Superstars contribute to Salgado’s ‘Damage Control’

Curtis Salgado employed multiple bands for “Damage Control.”
Photo by Jessica Keaveny

Curtis Salgado studied liner notes when his childhood friends might have been reading statistics on their favorite players’ baseball cards.

Cognizant that it takes a cohesive unit to make a good record, Curtis Salgado was a musicologist before he was a professional musician. As a teenager, he knew who played what on all his favorite jazz, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll albums. No doubt he preferred Lowman Pauling of The “5” Royales to Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees.

At age 66, Salgado manages a team when he goes to work. He collaborates with one or more people while writing and then arranging a song. Then he hires the best musicians when the songs are ready for the studio. The credits on his 11th album, “Damage Control,” read like a who’s who of accomplished musicians, songwriters, engineers and producers.

“I think they are superstars, and you can quote me,” Salgado told Tahoe Onstage. “I wish everybody knew about them.”

There were daylong sessions in late 2018 in three cities in the making of 12 of the 13 songs on “Damage Control,” which will be released on Friday, Feb. 26. They were held at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, Johnny Lee Schell’s Ultratone Studios in Los Angles, and at The Rock House, which is Kevin McKendree’s site just south of Nashville. Those are three of the most prolific producers in the business.

Salgado has had a longtime recording relationship with Schell, a guitarist, and his Phantom Blues Band, which includes keyboardist Mike Finnigan and drummer Tony Braunagel. McKendree has been Delbert McClinton’s bandleader for decades, plays with John Hiatt and has worked on almost all of Tinsley Ellis’ albums. Andersen, who plays with Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, is Northern California’s one-man version of Detroit’s Motown Funk Brothers.

Tahoe Onstage
Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose is the go-to place to make a blues record in Northern California.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

“Kid Andersen plays anything,” Salgado said. “You could hand him a sitar and I wouldn’t be surprised if he could play it. The other thing about Kid is, he’s a great engineer. He’s one of those guys who uses the equipment and knows how to get the fidelity of an old record. If you wanted something to sound like 1962 or 1948, he could get it.”

Finnigan helped write seven of Salgado’s songs on the album, and Jim Pugh arranged many of the charts. They combine organ and piano on a number of the tunes. To have Finnigan, Pugh and McKendree on the same album is a keyboard triumvirate for the ages. (Herbie Hancock must not have been available.)

Dig deeper and see that bassist Jerry Jemmott plays both the Greaseland and Ultratone sessions. Even those who don’t not recognize the name will know many of the songs he’s played. Discovered by King Curtis, Jemmott plays the introductory bass solo on “Memphis Soul Stew.” Jemmott played on B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” and nearly everything by Aretha Franklin.

Andersen hired Jemmott to play on the 2017 album “Groovin’ in Greaseland” by Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, which played at the annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis. That’s where Salgado met Jemmott.

“I was stunned,” Salgado said. “I wanted to run up and say, ‘I’m not worthy’ and kiss his feet because I know who he is.”

On drums there’s Braunagel, who has played on more than 200 albums, including Grammy winners with Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt; and Jack Bruno, who was with Tina Turner ever since she left Ike; and finally Kevin Hayes, known on the West Coast for playing with Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings.

Kevin Hayes plays Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays in 2019.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

“Kevin Hayes, man, I met him in the ‘70s,” Salgado said. “He played with Tower of Power. He’s kind of like the go-to guy. Robert (Cray) picked him up and he was with Robert for years. He’s from the Hayes family. His brother started Huey Lewis and the News and his sister is an amazing songwriter who has written for everybody from Billy Idol to Bonnie Raitt.”

Wendy Moten sings backup on The Rock House sessions.

“She is at such a high level, it’s jaw dropping,” Salgado said. “She can do Aretha Franklin and she can sing like Patsy Cline if she wants. But she’s not a copyist. She works with Vince Gill and I think she’s one of the only black people who has a spot at the Grand Ole Opry.”

A fourth session was held in 2019 at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, for a duet, “Truth Be Told,” with zydeco squeezebox player Wayne Toups. It occurred out of happenstance at a Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

“I sat in with Teresa James,” Salgado said. “Afterward he comes up and says, ‘Who in the hell are you?’ A few days later, I asked him (to record a song). But he’s hard to pin down. He’s like lightning in a bottle. And he was ferocious.”

There are plenty of more great contributors on “Damage Control.” To learn more, be like Salgado and dig into the liner notes.

-Tim Parsons

  • Curtis Salgado
  • ‘Damage Control’
  • Label: Alligator Records
  • Release: Feb 26, 2021

Recording sessions

Ultratone Studios, Studio City, California; Dec. 18, 2018;
Engineered by Johnny Lee Schell
Johnny Lee Schell, guitar, bass and background vocals; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Dave Gross, guitar; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jim Pugh, piano; Tony Braunagel, drums; Jackie Miclau, piano; Wendy Moten, background vocals

Rock House Recording, Nashville, Tennessee; Oct. 10, 2018;
Engineered by Kevin McKendree
Kevin McKendree, piano; George Marinelli, guitar; Mark Winchester, acoustic bass; Tommy McDonald, bass; Jack Bruno, drums; Wendy Moten, background vocals; J.T. Lauritsen, background vocals  

Greaseland Studios, San Jose, California; Nov. 27, 2018;
Engineered by Kid Andersen
Kid Andersen, guitar, acoustic bass; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ and piano; Jim Pugh, piano; Kevin Hayes, drums; Gary Harris, tenor saxophone; Michael Bard, tenor saxophone; Tim Bryson, baritone saxophone

Additional recordings:

Dockside Studio, Maurice, Louisiana; October 2019;
Engineered by Justin Tocket
Wayne Toups, squeezebox and vocals

Falcon Studios, Portland, Oregon:
Engineered by Dennis Carter

Mastered by Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, Los Angeles
Produced by Curtis Salgado
Mixed by Sandy Solomon

The songs

‘The Longer That I Live’
(3 minutes, 53 seconds)
(Salgado, Duncan & Finnigan, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Covered Call Music, BMI/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Kid Andersen, guitar; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jim Pugh, piano; Kevin Hayes, Drums

‘What Did Me In Did Me Well’
(4 minutes, 26 seconds)
(Salgado, Dodson & Finnigan, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Vyasa Dodson dba The Hook Repeats, ASCAP/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals and harmonica; Kid Andersen, guitar; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ and piano; Jim Pugh, piano; Kevin Hayes, drums

‘You’re Going To Miss My Sorry Ass’
(4 minutes, 9 seconds)
(Salgado & Hager, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/AHA Music, ASCAP)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; George Marinelli, guitar; Mark Winchester, acoustic bass; Kevin McKendree, piano; Jack Bruno, drums; Johnny Lee Schell, background vocal

‘Precious Time’
(4 minutes, 3 seconds)
(Marinelli, Salgado, Harrison & Finnigan, Lapiotrope Music adm. by Bluewater Music, BMI/Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Eyeball Music, BMI/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; George Marinelli, guitar; Tommy McDonald, bass; Kevin McKendree, piano; Jack Bruno, drums; Wendy Moten, background vocals

‘Count Of Three’
(3 minutes, 35 seconds)
(Dodson & Salgado, Vyasa Dodson dba The Hook Repeats/Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Johnny Lee Schell, guitar and bass; Dave Gross, guitar; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jim Pugh, piano; Tony Braunagel, drums; Johnny Lee Schell, background vocals

‘Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)’
(4 minutes, 3 seconds)
(Salgado, Duncan & Miclau, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Covered Call Music/
Jackie Miclau Music BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Johnny Lee Schell, guitars; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jackie Miclau, piano; Tony Braunagel, drums; Wendy Moten, background vocals

‘Hail Mighty Caesar’
(4 minutes, 16 seconds)
(Salgado & McKendree, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/East Folks Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Kid Andersen, guitar and acoustic bass; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jim Pugh, piano; Kevin Hayes, drums; Gary Harris, tenor saxophone; Michael Bard, tenor saxophone; Tim Bryson, baritone saxophone

‘I Don’t Do That No More’
(3 minutes, 43 seconds)
(Duncan, Salgado & Finnigan, Covered Call Music, BMI/Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; George Marinelli, guitar; Tommy McDonald, bass; Kevin McKendree, piano; Jack Bruno, drums; J.T. Lauritsen, background vocals

‘Oh For The Cry Eye’
(3 minutes, 34 seconds)
(Salgado, Allen, Miclau & Finnigan, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Jackie Miclau Music, BMI/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Johnny Lee Schell, guitar; Alan Hager, guitar; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ and piano; Jackie Miclau, piano; Tony Braunagel, drums; Wendy Moten, background vocals

‘Damage Control’
(4 minutes, 3 seconds)
(Salgado, Finnigan & Waters, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Irish Stew Music, BMI/ Just Add Waters Music, ASCAP)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Johnny Lee Schell, guitar; Dave Gross, guitar; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, piano; Jim Pugh, organ; Tony Braunagel, drums

‘Truth Be Told’
(3 minutes, 15 seconds)
(Duncan, Salgado & Finnigan, Covered Call Music, BMI/Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Irish Stew Music, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; Wayne Toups, squeezebox and vocals; George Marinelli, guitar; Tommy McDonald, bass; Kevin McKendree, piano and organ; Jack Bruno, drums

‘The Fix Is In’
(5 minutes, 1 second)
(Salgado, Dominique, Allen, Hager & Waters, Odaglas Music adm. by Small Scale Music, ASCAP/Small Scale Music, AHA Music, ASCAP/Just Add Waters Music, ASCAP)
Curtis Salgado, vocals and harmonica; Kid Andersen, guitar; Jerry Jemmott, bass; Mike Finnigan, organ; Jim Pugh, keyboard; Kevin Hayes, drums

‘Slow Down’
(3 minutes, 27 seconds)
(Williams, Arc Music, BMI/Larina Music, BMI/Sony/ATV Songs LLC, BMI)
Curtis Salgado, vocals; George Marinelli, guitar; Alan Hager, guitar; Tommy McDonald, bass; Kevin McKendree, piano; Jack Bruno, drums; Gary Harris, tenor saxophone; Michael Bard, tenor saxophone; Tim Bryson, baritone saxophone

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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