The most potent one-two punch in blues makes their Alligator debut. Tough, no-holds-barred Lone Star State blues from a couple of masters at the top of their game, with Smokin’ Joe’s huge biting tone and Bnois’ suave, passionate singing leading the way. "Potent, undiluted 100-proof Texas Blues honed to a razor's edge" –GuitarOne
Smokin’ Joe Kubek Guitar • Bnois King Guitar and Vocals • Paul Jenkins Bass
Dave Konstantin Drums with John Street Keyboards on tracks 1, 2, 7, 8, 10 and 12
Produced by Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bruce Iglauer • Recorded and mixed at Audio Dallas, Garland, TX
Engineered and mixed by Paul Osborn • Engineering assistance by Matt Kennedy
Mastered by Dan Stout and Bruce Iglauer at Colossal Mastering, Chicago, IL • Photos by James Bland
Packaging design by Kevin Niemiec • Alligator logo by Michael Trossman
Joe Kubek endorses Dr. Z amplifiers, Van Zandt pickups, Rocktron stomp boxes, GHS strings and Ruby tubes.
Bnois King endorses Rocktron Replitone amplifiers made by GHS.
Very special thanks t our Higher Power and also to my wife and soulmate Phyllis Kubek, Bryan Cathey, Robert & Carolyn Perkins, Bobby Perkins, Keith Perkins, Coy & Margaret Hoffman, Nora Kubek, David & Sissy Kubek, Bruce Iglauer and Alligator Records, Bruce & Denise McDaniel, Bruce & Donna Troy, Ted & Sandi Allen, Paul & Kim Osborn, Matt Kennedy, Mike at Dr. Z Amps, Dave Cowles at GHS Strings, Andrei Istomin & Mitch Gwin at Selfnet, Steve Hecht, Tina Terry, Emily Berger, Michelle Kaplan, Mark Coltrain, Charles Knippa, Steve Cox, Dale Keeney, Terri Gurevich, Scotty Gurevich, Don O, David Holcomb, Eugene Robinson, Loretta Thomas, Joanna Iz, Bob Corritore, Steve Barlow, Mike & Pat Mack, Roger & Cheryl Crisler at Crisler Guitar Repair in Carrollton, TX, Ray Hair, American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147, Sandy MacWelch & Little Joey, Jim Flynn, Big Dave Lindahl, Monique Dudley, Tawny Crist, Donna Kubiak, Bobby Perry, Laura Zimmerman, Ben Labrador, Paul Petronsky, Joey Orkwis, Greg Hart, Nick Velasco & Family, Steve & Sheri Sumrow, Pat Walden, Ann, Roy, John & R.M. Jenkins, Eddie and all my friends at the Guitar Center of Dallas, Ruby, Dalen, Barbara & Benn Konstantin, Chad Gardner, Janet & Jerry Miller, Doyle Bramhall & Barbara Logan, Tommy Castro, Steve Dawson, Rick Skinker, Terry Padget, Gregg Gerson, Professional Drums
of Hollywood, CA, Vader Drumsticks, DW Drums and The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.
Blood Brothers is dedicated to the memory of our son Adrian William Cathey
www.smokinjoekubek.com • firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking: Piedmont Talent, Inc., P. O. Box 680006, Charlotte, NC 28216. (704) 399-2210, email@example.com.
It’s difficult to name another blues guitar duo whose careers are so intertwined as Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King. Now, after 11 CDs and a live DVD for domestic labels, plus a somewhat shady early release on a European record label, they’ve finally brought their combined talents to Alligator Records. Their past successes have come from a combination of the unique interplay of their dramatically contrasting guitar styles, strong original songs, the smooth vocals of Bnois, and stage skills of both. A relentless touring schedule has kept them in the eyes and ears of the listening public for almost 20 years, and all of their recent releases have topped the Living Blues Radio Poll charts. As difficult as the road life can be, Joe and Bnois thrive on it, and that has proven, again and again, to be the make or break for blues acts over the years.
While Bnois (pronounced buh-Noyss) is 13 years older than Joe, their histories are full of similarities worthy of a Rod Serling screenplay. Both came from non-musical families, both were hooked on music as a calling by age 13, both left home very young to pursue that calling, both made their way into the club scene years before their ages would legally allow it, both were mentored by older musicians who taught them their craft, and both suffered with, and then conquered alcohol problems. While their paths wouldn’t actually converge until 1989, the two had often been in the same places and known the same people, at different times, years before they ever met each other. “Our lives really have some amazing coincidences,” says Bnois.
Joe’s father was a professor of political science in Dallas and his family was never thrilled about his choice of a musical career. Joe’s main introduction to music came through TV and the radio, with the original British invasion and ‘60s rock scene playing a major role. “I’ve been into music since the first grade,” he recalls. “The blues started creeping up on me through the English cats. Stuff like Jimi Hendrix and Cream came on the scene. Then I find out the stuff I loved like “Strange Brew” is just like Albert King doing “Crosscut Saw.” Jeff Beck led me to Howlin’ Wolf, as did Cream, once I figured out who Chester Burnett was. I first saw B.B. King touring with Rare Earth when I was about 13 years old. Once I saw folks like B.B. and Freddie King, that’s all she wrote!”
Young Joe’s love of music led him out into the night, sneaking into clubs to find the music he craved. “Basically, I got away with it because I had my brother’s draft card,” he laughs. “I also did the number where I took a little mascara and tried to make my peach fuzz look like a moustache. Then I tried to talk real low with a husky voice. It worked, too. I was going to The Cellar in Dallas when I was 12 years old. I got thrown out a couple of times, but I always got in. I first met Freddie in a club when I was just 14.”
