Guitarist Andy “T” Talamantez was inspired by Anson Funderburgh when he bought his record in 1986. Now he’s riding alongside of him, touring with a red-hot, West Coast jump blues band.
Released June 16, “Double Strike” is the fourth studio collaboration for Talamantez and Funderburgh. Singer Nick Nixon, who was featured on the first three albums, developed heath issues during recording sessions and has retired. “Alabama Mike” Benjamin, who Talamantez compares to Junior Parker and Aaron Neville, is the new featured vocalist in the Andy T Band.
“We’re doing some miles, hitting the gigs and it’s working out well,” said Talamantez, who shared the phone with Funderburgh for this interview while driving across the Midwest. Alabama Mike was dozing during the call.
The Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike and Anson Funderburgh plays at the Sands Regency Hotel & Casino in downtown Reno at the free weekly Blues Pool Party. The band also includes keyboardist Larry van Loon, drummer Jim Klingler and bassist Lee Worden. The showon Wednesday is from 6 to 10 p.m.
Rocket man and man from the Rockets
Talamantez was working as an engineer in the aerospace industry in 1986 when he bought a couple of records, one by Ronnie Earle and the other featuring Funderburgh, who played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and for many years with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets.
“I realized that probably I was never going to play like Ronnie Earle and I just liked Anson’s more economical style. I went out and bought a Fender super reverb amplifier that I still have, and I already had a Stratocaster, and I said, ‘OK, that’s the sound.’ I don’t copy him note for note but for musical style and economy of style, he’s my No. 1.”
A few years later, after his daughter finished school, Talamantez heeded some advice regarding his day job.
“My wife said, ‘Just quit.’ ”
A good bluesman needs a nickname and, in a way, Talamantez came up with is own. He took what was supposed to be a one-off gig with Smokey Wilson’s band.
Fearing Wilson couldn’t pronounce his name, Talamantez said, “Just call me Andy T.”
“No, I can say your name, what is it?” Wilson said.
“Andy T sounds good.”
Guitar Shorty ‘whacks his gourd’
The full-time bluesman Andy T played for seven years with both Wilson and Guitar Shorty, who is known for doing somersaults during his performances. Talamantez described a 1999 show in Hamburg, Germany.
“His foot slipped on takeoff, so he did didn’t get enough lift,” Talamantez said. “His head hit loud enough that I heard it over the band. He really whacked his gourd on the cement. He got up and started staggering around and I stopped playing and went to help him up. He looks at me and he winks. Then he went in the other direction and did a full dive roll. Afterward, he said, ‘You stopped playing didn’t you?’ ”
Talamantez and Funderburgh crossed musical paths several times over the years and Funderburgh invited the fellow guitarist to Texas for record what would become the first Andy T Band album, “Drink, Drank, Drunk.”
“I thought, ‘This needs a better singer than me,’ ” said Talamantez, who brought on Nixon.
About a year ago as the band was recording its fourth album, Nixon became ill and, three days before the start of a five-week tour, suffered a stroke. The Andy T Band fulfilled the tour with guest artists, but after a show in October with Alabama Mike, Talamantez had found his new singer.
“He’s extremely versatile,” Talamantez said. “On the song “Somebody Like You” Alabama Mike sings very much in the Aaron Neville vein.”
Anson on the move
Funderburgh, of course, is an accomplished guitarist and producer, but he has failed at one thing: retirement. While he lives in the great town of Austin, Funderburgh doesn’t stay there often.
“Once you start playing music, it’s hard to give it up,” he said. “You might think you want to but, I mean, there’s only so much golf I can play. It was just time to go back to work.”
Funderburgh produced John Del Toro Richardson’s album, “Tengo Blues,” which won the 2017 Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut. He also plays with Mark Hummel’s Golden State-Lone Star Revue, which received several BMA nominations and will play Sept. 5 at Bluesdays in the Village at Squaw Valley. And Funderburgh plays with Eric Lindell. At this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Eric Lindell and the Grand Nationals, which included Funderburgh and Lake Tahoe kora and guitar player Peter Joseph Burtt, performed several shows.
“We’ve been busy the past several years; we really have,” Funderburgh said. “It’s an easy working relationship with Andy. We like each other and we like the same types of music and we both see eye to eye on a lot of stuff.
“I like making records with great singers and great songs and. That’s what I think I do the best, and obviously I play guitar. I help with the phrasing and how to get a good tone, and I have ideas about things should be recorded with the guitar, for sure.”
Talamantez said it’s a thrill when you can “meet your idols and have them be everything you want them to be and more. … Anson is somewhat of a musical genius. I completely trust him to the point that I wouldn’t want to work with anybody else. Our styles probably are similar in some ways with different enough to be complementary. He can grab same guitar with the same amp set up and sound completely different. There’s really nobody else that does what he does.”
- The Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike with Anson Funderburgh
When: 6-10 p.m. Wednesday, July 26
Where: Poolside at the Sands Regency Hotel & Casino, Reno
- Where else:
- Thursday, July 27 BISCUITS & BLUES, San Francisco
Friday, Aug. 4 LORENZO’S CAFE, Enderby, BC
Saturday, Aug. 5 CALGARY BLUES FESTIVAL, Calgary, AB
Thursday, Aug. 10 THE DOGGERY, Rochester, Minnesota
Saturday, Aug. 12 BAYFRONT BLUES FESTIVAL, Duluth, Minnesota
Sunday, Aug. 14 THE ALAMO, Springfield, Illinois
Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9- 10 EASTSIDE KINGS FESTIVAL, Austin, Texas
Friday, Sept. 15 THE RHYTHM ROOM, Phoenix