Argentinian bluesman Daniel Raffo talks about his experiences on the road with the the greats of blues

"I miss sound 100% natural with which the masters of the blues became great."

Daniel Raffo: Fair Winds Of Blues

Daniel Raffo was born in the neighborhood of Floresta, Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1963. After participating in different bands, Daniel Raffo initiated his King Size Blues project in 1988, recreating Blues classics, as well as some soul musicians. In the 1990s, he started to accompany several American musicians, at venues such Buenos Aires Blues Special Club, various theaters and touring to neighboring countries. Their first contact on a stage with a foreign musician began in a jam in the 90s with Taj Mahal, and then opening the show in Argentina of Hubert Sumlin.

Daniel had the opportunity to becoming the guitarist for great American bluesmen: Phil Guy, Raful Neal, Lorenzo Thompson, Eddie C. Campbell, Billy Branch, Eddie King , Bob Stroger, Tail Dragger, Chicago All Star with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bob Margolin and Bob Stroger, Eddie Kirkland, Shirley King, Duke Robillard (latter wrote and recorded two songs for the album Daniel Raffo) and countless invitations with Rick Estrin, Dave Mayers, Little Mark Simmons, Lurrie Bell and many other bluesmen from Brazil, Chile, Italy, etc. Daniel represented the Argentina at the largest Blues Festival in South America "Mississippi Delta Blues Festival" in Brazil, along with two legends of Blues: Henry Gray and Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater. In the local part as  permanent guest of the leading musicians of Spanish-speaking: Chevy Rockets, Sandra Vazquez, Don Vilanova Botafogo, Wire González, Ricardo Tapia, Luis Robinson and Vasco Bariain - with who travels the country with semi acoustic duos. Alternating his career with the teaching, Daniel Raffo style taught in their classes, currently having on the local scene many guitarists that some once passed and pass their classes.

Interview by Michael Limnios  Special Thanks Laura Lagna-Fietta

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

The blues has taught me a way to express my feelings. The Blues is part of my life and everything that has happened to me in it. Good and bad times, love, births and losses.

How do you describe Daniel Raffo sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

In my early (I think as all do) I copied the licks of my first guitar heroes at the  time, Peter Green, Eric Clapton, and then I discovered that those heroes were copying from BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, and then my list of heroes started to grow up, and never stopped. I think that “your own sound” you can have thru the years, is a cocktail of all that your have received in your ears and soul. I began to understand that the same blues could be interpreted in many different ways and feelings then I fell into the beautiful blues clutches, and that was what directly influenced me as a musician.

I think my philosophy as a musician is to make the audience happy attending to see my show, so since I became a blues music lover, as a musician select my set list very carefully, always thinking about the impact on people who pays the ticket to take a good time and that makes me happy to share my happiness with the audience and make a party in every performing.

"I would like that many new great blues artists that are not known yet can start being famous, for 'to maintain the flame of this wonderful music.' "

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think that when all kind of "roots music", enters into your heart never goes away, and that emotion is transferred to others who may receive or not. What I can say is that when the Blues comes inside you, not go away you anymore. It is difficult to explain why the natural feelings happen.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Personally I met BB King in 1991, it was a too strong emotion for me, I could speak a few words with him I was only 28, and I lived in Argentina!! There were no internet at this time and all the ways of communication we have now, so I could not believe it! Then, after his show, some of his players attended a show of my band, I can't also believe it!! I could not go up on stage, trembling like a leaf. During the following years, so did Albert King, and Taj Mahal, all those experiences I have with them been through press conferences to which I was invited.

Taj Mahal is a very kind and funny person, and accepted the idea of a friend at the conference to go to a blues bar for dinner and play a little, it was amazing, my first jam with blues musician was with Taj Mahal and what is more amazing I played the drums, not guitar, cause during these times I was also a drummer.

During the 90's, a friend of music opened a very important  blues club in Buenos Aires, and I think that was the most important time because he had already started to look at the entire family of Chicago blues, and brought many artists, such as Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, and then in this place called "Blues Special Club “was a paraded many of these "Chicago legends" with whom I was fortunate to be his guitarist, Eddie C Campbell, Lorenzo Thompson, Phil Guy (brother of Buddy), the great Billy Branch, and many others. I can't say that I had “one religious moment” because all of them were very important in my life as a person and my career of musician...and still now with new experiences!

Already during the first 2000 another friend brought a Blues musician who in those early speaking years became a new idol for me as a fan of blues and influenced much my style guitar. I'm talking about Duke Robillard (photo), was from the 1989 a great find, I was 20 years playing on this album and including my own style. He is a kind of living T-Bone Walker; he keeps alive that sound better than anyone. And I love T-Bone Walker! Having it in Argentina was already too much for me. At these times my band was his band on a tour of South America and makes the shows together being myself his guitar player. I opened his show myself with my band, and then we all stay in stage as his band and that meant a new departure. During that tour, I have my album finished and he offered me to record two songs together. So I add two bonus tracks to the cd to include in my first album, and so it happened!

About the question you make me best advice was given by was from my wife, who is my manager for 9 years and was very important to keep my career professionally safe. She asked me "are you willing to lose some people that you thought were friends of you”? …”Because that is what will happen if you want to work seriously”. And she was absolutely right!!! She has been working in music since 30 years ago and also her family did, so she knew about that.

Are there any memories from Eddie King, Raful Neal, and Phil Guy which you’d like to share with us?

The first time I saw Eddie King was in  a big Blues Festival in Buenos Aires in 1995, Koko Taylor opened and then, after her gig came Eddie King! He appears in the stage dressed in red boots, red jean, red jacket and red hat and said YEAH!! to the audience…one two three four and Sweet Home Chicago…everybody in the stadium went crazy! One year later I met him personally in the Blues Special Club, the first Blues producer in Argentina, Adrian Flores, was the owner of the Club and bring him to Buenos Aires, Eddie King performed with locally musicians, I opened with my band, and then he told me…." congratulations man, I would like to play with you"…wow, I was happy…and two years later I made  two or three gigs with him…he ask me to go to USA to play in his band…It was a beautiful moment. With Raful Neal in 1998 I had a broken in my four right finger and I took off my splint, with my finger still not fixed (until today) Raful was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and his sound was amazing, in the Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo style, he knew about the real Argentina barbecue meat and he was crazy taken pictures of the our call "asado" all the time…It was a great pleasure to me to play with a musician like him.

Phil Guy (photo) was the blues Himself, tradition in Sound, in singing and performing, I had the great experience to play with my band with him and was our first time to play with a real bluesman with King Size (is the way I name my band when I not play as solo with my name). I made a big party in my house for him, and I remember him in my coach watching my VHS blues collection, and he asked to me…do you have something of Otis Redding in VHS, I said…YES, and all the guests were talking around the house while he was lying in my coach with a glass of red wine happy with Otis Redding, very friendly people. 100% Bluesman. It’s very sad to say this but all this people passed away. I miss them.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss sound 100% natural with which the masters of the blues became great. As hope I have the certainty that the flame of Blues will never shut down because it is transmitted from generation to generation, at least that's what happens here in Argentina and Brasil. I was in Chicago Blues Festival 2013 and JC Smith invited me to play with him in the Festival and it was in a very special place call “Tent for Kids” for Blues Kids Foundation that is directing by Blues musician Fernando Jones and was also full of blues kids played well and with feeling. I also teach Blues guitar and give clinics all over the country and is amazing how boys and girls wants to learn not only the instrument but about Blues in general.
About my fears are out of music, as music is hope and peace, my fears are concerning about the violence and the evil in life in general, is everywhere  and sometimes I think the best way to avoid it is by ignoring.

Which memories from the road with Chicago All Star and Duke Robillard makes you smile?

The first time I’ve played with Bob Stroger was a week in Moscow in 2006. Then three years later, he came to Argentina with Bob Margolin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (photo)…My God! The Muddy Waters musicians!!! I remember them walking to the stage in the check sound and Bob, who was first stopped and took me in his arms “Daniiii heyyyy how are you my friend”, in front of Smith and Margolin, could not believe what was happening to me! Muddy Waters musicians looked to me with attention, and said them to me nice to meet you, something impossible even in my dreams when I started in blues.

Then I played with Bob Stroger each time he comes to the country. Nowadays Mr. Jones Blues Bar is "the Blues Bar" by excellence in Argentina, Roger Rugilo is the owner with her wife and they produce Bob in South America I have the pleasure of record alive a DVD with him twice one with Bob and the other Bob and James Wheeler together live in MJ Blues.

About the first time I´ve talked with Duke, was in the car when we went with the producer taking him from the airport to your hotel. I was sitting with Duke in the back site, and I looking thru the car window, and thinking…what can I say him to start a conversation, he is my idol…oh what can I say…and I have an idea, I told him about a melody that I play with my guitar, because I heard first played by him, and I said, "Ey Duke, you know what? I have to say sorry because I use to play a guitar lick from you, and I started to sing this…” and he says” oh yes I played in … (I don t remembers)” but I said, "But Duke I hear it in other song…not in this…and he said…really?" "Wow…I don’t remember…!" he said, and reply “Duke when you need to remember something about YOUR life, just ask to me”...he laugh loudly, it was a very great moment to be the first meeting.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like that many new great blues artists that are not known yet can start being famous, for “to maintain the flame of this wonderful music”.

"The blues has taught me a way to express my feelings. The Blues is part of my life and everything that has happened to me in it. Good and bad times, love, births and lost." (Photo by Nestor Lopez)

Make an account of the case of the blues in Argentina. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

I think that in the early 90’s when BB King, Buddy Guy, Albert King , Taj Mahal, Albert Collins put their foot in Argentina, and now, from 2007 to the present we have a great an interesting moment. Full of visits from USA, BRASIL, and full of local blues bands and musicians. And I can’t wait to see Greek Blues!!!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from United States and UK to Argentina & Brasil?

The blues born in USA, IS from USA, and was in UK when it exploited for all the World in the 60’s (is strange but it happened, because in this decade all the real great blues legends who wrote the Blues History and made all that now we call Legacy were still alive have to go to Europe to have better chances to be famous). Now, everybody says that it’s an Universal style, and from there we can start to talk about Legacy, in every country.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?

I like to laugh every time, with my band musicians, all the time, may be a lot of stories, I can write a book haha…But I was touched emotionally one time by a young man who was jumping and dancing during my performing, and when I finished the first part of the show, after a 15 minutes break, he came to me, and ask me for my pick, and I said, I’m sorry, you will have to wait until I finish my show because I forget my picks box, is my only pick. He had pending on his neck a pick of a Heavy Metal famous argentine band, he pulled strong his pick off his neck and told me,…"Please man, this is my favorite band, I love this band, they gave me this pick personally, but I want yours, you are amazing…"   "… please, I give it to you if you give me your pick…”!! It was very very emotionally to me. I always remember this.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

No doubt, I would fly straight to November 21 in 1964, to the Regal Theater in Chicago, with a ticket in my hand to see BB King (photo). That night he recorded my favorite Blues Live recording ever Love BB King, I make in Argentina, tributes to him since 1992. I played five shows with his Daughter Shirley, she calls me Baby King. You can imagine my eternal love for the King of The Blues for all the times.

Daniel Raffo - official website

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