The thrill is not gone – Sactown Magazine
“Is it difficult to play the harmonica through a mask?” “
Mick Martin does not answer. I wince at the silence on the line as I wait for my joke of an interview question to land, then worry that the 72-year-old Sacramento blues legend thinks I’m crazy, a silly, or both. Then, luckily, he laughs and even replies, “No, you can’t. And it’s very difficult to sing.
Martin’s saxophonist, however, has a slit in his mask so he can slide the reed in without exposing his nose and mouth. It’s an odd look, but Martin admits that the first outdoor performances with his band in these final days of the pandemic have all been a bit odd. Audiences on her birthday show Swabbies on the River in May remained socially distant and did not dance.
Yet, added the singer-songwriter and harmonica player, it’s wonderful to perform in front of people again. And it’s definitely a step up from his previous birthday, which he planned to celebrate with a concert last year at Sofia in the city center until Covid interrupts the party.
Now, with restrictions easing and vaccines widely available, that canceled show has been postponed until August 28. The setlist is mostly made up of horn arrangements, all originals cobbled together from Martin’s albums over the years. Special guests include other NorCal blues singers like Marcel Smith and Annie Sampson.
Anyone who thinks Martin may be rusty doesn’t have to worry. He has performed several virtual concerts during the closings and is working on two albums to be released in August, one with the big band and an acoustic album produced by Sacramento blues musician Kyle Rowland. But even that level of activity was a step back from his usual pace.
Such a forced slowdown is unfamiliar to Martin. The man went non-stop for decades, advancing like a player amid a 12 bar moan with no rest in sight.
In the mid-1960s, after hearing John Mayall Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton at rehearsal at Tower Records on Broadway, Martin was “stunned.” Around the same time, in 1967, he saw Muddy Waters play. Perhaps more important to Martin’s future, he saw the great harmonica Paul Oscher, then a member of the Waters band, play and heard what was possible.
Martin quickly created a band called Timothy Grass, which performed what he called “experimental music”. After he broke up not long after, he performed in a series of bands, hitting The Fillmore in San Francisco, performing on covers (“It was like going to jail for artistic imagination. It was horrible. I hated it. . “), joining a band that auditioned for Columbia Records, released one album with another and ultimately put together Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, whom he has led in one form or another for the past 38 years. years.
Throughout this period, he shared hotel rooms and backstage with the then great music master: Janis Joplin. Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones. The Yardbirds. “Today, you have to go through 14 bodyguards, a personal manager and a publicist. Back then it was like, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ There was free access to people, ”says Martin. “Janis was one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. She was effervescent and everyone loved her.
He also shared the limelight with some of those names in bold. “The first time I was in a band was with Freddie King,” says Martin, the late famous musician who was considered one of the “three kings” of blues guitar. “BB [King] was great, and Albert [King] was amazing, but Freddie was the role model for a lot of people who played the blues. There is an iconic instrumental song [of his] called “Refuge”. I support him [on harmonica], and I knew there was this instrumental thing where it was just chords, so I took a solo. And Freddie took his hands off his guitar, held them out, and at the end of the song? I’m 27, maybe, and I find myself face to face with Freddie King, sweat running down my face and his, we trade four, in other words he would play [four bars], I would play [four bars]. I felt like I had been hit by the ceiling.
Along the way, when he’s not meddling with legends, he’s worked in just about every form of media possible in town: print, radio and television. He wrote about movies and music for The Union of Sacramento– interviewing people like everyone, from Michael Douglas to Michael McDonald – from 1976 until the newspaper closed in 1994; films rated for KTXL (now Fox40); spun vinyl for legendary rock and blues radio station KZAP; and has spent the past three decades carefully crafting playlists for his Capital Public Radio program, Mick Martin’s blues night. He also co-founded the Sacramento Blues Society, which now owns the Mick Martin Student Fund which raises funds for young musicians, and was inducted into the Society’s Hall of Fame in 2010.
Two years ago, however, all the decades spent putting his energies into newspaper articles, TV segments and radio shows, not to mention his harmonica and the region’s blues scene, seemed to finally catch up with him. . “I was overwhelmed,” he says. But then 2020 arrived and he was able to recharge his batteries. Now he can’t wait to step up to the mic at Sofia this summer.
“My doctors would say to me, ‘Well, you know, you don’t have to worry about [working]. You can retire, ”recalls Martin. “I said, ‘Why? Now? No no.’ One of the things I am most proud of is that I have always been able to make a living doing what I love. It is not work.
Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers will perform at the Sofi on August 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $ 30. Visit bstreettheatre.org for more information.