'Big' music at Roscoe's
The groundwork for Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies was set in 1992 when blues guitarist Tom Boyle discovered Becki Sue singing in a karaoke bar in Washington State.
"I'm sure he liked her voice," says the band's drummer, Jeff Hayes. "He's married to her now."
The couple teamed with sax and harmonica player Jim King, upright bassist Les White and, finally, Hayes. All the members are from the Seattle area.
"Tom and Les had been playing with various bands," says Hayes. "Jim is well-known around here as a good sideman. I signed on later."
From those not-too-meager beginnings, Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies have become a seasoned, multiple award-winning band that will soon rub elbows with blues big-timers at The Yale Club in Vancouver, British Columbia. The venue has been called one of the top blues clubs in North America and features performers such as Coco Taylor, John Hammond, Shemekia Copland and James Cotton. Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies have shows set for mid-October at the Yale.
The group will perform this weekend at Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix.
Hayes says the Big Rockin' Daddies went through several drummers before he was asked to join the group.
"They were looking for a player who could provide that element of traditional sound for the band," says Hayes. "Blues drumming has a real feel and swing to it. It's not as straight-ahead as rock drumming."
Hayes says he was looking for a group that wanted to play national gigs. He and the Big Rockin' Daddies started out playing a lot of regional shows, and they are regulars at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle. But the group looks for shows in larger markets.
Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies independently released their first album, "The Lab Results," in 2005. "Big City Blues," another independent release, followed in 2007.
The 12 tracks on "Big City Blues" feature vocalist Candye Kane, pianist Mitch Woods of the Rockin' 88s, Hammond organ player Ron Weinstein, boogie pianist Eric "Two Scoops" Moore and Peter Dammann, former lead guitarist for the Paul deLay Band.
"That's the album that made things start to happen," says Hayes. "We started getting national air play, which gave us a higher profile and got us bigger and better shows, such as the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Ark., and the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss.
"We felt as though we'd cut our teeth on those gigs," says Hayes. "There's something about that part of the country that gets into your soul. It changed us as musicians and as people."
On paper, those shows gave Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies more credibility, along with the stack of awards, such as Best Blues Band from the Washington Blues Society in 2006 and 2007, Best Regional Band from Oregon's Cascade Blues Association in 2008 and many others.
"The Cascade Blues award was a big win for us," says Hayes. "It gave us the distinction of being the best in the Northwest."
It also came with an opportunity to perform at the Hard Rock Cafe on Bealle Street during the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.
"We felt like winners just by being chosen to go to Memphis," says Hayes.
Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies still maintains a steady schedule of performances at blues clubs and festivals in Washington and Oregon. The band has played the Waterfront Blues Festival twice, the Bumbershoot Festival three times and, this year, the International Blues & Arts Fiesta in San Felipe, Mexico.
The band's latest album, "Big Rockin' Boogie," was released in June on Underworld Records, a label that belongs to Tim Langford of Too Slim and the Taildraggers. There are four bands on the label, including Lanford's, the Big Rockin' Daddies and two groups from Texas, says Hayes. Songs from "Big Rockin' Boogie" are getting air play on blues radio stations and XM/Sirius stations.
"We play high-energy blues," says Hayes. "I use the word 'bombastic' to describe it. Becki draws from artists, such as roadhouse blues singer LouAnne Barton, Tom draws from guitarist Jimmie Vaughn and King likes Sax Gordon Beadle. The bass player and I just kind of do our own thing."
"Big Rockin' Boogie" is available at www.bigrockindaddies.com, iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.