The Lively Arts
More Sounds of Silver City (second of two parts)
Meet more of the people behind the performances who make
this small-town music scene so big.
Continuing last month's round-up of some of the many people who make up Silver City's unusually lively music scene. Read part one on our website.
Dr. Iya Khan is the only local performer on the 2014 Silver City Blues Festival roster (see box). He says he wanted a small town after a lifetime of music in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Born in Detroit (which he now calls "Destroyed") into a musical family, he was encouraged to avoid the musician life all together. His father, Ali Muhammad Jackson, Sr., was a bebop jazz bass player and his uncle, Oliver Jackson, was a drummer who had his own jazz quintet. Khan heeded their warnings, earned a degree in psychology, then spent 10 years in advertising in New York City. A Bill Withers encounter changed all that.
Iya Khan will open the 2014 Silver City Blues Fest in Gough Park on Saturday, May 24. (Photo by Dave Cleveland)
Khan chanced upon a poster advertising Withers playing at a bar with a $5 cover charge. There he heard a simple but creative songster with great stage presence and an often poignant message, having the time of his life. Khan tossed the idea that he was too old to start playing, bought a guitar at a pawnshop, and dived into a stack of books for self-teaching. He picked up the congas then, too.
He wanted less crowding and more sun, so Khan and his mate relocated to California, where they had two children while she worked on her degree and he drove a municipal bus. He was "Mr. Mom," caregiving and cooking meals in the day, and at "shift change" in the evening, playing as much music in local punk bands as possible, learning the ropes, and paying his dues.
Khan says he never wanted to be an alpha male in those bands, but did want to guide the other players to the sound he was after. To accomplish this he learned to play all the other instruments, so he could do the arrangements of the music. He gained considerable notoriety in LA, but says he was frustrated by the club owners who paid poorly or not at all, taking advantage of young, hungry performers hoping to be seen by some person of importance who might be in the audience.
2014 Blues FestThe 19th annual Silver City Blues Festival, sponsored by the Mimbres Region Arts Council, will be Saturday and Sunday, May 24-25, at Gough Park in Silver City, plus a kick-off dance on Friday night. Events at Gough Park are free. For more information, see mimbresarts.org/blues-festival-homepage.
Friday, May 23:
9 p.m.-1 a.m.: Kick-Off Dance, Buffalo Dance Hall, featuring Felix Y Los Gatos. $12.
Saturday, May 24, at Gough Park:
12:15-1:15 p.m.: Iya Khan
1:45-2:45 p.m.: Blue Monday
3:15-4:45 p.m.: Memphis P-Tails
5:15-6:45 p.m.: Studebaker John and the Hawks
7:15-9 p.m.: Alvin Youngblood Hart and Muscle TheoryAt Buffalo Dance Hall:
9 p.m.-1 a.m.: Performers Jam. $12.
12-1 p.m.: Roy Book Binder
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Kelley Hunt
3-4:30 p.m.: The Hazel Miller Band
5-6:30 p.m.: Mingo Fishtrap
Alvin Youngblood Hart — "The cosmic American love child of Howlin Wolf and Link Wray!" Known as a "musician's musician," Hart's praises have been sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to Brit guitar legends Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor.
Mingo Fishtrap — Texas Music Magazine calls Mingo Fishtrap "the space where melodic pop meets gritty Memphis soul, with a twist of N'awlins funk."
The Hazel Miller Band — Hazel Miller is not just a great singer, "she is a force of nature," said the Rocky Mountain News. Her voice has been called "stunning, moving and powerful." She has been a sought-after performer in Colorado for the past 24 years singing blues, jazz, pop and Gospel.
Khan moved to Las Vegas in the late 1980s. He says, unfortunately, the gangsters really knew how to run that town. Food and drinks for patrons were often free, rooms were discounted, musicians were paid in cash top dollar, $2,000-$3,000 a night. He did well in the bars, but another chance meeting helped him step up to playing casinos on the strip. His band, Iya Khan and the Would-Be-Kings (from a movie by a similar name), landed an audition to become the house band at Mandalay Bay.
