Eric joins the band
For the first five years (1988-1993), the Rhythm Lords were a power trio. We had a heavy rock sound mixed with other elements (blues, Latin, surf and rockabilly). It was never my intention for the Rhythm Lords to become a blues band. I love the blues. I have been deeply influenced by blues music all my life, but I’m not a traditional blues player and never claimed to be. I am a songwriter who just happens to love playing loud rocking guitar and stretching the blues format. I’m very comfortable playing in a trio, but I also love playing in larger groups too.
Right from our earliest gigs at Al’s Bar, percussionists seemed to come out of the woodwork and were sitting in with us. The whole concept of the Rhythm Lords was to have a heavy rhythm section so I welcomed the added textures, plus I’m a sucker for drums & percussion anyhow. I’ve always liked keyboards too. In fact my original thoughts were to add a keyboard (piano & organ). But good keyboard players are few and far between and too busy even when you do find one. We also played with several harmonica players over the years. I started out playing harp when I was a teenager before I picked up the guitar. I’ve been a Kim Wilson (T-Birds) fan since the late 70s as well as William Clark, James Harman and Rod Piazza.
One night in mid 1993 while the Rhythm Lords were playing at the Blue Café in Long Beach, I heard a harp player playing in the band just before us. He had great tone and the stuff he was playing was very different than anybody I ever heard. This guy had attitude, big tone and had a lot of swagger. After their set ended I asked him if he’d like to hangout and play a few songs with us. He didn’t seem too interested and packed up his gear. I shrugged it off and set up my gear and Kip, Steph and I played our first set. After the first set, I noticed the harp player was still there. He said that he wanted to sit in on the next set and it sounded great right off the bat.
That harp player was Eric VonHerzen. We had a meeting soon after and Eric joined the band. Eric was already a veteran of the Orange County music scene. I told him that I was planning to record a full length CD and he told me that he had ideas how to add his influence to the band and soon we were recording our first full length CD, “Happy Hour”. I told Eric that the reason I wanted to record a CD was to book more shows out of town. In those days there were a lot of gigs to be had outside of Los Angeles. With a CD, some reviews and some local radio airplay, it was easier to book shows out of town. I wanted to get the band on the road so we hired a booking agent and started touring. We bought a van and really began putting on the miles. Eric was very instrumental in booking shows with Mike Ness and a couple shows opening for Social Distortion as well. One of the very first gigs we did that Eric booked was a big warehouse party out in Riverside with Mike Ness sitting in on a couple of numbers. That’s my 71 Les Paul that Mike is playing in that photo.
The combination of Eric’s harp and my guitar was a great match. I had never been in a band with a full time harp player before so this was a good opportunity for me to hone my skills comping and filling in behind a harp. Thanks to Eric’s drive and persistence, we were able to eventually get over to Europe. Eric’s pro attitude and business sense made him a great asset to the Rhythm Lords and his contribution to the band’s success is undeniable.
Next time – The 10th and final installment of this series
Touring, recording, and promoting the Rhythm Lords through the 1990s