It was the early 80’s, and CDs were still a thing of a not so distant future. Nobody had personal computers and the internet was something nobody even thought would exist someday. So finding out about groups you’ve never heard before was something that would only happen through word of mouth, radio or magazines. If you were really interested in discovering a new sound or group, a good way to do that was to pay a visit to your local used record store. That was something I would do often, and although not everything I found would be a hit among teens my age, I usually discovered an unknown treasure.
|Bill Bateman, Gene Taylor, Dave Alvin, John Bazz, and Phil Alvin.|
Many of my first LPs, I bought without ever listening to them. I would just take a good look at the sleeve, at the names of the songs, and if there were photos of the group or singers, and they seemed like they played the type of music I liked, I would dig deep into my allowance and take it home. To think of somebody taking a risk like that these days is crazy. But back in those days, there wasn’t much you could do. If the record was used, I could get the store owner to play some of the tracks for me. But if it was sealed, forget it. Nevertheless, I have to say that 80% of the time, I made the right choice.
That’s how I bought The Blasters’ Non Fiction (1983) album. The cover screamed “rock n’ roll” to me, and when I looked at the individual photos of the band, the instruments they played, and the track listing, it just seemed like it was the right stuff. Let me get one thing straight before I go on. I was never just about rock and roll. Even though I have over 200 CDs from the 50’s/60’s, I was always very eclectic in terms of music. Actually, I was very much into pop music at the time. But when I first saw this album cover, I was very intrigued. I just had to check what this band was all about.
So when I got home, I started listening to the one of the best Rockabilly groups I have ever heard. I can’t say I’m an expert on Rockabilly, but I know the basic stuff: Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, (early) Elvis, Stray Cats, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, etc. If I were to describe The Blasters in two words, they would be “contemporary” and “pure”. It’s honest, down to earth Rockabilly.
The Blasters, which still tours today, was formed in 1979 by brothers Phil (vocals) and Dave Alvin (guitar), along with John Bazz on bass, and Bill Bateman on drums. In the beginning, they were fortunate enough to have tenor saxophone Lee Allen in the band. Before being part of The Blasters, Lee Allen recorded with Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Little Richard, the Stray Cats, and played three gigs with the Rolling Stones. He was part of the soul of The Blasters until 1994, when he passed away.
Since 1986, Dave Alvin has left the band, and some other musicians have come and gone. The Blasters might not be a mainstream group, but they are certainly well known for their one of a kind Rockabilly sound. Their songs were featured in Miami Vice, Six Feet Under, and the band made appearances in Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, and the legendary cult movie Streets of Fire.
If you’re ever interested in purchasing a CD, I recommend Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings. It’s a 2 CD album, with 11 live tracks. It also contains all the songs from the Non Fiction album, and some tracks of the American Music and Trouble Bound CDs. On the clip bellow, you’ll be able to watch Phil Alvin and his trademark grin while singing Red Rose. This is an excerpt of the The Blasters Live – Going Home DVD, recorded in 2003, with the presence of Dave Alvin, back on lead guitar. Watch Phil’s smirk at the beginning of the song. Pure Rockabilly.