Saturday, April 14, 2007
At The Pavilion at the Lycian Center, Kings Highway, Sugar Loaf, NY
Popa Chubby's music, forged in the toughness that is New York City, takes blues to the cutting edge, where it high fives its contemporary cousins rock, rap, and hip hop. With his razor sharp, biting guitar, vocals from the gut, and songwriting prowess, Popa Chubby artfully combines the elemental force of the blues with the more modern urban elements of today's popular music.
Born Ted Horowitz, Popa Chubby is a true native son of the Big Apple. He grew up in the neighborhood immortalized in Robert DeNiro's film A Bronx Tale." His early memories of hearing the jukebox in his parents' candy store playing the hits of early sixties soul and R&B - and the neighborhood teens flocking around it - made a lasting impression on him. As a youngster he would also spend hours listening to his parents' vast collection of jazz and R&B 78's and LPs. To this day the musical influence of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye are ever present in Popa's music.
His desire to be a musician was evident early on. At the tender age of six, he picked up the drums. When he was seven, his father took him to Madison Square Garden to see an oldies show, and Chuck Berry immediately became Popa's idol. At age sixteen he picked up his first guitar and never put it down. His fingers bled from trying to pick out the blues licks he heard secondhand from 70's rockers such as Johnny Winter, Foghat, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
In the late 70's Punk Rock hit the scene, and Popa was hired by Japanese performance artist, Screaming Mad George, and played a fortuitous gig at CBGB in New York City's Bowery. There he met Punk Rock godfather, Richard Hell, who was putting together a new version of his band the Voidoids. Popa was hired for a world tour, all the while honing his licks via the records of Albert, B.B. and especially Freddie King.
When I first heard Freddie King my world was turned upside down. I was 19 and this older cat in the neighborhood played me the Just Pickin'" record and I was knocked out cold. I thought, 'Man, that's what I wanna be when I grow up.'"
With the 1980's upon him, Popa played any and all styles of music he could, the education helping him to survive as a working musician. In 1984, while busking in New York's Central Park, he met singer- songwriter Pierce Turner who had just signed with RCA Records. Pierce and Chubby shared a love for Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. Chubby was hired for a world tour and asked to contribute his blues- inflected guitar playing to Pierce's album The Sky and The Ground." Popa worked with Pierce throughout the late 80's, all the while itching to front his own band and play the blues he loved.
In 1990 the Popa Chubby Band was born. The name was taken from an impromptu jam with Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic. He was singing a song called 'Popa Chubby' and he pointed at me." The name captured the essence of what his music has come to represent. Popa Chubby basically means to get excited. The core of my music is about excitement. I think music should make people feel alive."
Before long he was playing every club in New York. Popa landed the coveted spot as house band at the now defunct Manny's Car Wash. There he got to back up and open for many of the great musicians who came through town. The combined experiences of backing a variety of artists helped shape his vision of what he now calls New York City Blues."
In 1991, he entered the National Blues Talent Search sponsored by Long Beach Radio station KLON. He beat out a score of bands to bring the title to New York City and was rewarded with an opening spot at the 1991 Long Beach Blues Festival. Popa soon started touring regionally and released two independent records on his own label.
In 1994 Popa signed a recording deal with then recently resurrected O-Keh Records (Sony Music), lured by the prospect of working with Tom Dowd, longtime Atlantic Records engineer/producer, whose recordings by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and others are legendary. Booty and The Beast" was released in 1994, and the single, Sweet Goddess Of Love and Beer, soon swept the country and became a summer radio hit coast to coast in 1995.
Creative differences left Popa a free agent in 1996, so he began releasing albums on his own label. On the advice of Dowd he went to Europe, where his first two CD's were released as a collection by the French Dixiefrog label. The record was an instant success and left Popa touring nonstop. The energy and showmanship of his sets earned him critical and commercial acclaim overseas, and in fact, he's become a huge star in Europe, where he appears on the covers of magazines and routinely sells out major venues.
The innovative performer and producer went on to do a number of other projects for Dixiefrog, his own albums and others by Big Apple artists recorded under the aegis of Popa Chubby Productions. In the process, he spearheaded a New York City sub-genre of blues. The New York sound is as complex as the city itself, melding a variety of street sounds from hip hop, punk, straight-up rock, R&B, into an unadulterated blues format. New York is a melting pot of social and musical cultures, and New York City Blues is an amalgam of all those styles," explains Chubby.
In May 2000, Dixiefrog released How'd A White Boy Get the Blues?" in Europe. Looking for a domestic label that would understand his unique approach to the blues, Popa brought the album to Blind Pig Records, which released this seminal blues-rock concept record in August of 2001. It uses electric and acoustic guitar blends, drum loops and electronics to show how close the blues, hip-hop and R&B really are. Calling the CD a fresh take on the genre," Billboard said If Muddy Waters was a modern blues artist, then Popa Chubby is a post-modern bluesman." The New York Post said, The guitar ace is fantastic on this CD - the quintessence of what New York City blues is all about. There isn't a bad song on it."
In 2002 Blind Pig released The Good, The Bad, and The Chubby," featuring thirteen brand new compositions reflecting, in Popa's words, Love, Life, Betrayal, Diesel, Jet Fuel, Marriage, Murder, Stress and Passion!" At the time, Popa's recording studio was about a half a mile away from the World Trade Center, and he wrote the opening track, Somebody Let The Devil Out, in reaction to the September 11th tragedy. Billboard said, Chubby likes the hard- rockin' blues, and he indulges that yen to maximum effect. This is a solid follow-up to last year's How'd A White Boy Get The Blues?," while All Music Guide said the release was one of the strongest, most distinctive modern blues albums of 2002."
The following year Blind Pig released a collection of Popa's early work entitled The Hungry Years, drawn from several out-of-print albums Popa had released on his own label in the early 90's and including three previously unreleased tracks. From the bowels of Greenwich Village to the Upper East Side, New York from 1991 to 1996 was my very own Rotten Apple!" Living Blues offered, Batten down the hatch before putting this on the stereo - this ain't your granddaddy's blues."
In the election year of 2004, Popa Chubby came up with his lyrically edgiest record yet, one of the most topical and important records of the year - Peace, Love, and Respect." Twelve tracks of hard-hitting, politically inspired songs that run from upholding First Amendment rights in the hard-thumping shuffle Un-American Blues," to protesting the plight of young people dying for the lust of oil and power in Don't Go Marching Off To War. Highlights also include a punk infused version of the Carter Family classic Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life, and the spiritually charged Midnight Ride/Peace.
2005 saw the release of a live CD/DVD, Big Man, Big Guitar." As Popa described it, I basically gave Blind Pig free rein to choose the material for Big Man, Big Guitar" and was very pleased with their choices. They really put the focus on my guitar work, the roots of my music and the energy we generate on stage. I think they not only captured the best of me as a guitar player and performer today but also included some of those seminal selections that influenced my career from the very beginning."
Chubby's blues are gritty, urban and always utterly contemporary, punctuated by his trademark high velocity guitar work and informed by his witty and impassioned songwriting. As the Philadelphia Inquirer put it, Truly a bluesman for the new millennium, Popa Chubby has an abiding affection for the tradition but uses it only as a springboard for his distinctive style."
This story appears courtesy of Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services.
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