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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Blues Band From Windy City Blows Into Town : Howard & the White Boys took their cues from Buddy Guy in Chicago and won a House of Blues contest. Next stop: Ventura.

February 08, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Howard & the White Boys is the band that will be getting the free, unabashed plug this week in anticipation of its Sunday evening gig at Joe Daddy's in Ventura.

Howard McCullum will be the bass player with the cool voice, while the White Boys will include Rocco Calipari on lead guitar, Dan Bellini on guitar and harmonica, and Jim Christopulos on drums.

From DeKalb they came, and after being a hit with those Northern Illinois college students intently studying Party 101 and Where's-the-Check-Dad 102, the band moved to Chicago--a good place to be if you have the blues or are a Cubs fan.

Things began to get interesting for the band right away. It found a musical mentor, put out a debut disc, "Strung Out on the Blues," in 1994 and then won the 1995 National Blues Talent competition sponsored by KLON radio in Long Beach.

"If you dance with the gods, they'll lead you to paradise," noted Frank Lovejoy while chasing Commie spies in the totally bent '50s classic "Shack Out on 101." The band, by hooking up with blues god Buddy Guy, proved that Lovejoy knew what he was talking about.

Bellini, the busy band member/manager, takes it from there:

"We opened for Buddy a couple of times before he opened his club in 1990, then tried for about a year to get in there. Finally, they booked Bo Diddley, who doesn't provide a band. Everyone else was already booked, so they got us. That was our first gig there, no rehearsal, no nothing. 'Nice to meet you Mr. Diddley, 1-2-3.' We've been playing there regularly ever since."

Older blues guys seem to help the up-and-comers more than rock stars do, and Guy was no exception. Not only did he hop on stage with Howard and the boys from time to time, but he took them on the road where they found large, instant audiences.

Buddy Guy himself spoke from his Chicago home about his favorite blues band fronted by a guy named Howard. "These guys deserve whatever they get and more. And I tell these guys, 'If you ain't gonna do it, you know I will, so don't let me down now.' And they haven't."

Winning that blues contest didn't hurt, either. And, next thing you know, the band is coming to California for a 13-gig tour.

"After we won the contest in August at the House of Blues, we came back for the festival in September. So by that, we laid the groundwork in the L.A. area and made a lot of connections. And we want to capitalize on that now," Bellini said.

"Right now, I've been going crazy planning for this trip. I hired a promoter, had to book all the rooms, all that stuff. We just want to get out and play a lot of different places. The first time will be hard because I know no one's ever heard of us."

Most of the band's songs are originals, but they fairly rage on a couple of covers, including "I've Got My Mojo Working." But the song worth the drive alone is "Turn On Your Lovelight." As recorded by Bobby "Blue" Bland in 1961, it's clearly one of the best songs ever. It's mellowed out by Howard Etc.--with no horns--but it still works.

"When we started playing in DeKalb, all the students loved the Grateful Dead, and as you know, they used to play that song. So we learned the song just to get them off our backs. For some reason, at half tempo, it works and it has become one of our most requested songs," Bellini said.

"But we just play what we play. We have more modern influences, so we incorporate that into what we play. It's music first, but what we like is the blues."

And, finally, according to the guitar player, here's why you should pass on "The Simpsons" and watch the band:

"A lot of people that haven't been exposed to the blues think that it's depressing and slow. But blues is as much about celebration as it is about bitching. People drink and get up and dance--it's fun. It's not like that folk coffeehouse stuff.

"Blues has so many sides and so many different flavors, and it's always gonna be there underneath everything. It will always be an underground thing, although once in a while, someone like Stevie Ray Vaughan will come along and give it a push."

* Joe Daddy's is at 211 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. The show starts at 8 p.m. Call 643-3264 to find out more about this $5 event.

*

A Fine Kettle of Fish, a pop rock band out of Santa Barbara, will open for Dave Mason on Saturday at the Ventura Theatre. Three of the four guys create some happening harmonies in a band that's probably heard R.E.M. before. Doncha' just love stuff like that? The show, and the quartet, yet another fine Fish band, start at 8 p.m.

*

In the rock 'n' roll biz, record releases are usually really CD releases and the new album seldom is--it's usually a CD or a tape. But the Roadhouse Rockers, those rockabilly road dogs, are having a record release party Friday night at China Seas in Ventura--and we're talking vinyl here, as in a clear, vinyl 45, one of those 7-inch round things with grooves, a real record.

Earlier the band will have a practice run at Cymbaline Records on State Street in their hometown of Santa Barbara. The record release party in Ventura will start around 9-ish where there will be a once-in-a-lifetime deal to buy a record and a T-shirt for one low price. China Seas at 1105 Seaward Ave., less than a block from the blue Pacific. Call 643-9477.

*

There will be some raccoon-scaring, tadpole-frazzling punk rock blasting across the usually tranquil Camp Comfort on Creek Road, halfway between Ojai and Oak View on Saturday afternoon. Disfunction, Red Light District, Bloody Oil and Bad Apple will provide the soundtrack for those madcap moshers. The proceedings will start at 11 a.m. The event is free, but you can expect a $5 expense for parking. For more information, call 649-2811.

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