Raymond Victor’s storied career will soon include opening the fourth season of the Live at Lakeview series Thursday in South Lake Tahoe.
What can concertgoers expect?
“I have no idea,” Victor told Tahoe Onstage. “I never use a set list. I have to look at the people and then I say, ‘OK, here we go.’ ”
The 65-year-old Victor is a piano player who lived in Chicago during the city’s blues heyday in the 1950s and ’60s.
“I didn’t play blues then because everybody was doing it,” said Victor, who has since changed his tune and will add blues to Lake Tahoe and its sky.
Victor spent many years working as a sideman with blues and jazz legends. He also wrote for CBS and lived in Hollywood working as a studio musician. Now a resident of Vallejo in the north Bay Area, Victor has been a band leader for 26 years.
He also plays with the Used Blues Band, a one-time finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where he said a relaxed attitude may have contributed to his band’s success. “We were happy to be a part of it and being in Memphis,” he said. “If we knew we were going to advance we wouldn’t have stayed up until 4 in the morning.”
Victor has plenty of great stories to tell, and he did so as he played piano during a telephone interview with Tahoe Onstage.
“I played with Buddy Miles on his prison tour,” he said. “I don’t know what he had been in jail for.” Nonetheless, Miles must have been happier playing in bars then behind them.
Victor also performed with Big Mama Thornton, who had her biggest hit, “Hound Dog,” in 1952, before Elvis Presley made his own release of the song.
“She had a reputation but when I was with her she was clean as a whistle,” Victor said. “She wasn’t a big talker. She did her talking on stage. I played with my back to her and I watched in a mirror for her hand signals. She goes by whatever she feels like and it keeps every performance fresh and alive and real. She called the mirror my ‘shaving glass,’ which was funny with my long beard.”
Victor said he also played with Bobby “Blue” Bland, and they performed at a birthday party for Joni Mitchell on the Sunset Strip along with Bo Diddley, who played his homemade “diddley bow” cigar box guitar.
“He tunes his instrument from outer fucking space,” Victor said. “He would tune it to whatever sounded good to him. Bobby just rolled his eyes. But everybody was smiling and having a good time.”
The interview ended after Victor said he was headed to a rehearsal.
“My idea of rehearsal is not to sit around and talk about how a song goes,” he said. “We have a downtown club where we rehearse live.”
Live at Lakeview’s parking not only is free this summer, the city has agreed to a five-year contract with the music promoters On Course, waiving $6,500 in rental fees each season. It also will provide a $5,000 cash sponsorship this year and $2,500 each of the following four years. A city official also estimated $30,000 is spent on park, streets and public safety services.
Citations will be given to concertgoers with dogs and cigarettes, and beer is only allowed in a beer garden, which will donate a substantial portion of its revenue to the effort to build a BMX track at Bijou Community Park.
On Course provides a free bike valet and motorists are encouraged to carpool.
- Live at Lakeview
Lakeview Commons, South Lake Tahoe
4:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays
Date Headliner, opener
June 25 Raymond Victor Band, Johnny Gold Trio
July 2 Tubaluba, Patrick Walsh
July 9 World’s Finest, MerryGold
July 16 Fish Out of Water, Taking Root
July 23 Rian Basilio & the Roosters, Weapon
July 30 Dad’s LPs, Worn Out Welcome
Aug. 6 The Lil’ Smokies, Musical Charis
Aug. 13 Polyrhythmics, Big Sticky Mess
Aug. 20 Scott Pemberton, 4 Piece Puzzle
Aug. 27 Lavish Green, Black Star Safari
Free Bike Valet, Beer Garden, Food and Art Vendors