Blues master Margolin grateful for blessings and challenges
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Crystola Roadhouse, 20918 U.S. 24, Woodland Park
Tickets: $18-$38, $23 at the door (cash only); 687-7879, amusiccompanyinc.com;
Sure, playing with Muddy Waters for seven years is enough to earn some fame as a blues guitarist. Sustaining a career playing guitar, however, takes more than just well-known co-workers.
Bob Margolin, who will perform at the Crystola Roadhouse on Saturday, played in Waters' band from 1973 to 1980. He was even captured at Water’s side during the filming of Martin Scorsese’s epic concert film, “The Last Waltz." But his 48 years of playing guitar are a testament to Margolin's talent and tenacity.
In addition to continuing to tour and perform, Margolin writes about the blues as a columnist for Blues Revue magazine.
The Gazette: How did a boy from Brookline, Mass., become a master of blues guitar?
Bob Margolin: I certainly still consider myself a student, but in the 1960s there were a lot of fine young musicians who were deep into blues -- in Massachusetts and everywhere. The masters like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker were around and very generous and friendly to the players who idolized them. Back then, you couldn't judge a player by demographics and even less so now. I find great blues musicians all over the world, of every age, race, gender and economic level. For myself, it's a common answer to this question, but: I didn't choose blues, blues chose me.
Gazette: You get asked a lot what it was like to be in “The Last Waltz.” Are there other questions you’d rather not answer anymore?
Margolin: I'm glad to share my experiences with people who are interested, whether it's expressing myself in my music or in my stories. I've written a column for Blues Revue magazine for more than 20 years and in 2013, I'll be the recipient of the Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Journalism. Having won Blues Music Awards for my guitar playing, it's gratifying to be appreciated for both. I do get asked often about “The Last Waltz” and "What Was Muddy Waters Like" so I wrote about them a long time ago and put them on my website (www.bobmargolin.com) as links.
Gazette: You’ve received plenty of awards, played with some blues greats and have had a long career playing the blues. Is it possible to define a highlight?
Margolin: Just enjoying the music every night I play it, right in the moment, (and it) makes me feel blessed to live this way. Of course, everyone's life is full of challenges and blessings. Sometimes I'm just grateful for the blessings and sometimes those challenges feel overwhelming and I grab my guitar by its scrawny little neck and yell, "Look what you got me into!" The guitar and I always forgive and soothe each other.
Gazette: Any surreal moments in your career?
Margolin: To be onstage with musicians I admire, or (to) get a genuinely appreciative audience reaction feel so good that they'd qualify as surreal. Back in the days with Muddy, rock stars who admired him would come to see Muddy. If they spoke to me, the first thing they said was that they enjoyed my guitar playing. It was surreal to hear that from George Harrison or Bob Dylan.
Gazette: What drives you to continue touring and performing?
Margolin: I love doing it, but it's too late for me to start another career. I need to eat next week. I don't think there are many musicians in the blues world who can afford to retire. “Would you like fries with that, ma'am?”
Gazette: What's your favorite thing about being on the road?
Margolin: Making the music and meeting people who appreciate my music. Applause and compliments are a perk that few jobs bring.
Gazette: Do you have any unmet goals in your career?
Margolin: I'd like to make a better living at it, but in perspective I've enjoyed living this life and am proud that music helps, not hurts people. I'd just like to keep playing my best, hopefully still growing.
Gazette: How have the crowds changed over time?
Margolin: Honestly, I wrote columns for Blues Revue magazine 10 years ago. ... As the economy tightened, I thought only rich folks could go out and spend $50 on a ticket or cover charge to a blues show, have a few beers, and maybe buy a CD directly from the artist. That sad prophecy was fulfilled a long time ago. I miss playing in blue-collar cities for honest, hard-working people who enjoy music and a good party. That said, the audiences I meet after the show when I'm hanging out or selling CDs are soulful and nice, even if they have a lot more money than most of the people who perform for them.
Gazette: What’s the best venue to enjoy a blues show?
Margolin: Tonight I just played a duo with Italian guitarist Mike Sponza in an intimate restaurant just outside of Trieste, near the Slovenia border. Saturday night I'll be a guest with electric Hot Tuna at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. They're both great gigs, but in a different way. I wouldn't compare them in value, though one might be considered more prestigious.
Gazette: What do you listen to when you’re able to unwind and relax with some music?
Margolin: Honestly, I never unwind and relax with music unless I steal the time from some commitment. I sometimes listen to old Chicago blues and '50s and '60s rock, soul and R&B when I'm driving alone. But I am a partner in the VizzTone Label Group, which provides label services and the prestige of our roster for independent artists. I listen to their music and I'm finding that they entertain and inspire me. We have put out more than 50 releases since 2007. Right now, I'm particularly excited about Colorado Springs' Austin Young. He's got it all. I believe he will be a big star soon. He's smart and talented and nice. His music and friendship inspire me deeply.