Following a stellar set by Southern California’s Michael John & the Bottom Line, the Dave Workman Band took the stage at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival’s Battle of the Blues Bands this past November. Right off the bat, Workman, who looked like he could be an Allman brother, started a slow blues number with plenty of impressive guitar soloing. It was the San Francisco-based musician’s tribute to blues guitarist Earl Hooker.
After the number, there was a pause that only lasted a second, followed by a rollicking boogie woogie number with Wendy DeWitt on piano and vocals. Once the song ended, the band headed in another totally different direction, as local blues vocalist John “Broadway” Tucker got behind the microphone.
“It’s the blues y’all,” he announced to the crowd before playing “As the Years Go Passing By,” a slow number popularized by blues legend Albert King.
That afternoon, during the course of its four-song set, the band showed dazzling versatility while playing funky blues, slow blues ballads and upbeat piano blues. One reason for the band’s diversity might be that most of the artists in the Dave Workman Band are already popular in their own right. DeWitt, also known as “The Queen of Boogie Woogie,” has released six CDs and played with blues artists like harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Tucker is a local living blues legend, and the frontman for Monterey favorite
the Broadway Blues Band. And Workman himself is no newcomer to the blues, having performed with King and Chuck Berry.
Workman, who grew up in Ohio, says that he enjoyed interacting with those musicians despite the fact that he didn’t learn much about playing music from his idols. “By the time I met those players, I had already learned how to do it,” he says. “I just got a lot of feedback.”
After some highlights, like backing Jimmy Reed in Chicago, Workman moved to the Bay Area for a simple reason. “The weather is better,” he says.
While out in California, Workman backed Bay Area bluesmen like Sonny Rhodes and Paris Slim. Workman also took pleasure in performing at the first Monterey Bay Blues Festival. “I got the first standing ovation of the day for one of my guitar solos,” he says.
With a slot on the 2005 Monterey Bay Blues Festival, Workman feels this Friday’s gig at Sly McFly’s will introduce local blues lovers to the group. He also hopes the upcoming festival appearance will lead to more gigs. “I think we are hoping to take the band and get on the festival circuit,” he says. “We are hoping to use the Monterey festival as a jumping off point.”