Tag Archives: bb king

65. TANYA PICHE & ROBERT LUCAS “Wang Dang Doodle”

Tanya on tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: Tanya Piche)

On tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: by kind permission of Tanya)

Back in the ’90s, Blues singer Tanya Piche spent eight years working in Germany; where, at a gig in Heidelberg, she met the late Robert Lucas of legendary Blues band Canned Heat.  The two of them hit it off really well, and he invited her to tour with the band in L.A. So off she went. (Well, you can’t say no to an offer like that!) Once there, they had a great time; and in Orange County, California, they recorded five songs together. Unfortunately the dats of three of them have since gone missing. ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ however, is one of the survivors, and is thankfully now in Tanya’s possession. What better song to release then, as a tribute to Robert (who passed away in 2008), and all other deceased members of Canned Heat?

‘Wang Dang Doodle’ is of course the old Blues classic originally penned by Willie Dixon; with well known covers by Howlin Wolf and by Koko Taylor among many others.  Its one of those old Blues staples that can be reworked time and time again. Tanya and Robert’s version is both traditional and original at once; and that’s what I look for in a cover – a fresh interpretation of the song that inspired it in the first place. Its nice to hear the same old song; but its great to hear it revitalised in this version too.

(Photo by kind permission of Tanya)

Tanya, all revved up for a smokin’ set at Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, in September. (Photo by David Warne; used by kind permission of Tanya)

This take on the song owes a lot to the Howlin’ Wolf version more than any other, I think; and its a fantastic showcase for Tanya’s voice. She has handled it very well indeed. Her vocal is belted out in a gritty, mean and sassy style – no wonder she has earned the nickname ‘The Female Howlin’ Wolf’! Robert’s guitar playing is superb as you’d expect; with great subtly and timing – a joy to listen to; and its wonderful to hear ‘new’ material from him too. Their version of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ has had a few spins on Blues radio shows lately, and is therefore attracting some well merited attention, I’m glad to say.

So, what other projects has Tanya got lined up? Well, she reformed her band just last April, and they’re already getting noticed, and have recently played five BB King tributes. They play original material as well as covers. I haven’t even seen them live yet, but I’ve been told to expect ‘…a high energy, authentic, unique sound and stunning performance’. She told me that the band have a new song out soon, called ‘Good Morning Mr.Postman’ which she said ‘…is dark and spooky for Halloween!’ They will also soon be in the studio to do a live recording of four other original songs. There is also some talk of a semi-acoustic radio session coming up. A busy time ahead then. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be hearing a lot more of Tanya and her Band in the next few months. She’s sounding optimistic about the future – and she’s sounding good! I’m wondering now, if she’ll be on the shortlists for next year’s BBA’s?

The Tanya Piche Blues Band will be appearing at the next Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, on 4th September 2015. And there will be a special appearance by none other than Tanya’s ‘Blues Sister’, the twice BBA nominated, Katie Bradley too. Support is from Canvey Island’s up and coming R’n’B outfit Bif Bam Pow!  PTMQ

Tanya is also mentioned in my recent article on Malaya Blue (See entry #64) Here is a video of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’

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17. JOHNNY WINTER 1944 – 2014: A personal remembrance and tribute.

I was saddened to hear this morning that the albino blues guitar legend JOHNNY WINTER had passed away yesterday (16th July), at the age of 70. He had been dogged by health problems for years (the details of which I am not qualified to discuss; and are outside the scope of this article). I first became aware of him back in the ’70s when a mate of mine called Mark (wonder what ever happened to him?) lent me the ‘Johnny Winter And’ (1970) album. It was blues the likes of which I’d never heard before – it was wild, aggressive, progressive, and loud! At the time I wasn’t a massive blues fan, although I always acknowledged it as the progenitor of the heavy rock / prog rock genres – my sole musical interests in those narrow-minded days!

Years later I moved home, and found myself living next door to the well-known blues expert RAY TOPPING (now also sadly deceased) of ACE RECORDS. Ray was a personal friend of Johnny’s and had been to his home in Texas on numerous occasions. (Ray counted many famous people including BB KING; ZZ TOP; and JOHN MAYALL among his friends). He lent me Johnny’s first album ‘The Progressive Blues Experiment’ (1968), and I got really into it. At the time, blues and blues-orientated rock was experiencing a great resurgence with the likes of JEFF HEALEY and WALTER TROUT making headlines; and GARY MOORE famously going back to the blues. So I went out and bought Johnny’s latest album ‘Let Me In’ (1991), and I was hooked!

