Legendary Bob Margolin hooks up with Reno’s Jason King Band
The instructions were simple, inspirational and scary as hell.
“Steady Rollin'” Bob Margolin, who has performed with every blues star during the last four decades, including Muddy Waters for seven years, will be backed by the Jason King Band Friday, Sept. 23, in the Crystal Bay Casino Red Room and the next night at Third Street, a Reno blues bar.
“Keep your head up and pay attention and we’ll be just fine,” Margolin told King, who instead might have hoped for a set list.
“I love blues but I didn’t get to hang out with Muddy Waters or live in Chicago or hang out down in the Delta,” said King, who has spent all of his adult life in Reno. Nonetheless, King’s musical career has been on a, dare we say, steady roll in the last year, and he has utilized his opportunities such as playing with Margolin, who has confidence in his band mates this weekend.
“It’s easy to lead a blues band with a guitar to give the band cues along with our shared knowledge of the language of that music,” Margolin wrote in an email to Lake Tahoe Action. “I’ll watch them play with Jason for a while and when I hit the bandstand I’ll play to their strengths and style with the songs I choose. I bet we’ll be musical partners right away.”
While Margolin was corresponding with this magazine, he learned Willie “Big Eyes” Smith had died of a stroke at his Chicago home. Smith was a longtime drummer with Muddy Waters. Earlier this year, keyboardist Pinetop Perkins died at the age of 97. Margolin played with Smith and Perkins when he was with Muddy Waters from 1973-80.
“Today (Sept. 17) I’m in Phoenix and there will be a lot of people who knew Willie on the show, the 20th anniversary of The Rhythm Room,” Margolin wrote. “It will be a celebration of Willie’s life. Tomorrow I fly to Pennsylvania and will actually play with Willie’s band on a show he should have been on. We will make it a sweet memorial tribute.”
A North Carolina resident, Margolin has written a column since 1993 for Blues Revue. The topics often are memories of his days with Muddy Waters’ band.
“Sometimes, as with songwriting or musical performances, it comes easy and sometimes I have to work very hard to find my way through what I choose to write about,” Margolin said.
“Running while black,” was the title of Margolin’s most recent column, which told how Lionel Young nearly missed performing at the International Blues Challenge because he was detained by the Memphis police. Young said to skeptical officers he didn’t have his I.D. because he was jogging. Handcuffed and sitting on a sidewalk, Young could see his band mates down the block packing up their car to go to the Beale Street competition. He was finally released and the Lionel Young Band went on won the competition which had 110 bands, including the Reno Blues Society’s first group to be represented, the Jason King Band.
“The past 16 months have been pretty eventful and pretty cool. My mind keeps telling me, ‘What’s next?’ ” said King, whose debut album, “Blue Skies and Black Shoes,” won a Blues Revue readers’ choice honor, which helped him develop a rapport with Margolin, who presents a jam every year at the IBC in the Rum Boogie Cafe.
What’s next? The itinerary includes another trip to Memphis. The Jason King Band beat five other bands at the Reno Blues Society’s Sept. 11 competition at Harrah’s Reno. (The HellBusters won the solo/duo category.) Tommy Skiles plays guitar, Michael Patrick Moore drums and Paul Squellante bass. Keyboardist Franklin Spicer will play keyboards this weekend.
“Tommy is an amazing player,” King said. “He can lay back and listen to what’s going on and add touches. You won’t even know he’s there until he stops playing. I’ll play chords and be part of rhythm section.”
Moore is a veteran drummer from the Bay Area who now lives in Truckee. He continues to play with Butch Whacks and the Glass Packs, which recently played its “22nd annual farewell performance.”
Margolin is known to open up shows to jams with guest artists just as he does at the Rum Boogie. So expect some surprise appearances from folks who will stand next to the man who sided with Muddy Waters.
“For me, it’s not a ‘follow me and learn, Sonny,’ situation.” Margolin said. “I respect them as musicians and we’ll work together to make more than who we are separately.”