By Daddy Treetops
Note: This article first appeared on Tree's MySpace site, which you can find here.
It's not like we're close buddies or anything, but I have met Curtis many times through these many years and I want to ramble on a little about it all....
It all began in '75 (I think) when I was on a hitchhiking trip back from Louisiana or somewhere and I stopped in Eugene, Oregon to visit my friend Steve Bailey. Oddly enough, I had met Steve when he was substitute teaching at my high school. Steve now plays harp and guitar with the Crossroads Blues Band here in Seattle. At the time he had a record store in Eugene.
We went out on the town one night and hit two clubs. At the first we saw a band called the Nighthawks (not to be confused with the other band from the East Coast of the same name) which featured Curtis, and he literally blew me away with some serious white boy soul. I also recall Dave "Enzio" Stewart on piano in this band. We then went across town to another swanky bar where we listened to the Robert Cray Band, and I remember Richard Cousins playing the bass with such taste and class and at such a low volume - now, these were the days of Ampeg SVT five-foot-tall thunder machines. Just another night in Eugene, but what a night!
Fast forward a few years and I'm a janitor at a restaurant/bar in Bellingham and the manager, who books the music, sez to me "You know something about blues, you ever hear of these guys?" He shows me a promo pack from The Robert Cray Band and there they are: Robert and Richard - AND Curtis Salgado and Dave Stewart! I suggested heartily, "Book 'em, Milo!" And he did. What a band that was! THE best in the West or anywhere else for that matter.
Well, when the the band came to town for their four night stand, there was some partying going on and those fellas were no strangers to the procedures. Of course we were all so much younger then and could stay up all night after a good gig and do it all again the next night, and the next... I recall playing my song "Silly Me" at one of these late night shindigs and Curtis told me quite specifically that I should "hang on to that one." Of course, it's still a mainstay in my vast repertoire and one of my biggest "hits" - thanks for the encouragement, Curtis!
As this band's reputation grew, I wasn't really that surprised to run into Robert Cray as he was in line to enter K-Paul's Kitchen in the French Quarter in New Orleans during Jazz Festival a year or so later - they were'nt playing there (yet), just "checking it out." Later I ran into Curtis and Richard at Tipitina's. I was trying to appear aloof 'cuz I'd already seen Robert, but still it shows what a small planet this place can be. (Sorry, my memory fails as who was playing at Tip's that night: Dr. John? The Neville Brothers? Fess himself?)
Anyhow, Robert streamlined his sound and his band as he achieved his rise to mega-stardom, so Curtis left to persue his own continuing legacy. My memory of his performance in the early 90's at the Mural stage at Bumbershoot is one of magic. His hair was, like, long and stringy, in a tropical shirt, at the edge of the stage, sweatin' through "I Must Have Been Nuts (To Do The Things I Did)" - clearly about those not-so-long-ago all nighters. Another of his lines is "some folks got a monkey on their back, but I had the whole damn zoo..." Soul Brother Curtis had gone totally native, I had never seen such a commited performance, and it wasn't an act.
Check out Curtis' own website (http://www.curtissalgado.com/) for further tales of his glory. It is true he was the inspiration for John Belushi's Jake Blues character, as "Animal House" was filmed in Eugene. The two met and Curtis turned Belushi into a blues freak by spinning records for him all night long, and the next night, and the next...
Daddy Treetops (left) and Jack Cook at the Owl Cafe in Seattle - June, 1989