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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Musician's 'Adventures' Inspired by Fatherhood

Veteran blues, rock performer 'Catfish' Hodge says his children's album came about as a result of raising two kids.

October 10, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Veteran blues and rock performer Bob "Catfish" Hodge says his album "Adventures at Catfish Pond" is a direct result of his experience raising two sons. The album, his first aimed at children, has won the National American Parents Assn.'s Golden Award.

"It's the first award I've ever won in all these years," said Hodge, who's giving a free concert Sunday at Peter Strauss Ranch.

Hodge grew up in Detroit, where he used to sneak into Motown recording sessions--when he was still a teenager--to watch acts such as the Four Tops and the Temptations.

Later, he worked for a few years as a solo artist in the Washington, D.C., area before coming to the West Coast and settling in ultra-hip Panorama City.

He became a regular opening act for Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat. He formed the Chicken Legs Band in 1981 and the Bluesbusters with Little Feat's Paul Barrere in 1985.

"I'm very fortunate to be 51 and still playing music," Hodge says.

Hodge has recorded 20 albums over the course of his almost 30-year career. Was it very different making "Catfish Pond," a kids' album?

"It was much harder to put together; it took us five years to finish it," Hodge says. "I wanted to make an album that parents would listen to, too."

The album features a variety of styles of music--R & B, bluegrass, jazz--tied in with lessons for kids in friendship and nature preservation. One song, "Pancake Man," was written by Hodge and his 10-year-old son, Max.

"I raise my children," Hodge says. "I only work about three months out of every year."

Hodge got the moniker "Catfish" indirectly. In the late 1960s, when he was a member of a band named Wicked Religion, he wrote and sang a tune called "The Catfish Song."

The record company thought the name Wicked Religion was too risque for that time, Hodge says, so the band was re-christened the Catfish Band. Later, the band broke up, but Hodge continued on as Catfish. In fact, he admits he's even come to think of himself as Catfish.

"Everybody calls me Catfish but my mom," Hodge says. "She calls me Bobby."

Catfish Hodge will perform a free concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at Peter Strauss Ranch, Agoura Hills. Sponsored by the Southern California Blues Society. For directions, call (818) 597-9192, Ext. 201.

*

Passin' Through: Folk singer Bob Norman journeys from New Jersey this weekend to sing his songs in Van Nuys.

The singer-guitarist's folk music career spans over 25 years. The former editor-in-chief of the folk music magazine "Sing Out," Norman is a favorite at East Coast coffeehouses and folk venues. He has performed with the likes of Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Dave Van Ronk, Patty Larkin, Suzanne Vega and others.

Norman started playing guitar and creating his own music when growing up in his native Connecticut. But the music on his two CDs--"To the Core" and "Romantic Nights on the Upper West Side"--both reflect his time spent in New York City.

"I used to call my music 'urban folk,' " Norman says, "but now that I live in New Jersey, I have to call it something else."

He has self-produced CDs and been heard on alternative radio stations throughout the country. He also sells his CDs at his concerts.

"I've been very pleased on the artistic level," Norman says. "But it's hard to get distribution and get it in stores."

On his recordings, Norman performs with a full band, but in concert he keeps it simple--just himself, his guitar and his harmonica.

Bob Norman performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at a private residence, 5705 Noble Ave., Van Nuys. $12 admission. Call (818) 780-5979.

The Smell of the Cowed: Musician-actor Scott Colomby is bringing something a bit different to Smokin' Johnnie's tonight.

From the way he describes it, it's one of those things that if it goes right, well, it could be dynamite. But if it doesn't go exactly right, it could get ugly real quickly.

"There will be four or five guys on stage, and all of a sudden, the song will break down and I'll get into an argument with someone in the audience," Colomby says excitedly. What will follow will be a mixed bag of music, comedy, street theater and performance art.

"At any second, it could totally fall apart," Colomby says.

Big Elvin & the Professor's Blues Theatre is the brainchild of Colomby and Louie Lista. The two met about five years ago while doing Shakespeare at Highland Grounds in Hollywood. "He was doing Falstaff to my Prince Hal," Colomby says.

Colomby maintains that the adrenaline rush gives their show a totally different edge.

"It's the smell of fear that makes it go," he says.

"The art forms have become too slick and too pristine. You have to do something that brings it alive--that's what a live performance is all about."

* Big Elvin & the Professor's Blues Theatre at 9 tonight at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. Call (818) 760-6631.

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