Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Jul 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Blues Brother

ae DoobPat Simmons hits the Blues Fest. In a GT interview, The Doobie Brothers’ guitarist/vocalist waxes nostalgic about Santa Cruz, opens up about the band’s origins and ponders the road ahead.

Who knew that the Santa Cruz Blues Festival, which began in 1993 as a one-day Chicago and Texas blues celebration in Aptos Village Park, would be alive and kicking 20 years later? And who could have predicted that the festival would boast a list of past performers that includes B.B. King, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Bobby “Blues” Bland and Albert Collins?

This year’s festival, which begins Saturday, May 26, is one for the books: Attendees will hear music by The Doobie Brothers, Los Lobos, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Los Lonely Boys, Joan Osborne, Coco Montoya with Jimmy Thackery, Jonny Lang, Elvin Bishop with James Cotton, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and The Holmes Brothers. In celebration of the festival’s 20th anniversary, the event will feature a Best of the Blues Yesterday and Today showcase on Sunday. Adding to the fun are a children’s entertainment area and various booths where fans can meet the band members and purchase food, beer, wine, music and memorabilia, including merchandise from past festivals.

Given Santa Cruz’s Doobie-friendly nature, GT decided the Blues Festival was a great excuse to have a friendly phone chat with Pat Simmons, guitarist and vocalist for The Doobie Brothers. Simmons, whose credits include writing the Doobies’ first No. 1 hit, “Black Water,” grew up in San Jose and lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the ’60s, during which time he maintained an antique bike shop called Classic Motorcycles of Santa Cruz with then-GT writer William Craddock. To hear his sense of nostalgia for life in the Cruz, you need only listen to his songs “Neal’s Fandango” (from the Doobies’ 1975 album, Stampede: “Goin’ back, I’m too tired to roam/ Loma Prieta, my mountain home/ On the hills above Santa Cruz/ To the place where I spent my youth”) and “Chateau” (from the band’s 2010 album, World Gone Crazy), in which he paid tribute to the Chateau Liberté, a now-defunct Santa Cruz Mountains biker haunt where The Doobie Brothers got their start.

Will local ex-Doobies Tiran Porter and Dale Ockerman be making guest appearances with the band at the Blues Festival? Time will tell …

Good Times: What memories stand out from your Santa Cruz days?

Pat Simmons: I used to play The Catalyst pretty regularly. In ’68, I stopped in to check it out. That was when it was on Front Street. The front of the building was so cool: It was all bricks, but it was all brightly painted in all these multi-colors. It looked like a big Christmas decoration sittin’ in the middle of the street! So I walked in, and the place was half to three-quarters full in the middle of the day. Tom Scribner was playing. He had been a fiddler, and his fingers got cut off while he was working on a logging team. He couldn’t be a fiddler anymore, so he started playin’ the saw. Being a logger, it worked for him. Anyway, here was Tom up onstage in a derby hat ae doobie1playin’ his saw, and another weird-lookin’ old dude with a beard was jamming with him on the bassoon. Can you visualize that? They were playing these old-time songs, you know? ‘Home on the Range’ and stuff. [Laughs] I’m goin’, ‘Wow, what dimension am I in?’ I said, ‘What’s going on?’ and one of the people there said, ‘Oh, it’s open mic. Anybody can play.’ And so I got up and played half a dozen songs or so. I get done, and Randall Kane walks up and says, ‘Hey, you want to play here? I need somebody next weekend. Friday and Saturday. I’ll pay you 50 bucks a night.’ Fifty bucks a night, back then, was like $400, $500 a night! So I ended up playin’ there pretty regularly on and off for a few months.

ae doobie1GT: When you perform a song that you wrote while feeling a strong emotion, does it bring that emotion back up?

