Right now is the hour: Terry Hanck is back at Bluesdays.
On Tuesday, The Village at Squaw Valley will be a dance floor. A saxophone superstar with a bent for vintage rock and roll, Hanck is a beloved Bluesdays headliner. It will be his third appearance at the venue.
Hanck’s West Coast band has had the same personnel for each Bluesdays show: Johnny “Cat” Soubrand plays a Fender Telecaster guitar, Butch Cousins plays drums and the bassist is Tim Wagar.
The quartet recently finished its 18th — and most challenging — season at the California State Fair in Sacramento. In previous years, the band hit the stage at 8 p.m., but this summer it played in the late-afternoon sun and smoke from the major fires that continue to burn throughout the state.
“It was hot,” Hanck told Tahoe Onstage. “You can hear me voice is a little scratchy from the smoke. I will be singing some Flemish tunes at Squaw Valley.”
Hanck lives in Florida, but spends most of summers in California, where he built a fan base from 1977-87 when he was in Elvin Bishop’s band during its heyday of hit songs. Before he accepted Bishop’s third offer to become a member of his touring band, he performed on sessions for “Struttin’ My Stuff,” which included Bishop’s greatest hit, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
“He had written it seven years earlier,” Hanck said. “He kept trying to get people to sing it but nothing ever happened. He tried to sing it in the studio. Then Mickey (Thomas) comes along and he has a voice like an angel. Everybody knew then it was something special.”
While Bishop ended up helping Thomas get a big break, Hanck gets credit for bringing Chris “Kid” Andersen from Norway to Northern California.
Hanck, whose wife is from Norway, often plays shows during his visits there. Andersen played guitar in the house band for a venue that featured headlining blues players from the United States.
“I was looking for a guitar player and all (Andersen’s) heroes were from California, guys like Junior Watson,” Hanck said. “I said, ‘If you are serious, let’s do it.’ He is such a talent, it (moving to the U.S.) was going to happen sooner or later. The guy is a force of nature.”
Hanck teamed up with a couple of other Bluesdays performers. This summer, Joe Louis Walker sat in with him at one show, and Chris Cain played a guitar solo for a song for an album that is in the works. It will Hanck’s fifth album produced by Kid Andersen at the Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and the seventh album they’ve worked on together.
Andersen, who plays with Rick Estrin and The Nightcats, is perhaps the most prolific blues producer in the country.
“He has so many projects going on at the same time, I don’t know how he keeps everything organized in his mind,” Hanck said. “Kid, he’s got ears and almost has a photographic memory. He’s very smart and he’s really fast.”
Hanck’s pretty fast on the saxophone, too. He won the Blues Music Award for Instrumentalist, Horn, in 2017, 2016 and 2012.
Hanck’s blues-based sound is flavored with early rock and roll — when the saxophone, and not guitar, was the featured instrument. A Chicago native, Hanck was inspired by the blues at a 1962 B.B. King concert.
His blues has an early rock and roll sound, and for good reason. He was around when the music began.
“The first rock and roll I heard was Fats Domino and Little Richard,” Hanck said. “Fats Domino never called it rock and roll. He called it rhythm and blues.
“Early rock and roll is what influenced me. Jazz, soul, blues, I really don’t separate it. Great tenor players from the bebop era could all really get down and play blues. I don’t think they thought, ‘Now I am playing blues and now I am playing jazz.’ They are interrelated.”
— Tim Parsons
6-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays
Aug. 21: Terry Hanck
Aug. 28: Coco Montoya
Sept. 4: Cedrick Burnside Project