Q&A with LA band of The Blind Lemon Peel Blues All-Stars - high octane entertainers and jet fuelled performers

"Blues was one of the first real cultural crossovers... Young white kids were listening to 'race music'. It began a dialogue of understanding... one that we're still working on today…"

Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars: Put on your dancin' shoes

An Los Angeles based blues band, the Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars are high octane entertainers, jet fuelled performers and above all, a professional blues show band who play to please. Their material is 100% guaranteed USDA fresh…mostly originals with some quirky stuff thrown in...The Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars are about as close to a traditional blues cover band, as Little Richard’s version of Tutti Frutti is to Pat Boone's. The Blind Lemon Peel Blues All-Stars ain't no sittin’ around cryin’ in your beer blues band! They’re a kick ass, funky, get up and shake your love thang, boogie woogie blues machine!

Frontman Screamin’ Dave is and old black man trapped in a even older white man's body; a brawny voiced blues shouter, with a preference for mostly originals with some quirky stuff thrown in now and then. His partners in crime, are LA based and feature LA legends, Ray Brundidge – who played with James Brown for eight years, Lucky Lloyd, Craig Kimbrough, and D.J. Ison. They are high octane entertainers, killer performers and above all, professional blues musicians who play to please.They’re about as close to a traditional blues cover band as Little Richard’s original of Tutti Fruitti is to Pat Boone’s. Band is: Screamin’ Dave (vocals), Ray Brundidge (bass), Lucky Lloyd (guitar), D.J. Ison (guitar), Fred Saunders (blues harp), Craig Kimbrough (drums), and Alyssa Parrish (back up vocals).

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues/Soul/R&B music and culture?

Screamin’ Dave: Blues is in my blood. My dad was a professional sax player. His brother played clarinet with the Jimmy Dorsey band. My first cousin Art played piano with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee… his brother Ron, my best friend, has, over the years been close with Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bukka White, Long John Baldry, Brownie and Sonny, Rev Gary Davis, etc, has over 100,000 sides of old blues vinyl, and owns a steel body National guitar that had once belonged to Blind Boy Fuller. It’s in his will that when it’s time for him to go, the guitar goes to me. By the time I was 11, Ron and I would stay up all night listening to records by Bill Broonzy, Jimmy Reed, Rev. Gary Davis, Lonnie Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Turner, Buddy Guy – one of my absolute favorites, Furry Lewis, Son House Frank Stokes, Gus Cannon, Mississippi Joe Callicott, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin Hopkins – two more of my all time favorites… Buddy Moss, Blind Joe Taggart, etc… As obscure as any artist you can name, Ron will probably regale you with everything you want to know. He is one of the world’s foremost blues authorities… I think the foremost things he taught me was that Martin Luther King lifted the fundamental ideas of his “I Had a Dream Speech” from Big Bill’s “I Had a Dream Part 2). The blues have shaped who I am, politically, socially, musically. Like all the other white boys of my generation, me made me want to be black and overcome prejudice in all shapes and forms.

Ray: Growing up in Niagara Falls, NY, the blues/soul and r&b let me learned about the world. As a teenager I would play across the border in Canada and met a lot of great people, later on when I played with James Brown I travelled around the world and made a lot of friends and get to see how other people live in different places.  It helped me learn about life.

Fred: I've learned that there's so much  more to learn and have come to the conclusion that the blues touches all 4 corners of our country from deep southern roots to Chicago blues, to Texas blues (little swing shuffles) to North Dakota  with Johnny Lang... then there's The Fabulous Thunderbirds... and I feel the black man does not have an exclusive on the blues.

What does the blues mean to you?

Screamin’ Dave: That a man with male pattern baldness ain't the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause an alligator be chompin' on it is.

Ray: The blues is a universal language. The feel of the music and the groove transcends words. It’s all about the vibe and what you are feeling… it is an unspoken connector between all people. 

Fred: Other than a 4/4 count and a paycheck?  *chuckle* To express the storytelling of a good blues song is all in the interpretation.

"The blues is a universal language. The feel of the music and the groove transcends words. It’s all about the vibe and what you are feeling… it is an unspoken connector between all people." 

How do you describe Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars sound and songbook?

Screamin’ Dave: Songbook-An ironic question, because my whole life I’ve wanted to write a great love song. Something Otis Redding might sing. Problem is, everything I write is like “My Baby Smokes in Bed”, “Honey Glaze Donut Hole”, “Velcro Midget”, and “She’s too Ugly to Kiss Goodbye.” Seems I can’t find a romantic bone in my soul. This doesn’t go over too well with my woman, especially when I’m trying to explain that I didn’t write the “PMS Blues” about her menstrual cycle… So our songbook could be considered twisted blues songs, blues songs with a twist, or as I prefer to think of them as “love songs about hate.”

Sound-When I moved back home from NY to LA, I committed myself to building a band whose sound I had never heard before... a show band that was an eclectic mix or blues, funk, gospel, Dixieland, swamp music, jazz, r&b, etc. and performance art... I have always considered myself a performance artist, created a spoken, sometimes unspoken and often participatory experience with my audience. I spent close a year kissing a lotta frogs before finding one without warts, and that was the great Ray Brundidge, who had played with James Brown for eight years, and shared my vision... Ray agreed to be my musical director, because I can’t express myself musically to save my life, and he brought along the amazing, dapper Craig Kimbrough, who had played 20 years with Solomon Burke as well as with Lowell Fulsom and Swamp Dogg…We hit it off immediately… And he has been a great inspiration for me. He was a musical prodigy who at 15 left St. Louis, where he played with everybody, and came to LA. Ray can play anything; Funk, Cubano, Samba, dirty blues, instead of that phone it in shuffle shit everybody does. Now I had about the best rhythm section anyone could ask for… Lucky Lloyd came next. He was a friend of Ray’s, a remarkable presence, guitar player, singer, performer… He should really be a star on his own… We had met previously in a band that was rife with egos, though we had really hit it off… He’s does that sweet BB King, Albert King, Freddie King thing like it’s meant to be played. The first rehearsal together, he and Ray came up with the groove for 8 Bullets, one of our best songs and a total show stopper. Lead man D.J. Ison was next… he had responded to an ad I had placed for guitar players at the very beginning… when I listened to his links, I sent him back an email saying “Dude, you are way too good for me or anything I’m involved with.” Now I reached backed out to him and said, “I think we may be good enough for you now.” Between D.J.’s Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Gibbons, Albert Collins stylings co-joined with Lucky’s BB King, Detroit/ Chicago blues grooves we had something very special. And everyone just jelled. D.J. brought in Freddy Boy Saunders, who’d played 187 shows on harp for Motley Crues “Girls Girls Girls” tour, which added a whole new edge to our sound. And karma brought me to Alyssa Barron, who sings back up, some leads, and lets me flirt with her on stage like the creepy old guy I am… She is a dynamic presence, a tiny little thing who doesn’t look old enough to drink, but whose voice packs the power of three bottles of Jack … Think Etta James meets Janis Joplin… She gives us the stage presence that makes us the dynamic show band we are. Blind Lemon Peel is about as close to your one off, tired ass cover band, as Little Richard’s original of Tutti Frutti is to Pat Boone’s rendition …

Fred: The originals tell great stories and are renditions of covers unique.

What characterize band’s philosophy?

Screamin’ Dave: First off, we have a very strict no-dick policy… There are no egos, no assholes, no dicks in the band, no matter how good a player you are… It’s all about the music and playing with people you like and respect, who have your back onstage and off... But more so, not of us ever want to play in no sittin' around cryin' in your beer blues cover band! Our philosophy is that first, second and third of all, we are a kick ass, funky, get up and shake your love thang, boogie woogie blues machine!... Also, although we would never admit this to bookers, we hate playing covers, and usually only play my original songs. They’re funnier. And have a better beat.

