The Blasters - Biography
By J Poet
The Blasters started out as part of the rockabilly revival that took place in the late 70s, but with 20/20 hindsight it’s easy to peg them as the godfathers of Americana. The original band – brothers Dave Alvin, rhythm guitar and main songwriter; Phil Alvin, vocals; John Bazz, bass; Bill Bateman, drums – were soon joined by Gene Taylor on piano, Steve Berlin (later to be with Los Lobos on sax) and legendary 50s sax man Lee “Walkin’ with Mr. Lee” Allen. The band started making their name in LA’s punk venues, but their blend of roots, blues, country, rockabilly and R&B set them apart, even if they did play with the ferocious energy of punk. After three groundbreaking albums - American Music (1980 Slash/1997 HighTone), The Blasters (1981 Slash) and Non Fiction (1983 Slash) - Dave Alvin left to play briefly with X and The Knitters. He then started his solo career as a producer and Grammy winning recording artist.
Dave and Phil Alvin grew up in the working class LA suburb of Downey, listening to vintage rock’n’roll on the radio. Even as a boy, older brother Phil was a blues aficionado and took Dave to see shows by Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and other blues greats. They started The Blasters to emulate the sounds they loved and within a year the original foursome - Dave on rhythm guitar, Phil Alvin on vocals, John Bazz on bass and Bill Bateman, drums – had enlisted Gene Taylor, Steve Berlin, and Lee Allen to round out the group. They were pegged as a rockabilly revival band at first, and attracted the attention of Rollin’ Rock Records honcho Ronnie Wesier, a rockabilly fanatic. He released American Music in 1980 and while the album didn’t sell well, critics praised it for its energy, originality, and Dave Alvin’s songwriting. They toured relentlessly and never put on a bad show, but somehow they never managed to achieve mainstream success, despite their music being used in high profile films like Bull Durham (1988), Some One To Watch Over Me (1987) and a guest shot as themselves in Streets of Fire (1984). Slash, the pioneering punk label (recently distributed by Warner Brothers) reissued American Music nationally just before the band’s major label debut The Blasters (1981 Slash). After Non Fiction (1983 Slash) and a solid live mini-LP, Over There: Live at The Venue, London (1982 Slash) Dave Alvin left and the band fell apart.
Phil Alvin resurrected The Blasters in 1996, and they still play with the same verve and tour just as relentlessly as before. In 2002, the original line up did a few revival shows that produced several great live sets Trouble Bound (2002 HighTone) and Live: Going Home (2004 Shout Factory). Phil Alvin’s new Blasters delivered a long awaited studio album 4-11-14 for Rainman Records in 2004. Phil Alvin’s strong original tunes and rousing covers like “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” prove the band is still in peak form. in 2012 the band released Fun On A Saturday Night.