In 1980, the U.S. Air Force had the idea I might be ‘going native’ and sent me home from England where I’d lived for nearly 5 years. I had been playing bass in various rock n roll bands in Europe, everything from ‘50s to prog rock. I was initially being stationed in New York, and figured I would catch the newest ‘thing’ there if I was going to catch it anywhere. While I was in California on leave, they thought they’d play one last joke on me. they rerouted me to Biloxi, Mississippi.
I never wanted to go south. especially with music in mind. Well, I soon changed my mind when I was introduced to the blues, and especially the resurrection of the blues that was happening then. My “tour guide” to the blues was a guy named Doug Maze, who had a little band named Storm who had some regional success playing delta blues based rock. One night he took me to a club and I caught a band out of Austin Texas called, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and was immediately taken with the band and especially the guitar player, Jimmy Vaughan. Doug told me to just wait until I heard his brother, Stevie Ray. I think it was the next weekend, we went up to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Doug’s home town and heard Omar and The Howlers who had formed their band there, before moving to Austin.
The singer had this Wolfman Jack growl, and played the rocking-est music I’d ever heard. They had a couple saxes, and when I look back, they had a kind of ‘50s rock n roll/R&B thing going on. I was so turned on that I bought their cassette tape. The tape got ate by my K-Mart stereo before we got out of the parking lot, but after an hour or so that didn’t matter because I was a fan for life.
In 1987, “Omar” Kent Dykes and The Howlers now sporting a lineup of Dykes singing and playing the guitar, Bruce Jones on bass and Gene Brandon on drums, signed with Columbia Records and released Hard Times in the Land of Plenty which sold a half million copies..
This was power rockin’ blues. This was soul shakin’ rock n’ roll. this music was almost good enough to make you give away all your money just so you could have these blues. Almost…
I bought this one on CD, and most everything since then, including the Blues Music Award nominated collaboration with Jimmie Vaughan, Jimmy Reed Highway. So, it was a trip down memory lane for me when this came in the mail. All my favorites are here. “Mississippi Hoo Doo Man”, The Bo diddley Tribute, “Magic Man”, “Border Girl” (recorded live at Paradiso), The bass heavy “Monkey Land”, “Muddy Springs Road” , the aforementioned “Jimmy Reed Highway” (with jimmy Vaughan on Guitar and one of my favorite lady blues singers, Lou Ann Barton on backing vocals).
All of that is on the first disc, and it’s subtitled “Best Of” disc two continues with the great blues sound. It’s subtitled “Omar’s Picks” and contains more great blues and blues rock, “Snake Rhythm Rock”, “Burn It To The Ground”, the Nat Adderly classic, “Work Song”, complete with “Kaz” Kazinoff on baritone and David “Fathead” Newman on tenor. there is the great Lieber and Stoller tune, “Alligator Wine” with Omar shouting the blues like Jerry and Mike never would have believed. then there is the Omar original and another tribute to another man from Omar’s home town of McComb, Mississippi, “Do It For Daddy” which even sounds like a Bo Diddley standard. then the ‘50s hit for Clarence Carter, “That’s Your Daddy Yaddy Yo”, Anyone wanna twist?
“My career has been a long and rich journey from the time I began playing at 12 years old until the present day,” says “Omar” Kent Dykes in the album’s liner notes. “It has been a blast from 1962 until now. The Essential Omar & the Howlers includes songs that are considered my biggest hits combined with songs I believe to be some of my best work. The collection compiles my entire life’s work in the music industry: writing, recording, touring and making the blues rock for over five decades.”
And that’s how I ride.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved