Friday, September 3, 2010

The Red Devils - "King King" (Def American/This Way Up, 1992)

Don’t know yet if the Red Devils were a cult band or should be enrolled now with the ones with a legendary status. To tell you the truth I don’t know yet either, what evil force drive me to pick up their record many years ago. Cause it’s definitely a devil’s work and at the time didn’t know shit about them. It was one of these strange feelings that made me grab this little plastic thing. Maybe their name and the instant connection my brain made for my favorite football club but I’m sure I impressed also by the mic and the amp photo on the back.
Anyway, the Red Devils were one of the last (if not the last) white colored pure Chicago blues band, even though they came from L.A. A pure harmonica wailed tunnel back to the 60s and the legacy that’s left by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. You know, playing the blues it’s the same thing as to play punk rock. You don’t need really technical skills, but heart, guts and balls. Easily a dude like Joe Satriani can play these ancient licks, but believe me without the heart and the balls; the results will be at least pathetic. And that’s what we are talking about here. A band that got “it” for good. No fancy bullshit and no pale imitations here, sir.
Their one and only official release had the responsibility of Rick Rubin and his (then?) company, Def American. I think that Rick lost it over the years. He’s a master behind the board of course but money makes the world go round, so I really consider this live capture and Johnny Cash’s Def recordings as the last great offerings by him. By the way, the Red Devils backed the Man in Black in some sessions. Def American put this stuff a few years ago in a box under the title of “Unearthed”. And I tell you guys, they’re fucking haunting! Yeah, that’s the word. Haunting. But remind me talk about them later in a different post.
There’s also a mighty fine and well known bootleg (with many different sleeves) of the Devils doing Chicago classics having as vocalist some Mick Jagger. If you’re a Stone fanatic I’m sure you’ll know about already, but remind me again to talk on this later (I know, I already owe you two more Red Devils posts). This record made California looked like a big swampy land. Wail and sorrow it’s all over the place. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Mr. Highway Man”, Junior Wells “Cut that Out”, Little Walter’s “Quarter to Twelve” or Sonny Boy Williams’ “Cross Your Heart”, here breathing through a tough monster’s body. The great late Lester Butler (harmonica/vocals, 12 November 1959 - 10 May 1998) was sadly the last of the Mohawks. A force of nature destined to play the blues and blow an harmonica like no other. At least the last 20 years...but for one more time hedonism betrayed talent. So be it. This is the last truly great rhythm & blues record. I'm no blues expert, but i haven't listen to something like this since then and that's A LOT of time. So here's your chance. 
PS1: This in out of print record. That's not a reason for smart ass dicks to sell it for 60 bucks on eBay. I mean, for fucks sake this is a compact disc...
PS2: I can't measure on how much i do love the Blasters. Bill Bateman (drums) and Gene Taylor (piano) were of course Blasters' old members. And the first name of the Red Devils, was The Blue Shadows, just like the Blasters' same title song. If this detail didn't said something to you, well give up. 
King King


  1. Started out as a rockabilly band
    with a female lead recorded this great song on the famous LA rockabilly comp

    Don't know when they evolved into a blues unit.
    I bought this when it was on a cassette (remember them?) and the front picture folded out

  2. actually it was the other way around,1st were Red Devils,then came Blue Shadows,but excellent anyway!!

  3. Thanks for tips guys!
    Philo, are you sure mate this Red Devils outfit above, it's the same with the Lester Butler driven? Cause if you are, i must go deeper on this! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Oh ! I miss The Red Devils saw 'em once at The Borderline in London, absolutely top notch the best Blues Band of the last 15 yrs since the original line up of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and to have two ex-Blasters in their line up was terrific, still love the Alvin brothers and The Blasters, thanks for this !!
    Rock & Roll Doc

  5. Kim Wilson stills plays some damn good blues...

  6. This album can be picked up on emusic or amazon mp3 way south of fifty bucks for some body wanting to have a jewel box.

  7. I was foolin' around to find things on the Red Devils and i came across to this excellent wordpress page -->

    A great site in all with lots of info on Lester and the Devils. So, actually was first the Blue Shadows and right after the Red Devils. Sadly no info for previous works as a rockabilly outfit with a female vocalist...

    @anonymous :
    "Absolutely top notch the best Blues Band of the last 15 yrs since the original line up of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and to have two ex-Blasters in their line up was terrific"

    Well my friend, i haven't give a spin for a quite long time on Thunderbirds records and you are damn right! I must do something for these cats too here! Thanx mate!

  8. @Mihaleez: Thanks for finding That's our site -- we are adding more as we go; we plan to have more on the early days of the band soon.

    Here's the quick story: The Red Devils were an early-80s rockabilly band with Jonny Ray Bartel and Dave Lee Bartel, Emmy Lee on vocals and Scott Campbell on drums. Essentially, this band broke up.

    In 1988, Jonny Ray and Bill Bateman started the Monday blues show at the King King in Hollywood and called the band "the Blue Shadows," after the Blasters tune. Guys came and went until the band became Bateman, Lester Butler, Paul Size and ex-Devils Jonny Ray and Dave Lee Bartel.

    That's when Rick Rubin and Def American got in the picture. Rubin, apparently, didn't care for the name Blue Shadows, and asked if they had any other ideas. The Bartel brothers mentioned they had an old band called The Red Devils, and that's what Rubin liked.

    And that's the story.

    Check out this YouTube vid of the rockabilly Devils' big hit, Tearin' My Hair Out:

  9. Hey J.J.! Thanks a lot for this branding!
    You have cleared many blanks 'bout the Red Devils on my head. By the way, your site it's fantastic!