Weekly blues at Harrah’s extended; Rick Hammond next

Rock ’n’ roll fans love the blues, too, although sometimes they don’t even know it.

Jeff Watson returns to Harrah's Lake Tahoe Aug. 11. Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage

Jeff Watson returns to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Aug. 11. Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage

Some of the best audience responses at three big shows last week were for blues tunes.

Aerosmith’s Joe Perry gave lead vocalist Steven Tyler a song off when he sang “Stop Mess’ Around,” a tune Peter Green wrote for the original Fleetwood Mac. The next night the biggest cheer at the Chris Isaak show was for his spirited performance of “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” And earlier the Doobie Brothers kept Tahoe blues with “Don’t Start Me Talkin,’ ” written by Sonny Boy Williams II.

Those shows, of course, came at pretty high prices for most folks. But here’s the good blues news: The free weekly series in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe has been extended another month. The shows, which are from 8 p.m. to midnight on Mondays during the summer, will move to Tuesdays for the entire month of September, Harrah’s promoter Brian Chandler said.

The house band for the shows is the Buddy Emmer Blues Band from Reno. Comprised of veteran players, including the guitarist Emmer, the band improvises each week with a guest star, typically a guitarist.

Reno’s Rick Hammond will perform Monday, Aug. 18. Hammond’s band advance to the semifinals at the 2014 Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. It is the furthest any Reno Blues Society representative has advanced. While he was in Memphis, Hammond also picked up a fancy red guitar at the Gibson factory.

On Aug. 11, the guest was Sacramento’s Jeff Watson. No rock fans, not the Jeff Watson from Night Ranger. This is the Jeff Watson who tore up the place on May 8. We are not sure it the two things are connected, but Harrah’s had to replace the carpets afterward.

When he is not onstage exciting music lovers, Watson is explaining to someone he doesn’t play “Sister Christian.’

“If I had a quarter for every time I’ve been mistaken for that Jeff Watson, I’d be a rich man,” he told Tahoe Onstage.

Watson, who started an auto body business 30 years ago “in case I didn’t make it as a rock star,” has learned his own image was inadvertently posted on the other Jeff Watson’s Facebook page. He’s even had people ask him to autograph the other Jeff Watson’s photo.

“We’re from the same area and are about the same age, but he has lots of hair and I don’t,” the Tahoe-bound Watson joked.

Watson says he is blues influenced but plays more of a contemporary rock style. He became infatuated with electric guitar when as a 10 year old he attended his step-father’s rehearsal with a country western group. He started playing on a $15 Montgomery Wards Airliner guitar. “Then I moved up to a Sears model,” he said.

A lifelong Sacramento resident, Watson played with a southern rock band, Merlin Sights, then a rock band, Power Glide.

But the boy who grew up in rock’s heyday of the 1960s and early ’70s, became a disenchanted man in 1984. He didn’t touch a guitar for 15 years.

“I was burned out with Duran Duran, Men at Work and ’80s Spandex hair bands,” he said.

But he got “bit by the bug” again at a local blues jam, where he played with a borrowed guitar. Now he has a roomful of guitars and amps. He plans to bring a Les Paul to Lake Tahoe.

He played South Shore about a decade ago at William’s Backdoor Blues with the band Del Von and the Witness.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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