The 11th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival is coming up on April 30th. Riding high on their 1st Place win at the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, the Delgado Brothers are this year’s headliner. Joey D, who won the coveted Albert King Best Guitarist Award at the Challenge, sat down to talk about the Delgado Brothers, growing up in East L.A., rock, blues and the upcoming Ventura County Blues Festival.
Q: Congratulations on winning the 2016 International Blues Challenge “Best Band” Award. What does that mean to you and the band?
The Delgado Brothers were reluctant to enter that kind of competition. We never considered ourselves a band to be in competition with other musicians. On the other hand, Michael John from the Ventura County Blues Society strongly encouraged us to enter it because he really felt confident that we could take it all the way. So we did enter the contest and, after the fact, it was one of the best moves we have made, just because where we are in our lives and in our musical career we are now in a position to do things that we weren’t able to do thirty years ago as far as touring, dedicating our lives to music, financially, now because the brothers have all semi-retired and our children are all off on their own so now we are able to do this. The response form the music world has been incredible. They have opened up to us and we have been invited to just about every major festival in the US. Now we’re going to Europe and yesterday I just got calls from Canada, Alaska and Australia.
Q: You were also picked as “Albert King Award Best Guitarist”?
Right. I never considered myself one of those flamboyant, “behind the head” guitar players, and I felt like they rewarded me as being a member of a band and playing well within the band. I always thought that was the way our band was structured anyways. I try to make my guitar solos and rhythm, whatever it will be, fit within the band. I’m very, very pleased with the reward—I’ve been playing guitar for 45 years and to have this acknowledgement really means a lot to me.
Q: You’ve played the Ventura County Blues Festival many times before. The Delgados must like Ventura County?
(Laughs) The Brothers don’t get out of Southern California very often——that’s going to change this year of course—-but we go where the love is. The Ventura County Blues Society has been very very good to us for the last 10 years. They’ve included us in all their major special events, holiday shows and blues festivals, even fundraisers and we are very close friends with Michael John (head of the VCBS) and all of his family. That’s the whole premise. It’s not like we don’t want to go to other blues festivals or visit other blues societies, but we go where we’re wanted. The way the Delgado Brothers are, we’re not out campaigning to be your favorite band. We play what we play and if you dig it, we’re happy with that.
Q: Last year you played in a blistering All-Star Jam with BB Chung King. This year’s jam is a tribute to him, who we lost in July. Any thoughts?
We’ve been playing for about 10 years with the Ventura County Blues Society and I’ve known Alan [Mirikitani] for ever. I’m not even sure I know when I met him—it might have been at least over 25 years, maybe 30 years ago. I could always count on seeing him every year at the Ventura County Blues Festival, where we would get to jam. The sad part is, we were one of the early bands in the day to play and when I was coming off the stage Alan had told me “leave your gear on stage”. This was actually the first time he invited me to jam within his band. I’ve jammed with him many times before at the encores or whatever but this was the first time I got to play with his band and it was great! Later, I saw Coco [Montoya] and he said “leave your gear on stage” so everybody had their amps on stage. So this year the Delgado Brothers are trying to pick a song that the Buddaheads recorded. If you know the music of the Delgado Brothers, we are not that kind of rockin’ blues band, but I told the brothers this is a great opportunity to put on the Buddahead suit and play a rockin’ blues song. We’re going to learn an Alan song and tear it up!
If I think about it. It’s who we are. First of all, there are eleven siblings in the family, six brothers. All the brothers play music; it’s been part of our lives since I can remember. My older brothers started in the early 60’s in the East L.A. rock and roll music scene. It was a really really great time for music and the neighborhood of East Los Angeles and I think it saved a lot of people from going the wrong direction. There were so many bands and everybody had bands. I wasn’t aware of any gangs or anything like that. Everybody had a band and a ’63 Impala. And they would drive from gig to gig to gig, they would do three or four gigs a night on Friday and Saturday nights. It cost two bucks to get into these dances and you’d see five or six incredible bands. Thee Exotics, The Midnighters and on and on and on. When my younger brother Stevie and I were growing up, these guys were playing in our living room. Of course we wanted to do that and so—–fast forward to the late ’60s—-the East L. A. Rock ‘n’ roll scene and the Latinos, the Mexican-American children, the kids that were playing that music, all got drafted to Vietnam or whatever and it broke up a lot of those bands. So when they came back from Vietnam here we are, I’m 13 or 14 years old and the music scene had changed. There was the British Blues Invasion, my brother Bob was one of the first ones that had a blues-rock band in East L.A. I grew up listening to Eric Clapton Mick Taylor, Peter Green, and then they exposed me to—-Eric Clapton would bring on Albert King, Freddie King, BB King so at a very young age I was heavily influenced by the real deal. So that’s how the band’s changes when my brothers came back from Vietnam we started playing, and we did a competition show, took 1st place, so I guess that’s how it came around full-circle. But that was our first big gig, I think we all won a $25 gift certificate. So then we started the Delgado Brothers Band which lasted until around 1979 and that band broke up. In 1994 we started the blues version of the Delgado Brothers Band. My brother Bob did that and we’ve been together ever since.
Q: You must be happy with the way your latest CD, “Learn to Fly” turned out?
That album was a great project, I mean the whole evolution of the Delgado Brothers, if you look at the body of work that we’ve done, the reason the first album failed in a way was that we weren’t authentic to ourselves. We were trying to play to the record producers and the market, trying to be s blues-rock band and we were being produced by Dennis Walker and Bruce Bromberg to emulate the Robert Cray sound. I look back at the Delgado Brothers of that time and if we’d been doing the music on our own then things might have been a lot different. So that first album got away from us financially, musically and everything—-it was not us. It wasn’t til our Lets Get Back record that we found our sound. So we had success off our Lets Get Back record, John Mayall had heard two of our songs If I don’t Get Home featuring Garry Moore on guitar and Something About My Baby and so we made a deal and royalties on that and started our own record label with the release of A Brother’s Dream and then eventually Learn to Fly. Now we’re working on a new album, we’re working feverishly on that one, hopefully that will be done by the fall.
Q: I Want to Know has all the elements of a great song. How did that song come about?
I Want to Know is a combination of things. One of my favorite all time records is Welcome to the Dance by the Sons of Champlin. Back in the mid ’70s, maybe ’74 or ’75, Bill Champlin had a band called the Sons of Champlin and they had a song called Welcome to The Dance. They played at the Roxy in Hollywood and I was barely 17 years old and I went to see this band and it changed my life, it was so funky and incredible and bluesy and complex and he had a message. So fast forward to the Learn to Fly recording and we always took our inspiration from different elements like R&B, like all the stuff we played in the ’70s, disco and we’d always stick in songs by the Sons of Champlin or we’d break out the middle section and just into a jam on it and people would, as long as they were dancing they didn’t care. So when we were recording this record I just came up with a little riff, “du di bam bam bom du di bam” and we just kind of made it a psychedelic funk song “I want to know what the fighting’s all about”. And this was during the Bush administration when all this was going on. It’s still going on today……..but why are these people fighting and kids are dying——its been an ongoing issue with us since the Vietnam days, so we just put it into music and I’m real proud of that song. I think it’s a great song and then I put a psychedelic wah wah pedal in the middle and it’s great. Like a ’60s throwback funk. All of our music that we create, it’s all based on reality, we’re not trying to be pretentious or make up a song about something we don’t know about. If I Don’t Get Home, which is one of my favorite songs that we’ve come up with, is about being on the road and you think of your family at home and “what if I don’t get home, dad, did I say all the right things or do the right things and let you know how much I love you” . That’s kind of the message we’d like to create.
Q: The song Man with A Plan has a heavy Latin influence. How do you feel Latin music meshes with the blues?
