An Interview with Salted Bros, an American Rhythm and Roots band with a unique sound from New York

"The blues is an immediate avenue to one's emotional state, with the fewest notes possible. Sort of like being naked."

Salted Bros: SalTed Blues Apple

Salted Bros is an American Rhythm and Roots band with a unique sound from New York. A band of seasoned veteran professional players, Salted Bros delivers an entertaining performance that keeps its listeners grooving and dancing. Salted Bros is the continue of Salted Bones.

Sal, James Orr (Ted's son), Jim Curtin, Chris Morgan, and Ted. Salted Bros came from Sal & Ted's names. Photo © by Erik Lamont

The original members includes: Sal Miccio - Harmonicas, Ted Orr - Guitar, Indian Tablas, Jerry Mitnick - bass (or Jim Curtin), Chris Morgan - Drums (or Tony Parker); and Rob Lavery - Guitar (or James Orr).  In the past, the Bros even had Gabe Butterfield, Paul's son on drums and vocals. The band has shared the stage with Michael Esposito of Blues Magoos and Beat poet Andy Clausen.

Sal Miccio and Ted Orr talks about the band, Woodstock communite, Blues, and their own experience on the music roads.

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in blues music?

Sal: Actually I began playing harmonica in my teens but it was when I moved up here from suburbia New Jersey and lived on the Peter Pan Farm in Saugerties where Paul Butterfield Band was headquartered, that I got into the blues. I became instant friends with Paul and his group of terrific musicians and began playing blues tunes. Before that I played mostly rock with a flair for jazz.

Ted: I taught myself a little blues piano when I was 7, took blues piano lessons when i was 8 or 9, started playing folk blues on guitar at 10.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues means to you?  

Sal: I found blues was easy to play, maybe because it’s a way to express emotion and you can do it with a lot less notes than other music.

Ted: The blues is an immediate avenue to one's emotional state, with the fewest notes possible. Sort of like being naked.

"I became instant friends with Paul (Butterfield) and his group of terrific musicians and began playing blues tunes."

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD MUSICIAN and SONGWRITER?

Sal: I haven’t written a song since 1973 and don’t consider myself a songwriter.  My ability to play with some of the best musicians around has elevated my skills to a point where I can step on stage with them and feel confident I can hang with them.

Ted: Music is my religion. If you pay attention and listen closely it will teach you all you need to know.

How do you describe your sound and progress and what characterize Salted Bros music philosophy?

Sal: A lot of my sound and progress is contributed to Ted and a couple of other gents I have pleasure to play with.  They helped me dial in my Carvin amp to where I have a distinct sound and can be heard by all band members with drowning out anyone.  They also taught me that “less” is “more”, where I learned to leave spaces for the other instruments to work out in.

Ted: SALTED BROS is an outlet for us to have a good time. We love the music we play. For myself, I like to play a wide range of styles: Avantgarde/Psychedlic (BLOB), Funk (420 Funk Mob w George Clinton and Blue Food), Orchestral Jazz (Karl Berger's CMS Orchestra), Reggae (Ras T Asheber Posse), and Raga (I play sitar and Tabla drums).

Tell me about the begging of Salted Bros. How do you choose the name and started?

Sal: Salted Bros is a band that has morphed into a number of different bands over the last 5 years. The name originally came from Sal & Ted = Salted and another band member whose last name is Bones.  We were Salted Bones. Bones left the band so Ted and I decided to carry on with Salted and added Bros.

"I think the music has grown appropriately. If I miss anything, it's individual voices like, Jimi, Albert, John Lee, etc." Photo by Jacqueline Manganaro

Are there any memories with the band, which you’d like to share with us?

Sal: Well the original band came together in the spur of the moment.  We all play poker together on Sunday evenings and one evening Bones got a call from our friend who booked the bands for Keegan Ales, in Kingston NY.  It seems the band scheduled for Friday had to cancel and when Bones hung up the phone he said, “we” are playing at Keegan on Friday.  That was me, Ted, our buddy Jerry Mitnick and Bones.  After that we scheduled more gigs as a band and the rest is history.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues? What is the best advice ever gave you?

