Kyle Rowland Band stars a 17-year-old phenom and other blues lifers.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
When Sacramento bluesman Gary Mendoza – playing at Sly’s on Saturday with the Kyle Rowland Band – was 16 years old, he heard Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie Man for the first time and it forever enveloped his soul.
“Listening to [Waters] really changed my world,” Mendoza says. “It was inspiring.”
But it wouldn’t be until 1995, when Mendoza was going through a rough divorce, that he began singing and playing harmonica in a Central Coast blues band called Code Blues. After some personnel changes, the group eventually became the Gary Mendoza Band.
Mendoza credits the difficulty of his divorce as one of the most important factors that drove his music at the time, and performing for an audience was therapeutic for the musician.
“Blues is like a snake bite remedy,” Mendoza says. “When you get bitten by a snake, they cure you with a little bit of the venom; well, it takes the blues to cure the blues just like it takes snake venom to cure snake venom.”
These days, Mendoza has been sitting in with the Kyle Rowland Band, fronted by someone who was also touched by the blues at an early age. Kyle Rowland started playing harmonica at 10 years old and now, at the age of 17, is a true blues prodigy.
The KRB plays mostly Chicago-style blues covers of greats like Junior Welles and James Cotton. and recently took the stage at the 2010 Monterey Bay Blues Festival.
“[Rowland] definitely wowed the crowd,” Mendoza says. “I play harmonica myself but not as good as the kid. When I’m on stage with him we have a heck of a time.”
For Rowland and his teenage counterpart, the blues is like being in church: It’s inspiring, motivating and moving – and ain’t nothing unless it comes from the heart.