Fred: Learn all your parts, don't be late, and get on the bus.

"For me, growing up in the late ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the beauty in the blues was that it not only helped to bring about the changes of the civil rights movement, but also that it helped to heal the hostility in the years following." (Photo by Jacki Sackheim / Screamin’ Dave, Ray and Craig on stage)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

Screamin’ Dave: I’ve played and recorded with, among others, John Lee Hooker, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Don Was, The Del Fuegos, The Letterman Band, Mel Torme, the Neville Brothers, Blue Lou Marini, even Chubby Checker, but the kindest most authentic, one of a kind original person I was fortunate to meet was BB King. What a gentleman he was. He met me three times. Remembered me by name the second two. His granddaughter was back stage and he was like any other doting grandpa. I’ve never forgotten his kindness and encouragement. My friend Chris Clouser delivered the eulogy at BB’s funeral. He sent me a copy, which I keep on the desk top of my computer... But at the end of the day I owe it all to my cousin Ron, and my producer, the late great Steve Burgh, who taught me that «once you start down the hole, there ain’t no turning back.» Even if there are ferrets in the bathtub.

Ray: I have made great people in every part of the globe you have been important to me. I am a listener and an observer. I learn from everyone I meet.

Fred: Acquaintances which have turned into deep friendships are from people like singer/songwriter Mel Harker, to, in my humble opinion the greatest harmonica player in the world, James Zavala.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Screamin’ Dave: There are two… But first, you have to understand that I’ve always been a little insecure about my singing voice. It’s a mashup of Tom Waits, Dr. John, Big Joe Turner, Captain Beefheart, Dave van Ronk gargling with broken light bulbs with some frog farts thrown in. When the bass player in a band we were in started getting pushy about doing covers (and that he sing them), my great friend, the recently departed world-class drummer, Richard Crooks said, “Fuck covers… You just sing your songs the way you wrote ‘em.” He fired the bass player, and that was the moment I found the confidence to find my voice. And I thank Richard for encouraging me to find “my voice” everyday. The other was from my dad’s best friend Irv Brickman, who, when I was 17 told me, “Always be a pro, not a semi-pro.” I think about that everyday as well.

Ray: Practice, practice.

Fred: To learn when to 'play out' and to not walk on lead guitar solos.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Screamin’ Dave: Legally, all I am allowed say on the record is that Ed, the keyboard player, beat the rape charges.

Ray: I have not only been around the world, I have seen the world’s wonders. We played for Presidents and Kings and Shieks in places like you’ve never believed even existed.  My life has been blessed.

Fred: While playing once in Oakland Colosseum for Bill Grahm's 'Day on the Green' in 1986, with a little band called Motley Crue: I was given a microphone and monitor behind the stage... and while playing a version of Brownville Station's 'Smokin' in the Boys Room', at my harmonica solo, I happened to glance up at the Jumbotron behind me, only to watch Vince Neil sucking his stomach in and out in efforts to do 'air harmonica' at which time, I chuckled through my harmonica, sending the sound out to 80,000 people. A similar incident at Buckeye Lake Ohio, while warming up my chops, the front of house engineer switched my mike live in the middle of 'Shout At the Devil' while I was running through my scales... not my fault...

"My hopes and fears are that nobody try’s to put hip-hop loops, mash ups, clap tracks etc., to dilute the sound... they think they're improving the sound, but I feel it's diluting it." (Photo: Fred Saunders & DJ Ison on stage at Catalina Jazz Club, Los Angeles CA)

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

Screamin’ Dave: The blues of the past are still a key part of the DNA of the blues of the present. Listen to Buddy Guy. Joe Bonamossa. Billy Gibbons. They are recreating the blues of the past utilizing today’s technology and sonic capabilities. Though I will attest to longing lately for the stripped down, basic 1-4-5 blues… Right now, I’m in a period where all I’m listening to is Blind Boy Fuller… and writing “Blind Boy Fuller songs”…. But what I miss most off all is that virtually all of the progenitors are dead. And I’ll never get to see them live.  

