Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bodeco: Smokin’ Boogie Blues

Live at Tramps (1995), FFoto © Robert Barry Francos

This is the first part of a series of articles or interviews that have been published before in magazines that no longer exist. This one was originally published in
Oculus Magazine, Vol IV, Issue 5 (1995); an update follows.

Bodeco: Smokin’ Boogie Blues

The most obvious question might be, just what does Bodeco mean, anyway? Well, after seeing the band perform here in New York, who cares? What is important is that Bodeco is a five-piece ensemble to be reckoned with.

Callin' All Dogs, 1995

With a new release, Callin’ All Dogs, Bodeco bestow a collection on Safe House Records that is as wild and witty as are these ‘60s-styled guitar-boogie bad boys. About this time, one tends to compare. Oh, they’re like this band, or they’re like that band. Bunk. Sometimes bands can only be measured by their influences. To find that out, listen to some releases from Norton Records outta Brooklyn. Ricky “Shaggy” Feathers, lead guitar and vocals or growls has. Often. Hasil Atkins, the A-Bones, plus many others. The deeper the’60s-laden blues land in the swamp, the better. Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hound Dog Taylor, Bo Diddley. And representing the paler shaded artists, early Link Wary, Duane Eddy, Jimmy Reed, Dave Edmunds, and (of all people) Keith Richards. All Bodeco’s idols were there the night they played New York, in spirit.

Hailing from Louisville Kentucky, member so this band must have been born by the railroad, ‘cause their rhythm is steady as it goes, rushing headlong into the melodies with brakes failing, but destination in sight.

Okay, the band. On stage from left to right (mostly) there’s Gary Stillwell on maracas, congas, and organ. Never would know he was a musician by looking at him. More likely I’d check if there’s a truck parked out back. Big guy with the obligatory baseball-type cap. Nonchalantly, ciggy-butt hanging outta his mouth, he calmly shakes and plies his wares, steadily keeping his eye on the band like a buck in a gun sight.

Next over is Brian Burkett, on “traps.” Steady as it goes, he brings a pounding “jungle” rhythm that must be paid attention to. The band rides his tracks to a powerful pulse. He may be up behind his kit, but his presence is felt in every measure.

And speaking of the rhythm, Jimmy Brown sets down bass licks that can only be obeyed. Lake a Chinese stick puppet, he folds his body around the bass and rhythm, with a neo-gawky, yet somehow double-joined precision. Toward the end of the gig, he sets down his long-necked Gibson for a stand-up. Pure class.

All the way over to the right is rhythm guitarist and smoker extraordinaire, Matthew “Wink” O’Bannon. Wink does “support” duty in this collective despite having his own release out on Safe House. Not that it’s a snooze to keep up with these guys. His relaxed style and easy smile match his talent. Maybe one day they’ll let him loose and throw him a solo or vocal bone? Just a little bit?

Bone, Hair and Hide (1992)

Last there’s the previously mentioned Ricky F. He’s the shining dog star of Bodeco. He gets the words and the lead guitar. A bit bleary eyed this night, throwing his cigarettes down on the stage between each song with sparks flying (and picking them up again after), he dedicates his descants to loyal members of the audience who have followed the band through numerous venues in the New York area over the past few years, as well as to some of his idols (Hasil, Keith on this night). His fingers boogie and throb like lightening over the guitar, making it appear as through it has a life of its own, and he is its grainer, making the instrument obey his every command. Was hoping he’d bring his blue, fur-covered guitar, but instead he brought out two vintage ones (including a huge Gibson), cigarettes, and three bottles of beer (of which he poured into and sipped from a plastic cup throughout the set.

His vocals are impressive, also appearing to be under extreme self-c0ontral, ready to explode, growing his sound and, indeed, callin’ all dogs. He rips through the songs like a man possessed, eyes squinched shut and just howling.

Though seeming to be not as comfortable with his banter between songs, he was at his finest when someone jovially shouted out, “Fuck You!” “Oh, yeah?” Ricky replied with his huge smile and without missing a beat, “That guy gets free beer for the rest of the night!”

After the set, this writer went backstage to say hi to the band and some old acquaintances. Introduced to Ricky, it was easy to notice just how red his eyes were. “Yeah, man, I’ve been drinkin’ all day. Been visiting with all these friends of mine.” Still, he was lucid enough to have finished a decent set. The true intent of being there at the moment was to interview the band (or members thereof), but the backstage/basement was packed with the band’s friends, publicity people, writers, hangers on, members of other bands, and the usual skells. Or, as Ricky put it elsewhere, “You know, women, booze, Cubans, whatever.” After talking to Shaggy for about five minutes (sans recorder), plans were tentatively made to meet at someone’s BBQ in Brooklyn the next day. Never happened. Never mind. The ban’s music says it for them.

NOW: The best I can tell, Bodeco released only two albums, and broke up before the millennium. It’s a cryin’ dog-down shame.


  1. Bodeco's still alive, and they play gigs occasionally in Louisville. I heard they were working on a new album, but don't know the status of that. I saw them this summer and they had the whole crowd dancing. Being a huge fan of them, I felt like I was at a Revival. They did release a live album and then a couple years ago an mini album, with a great track on it "Hard to Tell".

  2. That's good to hear, because Bodeco was one rockin' boogie band that, as you said, was a blast to watch. Anytime they want to send me something to review, I'll be honored.

  3. Barry,
    Wow!Flash Back ,Thanks! Wanted to correct the historical record on this performance, the rhythm guitar was Dave Rapp (Common Law Cabin) another Kentucky band, ex End Table’s singer project. Not from Ky , just a drifter guitar player. That show was a blast..any more photos

  4. Thanks, Dave! I've often said (and meant) that I'd rather be corrected when I'm wrong than have misinformation stand. It was a wonderful night, and I thank you for participating in a joyous noise!