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MUSIC GARY PRIMICH : Lone Star Blues : With a harmonica endorsement deal and a debut disc in stores, this Austin musician proves Texans have rhythm.

July 18, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The myth is that everything's BIG in Texas--egos, hat sizes, excuses. It is said that Texans tend to exaggerate their importance more than most with delusions of grandeur bigger than Rock Hudson's ranch in "Giant." If Texas is so great, why is half its population in California? And why do the Dallas Cowboys stink? One tall tale from Texas that isn't is the fact that Texas rocks.

Gary Primich, a harmonica and guitar player out of Austin by way of Chicago, isn't quite ready to match the chart successes of ZZ Top, The Fabulous Thunderbirds or Eric Johnson, but just give him a minute. Primich is an Amazing guy, as in Amazing Records out of Austin, the label that has just released his band's debut disc.

Primich and the Midnight Creepers will be bringing their sweaty brand of hot rhythm and blues to Felix's Cantina on State Street this Tuesday for the week's Blues Tues Daze presentation.

"The album will be out in a few days," Primich said in a recent telephone interview. "Lately, we've just been concentrating on getting this record out then playing to as many people as possible. This is a blues thing on an independent label. We tried to give the record sort of a Chess sound. If we sell, say, 15,000 copies, we'll feel like it's a hit. If we do 25,000 to 30,000, we'll feel it's mega."

Primich, who plays about 250 nights a year, was voted No. 1 in a 1990 Music City poll of harmonica players. Besides that, Primich has an endorsement deal with Hohner, the top harmonica makers from sea to shining sea. That's like being a glutton and having a season pass to the Snickers factory.

"When I was growing up in Chicago, I was able to listen to a lot of late-night radio," he said. "One station in particular, WXRT, used to come at 10 at night, and they'd play everything from rock to Howlin' Wolf. I realized that all these cool old blues guys actually lived there."

The drinking age in Illinois then was 18, but Primich said he was getting into clubs before that. "My life has been ruined ever since. I always liked the sound of the harmonica, and pretty soon, I knew it was for me.

"I'm getting this endorsement deal from the Hohner company now--before I used to spend a couple of thousand bucks per year on harmonicas. A harmonica only lasts me about two or three months now. I blow it pretty hard."

Primich, before he was the head Creeper, was in another band out of Austin, the Mannish Boys. They did a couple of critically acclaimed albums for the same label.

"The Mannish Boys was kind of a blues band that played rock 'n' roll. This band is a blues band that plays blues," Primich said. "For a town the size of Austin--barely half a million people--there's really a huge and diverse scene. Austin is really known for blues and great rock 'n' roll. There's a lot of clubs and a lot of bands, and there's very much a live music scene. This place is just crawling with musicians."

Primich, while not yet the proud owner of a personalized parking spot at the bank, is duly appreciated among his peers. His musical pals include the likes of Steve Berlin, James Harman, Dave Alvin, Willie Nelson, Mojo Nixon, Jimmy Fitting--harmonica player of Treat Her Right--and Gil T, once of Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs. Besides all that, Primich was asked to participate in something called the Harmonica Rumble.

"This Harmonica Rumble thing was at a local nightclub called Antone's. A French label called New Rose is releasing an album. There were seven harmonica players there, but not all at once."

Blues bands typically attract a somewhat older crowd--with few Deadheads, no metal-heads, no disco dummies and no punkers, but usually lots of dancers and those bent to boogie. And then there was the time Primich played to a captive audience.

"For most younger people--I mean under 25--blues is sort of an acquired taste," Primich said. "For kids, you know, it's not cool to like blues until you're older. Generally, our crowds are in the 25-to-45 age bracket.

"But one time, I played to a crowd that featured all ages. It was at the federal penitentiary in Bastrop, Texas, a medium-security prison. There were a few murderers but mostly burglars, armed robbers and a lot of drug offenders. Of course, it was all men. I'd be doing this love song, and be singing something about how much I love you or whatever, and then look out and see all these men staring at me. Man, I was thinking, 'What am I saying?' Anyway, they loved it. It was a lot better than playing at some yuppie steakhouse at 50 decibels with nobody listening."

Another amazing thing about Primich is he's about the only blues dude in memory who doesn't wear sun glasses.

"Naw, man, I ain't into shades," he said. "Maybe most of those dudes have some sort of endorsement deal with Ray Ban. Not me."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Gary Primich and the Midnight Creepers will be next week's Blues Tues Daze presentation at Felix's Cantina at 525 State St., Santa Barbara. The show is Tuesday from 8:30 to midnight. Tickets are $4. For information, call (805) 962-1432.

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