The name Pat Rush might not be a household word to the average blues or rock fan, but I bet names like Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, James Cotton, Allman Brothers, Dr. John, Jeff Healey etc., are! What do these names have in common with Pat Rush, guitarist extraordinaire? Well … he's played with them all, and has performed in bands headlined by most of these fine musicians at one time or another. Pat, (having reached the landmark age of 50 only last June 27th, 2002), has had time to reflect on a 'Half Century Love Affair with the Blues'. At that time a huge birthday bash was hosted for him by guitarist Jeff Healey at his very cool and hip blues club, Healey's, 178 Bathurst St., (at the corner of Bathurst St. and Queen St. W.) in downtown Toronto's west end.
Every talented musician conceivable came out to perform at Healey's that night. From Canadian blues legends like guitarist Donnie Walsh, co-founder of the Downchild Blues Band, to Jerome Godboo, (harp player for Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins), and guitarists Grant Lyle and Mike McDonald; they all converged on Healey's then, to pay homage to Pat, and join him partying on his 50th birthday.
I got a chance to talk to Pat on several occasions around that time. The musical reminiscences he shared with me, were an eye-opening-insider's-view into the world of blues, and the evolution of rock 'n roll from the '60s onwards. Pat told me of the honor and pleasure it was for him to be associated with each and every one of the 'Who's' and not so 'Who's Who' in the international music world. Many 'icons' in the music biz have crossed paths with Pat in the past 35 years of his musically prolific life.
Pat Rush was born on June 27, 1952 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He grew up mostly in the southern U.S.A. He spent most of his teenage years in Virginia Beach, Virginia. That's where he at the age of nine, learned to play his first musical instrument, the trumpet, at Princess Anne Public School. Shortly after when he was 13, Pat started to play guitar. He began with an acoustic guitar, which he still has fond memories of to this day -- even though he's owned a '52 Gibson Les Paul for decades.
Some of Pat's first musical influences (growing up in the early to mid '60s) were the Beatles, as well as Chet Atkins. Like every other young musician starting out, Pat played in local garage and neighborhood bands. The first real band he was in was The Ascotts. They played high school and church dances, as well as at the local Princess movie theatre Kiddy matinees in Virginia Beach. The band's pay was free movie passes -- with classic '60s movies like Godzilla, space and horror flicks (and … Elvis) playing on the big screen, it was a big deal for Pat, and the rest of his teenage band! Pat's father being in the Air Force, resulted in his family moving to Atlanta, Georgia when he was 16. That's where he started playing upright bass in Sprayberry High School.
Sprayberry High was a block away from the original Coca Cola Bottling Plant in one direction, and Robert Johnson's original 'Crossroads' location in the other. How's that for being at the center of American music folklore and pop culture, all at the same time! Pat graduated from Sprayberry High in 1970 and then started his first guitar repair business while still in Atlanta. (He's continued repairing guitars ever since then. He's been part of Long & McQuade's repair dept. at their 929 Bloor St. W. location for the past 14 years.)
At that time, around 1970, having played guitar for a few years, Pat traded in his cherished silver trumpet from childhood, along with some cash, to buy his first Fender Strat. Soon after he was able to buy a fixer upper '52 Gibson Les Paul, which first appeared in stores in June '52 -- in the same week Pat appeared in the 'maternity ward' of the local hospital. (Pat and the Gibson Les Paul, both marked their 50th birthday last year!)
Also in 1970, Pat joined a band called What. The Allman Bros. Band, based in Macon, Georgia, 75 miles to the south, often dropped by to sit in with them. Eventually What started touring with the newly formed Allman Bros., and opened for them at concerts throughout the southern U.S.A. It was Duane Allman who first taught Pat how to play slide guitar, when they toured together. While visiting his parents who had moved to Charleston, South Carolina, Pat went to the Flying Dutchman club, where he met up with a band called Blackmore. (as in Richie!) They needed a lead guitarist, so Pat was hired and moved to New Orleans. New Orleans was a Mecca of musical learning experience for Pat. He felt influences there from local music legends such as Dr. John, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers and The Meters, to name only a few! That's where Pat first learned how to play rhythm guitar.
A few years later, Pat co-founded a group called Thunderhead. During that time, blues guitar legend, Johnny Winter was in New Orleans. Johnny sometimes would sit in with Thunderhead. He always remembered his times on stage with Pat, so when drummer Bobby 'T' Torello mentioned to him that Winter would like to form a band with them in it, they joined. They were both hired for Johnny's band during '77/'78, and went on tour with him in the U.S.A. in '77. Pat was on Johnny's White Hot & Blue album from '78, and played slide on "Walkin' By Myself", from that same album. Besides Johnny, Pat is the only other guitarist to ever play slide on a Winter album. Pat and Torello, when not touring with Winter, performed with Michael Bolton in New Haven, Connecticut. While there, Pat met Dan Hartman who wrote Edgar Winter's big hit "Free Ride". In Hartman's studio, Winter produced two classic Muddy Waters albums, I'm Ready and Hard Again. (It was during this time that Pat had a chance to meet Muddy as well as harp legend, James Cotton.)
