Phil Alvin Recovering

     As each night passed, I became a bit more confident, less scared and more exited. Frankie Lee and I were having a fantastic time opening the shows, and the audiences were so welcoming. And then joining Dave every night was simply fantastic.
     Dave is amazing to perform with. His energy is contagious. He's spontaneous and joyous. He is also very giving onstage and aware of what the others are doing. Not to sound over the top, but this experience has truly been one of the great joys of my lifetime.
     By the end of the run I just wished there was more. Thanks to my wonderful friend Dave Alvin, Chris Miller, Danny Bland and Dave's manager Nancy Sefton for this chance of a lifetime. I will never forget it.
-- AM

1994 King of California press release

     King of California is my 3rd solo album for HighTone, and it's a bit different from Museum of Heart (93) and Blue Boulevard (91), my previous releases on the label. For one thing, I stripped down the instrumentation. In addition to some new original songs, I've included a few covers, and some songs I previously recorded solo, or with my first band, the Blasters.
     Current trends and fads aside, I've wanted to do a "quieter" collection of old, new, borrowed and blue songs for some time. It can be difficult trying to please the people who want to hear sweaty, electric rock 'n' roll, as well as the fans who are more interested in contemplating the lyrics. I think King of California is mainly for the latter group.
     A lot of the shows I've done while touring these past few years have been solo acoustic, or with Greg Leisz as fellow traveler/accompanist. I noticed my vocals changing, arrangements changing, sometimes even the meaning of songs changed. I wanted to document that change on this record. I also wanted to re-cut songs like "Fourth of July" from my first solo album Romeo's Escape, because, to be perfectly honest, I can sing 'em better now. I chose a couple of more obscure Blasters songs to record ("Bus Station," "Barn Burning") because these songs mean as much to me as the better-known ones.
      I've always been attracted to story-songs and on the title track, "King of California," I tell the story of a gold rush era dreamer who comes west looking for the promised land. From gold rush times through the golden age of Hollywood up to today, California has been perceived as a place where dreams come true but it's also the end of the continent, the end of the road for dreamers. A lot of the songs on King of California have to do with people realizing their dreams may not come true and trying to figure out just where to go from there.
     I rarely cover other people's material but songs like Tom Russell's "Blue Wing" and Alex Moore's "East Texas Blues" easily fit the mood and themes of my songs; losers praying to win and people trying to survive day to day while keeping their hearts intact.
     Greg Leisz, who you may know from his work with k.d. lang, Matthew Sweet, Rosie Flores and countless others, applied his musical genius and, most importantly, his endless patience to producing this record. I hope you like it.   --  Dave Alvin,  May 1994

     It's more than 1,600 miles from Springfield, Mo, to Los Angeles, where Dave Alvin lives. Despite the distance, the Southwestern Missouri city has influenced his music as a solo artist. The Skeletons served as his touring band in the early 1990s and keyboardist Joe Terry and drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks were musical cornerstones of the Guilty Men for more than a decade.
    They are just one part of the city's rich musical and cultural legacy that writer/filmmaker Dave Hoekstra explores in his entertaining and educational documentary
The Center of Nowhere: The Spirit and Sounds of Springfield, Mo.
     "Of all the cities that size, I think it's one of the last undiscovered music scenes in America," Hoekstra said during a phone interview from his home in suburban Chicago. "It was a hotbed of music in its way," Alvin said during a film interview, pointing to such artists as Porter Wagoner and Wynn Stewart who had roots in the region. "Springfield was what American music was like before it was centralized in New York, Nashville, or Los Angeles."
     Hoekstra traces Springfield's musical history with an informative look at the
Ozark Jubilee, a nationally broadcast TV series hosted by Red Foley that aired from 1955 to 1960 and featured such stars as Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Patsy Cline. The show brought country music to a national audience. Other segments of the film are devoted to the Skeletons and the band's bassist/producer/studio owner Lou Whitney and singer/songwriter Ronnie Self and songwriter Wayne Carson, who wrote

boardist/producer Wyman Reese had to leave the show before playing due to a minor health issue. "We love him and we miss him," said Alvin. "He was the other guy. Danny [Ott] understood Chris, I understood Chris, Wyman understood Chris better than anybody," he reflected.
    The band then invited up crowd favorite, RJ Simensen, to play the washboard on "East of Houston, West of Baton Rouge," which refreshed the party vibe has the dance floor quickly filled. As Shea, Ott, and Alvin traded guitar solos, Simensen bounced around the stage and scratched his chest plate washboard.
    The Cold Hard Facts maintained this kind of energy throughout the duration of their set. It's difficult to imagine that anyone could sit still through such a soulful and eclectic mix of zydeco, Tex Mex, and rock.
    Gaffney's accordion and cowboy hat rested on a pedestal for the duration of the night. The Hacienda Brothers, another one of Gaffney's groups, were set to finish up the night. This was no simple feat, but their signature honky tonk soul created the perfect feel-good atmosphere to conclude the event. Dave Gonzalez, who's also known for his work with The Paladins, breezed through one expressive guitar solo after the next while singing songs that Gaffney once sang. Between songs, Gonzalez took a moment to confess, "We miss him dearly. This is really tough, I'm gonna tell you right now."
    For the last tune of the night, local blues legend Kid Ramos was invited to the stage to play a blues instrumental. Fabulocos frontman Jesus Cuevas also joined in and the show ended in a whirlwind of solos and showmanship.
    Less than half a keg of Budweiser was all that remained as the crowd funneled out onto the sidewalk and into their cars. This gathering of musicians and music lovers showed that Chris Gaffney is dearly missed. However, it's equally evident that his songs remain timeless.

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