Phantom Blues Band
Phantom Blues Band
The Phantom Blues Band originally formed as a studio band to record behind Taj Mahal on his 1993 CD, “Dancing the Blues.” Soon they were circling the globe together, performing at major blues and jazz festivals in Europe, Australia and Japan. The group’s association with Taj Mahal led to two Grammys for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, in addition to a 2001 Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Award) for Band of the Year.
All accomplished musicians in their own right, members of the band have recorded and performed with such legendary artists as Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name just a few. Along with such an immense pool of musical experience comes an amazingly deep understanding of R&B history and repertoire. Each player brings with him an intimate familiarity with a broad spectrum of soulful sounds, from Memphis soul to New Orleans funk, from gut-bucket blues to sophisticated swing, and a whole lot more.
Successful bands have been built around less combined talent than any one member of the Phantom Blues Band, but when mixed, stirred and left to simmer, these guys come together into one of the tightest, sharpest, most top-heavy R&B bands in music today. Their 2006 Delta Groove debut, “Out of the Shadows,” features the culmination of all their years of combined experience, resulting in an album that fully displays the range and diversity of their musical talents. Critics and fans rejoiced as their CD was met with overflowing enthusiasm for its sheer quality and high caliber musicianship.
Despite each member’s tirelessly busy schedules, the Phantom Blues Band still found time to come together in the studio in order to cook up their inspired, soulful follow-up in 2007. The resulting effort, “Footprints,” serves up another savory and zestful blend of R&B, soul, gospel, funk, reggae, jazz and blues.
Johnny Lee Schell (guitar and vocals) – After working with Buddy Holly producer Norman Petty in nearby Clovis, New Mexico, Johnny left his home in Farwell, Texas and headed out on the road with his band, Baby. Johnny arrived in Los Angeles in the late seventies, soon touring with Bonnie Raitt and the Bump Band. Johnny has also toured with Taj Mahal, Ron Wood and John Fogerty. Johnny currently spends his time running Ultra Tone Studios where he has scored several films, as well as music consulted and recorded the score for the ABC sitcom, "According to Jim." Johnny hangs out daily with Rooster, the Wonder Dog.
Mike Finnigan (organ, piano and vocals) – Mike started playing professionally in 1964 in Kansas. He then moved to Wichita and travelled the country with the Serfs. It was during a trip to New York City that Mike recorded with Jimi Hendrix, a session that resulted in “Electric Ladyland.” In 1972, Michael formed Finnigan and Wood. In 1975, Mike put down roots in Los Angeles where he pursued more group and solo recordings, while at the same time touring and recording with Crosby, Stills and Nash, Dave Mason, Etta James, Dr. John and Carlos Santana. Mike won a Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) for his work with Taj Mahal.
Denny Freeman (guitarist) – Denny started his career in Dallas, Texas playing in blues and rock and roll bands. In 1974, Denny, along with vocalist Paul Ray, founded the Cobras, a band in which he shared lead guitar duties with Stevie Ray Vaughan. After eight years touring the country with the Cobras, Denny went on to tour and record with Angela Strehli, Jimmie Vaughan and Taj Mahal. Denny released four solo albums, and since finishing his tenure with Taj Mahal, has toured extensively in Southern California and Texas with his own band. Denny has also toured with Bob Dylan and is a Grammy and Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) winner.
Larry Fulcher (bass and vocals) – Larry was born in Houston, Texas and soon began his musical career singing in church at the tender age of five. At age thirteen, Larry moved to Southern California and began playing in bands at fifteen. Larry went on to record with Smokey Robinson and the Crusaders, and during the eighties, toured and recorded (keyboards and guitar) with many reggae artists, including the Wailers, Third World and Andrew Tosh. He was also a featured vocalist on the Emmy Award-winning ABC-TV series, “I'll Fly Away,” and won a Grammy and Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) for his work with Taj Mahal.
Tony Braunagel (drummer) – Tony started playing in Houston, Texas in the mid-sixties, eventually making his way to England, where he worked as a studio drummer for Island Records. In the early eighties, Tony moved to Los Angeles where he found work touring and recording with the likes of Eric Burdon, Rickie Lee Jones, Bette Midler and Bonnie Raitt. In 2000, after several years of touring with Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band, Tony produced the Grammy Award-winning "Shoutin' in Key" and more recently produced Eric Burdon's CD, "Soul of Man." Tony is also a Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) winner.
Joe Sublett (saxophone) – Saxophonist Joe Sublett started his musical career in Austin, Texas. As part of the burgeoning Austin blues scene, he played with Paul Ray and the Cobras, a band that featured a twenty-one year old Stevie Ray Vaughan. After five years of touring and backing many blues greats, Joe moved to Los Angeles, soon forming the Texacali Horns with trumpet player, Darrell Leonard. Joe won a Grammy and a Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) for his work with Taj Mahal and has worked with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat and B.B. King. The Texacali Horns released a CD in 2003.
Darrell Leonard (trumpet) – Darrell arrived in Los Angeles in 1968 and was soon touring and recording with Delaney and Bonnie and Dr. John, Little Feat, Glenn Frey and Taj Mahal. He has worked as a studio musician with Henry Mancini, the Rolling Stones and Solomon Burke, among others. Darrell's work as an arranger and composer for film and theatre include music for “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and "Cold Mountain." He has worked at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre and his most recent work, the score for the play, "Carter's Way," which had its world premiere at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, captured the sound and feel of Kansas City during the 1930s. Darrell is a Grammy and Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) winner for his work with Taj Mahal.