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Hatful of Blues

Guitarist Ashford Gordon, a success in his night job, launches new release.


Laurel and Hardy didn't have the blues--they had the giggles. Guitarist Ashford Gordon wears their trademark bowler hat, but he has the blues, seriously.

At his Thursday-night CD release party at the Ban-Dar in Ventura, Gordon will bring his cool hat and dexterous digits, along with several of his friends, including British guitar legend Jackie Lomax, local guitar legend Tracy Longo and drummer Dave Stewart. Gordon will also bring his son, Gabriel, who tours with Natalie Merchant and Victoria Williams but is outranked by his dad for this event.

Gordon, who has been playing locally for the last several years, is one of the few working musicians who actually make money at their night jobs. Gordon has included a couple of songs by his inspiration, Louisiana Guitar Red, on the new album, "Somewhere Down the Line."

He took a few minutes to fill us in on what's happening.

Tell me about the new album.

It's got a lot more guitars. Jackie Lomax is featured on probably half the CD, then I brought in Tracy Longo--the name may be familiar to you.

Yes. Both of those guys rock. They know which end of the guitar to plug in.

And how to swing it. I think it was just a good blues effort from me. I tried to just focus in on the blues stuff and left some of the pop stuff off. That's because we recorded a whole other album of pop stuff, and I decided not to mix and mingle because the purists would absolutely murder me.

How did you contract your case of blues?

I came about it from my mentor, Louisiana Guitar Red. I was born in Mississippi in the northeast portion of the state and lived there on a pretty isolated farm of about 500 acres. But once I got up and rolling, I wanted to be a rock 'n' roll star. I played rock, and I played back and forth across the country, and in time, I got a gig backing up Louisiana Guitar Red. He just turned my mind and made me realize: "Why the heck would I want to be a rock star? I come from Mississippi!"

Where the heck's your accent? I hate to say this, but you sound like a Yankee.

Hey man, it's my mother. She schooled us to believe that we had to speak proper English in order to be taken seriously. There were enough problems in the world for a black person walking in speaking some sort of country lingo or slang. She wouldn't allow any of that in the house. She forced us to learn elocution in order to speak properly.

What do you think of the local music scene?

Well, I've seen a lot of changes in the six years I've been down here. There seems to have been a lot more opportunities early on. There were more clubs, such as Joe Daddy's, which would focus in on the blues, and most clubs would give a blues act a night. I think that has changed, but as far as the scene itself, I think it's much healthier because there's more bands. All these young kids are buying instruments, then they come out with their own bands, and some of them aren't bad. They have the pop punk thing going, and I have no problem with that, either.

So things are cool for you?

I don't think other bands are earning money like the caliber of musicians I play with do. They expect to be paid and do get paid no matter what the door is. I just make sure that I book dates that'll pay. If they won't pay, then you have to follow the illustrious Teresa Russell's advice and go further afield.

I would assume you are mighty proud of your kid?

I'm very proud of him. The guy came to me when he was 6 years old and told me he wanted to learn to play guitar. I always had instruments around the house and I'd take him to rehearsals, and I always dragged him around to a pizza place or a coffeehouse, wherever I was working. I taught him the pentatonic scale, and I thought "That's the end of that. He won't remember it." Two weeks later he said, "Dad. I wrote a song." It was laughable in that it wasn't really a song, but it did have a beginning, a middle and an end. I worked with him through the years--took up the bass and played in punk bands with him. I just wanted to be sure he knew what he was in for. So yes, I'm terribly proud of him and very happy for him. He's getting to the inside of things. Now it's like "Son, can you book me a gig? Get your old man some work."

How did you meet Jackie Lomax?

I saw Jackie when I first arrived in town at Cafe Voltaire (in Ventura). I hung around one night when he had a little solo gig and I just fell in love with the voice. The guy is a phenomenal player and I love him. I was playing a gig at Eric Ericsson's on the pier and I lost my keyboard player. So I needed another player and I thought of Jack and he's been with me ever since.

Tell me about your bowler hat--are you a Laurel and Hardy fan?

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