For saxophone superstar Terry Hanck, 2015 has been a milestone year: He celebrated his 70th birthday, watched his former band mate Elvin Bishop enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wrote an article for a major magazine, recorded a live album and he saw his image on a billboard in Santiago, Chile.
After he plays Tuesday at Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays, Hanck will return to his South Florida home after performing in California for a month and a half. Hanck’s appearance here a year ago was such a rousing success, he was invited back for an encore.
“I really enjoyed that show,” Hanck told Tahoe Onstage. “I felt like the crowd was with me. It was one of the highlights of the season, so I am really looking forward to Tuesday.”
Singers and horn players are challenged when they perform at high altitude. Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.
“We used to play at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe all the time when I was with Elvin and it really messed with me,” Hanck said. “The dryness and the altitude both are tough but for some reason I didn’t have that big of a problem last year. I must have had a good reed that day.”
Hanck joined the Elvin Bishop Band just in time for the 1975 recording sessions for the album “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 his 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.”
After Andersen left Hanck’s band, he replaced Little Charlie Baty in what is now called Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Andersen is respected as a great guitarist, but he is revered by peers for his skill as a producer and his Greaseland Studio in San Jose. Hanck and the Kid have made four records together, including 2014’s “Gotta Bring It On Home To You.”
This summer, Andersen joined Terry Hanck’s band for a live recording at the Sacramento’s Cal Expo for what will become their fifth album together. “Jimmy Pugh joined us on keyboards,” Hanck said. “It has a real raw, live sound. We will start mixing it in October.”
Hanck’s West Coast band includes Johnny Soubrand on guitar, Tim Wagar on bass and Butch Cousins on drums. Robert Cray’s longtime bassist is Richard Cousins, Butch’s brother.
While guitar usually is the featured blues instrument, saxophone was more popular when Hanck started.
B.B. King, of course, was a blues guitar vanguard. Hanck said he saw King play in the early 1960s at the Regal Theater in Chicago.
“You didn’t hear people play sustained electric guitar leads; it was mostly strumming guitar,” Hanck said. “Then all of a sudden this guy comes out and hits these notes that just went right through my spine. It was like, ‘Holy shit, what was this?’ ”
Hanck learned of blues by listening to commercial radio, specifically station WIND, which played Jimmy Reed.
With hindsight, Hanck appreciates witnessing the British Invasion, but he did not at the time.
“I felt betrayed when everybody jumped on the bandwagon,” he said. “When The Beatles came out, I thought, ‘What’s the big deal? Why is everybody getting on this British bandwagon when we have all this great music here?’
“That being said, now I love The Beatles. … But at the time I don’t think I appreciated them. I was just starting out and thought, ‘They’re just white boys like me.’ ”
Hanck invaded South America in early June with his blend of early rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues.
“Chile was cool,” he said. “The people are really warm down there. I played in a theater for about 600 and also in a jazz club in Santiago. They really like jazz.”
Hanck this year penned a feature story about the saxophone for Blues Festival Guide. Click on the link to read his story: CLICK
- Bluesdays at Squaw Valley
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each Tuesday
Aug. 11: Terry Hanck
Aug. 18: The Stone Foxes
Aug. 25: The Blues Monsters
Sept. 1: Carolyn Wonderland
Sept. 8: Delta Wires