Then his keyboardist quit just three days before the tryout gig. With only a bass player, drummer and Khan's own lead electric jazz guitar, the band was not much more than a "glorified rhythm section with a singer." Nonetheless, their vamped-up 15-minute opening number of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," plus "talking smack all night long, tap dancing for my life," made an impression that put the band in good stead for the next 10 years.
Khan says the niche he created was based on style, but just as important the band was available on short notice and at a reasonable rate. They would open for anybody, which ultimately happened to include Aretha Franklin (who gives a suffocating hug, he says) and James Brown. During long breaks, they toured the US and Europe.
Around 2005, thinking of retirement, Khan went on a pilgrimage up the coast of California, virtually living in a big blue Cadillac with a schnauzer named Laredo. A year of meeting salt-of-the-earth types of people on the beaches and in small towns, experiencing the sweetness of the kindness of strangers, made his outlook on life tremendously upbeat. He met his current companion, best friend, biggest fan and manager, Sue Richardson, on that journey. Together, they tried out Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences before a short trip to Silver City in 2013 reeled them in.
He spends time here playing local restaurants, performing at WNMU, preparing a syllabus for a Funk class at WNMU, and schmoozing downtown. Pick up his CDs at his gigs, and hear him opening the 19th Annual Silver City Blues Festival on Saturday, May 24, at Gough Park around noon.
Asa Martin finished Silver High School, where he was part of a popular garage band, Your Sister Cheryl, about five years ago. When band members went to separate colleges, he started paying his local dues playing solo or with his father, Deputy District Attorney Quinn Martin (see part one). His mother is Gwyn Jones, who hosts "The Morning Show" on Community Access TV of Silver City (CATS).
Losing a leg to cancer has a way of making a young man appreciate life more, according to Asa Martin, who says his diagnosis in 2013 caused him begin pursuing a life in music with much more focus. His songwriting is reflecting more depth as well. His current plan is to head for New York City as soon as possible. He hopes to build a network of followers there, with possible shows near NYU, and multiple open-mic venues. There are also possibilities for him in Austin, Texas.
Martin's stringed-instrument training began on the violin, with Jeanie McLerie and Ken Keppeler's Fiddlin' Friends. He progressed to mandolin, then guitar. He credits the couple, who perform as Bayou Seco (see last section), with helping make him who he is musically, which he describes as a "folkish punk rocker," with emphasis on the punk.
Locally, he has encountered a problem with having such a young fan base. When he plays in places that serve alcohol, admirers have been turned away, but not because they were not legally allowed, since families also eat in some of the local watering holes. Fans have been asked at the door if they intend to eat. If not, they risk being shut out. If he hears about it, Martin rewards such loyalty with a free CD to those who can't meet the "two-burger minimum."
Hear Asa Martin play acoustic or electric shows at local small venues, or pick up his music at Facebook.com/AsaMartinMusic or check out his extended plays (EPs) at AsaMartin.bandcamp.com.
Brandon Perrault (profiled in the February 2011 Desert Exposure) is a name nearly synonymous with music in this area. He has been entertaining and growing in ability since 1990. He attributes his initial drive for making music to being the new kid on the block at age 17 at Cobre High School. The family had relocated several times in his childhood, and he thought music could help him connect to his fellow students since he was a stranger.
His rendition of the pre-game "Star Spangled Banner" caused heads to turn, and soon a band called New Moves formed around his vocals. He says that time was a high point in his life, because he was accepted. "Fitting in" and a genuine love of all things musical sparked a vigorous pursuit of learning the guitar with a fellow church member, Eddie Bustillos. Perrault went on to study music and education at WNMU.
Always attracted to New York, he says he was able to start "gigging" there right away when he took a break in 2003. While there, he says he realized he could adjust his style for many kinds of listeners, developing a fan base primarily at the famous Rachel's on Fire Island. Aside from his day job managing the WNMU Fine Arts Center Theater and his current effort at his next solo album consisting of all original music, he is a devoted member of Rhythm Mystic.
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