River City Blues Society Presents:  Forrest McDonald Band

River City Blues Society Presents

River City Blues Society is organized exclusively for educational, literary, artistic and charitable purposes. We are a non-profit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of the Blues as an original American art form.

Forrest McDonald Band

Forrest McDonald was seven years old when he first heard blues man Josh White perform and as he puts it, “I was hooked!” This experience was augmented by the extensive record collection at the McDonald home, Jimmy Witherspoon and T-Bone Walker albums were favorites. Mrs. McDonald received a Martin D18 guitar for Christmas one year, and young Forrest began learning chords. In the summer of 1964 he hitchiked to NYC where he met and was influenced by Muddy Waters. By New Year’s Eve 1964, Forrest McDonald played his first live gig with a group called the Seagrams 7. Four members of the Seagrams 7 group, including McDonald, later became the Oxbow Incidents, which was a New England regional favorite in high schools, churches and colleges for five years. McDonald’s group, