July 15, 2014
Curtis Salgado performs at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, Saturday, July 19, at 7 p.m. Advance purchased tickets are $15 by calling 541-386-5566. Tickets purchased on the day of the concert are $20.
By JIM DRAKE Hood River News
Curtis Salgado’s storied career in Blues music includes sharing stages with top names in the music business, is credited with inspiring comedian John Belushi to create the “Blues Brothers” franchise, and making award-winning albums that win him titles like B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year and Soul Blues Album of the Year.
I remember seeing Curtis play downtown Hood River sometime during the late 90s, and when he introduced his band, he mentioned that one of the members (I think it was the keyboard player) played with the Robert Cray Band.
Now, I didn’t really know about Curtis’s background at the time, but that moment has always stuck with me because I thought to myself, wow, this is a guy who’s probably got a lot of music connections. And, he just seemed to be really focused on music and putting on a good show.
Curtis’s voice sounded a bit gravelly on the phone the other day, but I was really glad I got to talk to him about the upcoming Hood River show. I’m sure he’s saving his voice for the music he still has the passion for when he talks about it.
Interview with Curtis Salgado
I know you’ve been to Hood River before, do you have any ties to the Gorge?
Well, some of my family is from The Dalles, so that’s pretty close by. My aunt and uncle had a gift store and plumbing store there, and I visited every summer. We’d stop there on the way to Condon, where my mother’s family had a wheat ranch. So I’ve been to that area many times.
I saw that you were a last minute addition to the Waterfront Blues Festival this year. How did it feel to be contacted to replace Gregg Allman’s slot at the last minute?
Well, I felt it was nice and everything, you know. I’ve played every one of those festivals except maybe two of them, and that was at my decision. The guy who thought of and conceptualized the festival, Mark Goldfarb, used to visit my apartment, and he would come over and talk about the progress he made in putting it together. I played the first one and practically every one since.
I missed one year when I went out on the road, and I found out I really missed Portland and the festival. But when I started getting some records out there and generating some interest in my music, I decided to try and hit the road to generate a fan-base interest.
I’ve been on the road almost my whole life, and then as a solo act since the early 90s. The last few years I’ve been to Europe, and we’re getting a lot more festivals over there, especially in Paris, and Germany. I did that back in the 80s, too, with Roomful of Blues, but it’s very rewarding for me to now tour as a solo act. That was always important to me, play my music and see the world.
When the Waterfront Blues called me up to take Gregg’s place I was quite honored. It’s really a validation of my band — we can deliver the music and I’m confident that we can. Heck, I wanted to see Gregg Allman (laughs). We played right before Boz Scaggs. The festival also featured Joan Osborne, so it was really a great time. I think Portland may be the second biggest blues festival in the U.S.
Whenever I turn on OPB I’d always see the video clip of your band promoting music for the Oregon Art Beat show.
Really, I didn’t know that. That’s really nice. OPB is wonderful, it’s refreshing, and educational. It sure beats reality TV, which in reality is not reality (laughs).
Can you talk a little about the band and show you’re bringing to the Columbia Gorge Hotel?
Well, we’ve got Josh Fulero on guitar, Tracy Arrington on bass, Brian Foxworth on drums, and Brian Harris on keyboards. We’ll be bringing a lot of songs from my “Soul Shot” album, and a lot of stuff that’s not really recorded at all, including some little jewels like original tunes I haven’t done in a while.
We’re definitely a contemporary band, we’re not a cover band, but I will throw in some Bobby Womak from time to time. We’re hardcore Rhythm and Blues, we cover everything under that umbrella, funk, a touch of Gospel, you can call it whatever you call it, we call it a good time.
I’m glad to see that this show has a manageable ticket price. $15 is a nice deal for a beautiful setting.
You see a lot of the old bands going back on the road over-pricing themselves, and some of the acts deserve it because they bring a lot to the show, in my opinion. But some bands really look like they need money again (laughs) Anyway, you’re going to see a high level of musicianship for what we do.
Do you have any plans for your next record?
We’ve already recorded it. Most was done in the last week of May, I laid out 11 original songs. This record is me with a contingency of LA studio musicians, known at the Phantom Band, who have backed up everybody you can name, we’re talking Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, BB King, Bonnie Raitt, even Jimi Hendrix and CSN, the list goes on and on.
They’re called the Phantom Band because Taj Majal did a record with them called “Phantom Blues,” which won him a Grammy. Anyway, all of those guys were amazing to work with — to me they were like a modern day Booker T and the MGs.
These are the kind of guys that you can go to with a demo tape and an acoustic guitar and some lyrics and these guys turn it into a full-fledged song, with no rehearsal, right there. They know when to play, when not to play, the approach they take, and it comes out better than anything you hope for.
It sounds like you’re harkening back to the Muscle Shoals days of recording here.
Yes, it’s exactly like that, and a lot of that kind of recording is still happening today, especially in the pop music world. Todays music is made by groups of people in one room, it’s like a modern Brill Building system, where they can take a song apart digitally and put it back together and come up with a different song.
Anyway, this new record was put together without any rehearsals, and considering the people I had, they were able to make the magic happen right there in the studio. I also took my band (that I’m bringing to Hood River) down there, and mixed them up with the Phantom Band, and tracked four songs that we had rehearsed already. So all the basic work is done, and I’m looking to get it released early next year.
You’ve had some health issues in recent years and the music community has helped you out, especially with your liver transplant ordeal. Is the current health care system working out for you?
Well, in 2006 I was diagnosed with liver cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had matasticized into my lung, before I got my liver transplant. So healthwise, I get checked every six months, and I’m either going to have cancer, or not, so it’s going to be a good day, or a bad day. As a matter of fact, I’m going to schedule check-up after we hang up.
Before the new healthcare system, I was paying $800 a month, and it was really a struggle for me, being a musician. It’s peaks and valleys as far as your financial stream goes. Summertime for me, I’m doing OK, but winter time is tough because there’s no touring, there’s no festivals, there are less gigs. In a way we’re kind of like migrant farm workers, we have to save up for the cold winter months.
So I got on Obamacare, and the only thing that was funky was that the Oregon sign-up system was a complete cluster bomb, unlike other states, like Washington, where it was really easy. It was really frustrating to sign up because the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing, but eventually it did work. And now I’m paying $430 a month, which is really, really helping me out considerably.
I’ve had healthcare plans for a long time, I think I was paying around $300 when I first got onboard, but they kept raising the prices. When I tried to switch to a plan that was more in my budget, I got into a situation where an insurance agent improperly filled out my application, which resulted in the company dropping my insurance. And that’s exactly when the liver cancer showed up. But now, I’m back on an Obamacare plan and it’s working out for me.
Thanks so much for talking about that part of your life, and I hope to see many more years of music from you.
I’m really looking forward to playing the Columbia Gorge Hotel. I know it’s just beautiful out there. Thanks for inviting us to come out and play.