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NIGHT LIFE

Devoted to Playing the Red-Hot Blues : Randy Rich, a Camarillo local, admits it doesn't pay well but he and the Ravens tear up the scene with their pedal-to-the-metal style.

October 27, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So you're in the bar, Cupid has passed out love wings to everyone but you, and booze has finally removed your brain anyway. Now what? Maybe find some decent music that's not a cover band? You couldn't do much better than Randy Rich & the Ravens who will be shredding all over Charley Brown's in Thousand Oaks this weekend.

Rich, a Camarillo local, has been tearing up the area's scene for many years. Any doubters need only remember his one show-stopping, mind-bending rendition of "Suspicions and Doubts" at the recent Ojai Bowlful of Blues. If more guys played the blues like Rich does, there would be infinitely more blues fans. Rich doesn't do any of that cry-in-your-beer blues, but full-on pedal-to-the-metal assault blues with chain-saw intensity solos that Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan would appreciate.

The follicly challenged guitarist talked things over recently from his Camarillo home.

How did you learn to play like that?

Well, I just put in a lot of time and just keep doing it. I learned by listening to records--records show you how to do it. I do about 25 of my own songs and about 30 of other people's songs, depending on the situation. I'll do a song for a while, then forget it, write a new one, bring back an old one--it's always changing.

How long have you been the local blues dude?

Let's see, I've been back here from Nashville since 1986, and I've been in and out of a lot of other people's bands. It's been since 1991 that I put together the Ravens. I play with John Marx on Wednesdays at the Classroom in the Valley; then the next night with a harp player named Terry Longo. Sundays, I play at the Studio City Bar & Grill. This Friday and Saturday thing at Charley Brown's is just starting.

How did a Camarillo local end up in Nashville?

It's a long and not very interesting story. Basically, it was just from meeting different people. I stayed there for three years and played for a recording artist named Ed Bruce. He made millions, then gradually started to wind down. He just does commercials these days, and I think he has a show on the Nashville Network.

Is the local scene happening?

I went to high school in Camarillo in the '60s and there weren't that many places to hang out, just like now, so I guess it's about the same. I do have a local following, but it's real hard to get something rolling. If you get out of a club you've been at for a long time, people sort of get out of the groove. Bar owners have to get people in there and the rents are high--I understand that. They don't care what's happening as long as people come to see it. I can't criticize them for what they think is hip, but on the other hand, I can't change what I do.

What about playing in a restaurant when people are talking, then later, some drunk guy asks you to play "Born to Be Wild"?

Yeah, there are times when there's not that many people, and I feel like I'm standing in a library yelling. I think the people feel kind of weird, too. When people go out, they want to meet other people and have fun, socialize. When someone asks me to play some song, I tell them I do my own stuff and some stuff by the old blues guys. I don't know "Free Bird," anyway. But that's cool--that stuff doesn't bother me.

What's your version of the blues?

It's limited--some like a little more variety, but it's the blues. It's a mix of styles from all over, I guess. For years, nine or 10, I did the coffeehouse tour with an acoustic guitar. I played songs by Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, stuff like that. All that influenced how I approach the electric guitar. I do a lot of late '40s to early '60s blues. I put a lot of energy into it to give it an edge.

Why don't more people go hear the blues?

People think the blues are about being sad, but it's really about making fun of what's making you sad. It's about finding the answers to what's bugging you.

Why aren't you rich?

The music business is a million people trying to get that one record deal. Keep trying, that's all I can say. I've sent stuff to everybody, but I don't really know what happened to it. You hear about guys like William Clarke who was playing, making his own records, sending out stuff, for 16, 17 years. It doesn't happen overnight. Getting signed to a small label is no guarantee of success, but it does help. Being in the right place at the right time is also important. Keep plugging away, that's all you can do.

So what's the plan?

Right now, I'm just trying to get a band together again, keep writing and keep playing. The old Ravens fell apart last summer when they decided they could make more money playing Top 40. I've got two new guys now, Eric Monteef on bass and George Nixon on drums. But like I said, it's hard because I make a lot less now than I did in 1972. The amount of money I'm making now, I used to laugh at, but that's all they're paying these days. But this is what I do.

Details

* PERFORMANCES: An opinionated guide to the county's music scene appears today on Page 7.

* WHAT: Randy Rich & the Ravens.

* WHERE: Charley Brown's, 299. E. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks.

* WHEN: Friday and Saturday nights at 9.

* HOW MUCH: No cover.

* CALL: 495-0431.

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