With a career spanning forty years, award-winning soul, blues and R&B vocalist/harmonicist/songwriter Curtis Salgado is a one-of-a-kind talent whose music is as compelling as his story. From co-fronting The Robert Cray Band to leading his own band (and recording nine solo albums) to helping transform John Belushi into “Joliet” Jake Blues to touring the country with Steve Miller and Santana, he is a true musical giant. NPR calls him “a blues icon” with a “huge voice.” Salgado earned a reputation for high-intensity performances and a repertoire inspired by his encyclopedic knowledge of soul, blues and R&B music. He won the 2010 Blues Music Award (BMA) for Soul Blues Artist Of The Year and went on to win the award again in 2012 and 2013. In 2013 he also won the coveted BMA for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year—the highest honor the blues world has to offer—and took the statue for Soul Blues Album Of The Year for his Alligator debut, Soul Shot. Blues Revue says Salgado’s music is “triumphant, joyful, blues-soaked R&B” and declared him to be “one of the most soulful, honest singers ever.”
The Beautiful Lowdown, Salgado’s new Alligator album, is the singer’s most fearless and adventurous release to date. For the first time in his career, he wrote or co-wrote virtually the entire album himself. He co-produced it along with Marlon McClain and Tony Braunagel and contributed to the horn arrangements and background vocal parts. “My heart and soul are in this,” he says proudly. “I worked my tail off and let the songs lead the way.” As for the title, Salgado explains, “During a recent show, I turned to my guitarist and said, ‘Play something lowdown. But make it beautiful.’ Then I thought, ‘Keep that.’”
The Beautiful Lowdown is a major step forward for Salgado. “I wanted to write memorable songs with strong melodies that stick to you, and that’s what’s here.” He arrived at the studio with 17 originals and whittled the list down to 11, adding Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s Hook Me Up to close the set. Each track—from the Van Morrison-esque Nothing In Particular to the funk grooves of My Girlfriend to the driving Hard To Feel The Same About Love to the reggae-tinged Simple Enough—is delivered with the vocal power and passion of a musical master. Living Blues says, “Salgado navigates dynamic soul, swaying balladry, and funky grooves with equal confidence. He is a formidable performer.”
Born February 4, 1954 in Everett, Washington, Salgado grew up in Eugene, Oregon. His home was always filled with music. His parents’ collection included everything from Count Basie to Fats Waller, and his older brother and sister turned him on to the soul and blues of Wilson Pickett and Muddy Waters. He attended a Count Basie performance when he was 13 and decided then and there that music was his calling. Curtis began devouring the blues of Little Walter and Paul Butterfield, fell in love with the harmonica and taught himself to play.
By his early 20s, Salgado was already making a name for himself in Eugene’s bar scene with his band The Nighthawks, and later as co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. Salgado quickly developed into a player and singer of remarkable depth, with vocal and musical influences including Otis Redding, O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I and II, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann and Magic Sam.
In 1977, comedian/actor John Belushi was in Eugene filming Animal House. During downtime from production, Belushi caught a typically ferocious Salgado performance and introduced himself during a break. Once Salgado started sharing some of his blues knowledge, a fast friendship grew. Salgado spent hours playing old records for Belushi, teaching him about blues and R&B. Belushi soaked up the music like a sponge and used his new awareness to portray “Joliet” Jake Blues in The Blues Brothers, first as a skit on Saturday Night Live and then a best-selling record album (which was dedicated to Curtis) and finally as a major motion picture (Cab Calloway’s character was named Curtis as an homage).
Once Salgado joined forces with his friend Robert Cray and began playing together as The Robert Cray Band, Salgado found himself sharing stages with many of his heroes, including Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, Albert Collins and Bonnie Raitt. After Salgado and Cray parted ways in 1982, Curtis went on to front Roomful Of Blues, singing and touring with them from 1984 through 1986. Back home in Oregon, he formed a new band, Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos, and was once again tearing it up on the club scene, where he honed his band to a razor’s edge before releasing his first solo album in 1991. His friend and fan Steve Miller invited Curtis and his band to open for him on a summer shed tour in 1992. Two years later, Salgado spent the summer on the road singing with Santana. Salgado signed with Shanachie Records in 1999, putting out four critically acclaimed albums. He successfully battled back from liver cancer in 2006 and lung cancer in 2008 and 2012, reemerging stronger and more determined to share his music with the world.
Salgado joined Alligator Records in 2012, releasing the award-winning, critically acclaimed Soul Shot. The Los Angeles Times said Salgado is “keeping the classic flame of soul music alive.” The strength of the record led to Salgado touring far and wide, with gigs in Manilla, Guam, Brazil, Saipan and Panama. He has performed at major festivals including Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The San Francisco Blues Festival, The Chicago Blues Festival, Memphis’ Beale Street Music Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, Denver’s Mile High Blues Festival, Toronto’s Waterfront Blues Festival, Thailand’s Phuket International Blues Festival and Poland’s Blues Alive Festival.
On The Beautiful Lowdown, the deeply-rooted singer effortlessly blends classic soul sounds and funk grooves with up-to-the-minute lyrics. His full-force vocals—intense and uninhibited—bring an urgency and edge to his timeless original songs. AllMusic says his music is filled with “greasy grooves and rollicking burners boasting all the confidence and swagger the lyrics convey. Upbeat, animated performances leave you wanting more.” Blues Revue, describing Salgado’s performance style, declares, “He starts at excellent before segueing into goose bumps, ecstasy, and finally nirvana.” And that is the undisputed, beautiful, lowdown truth.
This performance is a co-presentation of The Lincoln Theatre and The Rick Epting Foundation for the Arts with much appreciated support from Ray and Margaret Horak!