I think it meshes perfectly. If you think about it, like for instance Carlos Santana, I think Peter Green, who was probably one of the greatest guitarists ever, wrote that song, Black Magic Woman, and the combination—-if you hear the original Peter Green version it does have a Latin influence. I think Santana took that song and made the musical template of his career off that song. He was able to blend the Latin backing with the blues guitar. That’s been done forever, if you think about as lot of older songs like BB King, doing rhumbas back in the ’50s, so did Albert King who heavily influenced Peter Green. So It’s all there, but it makes me feel good when I play a minor blues riff with a Latin beat. It’s easy to do, it’s part of my DNA. We didn’t realize we had a Latin backbeat until we left Southern California, we would play and people would say, “wow, you’re playing blues with a Latin backbeat” and we had no idea. We said, “well doesn’t every body?”. I think it’s a natural fit for us. Also going back to that song, Man Without a Plan, it’s an environmental song and the experiences we’ve had with the world as our planet and what’s going on with it, climate deniers, all these things. So it’s a love song to the Earth and what’s great about that song, as a point of reference, is that there are three percussionists on that one track, Ramon Banda played drums and timbales, Victor Passetti played percussion, on it and my brother Stevie played drums. So there are two drummers, and two tracks of percussion, plus Tony Banda played bass with my brother Bob on bass, so there are two bass players. So it was a really difficult song to mix because initially it didn’t work, it was a train wreck coming down the road, but Don Avila, who mixed our record, was able to pull it together and made a beautiful song out of it, a beautiful mix. We’re really proud of that song too, I think musically it’s a great song.
Correct. It’s great! What happened there was that we were able to get our album to John Mayall through Joey Waley, who is the drummer for John Mayall’s band and he played John Mayall our album he loved the two songs. Anyways, when they started the recording process for John Mayall’s Along For The Ride they had recorded If I don’t Get Home and they weren’t happy with the rhythm track, they found it wasn’t like what we had created on our original track, so he invited my brother Bob and myself down to the studio and when we got there, Billy Gibbons walked in with a brand new Gibson Les Paul that he’d bought from a local guitar store and you can imagine the commotion he created. Then he proceeded to do the guitar track for his track that he was playing on and so we had to wait and watch Billy Gibbons record his part while John Mayall was in the room and it just was a surreal experience. Then John called us in Bob and I both played our parts and then they added Garry Moore’s track to that and it was incredible. So at the end of the day, being there for the session, it was unbelievable and they gave us our hats and our T-shirts and said “you guys are in!”. It was great!
Q: Tell me about your upcoming film…….
There’s a documentary about the Delgado Brothers Band called In Time that we started about three years ago which tells the story about the East L.A. rock and roll scene and how the music started in our family with the Embertones and Thee Exotics. Then we talk about the evolution of the Delgado Brothers Band, going from a Top 40 Disco band to where we are now. Now that we’ve won the International Blues Challenge, we actually have an ending to the film,, which is not the ending to the Delgado Brothers but the ending to the documentary, which takes us from the early ’60s to this year. I think it ends beautifully, we had a three camera shoot that followed us all through Memphis and it came out great. We’re hoping to finish this movie by the end of the year and have it officially released and done.
The Delgado Brothers will headline a great lineup of blues artists at the 11th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival. Vocalist Karen Loverly, the Dallas Hodge Band, guitarist Pete Anderson, singer/songwriter Deb Ryder and the Rae Gordon Band. There will also be some special guests that will join the performers onstage for the All-Star Jam Tribute to BB Chung King. The Festival takes place on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at Studio Channel Islands, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd. In Camarillo. Gates open at 10am and music starts at 11am. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the gate. A special VIP ticket is also available for $125 and children under the age of 12 are free with paid adult admission. Food and craft vendors will be at the festival and there will be a guitar giveaway also. The event will benefit Food Share and other local charities.
Delgado Brothers website: http://www.delgadobrothers.com