Everyone has a path in life. Some are etched out for us, others are paved with gold, and for some it’s all about chance and fate. When it comes to Larry Fuzzy Knight, the leader of Blowin’ Smoke and the Fabulous Smokettes, music was just kind of always there. He didn’t set out to make it his life’s work it, in his words, “just kept happening.” Not to say he didn’t put a lot of grunt work into the mix.
Knight picked up the piano as a third grader and moved through everything from the violin to the french horn to the guitar. Then when he hit his teens, he became engulfed with the soul of artists like Little Milton, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm, Albert King, Chuck Berry. Which, during the ’50s and ’60s wasn’t the most popular thing at the time for a little white boy to be doing. Knight didn’t care much for what outsiders thought of his tastes, to him – great music had no color. Once he started being accepted as a soul player he started to get gigs and rise in the ranks. Fast forward to today and he’s a paid musician with a legacy that’s still going strong.
Kendra: Do you ever think, hmm…maybe I should’ve done something else instead of music or are there no regrets?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: Absolutely NO REGRETS. There isn’t one thing that I would want to change or delete. It takes each and every experience that you live through (in life) to teach you how to improve on what you do as a musician and as a human being. I’ve always been one to let ‘my life events just flow in whatever direction it takes me’. I use my intuition to guide me. I suppose it helps to be ready and prepared for opportunities that come along. There is an element of luck that comes with success such as; being in the right place, at the right time but ultimately, it also comes down to having the desire and energy to be out there’ and ready for whatever pops up.
Kendra: Now, Blowin’ Smoke and the Fabulous Smokettes has 11 members – how chaotic does practice get?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: The band is made up of three distinct sections; the rhythm section; drums, bass, guitar and keys. The horn section; two tenor saxes, trumpet, trombone, and the fabulous Smokettes; three female lead vocalists. Working on new original songs or interpretations of classic R&B songs starts with the rhythm section first. Once the rhythm section has the arrangement down, the vocalists can come to rehearsal with the band prepared to play the music for them. Sometimes we add horns to the rehearsals but they also read charts that I give them and play them perfectly right at the gig. If we didn’t approach it this way, it would be chaotic and wasted time while people have to wait for others to get their parts together. The way I prepare the band for rehearsal is the quickest and most efficient way to get everyone on the same page without losing valuable time and energy.
Kendra: Also, with that many voices…how do you guys personally solve disagreements when it comes to the music or do you have the final say?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: Obviously as bandleader, I do have the “final say” however, I like to have a “happy band”’so usually everyone gets to have their say and try to show everyone else their ideas. We’ll try them out and eventually come up with an arrangement that works for everyone. Many times, when we perform “live,” things happen spontaneously on stage and it’s something we all like, and then, that is added to the musical arrangement for future performances or recording. Uniqueness happens when we let everyone contribute “their own thing” to the music. Then, an original sound takes shape that is unique to creating the entire group sound.
Kendra: Has this always been the lineup, or are the members always changing?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: I originated the Blowin’ Smoke Rhythm & Blues Band over 20 years ago. We have performed at Blues Festivals, High profile Nightclubs, Showrooms in Las Vegas, Laughlin, and across the U.S. for many years. During that time, I have had different Smokettes (singers), and musicians. Some of the vocalists and musicians have ‘passed on’ and some were replaced by others. As to the question, Are the members always changing? I would say that some of the musicians in the band today actually started when the band was established. Many vocalists and players have stayed with the band for many years,(anywhere from 5 to 10 years),with some moving away from California to other states or countries. The group is comprised of top, professional players and vocalists. Some music writers have compared me as an American version of John Mayall, because I bring up and coming talent to “feature’ in my band along with highly praised professionals, who are already established. The band has a reputation for featuring high quality musicians and singers.
Larry Fuzzy Knight: The basic sound of the band does not change for the following reasons; classic R&B songs that I choose to play are the ones that sound best utilizing powerful rhythm/lead instrument (guitar & keyboards) section, a full horn section and female lead vocalists that are different and unique stylists. It is the opinion of many fans and followers of the band that as time goes by the band has more proficient musicians than when I first started and that the current line up of Smokettes is the ‘best I’ve ever featured. The St. Louis Style R&B Revue format is a one of a kind show.
Kendra: For those who aren’t familiar with the “St. Louis Style” how would you describe that using only five nouns – see, now that’s harder!
Larry Fuzzy Knight: Soulful, Energetic, Ike & Tina style, R&B Revue, horns, (Mmmmmm, 7 words???)
Kendra: Your last record, Beyond The Blues Horizon, was back in 2000. Do you guys have any plans to record new tunes soon?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: I’ve already recorded another “live CD” that I am in the process of mixing down at the moment and deciding which songs to put on it. I am also going to be recording a studio CD, which I plan to begin before the year is over. The CD will be a combination of Blowin’ Smoke Interpretations of previously recorded songs and originals. And, as usual, I am looking for investors to help out with both projects.
Kendra: What was it like recording at B.B. King’s Blues Club?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: It was at the request of B. B. King’s Blues Club management that we record “live” during our show because we had been performing there every weekend for nearly a year. The club was always packed and we knew the response was going to be great. The club sound engineer, Jimmy Lewis, knew our band sound, forwards and backwards, so we knew that he would capture us well. There were no overdubs, all was “live” and it came out great. We won a Blues Award for Best West Coast Blues Album for 2000. Sold it through our own record label, Blowin’ Smoke Records and since it was released, have sold over 10,000 copies. It’s still selling well today on CD Baby and Amazon. It’s timeless.
Kendra: Recording live, do you prefer that over traditional recording in a studio?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: Now you’re talking about two different animals. I like recording “live” because it captures live energy, power, crowd interaction, spontaneity, and whatever magic that occurs. Recording in a studio allows time to reflect, to change, alter ideas, to build off a foundation of basic tracks until you arrive at what you are satisfied with. The studio recording also begins with pre-production rehearsals, etc., so that once you’re in the studio, you have an outline already established. And, it’s much easier to create “ear candy” in the recording studio. I like both recording formats for distinctly different reasons.
Kendra: Where can fans see Blowin’ Smoke and the Fabulous Smokettes in the coming months, are you staying local to LA or spreading your wings and heading across the US at any point?
Larry Fuzzy Knight: We have an established venue that is “our home,” so to speak. Since I formed the band, we have been performing at the legendary Blues Nightclub, Harvelle’s in downtown Santa Monica for 20 years. We are there every month, on a Saturday night. We will be there on November, 21. We are also beginning to perform in Downtown Los Angeles at a new nightclub, Mrs. Fish, on a regular basis each month. Our next performance there is on November 27.