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We'd been playing with Earl King for a couple of years when I got a call from the Blues Saloon asking me who this James "Thunderbird" Davis was. I had mentioned Bird a handful of times as someone the club should pursue but it wasn't until an agent shared by both Earl and Thunderbird brought the name up that the club considered bringing him up.

Curtis Obeda and James "Thunderbird" DavisI had seen Bird at a Blues-A-Rama at Tipitina's shortly after his highly acclaimed Check Out Time CD was released. He put on a strong show and Earl told me we would all get along great so I had been disappointed that we hadn't been able to get him on the schedule up til now. The Blues Saloon had recently begun booking bad bands on Thursday nights in an attempt to "broaden the customer base." It really just meant we now had to rehearse in my basement instead of on stage and that I was supposed to get to the club earlier for the soundchecks that we never did.

Dr. Bob, our general go-pher/roadie/cabdriver friend, picked up Thunderbird from the airport and later that evening dropped him off at my house for rehearsal. We didn't have much trouble getting the show together, running through all 20 songs in 90 minutes or so. We still had another 90 minutes until Dr. Bob returned to pick up Bird so we had a chance to relax, listen to records and talk. At some point I asked James if we needed to play the chords from his version of (At the Dark End) of the Street or if we could play the "right ones" (from James Carr's version.) He looked slightly bemused and finally said he'd love it if we played the changes from Carr's version.

Apparently during the Check Out Time sessions they had run out of material before the record was complete. Even though no one in the band had heard the song recently they quickly worked up an arrangement, mixing up a few chord voicings in the process. James said that it had always bothered him but we were the first band to notice. They cut the track "live" and if you listen to the very end of the song you will hear James automatically say "thank you," something he did at the end of every song with us - even in rehearsal.

Link to more info on James "Thunderbird" Davis:
http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/JamesDavis.htm

 

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