Although Joe’s mentoring by Freddie King has been written about countless times, one of his earliest teachers was chitlin’ circuit veteran and songwriter Al “TNT” Braggs. “I first met Al Braggs in a junkyard,” says Joe. “R.L. ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins had this junkyard down in South Dallas and he always had some good food cooking. I used to live out there in an old vacant bus. That junkyard was a regular hangout for a lot of musicians. We used to rehearse out there, too. Al pulled up in his Cadillac one day to have something fixed and that’s how we first met. He was looking for a guitar player and I had a band going at that time, so I ended up doing both gigs. Al had a big band, The Possessions, which had four or five horns, four backup singers that did steps and the whole nine yards, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. He really taught me how to be a band leader, how to arrange a show, how songs worked back to back, and the importance of varying tempos and timing. Al was a perfectionist in that area. I was introduced to Bobby Bland, Bobby’s guitarist Wayne Bennett, all those cats, as Al’s “blue-eyed soul brother.”
“My recording career really started out thanks to Al,” says Joe. “I started out doing a 45 single with Joe Blue on the Classic Club label. Then I played on a Little Joe Blue album called “It’s My Turn Now,” which Al produced. Through Al, I also worked on records with Charlie Robinson, Big Ray Anderson, Ernie Johnson, and R.L. Griffin. I lived with Al for a while and we were always cutting songs to shop to Bobby Bland and B.B. King. Then there was a transmission repair shop over in South Dallas that had another record label. They’d find someone they wanted to record, then they’d call Braggs to put the stuff together and we’d go over to the studio. It would be a top-notch recording studio, but the budgets were coming out of little nightclubs and transmission shops. You’d walk into this transmission shop, grease and car parts everywhere, and over in the corner were boxes and boxes of 45s. It sounds funny now, but it was a big deal back then. If you had a record out, you had a record out. It didn’t matter if it was from a transmission shop or Warner Brothers.”
While Joe was learning the business from Al Braggs, Bnois King was already a seasoned road veteran with years of playing under his belt. Born in Delhi, Louisiana in 1943, the story of his introduction to music is told in the song “Coleman Avenue.” His most important early mentor was a high school music teacher, James Moody. “He had a band called The New Sounds, which was a big 20-piece orchestra,” remembers Bnois. “He took me under his wing and started to teach me about music techniques and about the history of music. The first time I heard names like Leadbelly was from him. He couldn’t play guitar but he would sit down and play something on the piano and I would learn it. All by ear. I learned my first jazz tune through him. One night he decided to put me in the band. Elvis helped make guitar a hot item, to the point if people didn’t see a guitar in the band, they didn’t want to see the band. Now James didn’t want me to play my guitar, just stand there and hold it. This was the first gig I ever played and it was at Grambling College. Paid me $15. At the time I was working on a milk truck and I had to get up at two o’clock in the morning to deliver milk. That was only paying $15 a week. So I said, ‘Hey! What’s wrong with this picture?’ All I was doing was holding my guitar and I got a whole week’s pay. I knew right then I wasn’t going to run a milk truck getting chased by dogs any more.”
Before long, Bnois was doing a lot more than just holding his guitar. He ended up playing Jimmy Reed, James Brown, and other popular artists’ cover tunes with a local band called Jo Jo And The Night Creatures. Living with his aunt in Houston as a teenager, he saw a music scene that really got his attention. “Man, the musicians I saw in Houston were frightening!” says Bnois. “I saw folks like Joe Hughes, Clarence Hollimon, Wonder Boy Travis, and Melvin Sparks. I was out in the clubs every night. After that I went back to Monroe and decided to stay away from the city for awhile until I got my stuff together!” Once he did, Bnois was out on the road, traveling from town to town on his own through Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, hooking up with local groups and even playing in carnival tent show bands. He finally landed in Dallas in 1979, gigging with local jazz combos. It was there that he and Joe connected at a jam session a decade later and hooked up for good.
Bnois’ years on the road prepared him for the grind they have now, but he says it’s changed drastically since the ‘60s. “You used to be able to go to a town and stay in one club for a month, now it’s just one-nighters. I like being on the road, though. I like seeing different landscapes and meeting people with different accents and cultures, and playing new places. I get an adrenalin rush from wondering if they are going to like us or not. That’s the challenge. Can we make these people like us? Winning over a new audience in a new place, that’s quite a feeling. The only state we haven’t played in yet is Vermont. I want to play there just so we can say we’ve done all 50 states.”
Smokin’ Joe and Bnois are both excited about being a part of the Alligator family. “I’ve been wanting to be on Alligator since the ‘80s,” says Joe. “To me it’s the hardest blues label to get on. To be signed with Alligator shows you’re doing things right. Alligator is the Rolls Royce of blues labels.”
Now, with this great new CD and a new label, Joe and Bnois are ready to do what they do best, get out on the road and take their music to the people. “We once made a run to Canada and back for one gig,” laughs Joe. “We flew to Montevideo, Uruguay to do a 60-minute one-nighter. We’ve done lots of flights to Europe for one-nighters. We’re crazy. We’ll go to any length to play a shuffle. Any length!” Now the question is—does anyone know a good blues club in Vermont where they like shuffles?
Texas Blues Radio Format Director
Don O. Dallas/Fort Worth blues website: bluesdfw.com