Rod Piazza PART I

Leonard Watkins ISTS024@UABDPO.DPO.UAB.EDU
Wed Jul 23 10:33:41 EDT 1997

Still rough, see any errors let me know

Leonard (Blues-l Mascot)

LW: I  noticed that "Tough and Tender" is all original songs.
       Is that your first recording to have all originals.
RP: Let me see. I think there are quite a few of them that are
      mostly originals. This is probably the first one that I could
      say is really all, all the way originals. Don't have one or
      two by somebody other than the group.

LW: This is the first one with the new lineup, right ?
RP: Yes.

LW: You also played on Rick Holstrom's "Lookout" CD.
        You and Honey were credited as King Of The Jungle and Jane.
RP: Right, because the guy at Black Top still owed me so much
       money and I wasn't going to give him my name, for nothing.
      You know what I'm saying.

LW: It has been a few years since your last recording, Live
       At B.B.'s.
RP: Yeah. You know we took a couple of years fooling around with
       these record companies trying to figure out which one we were
      going to go with.

LW: I also notice that Live At B.B.'s is on the Big Mo label
        and that was the only you have one on Big Mo.
RP: Right.

LW: Now it's Tone-Cool
RP: Yeah, they were the most straight ahead, honest it seemed
       like. The other guy we fooled around with Capricorn a long
       time. Man, they went over this contract and went back,
       finally they just said "well I don't think we're going to
       do blues, sorry tell Rod".  We wasted about a year right

LW: How old were you when you were playing with Bacon Fat
RP: Well I first started in The Dirty Blues Band, by the
       time I was with Bacon Fat I had to be twenty or something
       like that.

LW: You put out two albums, right.
RP: Right. Well see now the first one came out in the States and
      in Europe. We had another record with the same group with
     George Smith called "No Time For Jive". They didn't release
     that one in the states, that was George's record. Then we
     went on tour to England the next year, we toured over there
     about five weeks. The guy at Blue Horizon was kind of going
     belly up, Mike Vernon. He said "well I'm going to let you
    off your contract, things ain't going too good for the label"
    I said "I know as soon as you let me off you're going to
    put out another record with that stuff you got in the can"
    He said "no I ain't going to do nothing like that" As
    soon as I get back over here, about six months later, here
    came that second record. See that's why there is a lot of
    different material on that record that's not all me because
    I knew what was coming. I went in the studio, I didn't give
    them too much. Then I got out of there and left. The band
    stayed over there, they went and recorded this "Arkansas
    Trap" with George Smith on United or something like that.
    You know they had to get some money, you know eating
    money. I made my way home.

LW: Has any of the of the Bacon Fat recordings made it to CD.
RP: I think it has. A guy sent me a CD the second one from
    Europe. You know that guy never paid us one penny  off
    that stuff.

LW: Mike Vernon.
RP: man, I tell you how cold he was. When I had came back from
    Europe with my group. I knew a chick over there and she took
    me up to Apple records, the Beatles records. The guy that was
    managing them at the time, she played him my forty five and
    he liked it. He told me "What are doing" I told him I
    wanted to go home, but I didn't have the money to go home.
    I needed to stay another ten days for my ticket to leave.
    I needed sixty five dollars to go home but I didn't have it.
    He went on gave me that money and told me to go ahead home
    and see my family. The rest of the group had to stay and
    when they came back ten days later. The guy, Richard got off
    the plane and the man charged him two hundred and fifty bucks
    for his drums to come back. Mike Vernon was suppose to pay
    for that. He called Mike from the airport said "Mike they
    trying to charge me two hundred and fifty dollars for my
    drums. Mike Vernon hung up on him. So if this cat ever finds
    Mike Vernon, he's in a world of trouble.

LW: How did it work with two harmonica players in a band.
RP: It worked good. Seemed like me and George Smith , we
    just teamed up real good together. We were like brothers
    and I learned a lot from him, him being quiet a bit older
    than me. I respected the cat, so I never did try to step on
    his toes. He knew that so we worked good together. A lot
    of cats want to come up and play two harps with me now,
    but seem like they don't know when to lay out.

LW: You seldom see a band with two harmonica players in it.
RP: Yeah, we wouldn't play the whole set together. I'd do my
    thing, three or four songs, then George come up and do
    three or four.  Then I'd come back out with him and we'd
    do a couple of tunes to end the set off.

LW: Who did you hear that made you want to play harp.
RP: The first guy I heard was Jimmy Reed. I seen Jimmy Reed
    when I was about ten or nine. I got one of his harmonicas
    My brother took me to see him and took me back stage. He
    was playing a small club. He  said "This boy is trying to
    learn harmonica", he give me one of his harmonicas. I was
    just trying to get something out of it. I was already
    playing on a box, They call it a folk guitar now. Then
    I was trying to mess around and get something out of this
    harp. When I got with the first guys I started playing
    with, they already had two guys playing the guitar, who
    were better than me. So they said " well you go on and
    stay on the harp". I never did go back to the guitar.

LW: How did the nickname Lightnin Rod come about
RP: I think it was Bob Thiele that gave me that name. He was
       the guy made all them records on ABC Bluesway and he had
      a Flying Dutchman label later.

LW: The Dirty Blues Band recorded on Bluesway, right.
RP: Yeah, but we wasn't with Bob Thiele. Then when we did
       this record, George Smith Of The Blues, that was Bob
      Thiele producing that one. That was the first time I
      met him. Then I seen him again we did a record that he
      was making with a bunch of cats on there called, The
    Revolutionary Blues Band. I'm on that, singing a song
    that Shakey Jake wrote. We were sitting at his house and
    he wrote a song, so I sang it when we got to the studio
    and George Smith played on the harp. This guy that played
    with Elvis later, but with Ricky Nelson early on was on
    there. He played guitar with Ricky Nelson on the TV show.
    You know him, every time you see Ricky Nelson you see him
    playing. The he wound up playing with Elvis when he got in

LW: James Burton.
RP: Yeah, he's playing the guitar on there. They call that The
    Revolutionary Blues Band, but shit I ain't never seen but
    two copies of that record. They got a lot of other cats on
    there I can't even remember who they are.

LW: You were real close to being in Muddy's band right.
RP: Yeah. I was in the hospital and he called George,
    because George had already been in the group twice and
    left twice. So he called George and George told me he said
    "Where is Rod, I know you ain't going to stay, where is
    Rod ?". George said "well Rod ain't going either because
    he's in the hospital and he'll be out of service for about
    six months" . So I missed that chance, wish I had of got
    that man. If I had of done that my name would have been
    known so much before.

LW: Do recall who Muddy did get.
RP: Look like to me he got George Buford. I think that's
    who it was. Unless he got Carey Bell, I'm not real
    sure who he got. Then Portnoy came after that.

LW: Where did you get the chromatic harmonica influence from
RP: Both Little Walter and George Smith.

LW: How did the name "The Mighty Flyers" come about.
RP: Well see we were calling the band, The Chicago Flying Saucer
    Band, because of Little Walter's Flying Saucer, we used to do
    that number. We got a cat that was going to produce us and
    he said "that name is too long lets change it to The Flyers"
    I said "lets put something on there make it The Mighty
    Flyers". I never was real crazy about the name, but it sort
    of stuck and we kept on recording so it seemed like the
    snowball was rolling down the hill, I didn't want to stop

LW: I think it fits.
RP: Well, yeah I think it worked out all right.

LW: There is a tune on "Blues In The Dark" called "4811 Wadsworth
    (Blues For George) was that's George's address.
RP: Yeah, That's where I used to stay over to his house.

More information about the Blues-l mailing list