tapes)