- For others with this name, see Blasters (disambiguation).
|Origin||Downey, California, USA|
|Genres||Roots rock, rock & roll, rockabilly, blues-rock, cowpunk, Americana|
Rip Cat Records
|Associated acts||Los Lobos|
|Past members||Dave Alvin
The Blasters are a rock and roll band formed in 1979 in Downey, California, by brothers Phil Alvin (vocals and guitar) and Dave Alvin (guitar), with bass guitarist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman. Phil Alvin explained the origin of the band's name: "I thought Joe Turner’s backup band on Atlantic records – I had these 78s – I thought they were the Blues Blasters. That ends up it was Jimmy McCracklin. I just took the 'Blues' off and Joe finally told me, that’s Jimmy McCracklin’s name, but you tell ‘im I gave you permission to steal it."
Their self-described "American Music" was a blend of blues, rockabilly, early rock and roll, punk rock, mountain music, and rhythm and blues. They have a devoted fan base and have received largely positive critical reviews, but have earned only limited mainstream success. Critic Mark Deming wrote of them, "the Blasters displayed a wide-ranging musical diversity [and] were a supremely tight and tasteful band with enough fire, smarts, and passion for two or three groups."
The Alvin brothers had an early interest in blues, and attended concerts by T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner and others, sometimes jamming and reminiscing with the musicians. Phil Alvin remembers that his mother would take him backstage to get harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry when Phil was still a boy. R&B saxophone legend Lee Allen joined The Blasters for two albums and toured with the original line-up until his death in 1994, and Gene Taylor joined as well, performing boogie woogie-style piano. Later on the band were joined by Steve Berlin (later of Los Lobos), who played baritone sax.
The Blasters' energetic live performances gained a local following, and they became fixtures of the early 1980s Los Angeles punk rock scene, performing alongside X, Black Flag, The Gun Club, The Screamers and others. In 1986, members of the Blasters appeared with Screamers front-man Tomata du Plenty in the punk rock musical Population: 1. Former Black Flag singer and current Rollins Band leader Henry Rollins wrote of the Blasters, "In my mind, they were a great band that not enough people found out about. Bill Bateman is one of the best drummers there is, and then of course, there are the Alvin brothers. A lot of talent for one band." (Rollins, 36)
The Blasters toured almost continuously for much of their existence. The notes for The Blasters Collection report that in one particular month, they toured with psychobilly pioneers The Cramps, with western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel and on a leg of Queen's west coast tour. The Blasters gave boosts to both Los Lobos and Dwight Yoakam by inviting them on tour; Yoakam would later score a modest hit with his version of Dave Alvin's "Long White Cadillac".
Their song "Dark Night" was featured in a 1985 episode of Miami Vice, and they gained more exposure in the Walter Hill film Streets of Fire,(1984) performing two songs for the soundtrack as well as appearing as themselves in the film. In 1987 "Marie, Marie" was featured in the Ridley Scott film "Someone To Watch Over Me" starring Tom Berenger. In 1988 "So Long Baby, Goodbye" was featured in the film Bull Durham starting Kevin Costner and in 1996 they also appeared in the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez collaboration From Dusk Till Dawn. In 2001, the song "So Long Baby, Goodbye" was featured on the second episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under as the song chosen by the widow of the founder of a pyramid scheme for her late husband's viewing. "So Long Baby, Goodbye" is also featured in the 2004 PlayStation 2 video game Gran Turismo 4.
Dave Alvin, the group's primary songwriter, left the band in 1986 for a critically acclaimed solo career. He was initially replaced on guitar by Hollywood Fats (birth name: Michael L. Mann) who appeared with them at Farm Aid. Phil Alvin has led various incarnations of The Blasters intermittently since then, including a few reunion tours and live albums of the original lineup. Dave Alvin has occasionally performed with the band, and recently replaced his brother due to an illness. Personnel as of 2011 is Phil Alvin together with John Bazz, Keith Wyatt, and Bill Bateman.
Albums by the "original" Blasters:
- American Music (1980)
- The Blasters (1981)
- Over There: Live At The Venue, London (live EP) (1982)
- Non-Fiction (1983)
- Hard Line (1985)
- The Blasters Collection (1xCD Best Of) (1991)
- Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings (2xCD Anthology) (2002)
- Trouble Bound (live) (2002)
- Going Home (live) (2004)
Albums by current line-up:
- 4-11-44 (2005)
- Fun On Saturday Night (2012)
Music used in popular culture
- Henry Rollins; Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag; 2.13.61 Publications, 1994, ISBN 1-880985-23-3