First off, it’s great to be back here on Jackaboutguitars.com. This post will reside in the “Art N Soul” Section of the blog. This is where I will be uncovering the lesser known personalities out there plying their craft. It’s not about Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck(the guys who became successful long ago), though I will listen if their people want to set up an interview.
This column will try to get some talented people out there to you, the guitar fan, that will hopefully appreciate these collective talents. Enough yakkin’ and on to the story…
SCOTT ABEYTA: LAYING THE TRACK THAT MOTOR-VATES THE BLUES EXPRESS by ED HUERTA
SCOTT ABEYTA – GUITARIST FOR WHITEBOY JAMES AND THE BLUES EXPRESS
Let me give you a bit of history…The first time I saw Scott Abeyta playing live was when he was playing with the phenomenal blues band, Whiteboy Jame (James Page) and the Blues Express at a small biker bar in Long Beach, California called “The Blue Dog.” It is no longer there. It is another sad story of the city shutting down live entertainment venues. This bar supposedly attracted the “wrong element” but I had never witnessed any encounters or bad vibes on the many times the wife and I frequented the Blue Dog. Believe me, this was a real biker bar, not like those Orange County weekend biker bars where many Travolta-executive types ride their $100,000 custom made Harleys to. These dudes and ladies in the bar grew up with the blues. Mostly Vietnam veteran-era types and at that age where the band better bring it to the table if you are going to be up on that stage. So to be in Whiteboy’s band, you knew these cats can and better play their “A-game” stuff.
Whiteboy James isn’t known to hire any poseur musician types. So it was under these circumstances that I first saw Mr. Abeyta. At first glance, he resembles a baby-faced rockabilly Alec Baldwin but less stocky.
It was like, okay pretty boy, you might have the look, let’s see you fill HenryCarvajal’s shoes.
Henry was the last guy that I had seen playing guitar in WBJ’s Band. Henry is a great blues guitarist in his own right, so the new guy had some pretty large zapatos to fill. So a couple of songs go by, the new dude is holding his own, nothing spectacular, tasty leads and fills, but at about the third or fourth song, the new cat is starting to stretch out. He’s probably warmed up by now and he is killing…K-I-L-L-I-N-G!
I was reminded of when you challenge some guy that you’ve been watching to a game of 8-Ball, certain you can beat him, but you never get the chance because he runs the table. Scott Abeyta ran the table.
Cut to a few years later. Scott has settled in and is the blues foil to Whiteboy James (sort of a blues version of how The Big Man was to the Boss). This band needs to be seen live to fully appreciate them.
There’s Whiteboy James permanently clad in black trenchcoat, smoking nonstop, shadow boxing, dancing, mugging away as the band tears it up behind him. And what a band it is, along with Mr. Abeyta on guitar, they have drummer extraordinaire, Max Bangwell on some vintage looking traps (Max is no newcomer to the blues scene. I saw him many moons ago fronting his own band at The Blues Café) and Blake Watson throwing down some wicked grooves on bass. Put all these cats together and you’ve got one heckuva band, that in any given set, runs the gamut from gut bucket blues to Cab Calloway covers.
NEVER, EVER a disappointing evening was spent with Whiteboy James and the Blues Express. I must have seen them thirty times if I’ve seen them once! So here is Scott Abeyta’s story. He is a very polite, nice guy with a rapid-fire style of talking and high energy that permeates his guitar playing and stage presence. Please read on and I hope this turns some of you on to the sounds of Whiteboy James and the Blues Express…
The interview took place minutes before Scott was to take the stage with The WBJ band at El Dorado Restaurant in Long Beach, California, a place that is getting the reputation of a fine blues hangout. Many great bands and people have graced this stage, most notably Exene Cervenka, Phil Alvin, Joe Houston, Big Jay McNeely, Jill Sharpe and her band, to name just a few…
EH: Scott, good to see you and thanks for meeting up with me…(not only is Scott the guitarist for Whiteboy James and the Blues Express, but he is also the founder and President and CEO of Rip Cat Records…a local label that is generating a large stable and popularity out across the country and beyond. We’ll talk more about this later), but Scott, I know you got a gig here in a few minutes so let’s get this going. First off, a little bit of background, where were you born?
SA: In Burbank, California, right across the street from Disney Studios…grew up in the San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys, Reseda area. Later went to school at Cal State Long Beach because of the Long Beach Blues festival. I wanted to be there for the blues. Started playing in bands with guys from the dorm, played at the 49er Tavern a few times…those bands became other bands and finally joined Whiteboy James and the Blues Express in 1989.
Whiteboy James Page: (Chimes in) WHICH IS JUST WHERE YOU SHOULD BE!
EH: Who did you replace?
SA: Replaced Mark Geraldo, he decided to go to law school..me and Henry Carvajal.
EH: What got you interested in music?
SA: My father was a record executive and producer and a songwriter. So I’ve been around music my whole life and always have been a huge fan of the guitar. There’s a picture of me as a two year old playing the guitar like a stand up bass, always loved it! I got into the blues, in particular by listening to Led Zeppelin, their bluesy songs…a neighbor down the street, a parent of one of my sisters’ friends, turned me on to Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters…
EH: So the first instrument you ever played was a guitar?
SA: Yes, that’s right! The guitar…
EH: How long have you been playing?
SA: Got a guitar for my 13th birthday.
EH: You still have it?
SA: No, I don’t, it was a classical guitar, acoustic, bought it at the record store, signed me up for lessons..had the little tickets, so I had to take the ticket to the man upstairs in the room and he would show me how to play the guitar for a ½ hour.
EH: Do you remember the first band you ever played in?
SA: Oh yeah, I was 14…wait in 7th grade we did a Jimi Hendrix song, “Purple Haze” for a talent show.I played