On Saturday October 17 award-winning vocalist/songwriter/harmonica icon Curtis Salgado sings and plays with soulful authority, never giving less than 100 percent. He plays each and every show like it’s the most important gig of his career.
He recalls the time when his friend, the great chitlin’ circuit singer Buddy Ace, put on the show of his life, singing his heart out, making three costume changes, all while playing at a casual house party. Salgado was floored. “I was just there playing with my band, hanging out in cut-offs and a t-shirt, and there’s Buddy treating the gig the same as if he was performing at the Apollo,” he says. From that moment on, Curtis vowed that every time he got on stage he would deliver his very best shot.
Salgado’s been perfecting his craft since he first began playing professionally in the late 1960s. He fronted his own group, The Nighthawks, inspired John Belushi to create The Blues Brothers, was co-star of The Robert Cray Band and sang and toured with Roomful Of Blues. He released his first of eight solo albums in 1991, hitting the road hard year after year. Salgado and his band toured with The Steve Miller Band and Curtis spent a summer singing with Santana before being sidelined by serious health issues in 2006. He’s battled all the way back, and, after a full and complete recovery, has been tearing up concert stages all over the country.
Winner of the 2010 Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Artist Of The Year, Salgado effortlessly mixes blues, funk and R&B with a delivery that is raw and heartfelt. He moves with ease from the tenderest ballads to the most full-throated stompers. Blues Revue says, “Salgado is one of the most down-to-earth, soulful, honest singers ever, and his harmonica work is smoking and thoroughly invigorating…rollicking, funky and electrifying.” With his Alligator Records debut, Soul Shot, Salgado is set to reach the largest audience of his career.
As a hungry-to-learn teenager, his musical abilities grew by leaps and bounds. He played his first professional gigs when he was 16, and by 18 he was already making a name for himself in Eugene’s bar scene. Salgado quickly developed into a player and singer of remarkable depth, with vocal and musical influences including Otis Redding to O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I and II, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann and Magic Sam. With his band The Nighthawks, he became a must-see act in Eugene and throughout the Northwest. Salgado earned a reputation for high-intensity performances and a repertoire that was informed by his encyclopedic knowledge of blues, soul and R&B music.
In 1973, Salgado met Robert Cray and the two became fast friends. They jammed often, sometimes sitting in with each other’s bands, often playing double bills. In 1975, Salgado had the idea to start a Eugene Blues Festival, in order to meet and play with as many established blues stars as possible. The festival became an annual event, allowing Curtis to back up, befriend and occasionally house legends including Floyd Dixon, Frankie Lee, Luther Tucker, Otis Rush, Clifton Chenier, Sonny Rhodes and Albert Collins. In fact, it was Salgado — whose Nighthawks backed Collins locally — who crowned the blues legend with the title he would carry for the rest of his career: “The Master Of The Telecaster.”
In 1977, comedian/actor John Belushi was in Eugene filming Animal House. During downtime from filming, Belushi caught a typically balls-out Salgado performance. Afterwards the two got to talking and a friendship grew. Before long Salgado began playing old records for Belushi, teaching him about blues and R&B. Belushi soaked up the music like a sponge and soon developed his idea for The Blues Brothers, first as a skit on Saturday Night Live and then as a major motion picture and a best-selling record album and concert tour. The album, Briefcase Full Of Blues, is dedicated to Curtis Salgado, and, as a nod to Salgado, Cab Calloway’s character in the film is named Curtis. The Blues Brothers’ set list was strikingly similar to the shows Salgado was delivering on a nightly basis.
As Salgado was getting more serious about his career, he realized some of his band mates were not. It was then that Salgado joined forces with Cray and formed a new, more forceful Robert
Cray Band. As the stature of the group grew, Salgado found himself sharing stages with blues icons like Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland and Bonnie Raitt. The band performed a transcendent set at The 1977 San Francisco Blues Festival to thunderous ovation before backing up the great Albert Collins.
After Salgado and Cray parted ways in 1982, Curtis went on to front Roomful Of Blues in 1984, singing and touring with them until 1986. Back home in Oregon, he formed a new band, Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos, and was once again tearing it up on the club scene. He wrote many new songs, and honed his band to a razor’s edge before releasing his first solo album in 1991 on the fledgling JRS label. The group toured the country and began developing a strong following.
His friend and fan Steve Miller invited Curtis and his band to open for him on a summer shed tour in 1992 and a smaller tour in 1993. The following year, Salgado spent the summer on the road singing with Santana. After another small label solo release in 1995, Salgado joined forces with Shanachie Records, putting out four critically acclaimed albums and finding an even bigger audience. He was sidelined in 2006 when he underwent a successful liver transplant and then shortly afterwards was diagnosed with and then beat lung cancer. Like so many musicians, Curtis had no health insurance. His medical expenses were paid for in part by a huge outpouring of love and money from his fellow musicians and his huge Northwest fan base. He bounced back with a perfect bill of health in 2008, releasing Clean Getaway. Billboard said the album was a “tour-de-force, showcasing Salgado’s range and power as a vocalist” and that it featured “hard-nosed blues, beautifully nuanced phat and funky R&B.” Blues Revue called it “one of the best records of the year.”
Curtis tours heavily, leaving fans excited and hungry for more everywhere he plays. He has performed at festivals all over the world, including The San Francisco Blues Festival, The Chicago Blues Festival, Memphis’ Beale Street Music Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, Denver’s Mile High Blues Festival, Toronto’s Waterfront Blues Festival, Thailand’s Phuket International Blues Festival and Poland’s Blues Alive Festival.
Doors open at 7pm show starts at 8pm. Tickets can be found at bendticket.com $20 online and $25 DOS.