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MUSIC ROD PIAZZA & THE MIGHTY FLYERS : Harp Attack : The rockin' blues of Riverside's Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers will put no one to sleep and may quite possibly pack the dance floor.

February 07, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Blues is more than just reggae on steroids. It's fast; it's slow; it's from the Delta; it's from Chicago; it's from the West Coast, even Riverside. It's everywhere.

Rockin' blues as performed by Riverside's own Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers will put absolutely no one to sleep and may quite possibly pack the dance floor. These blues are about as "sad" as blue skies, green lights, free burritos for life; oh, and world peace.

Piazza has been around so long that it was another war entirely in the hearts, minds and headlines when he began in the late '60s. A world-class harmonica player, Piazza released his first album in 1967 with his first band, The Dirty Blues Band. Next came Bacon Fat, then the Chicago Flying Saucer Band, and finally, the Mighty Flyers in 1980.

Piazza has released 11 albums in his career, including the brand-new "Blues in the Dark." This one is a greatest-hits package, featuring all the hot ones that routinely blow people's minds at the live gigs, of which there are plenty. This band lives up to the adjective in its name. The band includes the one and only Miss Honey (Piazza's wife) on piano, Alex Schultz on guitar, Bill Stuve on bass and Jimi Bott thrashes the drums.

In a recent telephone call from beautiful downtown Riverside, Piazza discussed the life and times of The Mighty Flyers, and even before.

How are the tour and the new album doing?

Well, the album just came out about three weeks ago. It's on Black Top Records distributed by Rounder Records. Black Top is the second biggest blues label in the country after Alligator. We're going to start a major tour in April and go all over the States. We usually play 12 to 18 gigs a month, but then we'll be doing over 20 gigs in support of the album. "Blues in the Dark" is a collection of the best songs we do live, the ones that seem to please everybody the most.

Why the blues?

You know, I grew up in the '50s, and I had two older brothers who used to bring home all those cool r&b 45s. When I was 7 or 8, I used to sneak into their room and play their records. I used to comb my hair like Elvis and all that. I always loved the blues, and now, the blues are bigger than ever. The audiences just keep growing.

How did you get started in the music biz?

I got started in 1967 with a band called The Dirty Blues Band and we got signed to Bluesway. We were the only white guys on the label--we did two albums. Then I was in a band called Bacon Fat and we got signed to Fleetwood Mac's label, Blue Horizon. One time we opened for Ten Years After and Albert King. The Flyers have been flying since about 1980.

How would you describe Mighty Flyers music?

I'd call it traditional blues with West Coast swing. We attract all the regular blues people plus plenty of others when we play.

What's the best and worst thing about being a musician?

The best thing is maybe when you're up there jamming and you can forget all the problems that exist in your home life. The worst thing about playing is the hours. I'm just not very good at sleeping in the daytime.

What's the most misunderstood thing about the blues?

There's so many bands that play the blues, and a lot of them aren't that good at it. People think that all blues is the same. To the average ear, it is--to the educated ear, it's not.

Do blues musicians get a discount on sunglasses?

Yes, we do; well, anyway, maybe we should. I started wearing shades 20 years ago. But then when I didn't wear them, I got so much flak that now I always wear them.

* WHERE AND WHEN

Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers will perform Monday at Alexander's Bar & Grill, 1050 Schooner Drive, Ventura, and on Tuesday at Felix's Cantina, 525 State St., Santa Barbara. Both shows begin at 9 p.m. For more information call 658-2000 (Alexander's) or 962-1432 (Felix's).

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