An Interview with the Texas bluesman Richard Cagle: We burn it down from the moment we get on stage and strike the first note.

"The Blues allows me to express my emotional being in short stories of the joys and pain of everyday life."

Richard Cagle: Voodoo Child

You may not be familiar with Richard Cagle but quite a few folks in the Houston music community know the artists he's worked with to help develop their career. Produced and recorded Carolyn Wonderland's first and second album. Won Producer of the Year (Houston Press/KLOL Music Awards) for Carolyn's 2nd album "Truckstop Favorites Vol. 2" While managing her, Carolyn signed with Warner Chappell, William Morris and was offered a major recording deal with Giant Records. Recorded dead horse's "Demo90" that got them signed to their first record deal and managed them a few years later. Recorded Soilent Green's (New Orleans) first and second albums that got them signed.

Recorded Uncle John Tuner and Johnny Winter, Academy Black, Dirt, Hayflick Limit. Produced and recorded Joe "King" Carrasco, Simpleton, Lee Alexander, Carrie Ann and the Apocalyptics, L.L. Cooper, Voices of a Red God. Recorded and managed Dive, the Jinkies, Under the Sun, Rosebud, and Clay Farmer. Went into partnership with Skip Rudsenske and Greg Pitzer to open the "Artist Management Group" and"The Urban Art Bar". Currently co-owner of "Montrose Records" and manages Pasadena Napalm Division, (made up from members of DRI and dead horse). Raised in Panhandle of Texas in the small town of Dumas. Started first band "Shades of Time" with Joe "King" Carrasco (Teusch) in the seventh grade. (FYI Tommy Shannon also came from Dumas.) Moved to Baytown in 1967 and join the "Nomads". During high school and college knocked around with numerous bands and finally settled into "Big Family" with Heli Joe Martinez in the mid 70s  playing regionally. Late 70s got married and started a family. The music dreams stopped but not the spirit. Started learning recording engineering in 1987 and opened Saturn Productions Studio in Baytown and a few years later, moved into Houston across the street from the Movie Studio (Houston Studios) in the warehouse district. Lost the studio in 1993 due to the building's owner being foreclosed on, and started managing Carolyn…

Interview by Michael Limnios

Richard, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
I’ve loved the blues since I first heard the Brits bring it back to America. I never heard, Lightnin Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and all the rest of our American Blues heritage until I moved to Houston in 1968. I love them all, but my 1st influence is the way the Brits put their twist on it…

What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
The 1st concert I went to as a kid was Jimi Hendrix, he was on tour supporting his 1st album, “Are You Experienced?” He showed his blues roots when he played “Red House”.. Talk about a great concert! WOW!  I still remember it like yesterday…
The 1st album that I bought was the Rolling Stones “12x5”… It had a tune on it called “Around and Around” written by Chuck Berry. I worked all summer to get enough money to buy a Stella acoustic guitar, and I taught myself to play “Around and Around.”

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?
There are many categories of Blues, the most important ingredient is feeling. Sure, lots of folks can technically play Blues tunes, note for note, but it doesn’t ring true until the feeling is burnt all the way down into your soul and you just emote it. The Blues allows me to express my emotional being in short stories of the joys and pain of everyday life.

How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
We burn it down from the moment we get on stage and strike the first note. We slam down the first three songs back to back before we even say hello and thank the audience for coming out to the show… People immediately feel the intensity of the songs and musicianship and we don’t normally have to invite the audience to get up and dance, it just happens so naturally… it’s like a big party!

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
There is something magical about the 1st time you’re driving down the road, listening to the radio and suddenly you hear one of your songs. It does make you feel… WOW, that’s us! On the down side, the dark moments are when you feel insecure and self doubting or think things just aren’t moving as fast as you want them to.

Tell me about the beginning of the Voodoo Choir. How did you choose the name and where did it start?
I took a leap of faith when I created “Texas Voodoo Blues.” I didn’t have a band at the time, so I invited a guitar player, bassist, drummer to join me in the studio. Each session, we would write a song right then and record it. On a few occasions, we produced two songs in an afternoon… the coolest part was, it was a blast! Every one contributed the best they could at that moment and it really was a Zen moment in time.
I was struggling with what I was going to call the band… I knew the title of the album was going to be “Texas Voodoo Blues,” so one morning I woke up to the idea, “Voodoo Choir.” I loved it because it represented the magic that took place when we wrote and recorded the album. I knew that everyone who worked on the project would always be a member of the Voodoo Choir and it would be natural for the choir membership to change from time to time. The current lineup is Rev. Lee Martin on Guitar, Calvin Hall on bass, Frank Salas on drums, Rick Thompson on keys, and I carry vocals and harmonica.

Which artists have you worked with & which of the people you have worked with do you consider the good friend?
I’ve worked with quite a few artists in the past, but some of my favorites are: I produced Carolyn Wonderland’s (Blues) first two albums, “Groove Milk” & “Truckstop Favorites,” I’ve Produced a couple of albums for Joe King Carrasco, (TexMex Rock & Roll) “Royal Loyal and Live” & “Tattoo Laredo,” The Jinkies (Pop Punk) “Everest,” Lee Alexander (Singer/Songwriter) “Out of Place,” Carrie Ann & the Apocalyptics (Singer/songwriter) “Strong Wind.”
I still stay in touch with Carolyn, and occasionally catch her show when she’s in town, but Joe is like my brother. We grew up together in Dumas, Texas. We started our very 1st band together “Shades of Time” when we were 12-years-old. Even though he now lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we still stay in touch. In fact, last September my band played with Joe at the Flamingo Ballroom here in Houston.