PS: Always. It always does, especially if it’s something … I don’t want to say sad, but something that could be bittersweet. You can’t do this 100 percent of the time, because you always have things on your mind, but that advice from most of the modern philosophers and probably a lot of ancient philosophers about living in the moment really helps you to be on top of the game, I think, at any given time. So, if you live in the moment and try to be the song when you’re performing it, then every time, the emotions surrounding the writing of it will come back in the performance. I think that’s a good thing, because that’s what an audience wants—they want to relive the moment.

GT: But is it painful when you’re doing a bittersweet song?

PS: Oh, I think so. Yeah, for sure. But we don’t write many songs that are like, [singing] ‘He died, and we buried him.’ [Laughs] Luckily for us, or we’d probably never get through the set. A lot of the stuff we write is like, ‘Whoa, rockin’ down the highway,’ ‘I want to hear some funky Dixieland’—those kinds of things. ‘Whoa, whoa, China Grove.’ And there are some sad songs. [Lead singer] Tom Johnston wrote a song called ‘Another Park, Another Sunday’—I hear it in his voice when he sings it; I know it comes from an experience that he had. I wrote a song called ‘Far from Home’ for this [most recent] album; it’s about my kids leaving home. When I used to perform it, pretty much every night I would get a little choked up.

GT: The Doobie Brothers have been around for 40 years. did you think the band would stick with it for this long?

PS: No. [Laughs] Absolutely not. Not because I wouldn’t want to, and obviously I do, because I’m still doing it, but just because of the history of music. I have friends that were in bands through the years, and the bands are long gone. It’s one of those things where people go, ‘Don’t you get bored?’ And the answer to that is, ‘Never.’ You always have to be on your toes, and you have to be, in my opinion, as good as you ever were. People won’t accept trashy old rock bands nowadays. At some point, when you’re really old, people go, ‘Yeah, they can’t hit the notes anymore, but man, it’s cool to see ’em still doin’ it.’ Hopefully someday that’ll be the case, and I won’t have to work so hard! But we take pride in being as sharp as we ever were. Probably better, really. In the old days we were so f***ed up on something that we weren’t really bringin’ it. But we bring it every night.

The Santa Cruz Blues Festival takes place Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27 at Aptos Village Park, 100 Aptos Creek Road, Aptos. For tickets and more information, visit santacruzbluesfestival.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Boards Are Back in Town

More than a century after a famed trio of Hawaiian princes first surfed in Santa Cruz, their redwood olo surfboards are returning to the Museum of Art & History

 

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

Saturday, July 4, is the 239th birthday of the United States, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the U.S. astrology chart has Aquarius moon—freedom for its people, by its people). Cancer, a liberating and initiating sign, is the “gate” where Spirit enters matter. Cancer receives and distributes Ray 3 (Divine Intelligence) and Ray 7 (new rules, new rhythms, new free nation under God). Cancer represents an intelligent freethinking humanity that can and must create right economics for the world. This means a policy of sharing, an opportunity for the U.S. when Venus (money, resources, possessions, etc.) retrogrades July and August in Leo (the heart of the matter). The United States has a unique spiritual task for the world: to lead humanity within and toward the light, accomplished by its people who must first awaken to this task, learn discrimination and be directed by the soul to assume the Herculean task of spiritual world leadership. Let us review the first words of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Let us form that union together. The following is a review of the spiritual tasks for each sign. Read all the signs. They all apply to everyone.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Designing Woman

Female gardener helps build Versailles in fun, if uneven, ‘A Little Chaos’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Lunch is Packed

Picnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

 

What would you like the Supreme Court to rule on next?

Raising the minimum wage so that those that are in poverty now can have a higher standard of life. Greanna Smith, Soquel, Nanny

 

Bruzzone Family Vineyards

Bruzzone Family Vineyards is a small operation run by Berna and John Bruzzone. Starting out a few years ago making only Chardonnay, they eventually planted Pinot Noir on their extensive property and now make this varietal as well.

 

Ty’s Eatery

Pop-up hooks up with Santa Cruz Food Lounge for healthy comfort food