Self-promoting bluesman David Booker knows hard work
If James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business, blues guitarist David Booker figures he must be one of the hardest-working men in Colorado show business.
Going over his gig schedule for January, Booker was worried he had only 21 nights filled with shows. Twenty-five would be better. Twenty-eight would be ideal.
This is life for a self-booking, self-promoting Colorado musician: make the calls, get the gigs, play the shows, repeat.
“You’ve got to be on the ball all the time,” Booker said on the phone from his home in Denver. “I don’t get to sit on the couch much with the remote. I don’t get to watch the game – which I could care less about anyway.”
Since he moved to Colorado from London in 1981, Booker has worked relentlessly to stay on the live music circuit. In the early 1980s, he would come to Steamboat Springs for a week at a time to play at The Tugboat Grill & Pub with his six-piece R&B band, Captain and the Red Hot Flames.
For the past two years, he’s returned to the venue for a blues-oriented solo set Dec. 24 and 25. Booker will continue that tradition Wednesday and Thursday, with a little backup from the other two members of the David Booker Trio.
Booker talked with 4 Points about playing The Tugboat 20 years ago, playing the blues and surviving in the music business.
4 POINTS: What was it like to play at The Tugboat when you first moved to Colorado from London in the 1980s?
DAVID BOOKER: I used to load in on a Monday and go all the way through Saturday in the old days, back in the ’80s when I was young and spry and had a waistline and just one chin. : There weren’t as many people in town, but there were a lot of people in The Tugboat. I used to play there before the stage was even built. It’s been quite a big part of my life since I started playing. I must have started playing there in ’83, ’84 (with Captain and the Red Hot Flames).
We were doing classic R&B, James Brown-type stuff then. And then in the 1990s I think the crowd got a bit younger and they wanted to hear some of that noisier stuff – tattoos and devil horns and loud, fast stuff. And it seems like they’ve kind of come back a bit (in the past few years).
4 POINTS: What originally made you want to play blues and R&B and the kind of music that you do?
DB: We all start playing for a reason: because we like something. We admire a certain artist. So you want to be Ben Harper, mach 2 or you want to be Bob Marley, mach 2. : What got me, when I was a kid I think I liked the rawness of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. : I kind of was fortunate to be able to start at the beginning, and then I picked up influences along the way.
One of the most common questions I get is, ‘What is an English guy doing playing blues stuff?’ And I say, ‘I guess you would have to ask a guy like Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page.’ In the ’60s and ’70s, there was a big blues boom in the U.K., and it was very hip.
It all comes from somewhere, and I try to maintain some of the rootsy stuff and just mix it all up and get people dancing and have a good time. I don’t try to analyze where I’m coming from very much. I just try to get the crowd going.
4 POINTS: Booking all your own gigs, have you had any trouble finding work in the past couple of months?
DB: Hopefully the economy will recover, and hopefully I can continue making a living doing this. I’m kind of too old to retrain at this point. In this business, you don’t retire. People like Muddy Waters and everybody else, they did it until they were done. :
I’ve often thought, ‘Oh, the hell with this, I’ve got to get something together.’ I came over here in ’81 looking for a job, and I guess now I’m still looking for some kind of gainful employment. :
It’s paying the cost of being the boss – that’s a B.B. King phrase for you.
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