Are there any memories from "Artist Management Group" and "The Urban Art Bar”, which you’d like to share with us?
In 1994 Skip Rudzenski, Greg Pitzer and myself formed a management company called “The Artist Management Group.” I like to think of it as an artist development company, because we would go out and find bands that we thought would have the best chance of getting a major record deal based on their talent and songwriting. We managed Carolyn Wonderland, dead horse, the Jinkies, Rosebud, Under the Sun, and Simpleton to name a few. Carolyn and dead horse were both offered major recording contracts as well as Under the Sun was offered a development deal for a major.
AMG also opened a showcase club in downtown Houston called “The Urban Art Bar.” We specialized in bringing new signed acts that were out touring to support their 1st album… Bush, Guided by Voices, Jeff Buckley, Jewel, Oasis, Korn, Matchbox 20, the Toadies, the Goo Goo Dolls, ZZ Top, Creed, to name a few. One of my fondest memories is when Jeff Buckley was playing at our bar and I went down for the sound check… as I was sitting at the bar sipping on a cold Shiner beer, young Jeff came up and introduced himself, we had a few beers and I’ll always remember him as so vibrant and friendly… I knew he was very unique, but I had no idea of how influential his voice would be to the next generation of rock music.

How did you first meet Uncle John Turner and Johnny Winter, which memory from them makes you smile?
Back when I was managing Carolyn Wonderland, Carolyn and her boyfriend Eric Dane, lived in a garage apartment behind Uncle John Turner’s house. They were always hanging out, so I naturally got to know Uncle John. Uncle John played drums for Johnny Winter on his 1st three albums. Tommy Shannon who eventually played bass with Stevie Ray Vaughan was also in the band. Uncle John called one day and told me he was going to record his own album in Austin and Houston with Darryl Menkin producing and asked, would I engineer the recording in Houston. He said that Johnny was flying in from New York to play on some of the tracks. I lucked out, he came to Houston.
Uncle John is an old style drummer… everything is about the song… Even his cymbals were ringing in pitch and tone to just what the song called for. Most young drummers don’t have a clue how these older drummers make their drums talk… as for Johnny, as soon as he’s playing… be recording, because it’s all great!

What made you want to work with Johnny Winter?
When I was a teenager living in Houston, I saw Johnny Winter for the very 1st time at a small club called Love Street Light Circus by the Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston… I’ve been hooked every since!

What are some of the memorable stories from Carolyn Wonderland’s album and managing you've had?
Carolyn, emotionally, feels everything more deeply than anybody I know. In the studio, Carolyn would start a song, like “Wrong Side of Dead” and end up in tears by the ending. Just really, really feels it… And sings like an angel! She also does great harmonies and did I say what a fine guitarist she’s turned into… She is very wonderful to work with.

What the difference between the producer and musician Richard Cagle?
Songs, music, dreams are nothing more, then creation in progress… I love helping artist capture their dreams… I always try to get the best performance out of the artist and save the snapshot for eternity.

If you go back to the past what things you would do better?
1.    Stay confident and believe in what you do… don’t let other folk’s ideas and agendas get in your way… Dream the dream and stay focused, moving forward… one step at a time…
2.    Always treat people the way you want to be treated… learn to say “Thank You” often, and “I’m sorry, that’s my fault” when it’s needed.

Who are your favorite blues artists, both old and new, what was the last record you bought?
Joe Bonamassa is the leader of the pack right now, fabulous guitar player putting out wonderful Blues/Rock… “Dust Bowl” is really good, but his collaboration with Beth Hart “Don’t Explain” is the Best Album of last year… I can’t stop playing it… I grew up listening to the Brits playing their interpretation of blues… I love it still, it is what influenced me the most in my music… the Rolling Stones, Beatles early blues/rock, later John Mayall, the Yardbirds, and Cream and one of my all time favorites, Rory Gallagher!!! But I can’t forget another home town favorite… ZZ Top…  And they have a new album coming out soon!!!

Give one wish for the BLUES
I wish the major music industry would find another Blues artist that would hit the main stream, and would revive the Blues genre like Stevie Ray Vaughan did in the 80’s…

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet? What is your “secret” music DREAM?
Robert Johnson is who I’d like to have met… most of his music was recorded in Room 414 at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas... in three days… just think about all of the great artist, he’s has influenced…

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
I’ve met Delbert McClinton several times, and he’s just a great guy… Truly Texas Roadhouse Music… a little rock, a little blues, a little country… always touring with a tip top band…  just a great workhorse…

What’s the best jam and gig you ever played in?
Opening for Johnny Winter last Friday night was really special… but most of the time it’s how the people in the audience respond that makes it a great show! We are always going to burn it down, and it’s great when you get off stage and someone’s handing you a beer and telling you what a great set you just played…

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
Right now is the most interesting part of my life… I’ve got a great bunch of guys in the band that love to play, we’re working on our next album and very happy with the tunes we’re writing… people all over the world are slowly getting to know us… Thank God for the internet!!! Basically our dreams are coming to life… we’ll be touring Europe before long… hope we get to play Athens!

Richard Cagle & the Voodoo Choir

                                                                                       Photo Credits: Tom Callins

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