Tuesday Night Winter Blues back indefinitely

Buddy Emmer and Ron Hacker tear it up at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
Buddy Emmer and Ron Hacker tear it up at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Matty T. Trayton opens the second season  of Harrah's Tuesday Night WInter Blues.
Matty T. Taynton opens the second season of Harrah’s Tuesday Night WInter Blues.


With the blues secured, South Shore residents can focus on praying for snow this winter.

The Tuesday Night Winter Blues series at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe resumed Jan. 6 with the host Buddy Emmer Blues Band and guest Matty T. Taynton. The shows have three sets, the first with Emmer’s band, the second featuring a guest artist and the third a looser jam. Shows are from 8 to 11:30 p.m., but, being a blues format, will sometimes go later if people are still filling the casino floor and having fun.

The free weekly series on the casino floor began Feb. 4, 2014 and continued for 10 months. Entertainment Manager Brian Chandler announced last month the series was so popular it will resume indefinitely.

“By last two months we consistently had every seat filled,” said Emmer, a longtime Reno-based musician. “We had a pretty good steady following the whole last weeks. They kept having to put more chairs out.”

The guest artists are typically from Northern California and Nevada and return multiple times, allowing them to get tighter with Emmer’s band each session. With each new artist, Emmer’s band learns 12 songs for the second set.

Emmer’s band includes Dave Clark on bass and Mark Ishakawa on keyboards. Kim Emmer sings during the first and second sets. Kevin Clark, no relation to Dave, is the new drummer, replacing Brian Jenkins.

The final Tuesday of each month will feature the biggest name of the month. In January it will be Ron Hacker and in February its Steve Freund. Emmer said he wants to someday bring to Tahoe Chris Cain and Tommy Castro.

The opening guest for the series’ second year a “Vacavillain” gunslinger.

“I guess that’s what I am, a gunslinger with a six-string,” Taynton said. “I own my own music store and love guitar.”

Taynton began to play the guitar when he was 14 years old. He said he has an aggressive style and cited influences as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Buddy Buy and Freddie King.

Jeff Watson returns to Harrah's Lake Tahoe Jan. 13. Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage
Jeff Watson returns to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Jan. 13. Kurt E. Johnson / Tahoe Onstage

Sacramento’s Jeff Watson plays Jan. 13. No rock fans, he’s not the Jeff Watson from Night Ranger.

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.

Rick Hammond, who plays Jan. 20, had his band represent the Reno Blues Society at last year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The group made it to the semifinals and its bandleader picked up a new ax from the Gibson guitar factory.

“It’s a cherry red Gibson ES 335,” Hammond said. “I am the first one to touch it, and I don’t think anyone else ever will. It’s a work of art, a thing of beauty.”

A slide guitarist inspired by Hound Dog Taylor and R.L. Burnside, Hacker has a unique sound from a guitar he breaks to pieces and duct tapes back together.

Kim Emmer and Steve Freund. Kim Emmer's shoes cannot be seen in this image, but she is rumored to have a new pair.
Kim Emmer and Steve Freund. Kim Emmer’s shoes cannot be seen in this image, but she is rumored to have a new pair.

“I really like that real old stuff and modernize it and crunch it up a little bit,” he told Tahoe Onstage. “I like a really dirty sound. I am a rough player, anyway. I’m not a finesse type player. I really bang on my guitar.”

Freund plays on a song on the Mannish Boys’s CD “Wrapped Up and Ready,” which has been nominated for the 2015 Album of the Year and Blues Music Awards Best Traditional Blues Album.

Freund is a native of Brooklyn who at the age of 24 immersed himself in the blues when he moved to Chicago, staying in the Windy City for 18 years. After many blues greats died, the scene changed and in 1994 Freund moved to the Bay Area. He played many times with his former band the Dynatones at the Peppermill in Reno.

He plays many different hues of blues: Chicago-style from the 1960s, prewar Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie, and contemporary. His experience with the older players was invaluable to his sound, he said.

“The music part can be learned other ways,” Freund said. “But it’s not only how you play but it’s why you play and what you play and your material and the stories behind all these songs. They are all short stories, little vignettes. They tell a story and they have a moral, too. And you learn from that.”

Tuesday Night Winter Blues
8-11:30 p.m.
Host: Buddy Emmer Blues Band
Jan. 6 – Matty T Taynton
Jan. 13 – Jeff Watson
Jan. 20 – Rick Hammond
Jan. 27 – Ron Hacker
Feb. 3. – Rich Maloon
Feb. 10 – tba
Feb. 17 – tba
Feb. 24 – Steve Freund

ABOUT Tim Parsons

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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