Southern rock or blues, it’s the right stuff
Elvin Bishop at the age of 70 is prolific as he’s ever been, but he still remembers to look back.
A bluesman and a so-called southern rocker, Bishop in the last three years released a studio album, a live album and a DVD of a concert and an in-depth interview.
“I continue to write songs, so some of the old ones get left behind,” Bishop told Tahoe Onstage. “The problem is I’ve got so damn many songs. I try to keep the old fans happy, they want to hear ‘Travelin’ Shoes’ and ‘Rock My Soul’ and all that. Then there’s the matter of keeping myself and my musicians interested, so I like to do the newest ones and sometimes the old ones fall by the wayside.”
The live recordings include a couple of songs Bishop recorded in the 1970s which he hadn’t played in many years: “Callin’ All Cows” and “Arkansas Line,” both from the 1975 album “Juke Joint Jump.”
“My daughter was listening to my old stuff and she said, “Dad you ought to do ‘Callin’ All Cows,’ it’s really cool. It’s fun, people like it.”
“Juke Joint Jump” came out during the height of Bishop’s most productive commercial period. The former Chicagoan in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band after moving to California recorded eight albums in a 10-year stretch. Although much of it is gospel, the music was dubbed southern rock for a variety of reasons: Bishop grew up in Oklahoma and he sings in a Southern drawl. His lyrics often are about country life and some of his records were cut at Macon, Ga.’s Capricorn Studios, which also produced groups like the Marshall Tucker Band, the Allman Brothers and Charlie Daniels.
“People don’t like to think, and that includes writers and the people in the media,” Bishop said about his southern rock tag. “They can’t rest until they can find some type of label they can slap on you, put you in a little box and then they don’t have to think about you anymore.
“I’ve always been kind of a different dude. That was the one time in my career there was a viable category that they could stuff my ass into comfortably.”
It was also the one time Bishop had a mainstream hit song, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” recorded on his second 1975 album, “Struttin’ My Stuff.” Bill Szymczyk, who also produced B.B. King’s only mainstream single, “The Thrill is Gone,” thought it would be best sung in band member Mickey Thomas’ vibrato tenor. (Thomas later lived several years in South Lake Tahoe.)
Bishop still makes records at a fast clip, but he doesn’t tour as nearly as much as before. However, the Northern California resident annually plays Tahoe, including a 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday, April 6.
Bishop has added bass player Ruth Davies since his last Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room concert. The rest of the band remains drummer Bobby Cochran, keyboardist Steve Willis, trombone player Ed Early and guitarist Bob Welsh.
He said he will tour West Coast performing art centers this spring with Paul Thorn and James Cotton. Thorn titled a recent album “What The Hell is Goin’ On” after Bishop played him his tune on his front porch.
“That’s My Thing – Elvin Bishop Live In Concert,” a performance at Redwood City’s Fox Club, is nominated for Best DVD at the May 9 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.
Bishop gave a hint at how he came up with the album and song title after he was asked why he has made so many records lately.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said, “just that’s what I do for a living.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room