Search This Blog

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Don't Forget Curtis Salgado

Of course, this assumes that you know about Curtis Salgado. Unfortunately, many people do not, in spite of the role he played in creating one of the enduring pop culture icons of the late 20th Century, the Blues Brothers (more about this later).

I was visiting my brother in Portland, Oregon in early August. Portland is a fantastic city on many levels, but one thing that amazes me about the place is the depth and quality of its local blues scene. Robert Cray spent some time in Portland (he was from Spokane, I just learned). The great, unsung harmonica player and vocalist Paul deLay lives there. Stu Kinzel, Mel Solomon, Peter Dammon - the list is quite long. Most of these folks are not well-known outside of the Northwest. And perhaps at the top of the list is Curtis Salgado.

I have known about Curtis for a number of years. He inspired John Belushi to invent the Blues Brothers. Back in 1977 when Belushi was filming "Animal House" in Eugene, Oregon, he caught the 25-year old Salgado's act at some local clubs. Belushi became a fan, hung out with Curtis, and received a blues/R&B education. Many of the mannerisms and stage banter used by Belushi in the Blues Brothers schtick were lifted verbatim from Curtis. Belushi and Ackroyd made the money while Curtis toiled on in obscurity.

So I bought Curtis' most recent CD and thought it was pretty good. He has a fine, soulful voice and a great sense of phrasing. But to be honest, the CD didn't floor me. And he didn't play much harmonica - I had alway heard that he is a hot harmonica guy. But when I went out to Portland, I discovered he had a gig at the Trail's End Saloon in Oregon City (the bar is located at the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail). My brother and I decided to check him out.

Well. His live show blew the top of my head off. He sings with passion and spontaneity that is not captured on his CD's. And he played a ton of harmonica. As a harp player, I can assure you - this cat is very good. The bar was full of long-time fans (it looked a bit like a meeting of the Grey Ponytail Club). They howled and cheered and danced. Curtis knew many of them by name. It was a helluva scene, a great performance. Salgado laid it all down that night.

Now here is the kicker - Curtis has liver cancer. He announced it earlier this year. Generally speaking, the prognosis for individuals with liver cancer is not good. The best path toward survival involves a liver transplant. That is the path Curtis is trying to travel. Of course, this being the United States and Curtis being an independent musician, he is without health insurance. The cost of treatment for liver cancer (including the cost of a liver transplant) exceeds $1,000,000. So Salgado is touring while he is undergoing treatment to make money to pay for his treatment. Think about that! And I am a witness - this man is not performing like someone fighting a potentially fatal disease - he is roaring with energy and musical power. His musicial friends put on a fund-raising benefit for him, but the need is still great. If you love the blues and R&B music, buy this man's CD's, or even better, send a donation. Here is the info if you want to contribute: Mail contributions to the "Curtis Salgado Fund" US Bancorp, 2550 NW 188th Avenue, Hillsboro, OR 97124.

I'm pulling for this guy.

No comments: