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NIGHT LIFE

Don't Worry, These 3 Are Professionals : Veterans of stage and studio, the Buds play the blues in regular weekend sets at the Hungry Hunter.

January 06, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's a bar in the basement of the Hungry Hunter restaurant in Thousand Oaks. Not one of the more famous rock venues in the Western Hemisphere, it's still the place to find the Buds playing rockin' blues Friday and Saturday night. So give it a break: Lana Turner was supposedly discovered in a drugstore. This prime rib restaurant has better food than Schwab's--and far better music.

Bassist Buddy Sklar, drummer Chet McCracken and guitarist Chris Pinnick have, cumulatively, been in about a million bands. Sklar's famous past groups include the Leaves and the Spencer Davis Group. McCracken made a zillion bucks with the Doobie Brothers, and Pinnick was in the band Chicago for seven or eight years.

"Chris, Chet and I have known each other for about 20, 25 years," said Sklar during a recent phone interview. "Chet and Chris are in the studio every day, plus they sell teaching videos. Together, we've done a lot of soundtracks and commercials, plus we've played tracks for a lot of bands that you wouldn't expect, like Poison, for example.

"The last couple of years, we were the core band at the Chicago Blues Festival. There'd be something like 30 artists, but none of them brought their bands, so we backed them up. We backed up people like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert Collins and Albert King. Just name a song, and we can do it."

As a teen-ager in the Valley, Sklar flunked one of those early D.A.R.E. scenarios. He wouldn't stay out of bars, and he wouldn't quit rocking.

"I was originally playing around the Valley, and I started to get pretty good on the bass," he said. "I ended up playing with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1965 or so, when I was 15. I had a fake ID. Ike was a trip, man. Every time you'd hit a bad note, he'd fine you. It was something like 25 bucks, and we only made 15. But he wasn't that sharp--it was only when he caught you. But it was through Ike Turner that I met Jimmy Reed, and I ended up playing with him, too."

Sklar was right there when all those L.A. bands took off in the silly psychedelic '60s. He was a member of the Leaves, the first L.A. band to have a hit with "Hey Joe," a song that was later recorded by such artists as Love, Jimi Hendrix, the Music Machine, the Enemies and the Surfaris.

"I joined the Leaves after their first album came out, then moved on to a band called the Hook," said the bass player. "That's where I met Chet McCracken--he was the drummer for the Hook. That band was sort of a power trio like Cream. We must've played the Whiskey about 25 times and released an album on Uni Records.

"After that band, Chet went on to play jazz gigs before joining the Doobie Brothers, and I played with Joe Walsh and the James Gang plus a lot of those L.A. folk-rock bands. Then I played with Spencer Davis and Stevie Winwood. That band had hits like 'I'm A Man' and 'Gimme Some Lovin.' Those were the days of the liquid light shows, strobe lights and all that stuff."

Around 1970 or so Sklar discovered Pinnick--and not a moment too soon for Pinnick's mom and the neighbors.

"One day, I was leaving the park in Reseda when I heard some incredible guitar playing," said Sklar. "It was the greatest guitar playing I had ever heard in my life; I mean, this guy was incredible. So I knocked on the door and his mom said 'I know, I've been telling that kid to shut up.' I asked Chris if he wanted to be in a band. That guy's beyond the beyond."

So Pinnick joined the Spencer Davis Group, then played with the Tijuana Brass and eventually ended up in Chicago. The three musicians, although following diverse paths, always stayed in contact over the years.

They formed the Buds last year and began making the rounds of all the blues clubs in L.A. From the Bombay Bicycle Club in Burbank, the Buds traded venues with John Ford Coley and ended up playing the Hyatt in Westlake Village for three months. Now it's on to the Hungry Hunter.

"We can play any kind of music, but we prefer the blues. At the Hyatt, we'd do a jazz set, a blues set, then a set of originals. We'll do requests; we don't care if someone wants to hear 'Mustang Sally.' It all grows out of the same thing. We can play all the classic rock songs. Hell, we played on half of them, anyway.

"We know a lot of current tunes, but our mainstay is the blues. We do a lot of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Stevie Ray Vaughan-style blues. All of us have always dug the groove of the blues. Blues is not an unhappy thing, but a release of all the pressures. It's a festival of life and the bloodline of rock 'n' roll."

Also it doesn't help having connections when it comes time to shop that demo tape. Most bands, of course, can't get past the secretary.

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