Hollywood Blue Flames
Hollywood Blue Flames
The Hollywood Blue Flames emerged from the smoldering embers of the Hollywood Fats Band, arguably the best young blues band to come out of the 1970s, led by guitar phenomenon, Michael “Hollywood Fats” Mann. Along with bassist Larry Taylor (fresh from Canned Heat), drummer Richard Innes (ex-Rod Piazza), Lloyd Glenn protégé Fred Kaplan on piano, and featuring the multi-talented Al Blake on harmonica and vocals, Hollywood Fats almost single-handedly ignited a traditional blues revival that still echoes loudly to this day. Whenever you hear the warm retro sounds of classic Chicago blues coupled with a swinging rhythm section and tasty-but-nasty guitar, you’re hearing the legacy of the Hollywood Fats Band. Sadly, Fats passed away unexpectedly in 1986 and the band members all went on to other successful musical ventures.
The band later reunited for one of the most anticipated blues releases in years under the banner of the Hollywood Blue Flames – appropriately named, as they both fired and carry the torch of the blues into a new millennium. And to fill the huge musical shoes of Fats, no one could be a better choice than Kirk Fletcher, a young man who was literally raised on the sounds pioneered by the original incarnation of this band. Fletcher plays with the taste and power that truly does justice to not only this band’s illustrious legacy, but also the blues masters who inspired them. The Hollywood Blue Flames literally burned their way through a set of fresh originals sprinkled with well-chosen covers on their 2005 Delta Groove debut, “Soul Sanctuary.” This is blues with both a history and a future – and it’s as fresh as today. The album went on to receive unanimous praise and earned a 2006 Blues Music Award nomination for Comeback Album of the Year.
The Hollywood Blue Flames' 2006 double-CD extravaganza, “Road to Rio,” picks right up without skipping a beat. The first disc of the set includes several very welcome attributes, including two previously unrecorded songs co-written by Hollywood Fats and Al Blake exhibiting the roots-rock direction the band was just beginning to explore before Fats’ untimely passing, as well as collaborations with West Coast blues guitar pioneer Junior Watson and Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman, Kim Wilson. The second disc, “Larger Than Life, Vol. 1,” features twelve previously unreleased vintage live performances by Hollywood Fats in his prime, along with guest appearances by saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and legendary blues shouter, Roy Brown. These historical live recordings make this the first release by the original Hollywood Fats Band since their debut album, “Rock This House,” over 30 years ago! The Hollywood Blue Flames were adorned with their second Blues Music Award nomination in 2007, honoring them with Historical Album of the Year, and “Road to Rio” claimed the #5 position on Living Blues Magazine’s Top 50 Blues Recordings of 2006.
“Deep in America” arrived four years later in 2010 and followed true to the formula of the band’s previous critically-acclaimed 2-disc set. Once again Blake throws open the vaults and treats fans to a virtual treasure trove of classic archival material obtained from two different eras of the band. The first disc gathers together a collection of recordings by the Hollywood Blue Flames with stellar support from guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Junior Watson, gleaned from various studio sessions over the years featuring previously unreleased material that includes outtakes, alternates and some newly recorded songs. The second disc, "Larger Than Life, Vol. 2," contains more vintage live recordings by the original Hollywood Fats Band, showcasing the amazing talent of guitarist Hollywood Fats and the evolution the band was undergoing before his untimely death in 1986. “Deep in America” stands as a testament to the strength and power of a band whose music continues to burn ever so brightly after igniting that very first flame more than four decades ago.
Alan Blake Eliel, born 1/16/1945 on a U.S. Marine Corps base near Klamath Falls, Oregon, and raised in Oklahoma, was drawn to the blues as a young man in the 1950s. Known in circles as one of the most serious students of the blues, Blake possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the music and its players. For most of his career, rather than seek out the notoriety and fame bestowed upon others, Blake’s vision has led him to create some of the deepest urban and country blues of the post-modern era. He has recorded four other releases with members of the Hollywood Blue Flames highlighting his country blues-style guitar playing; “Mr. Blake’s Blues” (Blue Collar Music), “Dr. Blake’s Magic Soul Elixir” (Soul Sanctuary), "Dr. Blake's Pop-X Magic Soul Elixir" (Soul Sanctuary) and "Blues According to Blake" (Soul Sanctuary), and he's also appeared on the recordings of William Clarke, Phillip Walker, Bobby Jones, Big Pete, the Insomniacs and the Mannish Boys. Blake’s endless list of influences include the great Mississippi Sheiks, Jordan Webb, Forest City Joe, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Louis Myers (on guitar and harp), Walter Horton, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, Othum Brown, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Maxwell Davis (tone and taste), Hollywood Fats and many, many others.
Kirk “Eli” Fletcher, born 12/23/1975 in Bellflower, California and raised in Compton (Los Angeles). A young and extremely gifted guitarist, Fletcher was mentored by Al Blake, Junior Watson and Kim Wilson at a crucial point in his musical development. As one of the most talented blues guitar players on the scene today, Kirk’s playing is steeped in the history of his instrument and its players. He commands a musical vocabulary that displays influences as diverse as Tommy Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, the Mississippi Sheiks, B.B. King, Louis Myers, Al Blake and Junior Watson, as well as Hollywood Fats. Al Blake proclaims Kirk Fletcher to be “…the most important and talented black blues artist to emerge in the last 50 years.”
Fred Kaplan, born 4/23/1954 in Los Angeles, California, came under the influence and mentoring of Lloyd Glenn, the highly influential West Coast pianist and A&R man. Kaplan has been an active session and performing artist, working with such musicians as William Clarke, James Harman, Kim Wilson, Mitch Kashmar, Lynwood Slim, Phillip Walker, Kid Ramos, Junior Watson and many others. His “Signifyin’” (Blue Collar Music) release demonstrates the uniqueness and depth of his incredible talents. Kaplan’s long list of influences include not only Glenn, but also Otis Spann, Big Maceo, Charles Brown, Blind John Davis, Sunnyland Slim and a host of other known and obscure rural and urban blues pianists, as well as many classic gospel and jazz pianists and musicians. He is the consummate blues pianist with few peers.
Larry Taylor, born 6/26/1942 in Brooklyn, New York, is a founding member of Canned Heat, and has toured and recorded with countless blues artists such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Louis Myers, Kim Wilson and John Hammond. Taylor was instrumental in the Grammy Award-winning work of Tom Waits and was selected as the sole bass player in Martin Scorsese’s “Salute to the Blues” concert at Radio City Music Hall in February 2003. He has pioneered the reemergence of upright bass playing and is a tremendously influential player on a host of currently and up-and-coming blues players. Taylor cites influences such as Son House, Paul Chambers, Ransom Knowling and Earnest “Big” Crawford.
Richard Innes, born 4/9/1948 in Colfax, Washington, shared time in the bands of Rod Piazza and the Piazza/George “Harmonica” Smith “Bacon Fat” band of the 1960s, in addition to touring with Little Richard, among others. Innes forged a uniquely tasteful and economical drumming style that is unparalleled in modern blues. Having seriously studied the music form, he is the originator of the modern West Coast drumming style and remains its finest practitioner. Innes claims influences such as Sonny Freeman, Fred Below, Odie Payne, Willie Steele, S.P. Leary and Earl Palmer. He was a much in-demand recording and performing artist on the blues circuit right up until his death on March 26, 2015.