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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE

Ruby Pays Dues to Play the Blues

April 29, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's a lot more to being in a band than just playing, drinking free beer and sleeping all day. Someone has to get those gigs, haggle with the greedy club owners over money and make sure all the band members show up.

Ruby ("Just Ruby. My last name's French. You couldn't pronounce it.") has the serious phone bill to prove it. She's probably the hardest working blues woman in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, probably even in all of San Diego County and beyond. When she's not on the stage, she's on the phone trying to talk her way back on.

She and her band, the Red Hots, have just about conquered the 619 area code, where they play at least four nights a week. They have a new cassette tape and their own hot line 1-800-464-RUBY.

And they'll be making their Blue Monday debut next week at the Holiday Inn in Ventura.

The group seems ready to take the next step for blues bands--festivals and that long lonesome highway stuff. Ruby was born in New York, lived in Spain and traveled extensively before landing in San Diego, eventually forming the Red Hots two years ago.

Ruby spoke by phone recently with The Times.

So is the Red Hots' biz booming?

Yeah, it sure is. I keep pretty busy. We play four or five nights a week. A lot of bands are hard hit by the recession, but we're still working.

You don't have a day job, so it's the Red Hots Inc.?

Yeah, I run the business. I do all the booking, all the mailing and all the press. The guitar player and the bass player are really supportive, but I'm really looking for a personal manager, an agent, a secretary, something. It's just an insane amount of work. I'm killing myself. I'm still up to 1 a.m. on our nights off. I'm probably out of my mind to be doing this. My daughter is in kindergarten, and that helps a lot.

How?

She's 5 years old, and while she's in kindergarten, I work. But at that age she needs the attention. We try and stay away from home and the phone for an hour everyday after school. We spend our quality time; it's pretty demanding. I was on the road all the time with my mother and father, and I want the same thing for my daughter. At some gigs, she can come too, but at others she can't, and I can't afford someone to watch her when I'm playing.

So you're the boss around the clock--on stage, off stage and as a mother.

That's right. Some people tell me I'm too easy for a bandleader, but it seems to work. I don't like problems. If you listen to and respect people you work with, you can work things out. A lot of people say 'Who cares about the band? It's me that's important.' I don't see it that way. I think it's important to have a unity, an understanding.

What's the San Diego scene like?

It's pretty happening. There's a lot of good musicians down here. I think we all need to support each other more because we're all in the same industry. Our band has a real identity, and we're known everywhere. Of course, the club owners are still paying what they did 10 years ago. Sometimes we'll pack the place on Friday night and they give us 200 bucks. It seems like they think you're always better if you're from out of town. I'm in this for the satisfaction and not the money, I can tell you. All the piddly political stuff is worth it when you're up there on stage. Thank God for gigs.

Why the blues?

Most of our music comes from the blues. The blues is definitely black American music. The thing about the blues is that it's so worldly. Everybody gets the blues sometime in their life at one point or another.

What blows your mind the most about the bar scene?

Probably the worst thing is that we're promoting a lot of drinking in a smoky atmosphere. The smoking just kills me. I'm healthy. I work out. I'm in good shape, but I live two different lives. Our job depends on how much alcohol we're selling--that's always the bottom line for the club owners. On the other hand, we're making music in a social situation. It's really two opposite things.

So how does a band reach the next level from the bar scene to, I assume, the festival scene?

I've got the right players now; it takes a long time to find the right combination. This band is so right for touring because they're all full-time musicians. Before, there was always someone who couldn't do it. We'd like to step up to the specialty shows at festivals that really showcase the band. We've already done the Monterey Blues Festival and the Long Beach Blues Festival. It's all a matter of knowing the right people at the right time.

So how would you describe Ruby music?

You know, there's a lot of kinds of blues, jump blues, Louisiana porch blues, but we play funk and blues and rockin' soul. A lot of our guys are into Tower of Power. I'm looking to add a horn section.

How did you get the blues?

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