May 10, 2010

Monday Music

In 1969, a fairly well known half-breed rocker talked two other half-breeds into forming a band based on that multiculturism. The Vasquez brothers, Patrick and Lolly, had been performing using the name Vegas for a several years, in part to disguise their mixed-race ancestry. Jimi Hendrix convinced the brothers, along with fellow Native Americans Peter DePoe and Tony Bellamy, to celebrate their heritage instead of hiding it. The result was one of the more interesting bands of the 70’s, and one that continues to perform today.

Redbone’s eponymous first album was a double that produced nothing memorable, but then they released the single Maggie.

The tune caught on, making it into Billboard’s Top 100. Redbone honored Jimi’s recommendation by growing their hair long and performing in Native American traditional garb, replete with feathered ceremonial costumes… and their popularity grew. Maggie appeared on their second album, titled Potlatch. That same year they released The Witch Queen of New Orleans, which made it to #21 on the charts, following it quickly with Come and Get Your Love, which hit #5.

Lolly Vasquez was an accomplished and creative guitarist, making extensive use of the Leslie Rotating Speaker Effect; a sound effect accomplished by a special amplifier setup that was evident in the group’s next single, a very politically oriented tune titled We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee, which hit #1 in Europe but failed to chart in the U.S.

Only Patrick Vasquez remains of the original four. Drummer Peter DePoe (Cheyenne name Last Walking Bear) left the group before they experienced any real success, to be replaced by Butch Rillera. Tony Bellamy died of liver failure on Christmas Day 2009. Lolly Vasquez suffered a CVA in 1996 and died of cancer in March of this year. Lolly lived long enough to see Redbone inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

Redbone's music celebrated Native American heritage, Cajun music, Jazz, and the uniqueness of multiculturism. Just like Jimi Hendrix, the band’s success was far greater in Europe than in the U.S., but there is at least a minor following here that will search them out and travel long distances to see them play live.

I’ll close this edition of Monday Music with a tune that never made it very far, but one that I particularly like. Please enjoy Clouds in my Sunshine.



Labrys said...

Oh, it's been forever since I thought of these guys...thanks for reminding me! Now I will have to go search the vinyl collection...