Q&A with guitarist Chickenbone Slim - San Diego based bluesman, has been playing blues for over 25 years

"Any time you write a song, create art, you can speak the truth, you can send a message. I believe if enough of us stand up and say something it will change."

Chickenbone Slim: The Big Beat

Chickenbone Slim is a bluesman living in San Diego, CA. He is the guitarist and vocalist for Chickenbone Slim and the Biscuits. CB has been playing blues for over 25 years, and is influenced by Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Tomcat Courtney. Chickenbone played bass for many years with several notable San Diego Blues bands including The Mississippi Mudsharks, The Boogiemen, Jinxking, and backing up Tomcat Courtney. In 2010 Chickenbone started playing guitar, taking lessons from Robin Henkel. When he started playing guitar, John Flynn (The Boogiemen, JinxKing and currently in The Little Kings) gave him the Name Chickenbone “Because there needs to be a Chickenbone playing the blues!” Starting in 2012, CB started his band. He named it “The Biscuits” because biscuits are his favorite food (with fried chicken, of course!). The band was formed to play at Tasty Truck Tuesdays, and have played there on a weekly basis ever since. This has allowed CB to hone his craft, and subsequently he has started playing in other venues, from festivals (Adams Avenue Street Fair, Gator By The Bay) to clubs such as The Gaslamp Speakeasy, The Riviera, and The Amaya.

Chickenbone is not sure where he came from, because he was real young when he was born, but he remembers his house had wheels and it was real hot. Chickenbone prefers telecasters, and plays through old amps like his 1946 Gibson BR-1 to get his unique tone. He is heavily influenced by Chicago and Texas Blues masters, as well as local artists like Tomcat Courtney, the Godfather of San Diego Blues. Chickenbone Slim’s new album “The Big Beat” (2017) recorded at Greaseland Studios, feature “Big” Jon Atkinson, Marty Dodson, Scot Smart and Kid Anderson mixing and mastering and providing guitar for one cut “Hemi Dodge”.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Blues is the musical building block all popular American Music is built on. I grew up on Rock and Roll, but what hooked me on blues was the sounds I heard in rock that I really liked. As I learned about music I was drawn to blues and how it was raw, emotional, and pure.

How do you describe Chickenbone Slim sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I try to mix covers with my originals, mostly songs from my major influences. At times, I feel like I am in the 1960’s, playing the blues I love, but putting my own spin and arrangement on the particular songs I love. My goal is to mix up feels and grooves to keep the audience interested, and make it fun to play.

How has the Blues and Roc n’ Roll music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues is such a great unifier of people. You might not speak the language of the lyrics, but the groove is universal. People of all ages hear blues and relate easily to the music because it is so human, and I really enjoy making that connection with new and old-time blues lovers.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

For the last several years collaborating and playing with “Big” Jon Atkinson has been inspirational and rewarding. His knowledge and talent as a bluesman is unbelievable. He blows harp with the authority and taste I find critical to my recordings. Watch out for Jon he’s the next big thing.

"Blues is the musical building block all popular American Music is built on. I grew up on Rock and Roll, but what hooked me on blues was the sounds I heard in rock that I really liked. As I learned about music I was drawn to blues and how it was raw, emotional, and pure."

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

Recording “Hemi Dodge” for the new CD live (vocals were overdubbed later) I was playing bass and watching Kid Andersen play his solo. We wrapped and everyone left the room and I sat there and just buzzed for over a minute. I was 6 feet away from a moment of genius...I still get chills thinking about it.

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

So many artists I wished I had seen. Freddy King, Hound Dog, Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf. I was lucky to see several greats, but by no means all of them. I’ve been around enough to know there are many traditional blues musicians who do it right, but I worry about the trend to where what we call “Classic Rock” will morph into blues. Call it Rocking Blues if you must, but not Blues.

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

I would like to see blues respected for what it is, a distinct and important art form. And more pay for blues musicians.

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

For me, when Tomcat Courtney hooked up with Henry Ford in the 60’s that was the start, and Tom is still playing today. We have always had a good scene, with a range of styles, and lots of touring musicians like living here. I think we are underrated, as who expects blues from sunny San Diego, right? With the Paladins, Candy Kane, and The Beat Farmers and The Forbidden Pigs our roots rock credentials are solid.

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

I was leaving to play gig last winter, and badly smashed my middle finger on my left, fretting hand in my front door as I left. That did not make me laugh. But, I show up at the gig, and Troy Sandow sees my finger and says “You’ll just have to play extra ignorant tonight!” That still cracks me up.

"I would like to see blues respected for what it is, a distinct and important art form. And more pay for blues musicians."

What is the impact of Blues music on the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Any time you write a song, create art, you can speak the truth, you can send a message. I believe if enough of us stand up and say something it will change.

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

Robert Johnson, either recording session. To see and hear that recording live would be unbelievable. Or, to meet Marylyn Monroe before she became famous, but who wouldn’t?

Chickenbone Slim - Home

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