Alligator Signs Rick Estrin & The Nightcats



Alligator Records is proud to announce the signing of Northern California-based blues band, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. For more than 30 years and nine albums, singer/ harmonica player/ songwriter Estrin co-fronted the jumping, swinging Little Charlie & The Nightcats, along with guitarist Little Charlie Baty. Now, with Baty’s recent retirement from touring, Estrin -- along with the Nightcats longtime rhythm section of J. Hansen and Lorenzo Farrell and fiery young guitarist Kid Andersen -- has taken the lead on his own. Rick Estrin & The Nightcats’ sound, while still swinging the blues, is a harmonica-driven, rocking, guitar-fueled rave-up. The band performs new material as well as the well-known, well-loved classics from Estrin’s massive catalog.

Rick Estrin ranks among the very best harp players in the blues world. His work on the reeds is at once deep in the tradition of harmonica masters Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter Jacobs while at the same time pushing that tradition forward. The Associated Press called his harp playing, “endlessly impressive.” The great guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. (who was schooled by Robert Johnson and who played on most of Little Walter’s Chess recordings) told Estrin, “Little Walter would be very proud of you.”

Rick’s seemingly effortless command of the harmonica is matched by his distinctive, soulful vocals and remarkable original songs. Ever since he started performing his own material, it has become increasingly clear that Rick Estrin is a songwriter of unparalleled skill. His quick wit, self-assured disposition, coifed hair, pencil-thin mustache and sharp attire inform his songs in a way that has led critics to compare him to Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan and Willie Dixon.

Besides Estrin’s songwriting and musical skills, he is among the greatest live showmen around. “People don’t go out to see people who look like them,” says Rick. “They want to see something special. I was schooled in this business to be a showman, and that’s what you get when you come to see me perform.” The Chicago Sun-Times noted, “It’s tough to stay in your seat when Estrin and his musical cohorts get cooking.”

Estrin was born in San Francisco, California in 1949. He discovered a whole new world when his older sister gave him a copy of Ray Charles’ The Genius Sings The Blues when he was 12. Albums from Jimmy Reed, Champion Jack Dupree, Mose Allison, Nina Simone and others soon followed. By the time he was a teenager in a racially mixed school, Estrin completely identified with the urban, African-American culture surrounding him. Estrin got his first harmonica at age 15, and by age 18 was proficient enough to begin sitting in at black clubs around the city. He moved to Chicago and worked with bluesmen Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay and Johnny Littlejohn before meeting and jamming with Muddy Waters. In fact, Muddy wanted Estrin join his band, but due to nothing more than some minor communication problem, it never happened.

Rick eventually met Little Charlie Baty and formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats. For the next 30 years, the band barnstormed around the globe, honing their skills and entertaining countless people. Now, as Rick Estrin & The Nightcats prepare to release their debut CD and wind their way around the country, they’ll continue bringing their fresh, well-loved sound to fans both old and new, packing clubs and dance floors wherever they go.