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MUSIC THE CRAWDADS : Catchy Tunes : The four-piece band plays its own rocking brand of the blues at Joseppi's.

May 02, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The best way to catch a crawdad is with a piece of bacon on a string. The easiest way to catch Crawdads is to cruise by Joseppi's in Santa Barbara on Sunday evening--"60 Minutes" will just depress you anyway. These Crawdads don't live in stinky swamp water, but are a rockin' four-piece blues band whose only hooks are in their songs.

Crawdads are freshwater lobsters. Also known as crayfish or crawfish, these little critters are much smaller than lobsters yet not shrimps. Humans are downright mean to the small crustaceans. Cajuns, for example, have crawdad festivals and wear shirts that say things like "Peel 'em, Suck 'em & Eat 'em."

The Santa Barbara-based Crawdads aren't nearly so grotesque. First, there's animated singer/harmonica player Mike Crawley, who jumps around as if his shoes were too tight and his shorts were full of rats--or maybe he's just into it. Then there's guitarist Tom Bucy--carpenter by day, blues-rock god by night--who plays a pretty mean solo with his teeth. He's even better with his fingers--or fangers, since he's from Texas. Ronnie Anderson plays bass and sings backup while Mike Mira beats out that rhythm on the drums.

Crawley and Bucy are the main Crawdudes, and as with most musicians, their story begins with how they moved to California.

"Basically, I'm a surfer," said Bucy. "But there were not enough waves to hang around for in Galveston--so it was out of Texas, definitely, for me. California is the Promised Land, you know. I've been here for about a dozen years now. I've been playing guitar since I was 15. I've known Mike since about '84. We used to be in different bands, but we'd end up jamming with each other. We've been the Crawdads for about a year now."

Crawley doesn't care about waves--the surf's down in Michigan pretty much anyway. He makes musical waves by blowing people's minds with his harmonica.

"I've been playing the harmonica since '72, just playing off rock albums, stuff like that. I remember one time around 1974 when I went into this record store and asked the guy to recommend a good blues album. The guy told me, 'The blues are out.' I ended up with a Junior Wells album."

And the blues have never been out. In fact, this home-grown American musical genre has never been bigger. Everyone has the blues and there are plenty of types--West Coast blues, Chicago blues, Delta blues, Dodger blues, and like that.

"We like Stevie Ray Vaughan, the T-Birds, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and the blues the way George Thorogood does it," said Bucy. "We're a blues-based rock band. We do the Crawdad blues. We just want to take it a little bit higher."

They would probably like to take the bank account higher too. The Crawdads haven't hit the big record deal or the MTV big time; there's no road crew composed of cheerleaders, no customized touring van, no personalized parking place at the bank. Everybody still has day jobs.

"One guy throws trash, another guy is a painter, Mike drives a cab and I'm a carpenter," said Bucy. "But when we play, we get a lot of audience participation. And getting a great response from the crowd is just like surfin' or sex--it's only good when you're doin' it."

"I wish we were able to buy more equipment," Crawley said. "Right now, we just have enough stuff to survive. We make the best of what we have."

The band recently put out a four-song tape that may be quite the collector's item since they only made 60 copies. On it is a scorching Thorogood-style rendition of "House of Blue Lights."

"That was basically a demo tape," said Crawley. "We're working on some new songs and another tape now."

The Crawdads usually play at a Santa Barbara bar, a place that it's easier to get thrown out of than get a beer in--a bar with an attitude. This time the Crawdads will be doing Joseppi's. If more bands played blues like these guys, then more people would like the blues.

"If people want to have a good time, we are a good time," said Bucy. "We don't attract people like jazz fans who sit around and analyze everything. We're a house-rockin' band."

* WHERE AND WHEN

The Crawdads at Joseppi's, 434 State St., Santa Barbara, 965-5516, 5 p.m. Two bucks.

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