|Jerry Lightfoot Birthday Bash: Fiery Blues
By Lisa Lerner - Houston, TX
Jerry Lightfoot & The Essentails gained notoriety as the house band at landmark Houston nightclub "Rockefeller's" during the 1980's where they backed and performed with such legends as Albert Collins, Albert King, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Mighty Joe Young and many others. In addition to being voted Best Band in Houston 3 times, Jerry also was nominated as Best Guitarist '94, Best songwriter '95, Best Producer '96 and his "Walkin' With Colleen" won Song of the Year '95 by the Houston Press/KLOL readers poll. In addition to his own work, Jerry has toured, recorded and led bands for Johnny Clyde Copeland, Big Walter "The Thunderbird", Trudy Lynn and Peppermint Harris. The following article is written by Lisa Lerner in Houston TX, who has graciously contributed to this site numerous times.
Billy Blues Bar & Grill under the giant saxophone was treated to a hot blues show with Jerry Lightfoot and the Essentials, with Oscar Perry opening for them.
Mr. Perry sat on a stool with his starburst Fender and black beret atop his head. He and his three-piece band woke up the audience with traditional blues and boogie-rock licks, as well as Marvin Gaye covers. At the end, the audience wanted more and Oscar wanted to give it to them, yet some unknown voice came across the speaker system saying "thanks and...blah, blah, blah". After the show, Oscar Perry revealed how he feels about playing out: "When I feel like I'm livin', and the rest of the time I'm waitin' to live."
By the time "Foots" came onstage, the crowd was heating up and packed the room, spreading outward through the open garage doors. It's a good thing we arrived early for a good table; Rhea Raymond and "Coach" Don Graham met us there. Jerry Lightfoot's wife Colleen, his daughter, and his mother attended the birthday bash, along with the many friends and fans he has acquired over the years. Mayor of the Heights, a long time friend/fan, said that Jerry doesn't need a "wah" pedal, as he bends the neck of the guitar to get the effect. Yeah! Play the blues, brother...
For a man who has suffered immeasurable tragedy in his life in recent years, Jerry plays, lives, and breathes the blues. Within the same year, he lost his son, Noah, and his father, William. His new recording "Better Days" is dedicated as a prayer to their memories. He has bright, shining stars lighting his path. In his CD credits, Jerry said "After seemingly being dealt hand after hand of dog eared aces and eights, I certainly would have folded had it not been for my wife, Colleen and daughter, Skyler." Skyler told me that she loves her dad, and respects him more than anyone she knows. She said he leans on the family, and that he is "our rock".
Rhea Raymond said Jerry has written over a thousand songs. He did a show with Don Sanders and people from Nashville. She thinks Jerry was better. Jerry and Townes Van Zandt were good friends, in the old Threadgill days in Austin. Jimmie Vaughan may record several of Jerry's songs in the future.
The band includes Robert "Pee Wee" Stephens on keyboard, Bassist Eugene "Spare Time" Murray, harmonica Satch Krase, and drummer Paul Mills. Special appearances included a new guitarist, 21 year-old James Henry, vocalist Jerry La Croix, vocalist George Kinney, and slide guitarist Charlie Prichard.
Audience feedback resounded the stage. One, O. B. Pendergrass, celebrated a birthday that night also. He and his crowd yelled "let the good times roll!" A song by Coach, "Make You Love Me, Baby" got them hopping on the dance floor.
When George Kinney stepped up to the mic, the crowd took notice "yeah!!" He told them "I can resist anything--but temptation!" Jerry wrote a song referring to a time in the past when he lived at Swan's "party palace of The Heights" and got "Robbed Last Night". A keyboard had been stolen off the back of a truck in the driveway.
When Jerry La Croix sings, everybody listens. His voice IS blues/soul/rock...the kind that tingles the spine (perfect combination to Lightfoot's fantastic guitar style). He told the band they were "soundin' good tonight -- you're cookin'!!" He asked Lightfoot if he remembered Galveston, when Alan was owner of Bamboo Hut...He said "send this out to Alan--you know we remember the Bamboo Hut!" As usual, La Croix became a "conductor", bringing the "orchestra" to an awesome climax toward the end of the song, then a slow drum beat "that's right, take your time, baby..." La Croix has been with Boogie Kings, Edgar Winters' White Trash Revue, and Rare Earth.
Steve Satch played bad-ass harp, especially for "The Rock", a grooving, slow blues tune (Alcatraz). By the time Lightfoot got to "Better Days", a favorite of local KPFT 90.1 FM's Joe Montez, he was ready to let it go. He said "THESE days is better days than those days". "My Dyin' Day" brought a very emotive vocal and guitar. Then he dedicated one to Swan as a first political influence "Born Just Outside Houston" (Pasadena, 1951).
The show was very intense and well-received by the Billy crowd. Even the lady in red who took the stage unexpectedly did not slow the groove. It's hard to slow down after a long night of energized blues/rock. Nothing like an all-night Mexican food restaurant and a bed in the a/c, after a 101 degrees, hot blues night.