Sal: Jerry and Ted both taught me “less” is “more” and to layback and don’t step on the vocals but turn it up and wail when it’s time for my solos.

Ted: First and foremost anything I learn in music is because my ears approve of it. If I like the way something sounds, you can bet I'll learn how to do it. Initially as a youth I immersed myself in records by Lightning Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, and most importantly to me, John Lee Hooker. Like Miles Davis, I think John Lee was one of the funkiest cats ever. Pure feel. When I became a teenager, Jimi Hendrix came on the scene and turned everything on its ear. He added a whole other level of expressive vocabulary to the blues. Later on I got into all the BB, Albert and Freddie Kings, and much later, Stevie Ray.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

Sal: The best is happening right now. Salted Bros plays monthly at Harmony Music in Woodstock, NY. Probably the worst was a birthday bash for Bones for which I was sick but still showed up to play and those are the songs that ended up on youtube.  Go figure...

Sal, Ted, Joe Bones, and Michael Esposito of Blues Magoos in Harmony Music, NY

Ted: Playing with my world beat band, Futu Futu at Woodstock '94 for 350,000 people was a definite highlight. Getting harassed by police backstage at a funk festival in Pennsylvania was the worst.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Sal: Woodstock is a giving community.  We hold benefits for all causes and people in distress and the big names come out to play at those benefits.  I’ve had the pleasure of being on stage with those folks, such as Harvey Sorgen, Tim Moore, Pete and Tony Levin, John Sebastian to name a few.  It’s always a thrill for me.

Ted: My avantgarde trio, BLOB, has undoubtedly had the best "jams" I’ve been in. The palette of sound and style is without boundary and that appeal to me.

Which memory from Michael Esposito of Blues Magoos, and poet Andy Clausen makes you smile?

Sal: I’m not familiar with Andy’s poetry but we have played on the same stage for a benefit and I believe you have the photo of Andy, Ted and me with the Woodstock logo in the background.  Michael Esposito actually played bass in Salted Bones.  He’s such a mild mannered guy and nothing phases him.  He had a buzz in his amp one night and the only way to stop the buzz was to face the band with his back to the audience and he played like that all night, not missing a beat with his eyes closed.  I love the man and we are good friends.

Beat poet Andy Clausen, Ted Orr and Sal Miccio on Harmony's stage, Woodstock, NY. Photo © by Erik Lamont

Do you know why the sound of harmonica is connected to the blues & what are the secrets of blues harp?

Sal: My guess is that down south where the original roots blues came from, the harmonica was the cheapest instrument anyone can afford and you only needed one to make music. They were making guitars out of wire nailed to beams etc. Those gents knew those harps inside out and could bend and overblow making it sound like the harp was crying the blues. 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Sal: Blues is probably the easiest of all genres to play because of the simple 5 note progression. It can be jazzed up to sound like funk but the basic notes remain.  My wish is we never forget the roots of blues and continue to respect and give credit to the pioneers who taught us.

Ted: I think when you have simple elements, in blues it's 5 notes and 3 chords, that you can produce very deep level of emotion. The pentatonic scales used are the backbone of many other tonalities/modes, but these 5 notes are among the strongest, most important notes in whatever scale they appear in. We have blue notes, too, which fall in between the cracks and depending on how you bend to them, provide a whole range of emotion colors.

What is the “feel” you miss most nowadays from the old days of Blues? 

Sal: The feel is the same the faces of my champions have changed.

Ted: I think the music has grown appropriately. If I miss anything, it's individual voices like, Jimi, Albert, John Lee, etc.

Do you believe that there is “misuse”, that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of blues?