While with Winter's band, Pat came to the attention of Cotton, who played harp with Muddy ever since the '50's; and was in Muddy's band at the historic Newport Jazz Festival in 1960. Pat played his '59 Strat in Cotton's band at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1980, and toured internationally with him from '79 to '81 -- playing many live concerts and TV appearances. His first Canadian concert ever, happened with Cotton on the revolving stage at Ontario Place in Toronto in 1979. Pat is happily a 20-year-plus resident of Canada. He first met up with guitarist Mike McDonald in Toronto in 1981 -- they've been friends and band mates ever since. McDonald and Pat were both featured artists on the Spadina Beat album from '82, and performed in a band together from '81 to '84. A string of performances on various bands' albums, as well as co-producing and engineering many of them, led Pat to working on the Good Brothers' '86 album, Delivering The Goods. Pat performed in live concerts and TV shows with the Good Brothers from '84 to '87. He co-engineered and played guitar on the Toronto classic Grossman's Live album from '87. The following year in '88, Pat co-engineered and performed on the follow-up classic Grossman's 2 live album. The Grossman's 2 album featured Hock Walsh (vocalist and co-founder of Downchild); as well as impeccable guitarist Morgan Davis; vocalist Tony Flaim (Downchild); respected drummer Maureen Brown and a bevy of other talented performers.
In 1989 Pat added some guitar tracks to the Downchild Blues Band's Gone Fishin' album. He occasionally performed live with them from '88 to '90. In 1990 Pat won the Best Guitarist Award in the Q107 Homegrown Contest, while he was in the Michael Pickett Band. In 1990 he formed Pat Rush and the Bluesharks, which hosted popular jams in Toronto. He also fronted for headliners such as Johnny Lovesin, Morgan Davis, Danny Marks, Jeff Healey, and Dutch Mason, (who's known in Canada as The Prime Minister of the Blues.) Pat played slide guitar on Dutch's '91 album I'm Back, and toured with him from 1986 to 2001 as part of live concerts and TV appearances.
From 1993 to 1999 Long & McQuade invited Pat to perform at their annual Slide Guitar Workshops. In 1992 he produced/engineered and performed slide/lead/rhythm guitar on Vern Cheechoo's Juno-nominated album Lonesome & Hurtin'.
In 1994 Pat joined the Jeff Healey Band, where he performed lead/slide/rhythm guitar on Healey's '95 album, Cover To Cover. The instrumental tune, "Shapes Of Things", from that album, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1995. The year before in 1994, Pat supplied additional leads, as well as slide/rhythm/acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies/harmonica on musician/composer/cartoonist Ruth Taylor's imaginative Onca Ray: Live For Tomorrow debut CD. This CD's cover art featured the unique Taylor-created Onca Ray cartoon character.
In 1995 Pat supplied additional slide/rhythm tracks in the studio, on Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins' Let It Rock CD and video. This concert featured the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, The Band (with Rick Danko), as well as Jeff Healey and Lawrence Gowan. It was filmed as part of Ronnie Hawkins's 60th birthday celebration at Massey Hall in Toronto.
In 1996 Pat played slide guitar in the Jeff Healey band on the Steven Segal tune, "Bulletproof". This was for a movie Segal was working on at the time, entitled Glimmer Man. Pat has been a member of the Jeff Healey Band almost continuously for the past nine years from 1994 to 2003. Now that he's back with Healey's band full time, the current lineup features Jeff on guitar, Pat on slide/rhythm/vocal harmonies, Cassius Pereira on drums, as well as Big Ben Richardson on bass. They tour internationally.
At present, Pat's also part of the house band with Jeff and Jerome, at the weekly Thursday 'Special Guest' nights at Healey's. Jerome along with Jeff picks some of the finest musicians around to perform with at this event. Some of these 'special guests' have included Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band; as well as singer Alanna Myles; vocalist/harp player Chuck Jackson (Downchild), guitarists Shawn Kellerman, Tony Springer (ex-David Bowie) and Roy Young (who played piano for the Beatles in 1962). This roster's even included 11-year old blues guitar prodigy Jimmy Bowskill. Very impressive to say the least!
** The 'Live at Healeys - The Thursday Night Recordings' 12-track CD has been culled from these live performances, and is now available for sale. www.jeffhealeys.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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