Powder Blues Band is now in its 35th year of making music, but right now bandleader Tom Lavin would rather talk about the super guitar-playing skills of James "Buddy" Rogers.
"Every guitar player in the world can play a blues lick, but how many of the ones I've seen over the past 45 years in the Lower Mainland are really good at playing the blues?" Lavin starts. "I can probably count 'em on one hand - two at the most. Everyone can sit there and pose and lift Stevie Ray Vaughan riffs or whatever, but a good blues player is someone who is endlessly innovative and has style and phrasing that does the trick. And I think James 'Buddy' Rogers is in the big league - and guys like B.B. King think so, too. He said it's good to finally see a white guy play like a black one."
Lavin produced and co-wrote 10 songs for Rogers' latest album, My Guitar's My Only Friend, and has invited Rogers to open for Powder Blues at its gig in Surrey next week.
"I've known him since he was 15, and he's 37 now - more than half his life," Lavin said of Rogers. "The last record he did, I kind of semi-risked our friendship because I told him I didn't like it, and I sat him down and said, 'Hey man, you're way better than this, and if you want to do an album again, I'll produce it for nothing, just because I think you need something that represents who and what you are."
The Chicago-born Lavin, 63, said he has helped promote and foster just one other musician in this way: Jim Byrnes.
"You know, I am doing for James what I did for Jim Byrnes, whose album I produced in 1981 when Powder Blues was in its heyday."
Lavin brings Powder Blues Band to South Surrey's Rhumba Room bar (at Pacific Inn hotel) for White Rock Blues Society's "Valentine's Blues Extravaganza" on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tickets are available online at tickets.surrey.ca.
Back in 1978, Powder Blues Band got its start playing house gigs at Gastown nightclubs as a Chicago-style horn blues band that had people dancing from note one. Their accomplished goal was to play 26 nights a month - something unheard of these days, in an era of few venues for live bands.
By 1981, the band was hitting stages 322 nights a year across North America, fueled by an early string of hits that included "Hear That Guitar Ring," "Doin' it Right (on the Wrong Side of Town)" and "Thirsty Ears."
Lavin still loves to play, and has booked Powder Blues into high-profile festivals across Canada this coming summer, in celebration of the band's 35th anniversary.
"We hardly ever play the Lower Mainland - two or three shows a year," he said.
"(In Surrey Feb. 16), we'll touch on all the hits, but we'll stretch out on stuff, too," Lavin told the Now. "The players in the band are so good that I really love to let them stretch and solo a bit. Out in (Surrey), I'll bring a three-piece horn section, which I never do on the road - I'm always two-piece. And we'll go with a seven-piece - two saxes, trumpet, guitar, bass drums and keys. I've known these guys for half of my life so it's fun to get together to do stuff we love doing."