My Hollywood Fats Story
Hollywood Fats was the greatest Blues, Jump Blues and Swing guitarist that ever walked on this planet and the Hollywood Fats Band was the greatest Blues band that ever was!
I got turned on to Hollywood Fats one December afternoon when I walked into Charlie’s Guitar Shop. The buzz in the place palpable – Hollywood Fats and The Paladins were there getting their guitars set up for their gig at the Greenville Avenue Bar & Grill that night. Naturally, in my infinite ignorance, I commented "who's that?" Didn't have a clue. But at the jaw-dropping show that night I started to get a clue. During a break in the show by some roundabout fateful circumstance of being at the right place at the right time, I had the auspicious great fortune of stepping out back with Fats for 15-20 mins for a little fresh air. He was surely chuckling inside as I must've asked him every dumb question in the book! I still had no idea of his history much less that I was standing in the presence of a true legend, one of the greatest guitar players that ever lived, who would be off to a more permanent gig with the Elysian Fields Blues Band just one short year later.
Hook Herrera moved to Dallas for a couple of years shortly after Fats passed. When he learned I was a huge fan of Fats, Hook very generously gave me a couple of cassette tapes of live stuff of Fats and the band which I literally wore out. Those tapes were all I listened to for about 10 years. I freely admit just about every Swing & Jump Blues lick I know came from those tapes. I'll always be indebted to Hook for his greathearted kindness.
When Larry Taylor and Detlev Hoegen of Crosscut Records put out the Hollywood Fats Band double CD set with those same stunning tracks and more, I was in heaven!
I had learned about and communicated with several other Fats fanatics over the years, trading bootleg tapes and videos.
Then one day, by another twist of fate, a guitar playing buddy, Big Mike Clark, knowing I was a great Fats fanatic, handed me this bootleg CD of Hollywood Fats and The Paladins live at Greenville Avenue Bar & Grill! WHAT??!! I was holding in my hands a recording of the very show where I had met Hollywood Fats 15 years earlier!
Our conversation went something like this…
"Where'd you get this?"
"Somebody gave it to me"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"I don't remember."
"You don't remember who gave this to you?"
"No, I don't remember who gave it to me."
"Well, who recorded it?"
"I don't know."
The music Fats played with the Paladins was way different than what he played with his band, Canned Heat, The Blasters, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Smokey Wilson, Roy Brown, Shakey Jake Harris, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker, J.B. Hutto, James Harmon, Rod Piazza, Big Joe Turner, Margie Evans, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Otis Rush and many others. This was Hollywood Fats playing Rockabilly!!
So, this was all I listened to for the next five years!
Being one of the honest, good guys in the music business, I put out feelers and searched over those five years trying to find who recorded this show, somebody I could make a record deal with in order to release this killer recording to the world. Nobody.
I tried to track down Fats' family. Again no luck. Finally tracked down the Paladins - Thomas Yearsley and Dave Gonzalez. We made a deal. I had finally hit a home run, proudly releasing one of the coolest, most unique recordings of two music legends - Hollywood Fats and The Paladins!!
To this day no one has come forward claiming he/she had recorded this performance, to stake out their place in music history. I don't recall seeing anyone there taping the show nor any tape recording equipment. And remember, this is back in 1985, before the Tapeman. Before CDs. Before there was digital recording of anything. Windows had only been released a month before this show!
So, other than someone in the audience recording the show with one of those refrigerator sized boom box cassette tape recorders of the day hidden under his coat, who would decide to pass it on to Big Mike 15 years later and then just vanish into thin air, then just where in the world did this historical recording came from?
The most logical answer/scenario I can come up with is, it didn't. It didn't come from this world. Must've been sent down from Fats himself, making sure it would end up in the hands of someone standing at the right place at the right time with the love and appreciation of what it is and who knew exactly what to do to make it happen. Sounds reasonable to me anyway.
If anyone has another answer/scenario as to the origin of this recording, I'm all ears.
I still shake my head and thank my lucky stars for being given the great honor of bringing that stunning and unique performance to the world some 23 years later! That "lost" recording literally just fell into my hands, of all people, right out of the clear blue. Where it came from and who recorded it remain unknown, a complete mystery to this day. The scenario that seems as reasonable as any, and the one I'm going with, is that Fats produced it at the Gamut Omniscient Developments studio there at Elysian Fields and sent it to me via UPS (Ubiquitous Paradisaical Service).
Thank you for your stunning music, Fats!