Ray: The past and the present are really one and the same thing. You couldn’t have the present without the lessons of the past.

Fred: Well, I don't miss the sound quality of the old blues. Scratchy...it was like you could hear the revolutions of the record.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Screamin’ Dave: Hopes: Continued innovation - Fears: The status quo; more of the same.

Ray: I just live life everyday and practice, practice.

Fred: My hopes and fears are that nobody try’s to put hip-hop loops, mash ups, clap tracks etc., to dilute the sound... they think they're improving the sound, but I feel it's diluting it.

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

Screamin’ Dave: I actually wish we were all 20 years younger... not that I have any regrets about aging. But this band just keeps getting tighter and tighter every time we play; redefining old idioms and experimenting with new blues/funk/soul paradigms. I’d like to see what we’d be doing now if we had started 20 years ago. 

Ray: I would probably say that answer changes from day to day.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from your experiences with James Brown?

Ray: James was a perfectionist. You had to watch his every movement, pay close attention to his signals, everything had it’s own meaning, when he spun, his hands and gestures. You had to be on top of it all the time. That’s why the band was so tight. We go down to Augusta and just work. That’s how you become a professional.

"That a man with male pattern baldness ain't the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause an alligator be chompin' on it is." (Photo: Screamin’ Dave, Ray Brundidge and Craig Kimbrough)

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

Screamin’ Dave: Everyting makes me laugh... But what really cracks me up are millennial who think that the blues are not a matter of color but a matter of bad luck. Face it leeches, Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. You can't have a blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction. And, even if you spent 10 years in a white- collar prison for securities fraud, assholes, you don't have the right to sing the blues if you have all your teeth, you were once blind but now can see, the man in Memphis lived, or you have a trust fund. Emotionally-About three years ago, my wife and I went to see Buddy Guy – one of my three all time faves along with John Lee Hooker and Lightin Hopkins—at the El Rey Theatre in Hollywood. Opening for him was ELEVEN YEAR OLD Quinn Sullivan… we’d never heard of him before, seen him before, this little white boy was a total anomaly. He played BB King like BB King. If you closed your eyes when he played Clapton, you’d swear it was Clapton on stage…. But when he started playing Hendrix, I knew right then that I was seeing the future of the blues. I got goose bumps. The few little hairs I have on the back of my neck. I knew that for the first time I was witnessing GREATNESS. Still get that feeling every time I see him play.

Fred: Played a little club in Long Beach... Roscoes Blues Club... they thought our opening act was 'too country'... she was playing Janis Joplin's 'Turtle Blues', Etta James' 'At Last' some early 20's blues and the club owner thought it was country. He thought ours was too country, and he complained to Dave that when he hired us he thought we were a blues band. Dave explains that there are lots of different kinds of blues, and the guys says he wants the blues blues. That’s all he keeps saying. I want the blues blues, which of course he can’t describe. We totally change up the second set, leave out all the guitar stuff as well because he wanted to hear (and thought he should) more harmonica in the songs, it made me laugh.

What is the impact of Blues and R&B music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Screamin’ Dave: For me, growing up in the late ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the beauty in the blues was that it not only helped to bring about the changes of the civil rights movement, but also that it helped to heal the hostility in the years following. People who normally would not have had anything in common with each other found a common interest in their love of the blues. Blues was one of the first real cultural crossovers... Young white kids were listening to 'race music'. It began a dialogue of understanding... one that we're still working on today…

Ray: I would probably say that answer changes from day to day.

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

Screamin’ Dave: Cleveland. My favorite pro football team—the Browns, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, and lotsa fat chicks in bulky sweaters.

Ray: I have the best life anyone could want living in the most beautiful place you could live. I’m cool.

Fred: Since I'm not competing in a beauty pageant or running for president I really don't see how this applies. No such thing as a time machine.  See you on the moon.

Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars Home

Photo by Jacki Sackheim / Screamin’ Dave, Ray Brundidge and Lucky Lloyd 

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