I love hanging out with musicians. I love listening to live music. There is something really cool about watching and listening to a band that has been together for a while. They have a certain way of non-verbally communicating with each other that makes the music that much more special. Having once been married to a musician, I loved the whole ritual of watching bands set up, play, tear down and then hanging out after the gig. I think that’s where so many wonderful and funny stories were told, re-told, and exaggerated to crazy proportions probably induced by a little too much tequila.
After my divorce, I quit hanging out with musicians and quit going out to hear live music. It was a huge void in my life. It was almost 10 years before I set foot in a bar with music and felt that energy I had so dearly missed all those years. The band I heard that first night out to a bar was Soul Kitchen.
Now that I regularly get to go out and listen to Soul Kitchen, I wanted to sit down with Chris Dracup, one of the guitarists and vocalists for the band. Chris has been playing music in this town for a long time and is one of the best musicians around.
The first time I ever heard Chris play was when I had giant over-permed hair back in the Eighties. Back then there was a hell of a music scene in Burque. Chris reminded me of some of the bands that filled the clubs in those days – The Wet Sox, Breakers, Refrigerators, The Planets, The Strawberry Zots, Lash LaRue, The Philisteens, the Jet Girls, Cracks in the Sidewalk, The Broadway Elks and of course the band Chris was in, The Muttz.
Chris is not originally from Burque. He grew up around the Taos commune scene with his mom. His local musical hero was Mike Montano and he was even lucky enough to meet and hang out with Taj Mahal in Taos when he was a kid.
When I asked Chris about The Muttz and how they got together, this is what he said,
“I would describe the Muttz as my high school gang, best friends, musical cohorts and spiritual confidants. We played together for ten fairly formative years, but more importantly did a whole lot of growing up together. They are both like brothers to me.”
For those of you that weren’t around Burque in the Eighties, you missed out on one of the best all original bands this town has ever seen. The Muttz were a trio of amazing musicians, Chris on guitar and vocals, Gail Boles on bass and Hunter Berner on drums. The guys got together in high school and eventually moved to Burque around 1983. They regularly sold out all the clubs in town including El Rey Theater and had a huge following. They were so good, in fact, they made it onto Star Search. The Muttz unfortunately didn’t win, and broke up shortly after their appearance.
Fortunately Chris has been in several bands since, including a stint in Nashville for a few years in the 90s. When he came back from Nashville, the blues hit him hard. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Pee Wee Crayton, T-Bone Walker were just some of the blues greats he admired. There were local musicians as well that influenced his blues direction – musicians such as guitarists Scott Mitchell and Stan Hirsch, as well as bassist James Wickham. He joined the band, the Rattlecats with drummer Melvin Crisp, harp player Dave Fuller and bassist Bob Barron. He has also played solo, been in duos and trios and headed open mic nights.
Besides all the great bands that Chris has played in, what is important to know about him is that he is one of the most brilliant, soulful, and incredibly gifted guitarists in Burque. Whether he plays acoustic or electric slide, his playing comes from the heart. He is the real deal when it comes to playing the blues.
As I said before, I love going to listen to Chris play with Tommy Elskes and Hillary Smith in Soul Kitchen. They are that perfect blend of soul, funk and blues that keeps their audiences dancing all night long. I must mention that they are backed up by Marcus Casman on bass and drummers Mike Chavez, or Baird Banner or Jim Manarella.
It feels good to be around such talented musicians again. I’ve seen Chris around for years, and only knew him from the sidelines. It is nice to go out and see how his music has evolved. And it especially nice getting to know him and his musical family and friends. If you haven't already, go see what I'm talking about and and check out an Albuquerque blues icon.