Sal: I don’t think so.  Blues covers so many areas; you have the southern blues, Chicago Blues, Nashville blues, and they all are similar but different.  Some folks sound bluesier than others.  Today it’s a matter of individual taste and there is a lot of variety out there to satisfy everyone.

Ted: No, but I ignore all the "rules" anyway...

"The palette of sound and style is without boundary and that appeal to me."

When we talk about blues, we usually refer to memories and moments of the past. Apart from the old cats of blues, do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

Sal: Sure, we have a lot of upcoming stars who study Robert Johnson, Clapton, Jeff Beck etc.  Ted mentioned Connor Kennedy who actually sat in with us when he was 16 and Miles Mancuso, known locally as Mojo Miles, who is probably 18 now.  These teens can play the old stuff note for note and are now writing their own stuff to complement their skills.

Ted: Yes, there are most definitely blues cats today, in my town of Woodstock; we have a kid that just turned 18, Connor Kennedy, who has been sitting in with Little Feat lately. Brilliant, great tone/ideas.  Not to mention, Jim Weider, Jimmy Vivino, or Derek Trucks.

Which memory from Paul Butterfield and the band makes you smile?

Sal: During the summer, inside the big house got very hot, so Paul moved the rehearsals to the outdoors on the back porch.  Our house was directly in back of the big house, so we would sit outside on lawn chairs and were treated to private rehearsals. I think back now and realize how privileged I was to be a part of what was happening at that time of my life.  It certainly does make me smile!!

What's been their experience from Peter Pan Farm in Saugerties?

Sal: The Peter Pan Farm was right after the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and lasted until about 1973.  The band had a large horn section which included David Sanborn and Howard Johnson.  When Paul decided to cut back to a smaller blues band, most of the guys joined Van Morrison.  Van cut an album around 1973 with Butter's horn section and then fired the band. They all ended up going in different directions.  Paul hung around Woodstock thru the '70's and then headed for California.  I ran into Sanborn a couple of times in New York City and Howard Johnson is still local and had been playing with Levon Helm at the Midnight Rambles up until Levon's death. Most of the remainder of the band have passed, Rod Hicks being the most recent.

"Those gents knew those harps inside out and could bend and overblow making it sound like the harp was crying the blues." Photo © by Erik Lamont

From the musical feeling point of view what are the difference and similarity between the Blues, Funk, Jazz, Reggae, Psychedelic and Indian music?  

Ted: From the basic emotional level they quite similar though the vocabulary is different. In my avantgarde/psychedelic band, BLOB,  there are no rules what-so-ever so expression is immediate and by nature less contrived than the other forms, there are very strong similarities in raga and blues with the nuance of bending to give deeper emotional feeling. jaxx is like blues with a larger vocabulary, and you can use pretty much all of the above in funk...

What are some of the most memorable experience from Woodstock Festival '69 or other festival you've had?

Sal: As for the 1969 Woodstock concert, we never made it.  My wife and I got together with a group of friends in Brooklyn, NY and by the time we were ready to leave for the concert, the NY Thruway was closed, so we hung out and partied all weekend.  We did make it to the 1994 concert, which was held about 10 miles from Woodstock in Saugerties.  My daughter Maria ran the stage for local musicians and I had a pass for my pickup truck to run them and their equipment to and from the stage. My wife and I were backstage during Crosby, Stills and Nash and they hi-fived us when running off stage.  A thrill indeed.  I watched Nine Inch Nails get out of the vans and begin running towards the back of the main stage when one guy slipped and fell and others piled on top of him in a huge mud puddle.  They were laughing so hard they almost didn't get on stage and when they did, they were throwing the mud from their clothes out at the audience.  You had to be there to appreciate it!!!  There is talk about Michael Lange putting together another concert for about 25,000 people on the same site in Saugerties.  There is talk of a constructing a Performing Arts Center similar to that in Bethel on the Saugerties site, which is over 800 acres.  Michael is a genius and if anyone can pull it off, he can!

Sal, Ted and Bones at the Putnam Nursing Home

 

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