In This Issue:  2019 Interviews with all the original and current Blasters, Dave Alvin's 25th Anniversary re-release of King of California, Dave Alvin & Sophia Pfister's collaboration, a review of new Dave Alvin essays, and the Last Train Tour.

40 Years of the Blasters
Words by Phil Alvin, Dave Alvin, John Bazz, Bill Bateman, Keith Wyatt, Gene Taylor, and Steve Berlin.

EM PETE of course. The thing I noticed right off the bat when we were playing, was that though Phil and I grew up together, our guitar styles developed independently and were very different. But when you put our guitars together, they matched perfectly. I thought wow! This is unique. In those days, Phil's guitar was loud and much more a prominent part of the sound. It was very apparent when we played Carl Perkins' HONEY DON'T, that I thought "this is the shit".
For 'The Murderers' gig, I played a Les Paul that I borrowed from a guy named Keith Freeze. For this early prototype Blasters, I played Bill Bateman's Epiphone. I wouldn't remember what kind of amps we used because everything was borrowed.

John Bazz: I was Randy's friend and in the Frank Furillo group of musicians and of course played all the time with Phil. As a Blaster, I eventually replaced Mike Kennedy who was a very good bass player. The guy who really should have been playing bass for that first gig and should have been in The Blasters was Doug Allgood. He was the bass player in our house party bands when it was me on drums, Phil on vocals and Gary Masi on guitar. Doug was perfect for The Blasters. I'm not sure why he was out of the loop at the time, maybe he was a little too conservative for The Blasters. But Mike, on the other hand, was a good friend of ours and liked to hang out and jam. Mike was too good. He was a jazz guy not a rock 'n roller.
A bunch of my friends went to the wedding and were playing so I was very curious how it went. Because it was a unique grouping of guys - a new band configuration. So, the week after, I called Phil or Dave to ask how it went. They said it was great and too good to not continue past just one gig. We all knew it couldn't continue with Mike Kennedy on bass. He wouldn't play by the blues rules. If it was a dumbbell bass line in a Warren Smith rockabilly tune, it had to be that way. Mike might play that way for a minute, but then run off on a jazz tangent and ruin the song. In Mike's mind he thought he was improving the song. The Blasters play in context and that's the way it is.

Dave Alvin: I kind of got all hyped up about this band after that first gig, so I kind of volunteered as the booking agent to find us gigs. I think we did a second gig with Mike Kennedy on bass as an audition to get more gigs. Mike quit because he thought we wouldn't go anywhere with this type of music. Johnny Bazz who played drums and was a good guitarist said: "I'll play bass." We went over Bateman's house to rehearse and that was The Blasters right there.

John Bazz: Bateman suggested to Phil and Dave: "Johnny Bazz can do it because he doesn't know any better." I wasn't a bass player, so they knew I would play the simple bass lines that work. And I really had an appreciation for the music, that Mike didn't. But at that time, we weren't The Blasters yet, we were just a bunch of guys meeting in Bateman's front room once or twice a week. We would listen to a record and learn a song every rehearsal. We were all learning. Phil and Bill were the most accomplished at this point. I didn't even have a bass yet, I just played bass lines on a guitar. By the time we did what is called The Blasters second gig at Mike George's wedding, I had to go rent a bass. I was playing with a pick, and I remember buying a felt pick to make it sound like I wasn't picking. About a week after that gig, I bought a Kay bass and started playing with my fingers.

opening for The Twisters every Thursday night, They did top 40. Real nice guys. They saw us audition and liked us and asked us to open. They brought in a lot of people, so we got seen by a large crowd every week. In January 1980, we had a bunch of gigs lined up that were decent paying gigs - like for $75 - which was good money. One day I realized I was making the same money on gigs as working as a fry cook, so I said: "Fuck it! I'm quitting." That was a big moment that I said: "I'm a professional musician now." We're diving into the deep end here. I also quit college, so that day, I officially became a Blaster.

John Bazz: An early highlight for me was when we headlined the Whiskey A Go Go, I thought of this as the ultimate, because I would hang out at the Whiskey and every band that was worth anything played there. I thought The Blasters didn't need to go any further, then we would do two nights in a row and sell it out--which was mind blowing. Playing the Ritz in New York City was pretty big for us too. Others were Farm Aid and touring with Clapton, but they weren't our gigs.

The 1980 Queen Tour

Phil Alvin: A few of the Queen guys saw us play at Flippers Roller Rink in Hollywood. Alex Oakley, who had booked us in a show in Santa Monica got into Queen's private booth at the Roller Rink and talked to them and they invited us to open a month-long tour. Alex became our first manager and was very important for The Blasters. We had an office with him. He was sort of an accountant, he made David pay his taxes for writing MARIE MARIE but that's another story (laughs).

Bill Bateman: We started off opening for other bands on Tuesdays at the Starwood in Hollywood. We would play the Fleetwood or bars out in The Valley - really nothing gigs. One night we played Flippers Roller Rink. I remember I was on crutches because I twisted my ankle at work, but I came to the show. I got some buddies a case of beer to help drive my drum set to the gig in my 1964 Volkswagen bus. We set up on the oval stage inside the middle of the rink and played our show. The following day, I heard Queen was there. They saw our set and invited us to personally open up for them on their arena tour that would be starting next week.  - That's a wakeup call!
We played San Diego first. The fans were waving their union jacks at us and booing as hard as they could. Here's the scenario: The lights go out. The announcer shouts, "Is everyone ready to rock and roll?" The crowd goes ape shit. Then one spotlight comes on illuminating a 4-piece band huddled around a little drum set inside a 9-foot square area.  As soon as they realized it wasn't Queen, the booing started.

Phil Alvin: They were 100% against us (laughs). Someone even threw a cherry bomb at us.

Bill Bateman: That was the first of a month of gigs with them. The second gig was in Phoenix, out-doors, in July and it was hot!

John Bazz: At the Arizona show it was general admission in front, and the earlier you got there

From the Editor -- Hey American Music fans, some of you have written in recently with interest in contributing writings to the Blastersnewsletter. The answer is Yes!
Send any reviews of shows, or stories of your experiences to me at 
I'd also like to bring back the "Questions for the Band" column. If you have any questions for any of the musicians covered in these pages, send them. I'll try to get answers to print in the newsletter. Thanks   --Billy Davis