Then soon after that, Ray told me that Johnny had been in touch with him and had invited him to a gig he was due to play in London at the TOWN AND COUNTRY CLUB in August ’92; and did I want to tag along? (Mmmm, let me think about it for a while – OK then!). We arrived at the stage door of the T & C nice and early, but found our names missing from the guest list (even though Ray + one had been invited). Johnny’s manager was called down by the doorman, but he wasn’t the most helpful or accommodating of people, and he didn’t know Ray. Ray persuaded him that we had indeed been invited by Johnny, but the manager said we would only be allowed into the gig, gratis; but not back-stage. Ray (never the calmest of men) was incensed by this; but no power on Earth (including Ray’s shouting and swearing) could persuade the manager and doorman to let us in. Personally I was content just to get into the gig for nothing! So there we were in the mosh-pit with the rest of the punters, when Ray saw a bouncer come out through a door to the right of the stage. ‘Come on!’ he said as the door slowly closed. We went through and found ourselves back-stage, unchallenged!

Ray was determined to find Johnny and sort it out. But the first person we bumped into was the support act OTIS GRAND another friend of Ray’s! He invited us into the ‘Green Room’ where Ray was warmly received by all present due to his reputation as a blues expert. Otis told us that Johnny wasn’t feeling too good and wasn’t receiving visitors at that time. But soon Otis was due onstage, and he invited us to watch his band from behind the mixing desk, stage-right. Otis played a grand set. Seeing a larger sized gig from the side of the stage was an eye-opener for me – especially as the soundman let us play with the desk controls a little.

At the interval we spoke to various music industry bods, some of whom Ray knew. Then it was time for Johnny himself to go on. Still placed by the mixing desk, we saw the great man come down the stairs from his changing room clutching his headless ERLEWINE LAZER guitar that seemed to be no more than a fret-board with pick-ups! He certainly didn’t look well – frail, and not quite with it. Ray was shocked by his appearance. At the bottom of the stairs He took a wrong turn away from the stage and had to be ushered back on course; and this reminded us of the famous scene from SPINAL TAP where the dozy band can’t find their way to the stage!

Well Johnny may not have been feeling too well, but he was a professional; and as soon as they plugged him in, his demeanour changed completely – he became the blues axe-hero that was expected of him. He played a fantastic set of old favourites, covers, and material from his latest album ‘Hey, Where’s Your Brother?’ (1992). I seem to remember two well deserved encores. Then he was led back off stage. On the way he spied Ray and they greeted each other warmly. I was introduced, and we were both (+ some others) invited to join him in his room.

In spite of being ill, Johnny was a very warm and friendly; quietly spoken and knowledgeable; although obviously out of sorts. He was underweight and covered in tattoos (including a map of Texas on his right shoulder that he referred to often). We spoke for ages about guitars and the Texas blues scene. He let me play the Erlewine which he had tuned to Open-E for slide-work of which he was of course, a recognised maestro. But my attempts were embarrassingly pathetic – and no better now, I must say! He joked that he’d teach me if he had the time!

Well after a while, JW said he was very tired; so he and his entourage suddenly decamped for his hotel. Before we left, Ray and I went to the toilet; but when we came out the place was in darkness. Now it was our turn to be Spinal Tap looking for the exit! Just when we thought we’d never get out, we bumped into the same doorman who’d refused us entry earlier. ‘Well you two are persistent!’ he remarked, before showing us the door.

I never met Johnny again; but I’m very glad I did that once. I was even inspired enough for a while to borrow Ray’s Dobro guitar and practice some slide-work. (I often wonder what happened to that Dobro after Ray died). Unfortunately there were no photos taken that night of our meeting; but I got him to autograph a CD for me.

They say that Johnny Winter was the only white man who ever really understood the blues. That may be so, but he also took it to new places and heights. We lament the passing of one of the greatest bluesmen – there must be one humdinger of a blues jam going on up there right now! RIP Johnny.

Here’s a taste of Johnny’s ‘Medicine Man’ from the ‘Let Me In’ album (1991):-

Phil The Music Quill.