SoCal Vs. NorCal: Rod Piazza & the Mightly Flyers Vs. Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Rod Piazza was born on December 18, 1947. His musical career started at the very young age of 7 thanks to the records his older brothers brought home. His brothers were 10 and 12 years older than Rod. They brought home 45’s of all the r&b hits by artists such as Jimmy Reed, Joe Turner, Earl Bostic, & Gene and Eunice. Then, in 1957, Rod was admiring the guitars for sale on the lawn of a neighbor. He would see them on his walk home from school. After he couldn’t stand it anymore he brought his mom back to see them and begged for her to buy him one. The old lady that sold the guitars informed her that they were $4 and $5. His mother bought him a $4 guitar. He messed around with that guitar constantly for the next 3 or 4 years, doing more dancing with it than actual playing.
Then, around 1962, when Rod was 14 (he was born on December 18, 1947), some musician friends started showing him some things on the guitar. In 1963 a friend gave him his first harmonica and he started trying to play along with songs on the radio, like Slim Harpo, Buster Brown, and Jimmy Reed.
About 1965, some guys at school were starting a band and called Rod wanting to know if he would sing and play guitar. When he went to the rehearsal they had guys playing guitar better than Rod so they told him to just blow harp and sing. They – “The Mystics” – started playing parties and moved up to LA for a short while in 1966 to play on the local club scene. There were clubs in LA that would have band audition nights, calling them Hootenanny Night. The band would play for free hoping that the manager would hear them and they would get an actual paying gig out of it. But most of the time the people working the club would say, “You guys were great! But the manager wasn’t here. We’ll tell him about you though.” Bullshit. They never did get a gig there but the club owner got free music. It was quite a scam during the 60’s as there were so many young bands just wanting to play, not caring if they got paid or not.
Eventually, they came back to Riverside and played locally venturing out whenever a gig came up. One did come up that would change the entire course of Rod’s young life. His band got a job at a dive next to the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach. Rod remembers that James Cotton was playing the Golden Bear that same weekend. A writer named Eileen Kaufman, the wife of a famous poet, came to the show and wrote an article about them in the LA Free Press. Then she got in touch with Della Reese’s manager, who, after seeing one show, brought ABC Bluesway record execs to a club in Hollywood called Genesis 9 to see the band perform. This manager made a deal with ABC Bluesway to record them. They were calling themselves “The House of DBS”, which stood for Dirty Blues Sound, but this manager/producer changed it to “The Dirty Blues Band”. They did two LP’s for ABC Bluesway in 1967 & 1968. Unfortunately, due to a couple of the band members getting drafted into the Vietnam War, the band broke up after the 2nd LP.
Rick Estrin “Estrin has created some of the finest blues songs of any artist on the planet. His carefully wrought lyrics penetrate human weakness with the precision of a boxer, though more often than not, he chooses to leave you laughing after the blow’s been struck.” – Blues Revue
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “is an amazing harmonica player, a soulful lead vocalist and a brilliant songwriter.” The award-winning musician, another critic said, “sounds like Little Walter playing and singing Leiber and Stoller.” Along with The Nightcats- jaw-dropping guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen, singing drummer (who plays standing up) J. Hansen and dynamic multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Farrell (electric and acoustic bass, organ and piano)-Rick Estrin serves up fresh and modern original blues injected with a solid dose of gritty roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll. Since the 2009 release of their celebrated Alligator Records debut, Twisted, the band has toured non-stop, honing their creative synergy to a razor’s edge. Night after night, the band blazes their own innovative musical path while still remaining true to the blues. The results of all of this natural chemistry can be heard on their irresistible new album, One Wrong Turn.
Kid Andersen (lead guitar) Chris “Kid” Andersen was born in Telemark, Norway in 1980. A blues fan since childhood, Andersen fell in love with the music of Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Junior Watson, and the Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie). By the time he was 18, he was backing all the American blues stars who came through Norway, including Homesick James, Nappy Brown and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He moved to California at age 21, eventually earning himself a green card as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” Andersen released four solo albums before joining blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite’s band in 2004, a gig that lasted until he joined Rick Estrin & The Nightcats.
J. Hansen (drums, vocals) J. Hansen is the only singing, songwriting, standing drummer in the blues. Born in Joliet, Illinois, he began drumming on pots, pans and coffee cans at a very early age. He moved to California in 1984 and began studying the drums seriously, playing his first gig at age 13. Hansen began his musical career playing traditional jazz with multi-instrumentalist Clint Baker, which eventually led to performing and recording with legendary New Orleans banjo player Narvin Kimball (Preservation Hall Jazz Band). While studying music in college, Hansen began working in local Bay Area blues bands. He started his own R&B/funk band, Verso, which featured his singing and songwriting. He later toured internationally and recorded with the popular San Francisco swing band Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums before joining the Nightcats in 2002. He released a solo album of original material, Give The Drummer Some, in 2009. In 2011 Hansen began playing his drums standing up.
Lorenzo Farrell (organ, acoustic and electric bass) Lorenzo Farrell was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, where he started playing piano at age five. During his high school years in California, he discovered jazz and made the switch to upright acoustic bass. After high school, Farrell took several years off from his music career to earn a degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley, and study religion in Delhi, India. Since returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been a highly sought-after multi-instrumentalist, having returned to piano and mastered organ in recent years. A Nightcat since 2003, Lorenzo has also had the opportunity to perform and/or record with many other artists, including Collective Amnesia, the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Noora Noor, Terry Hanck, and Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums.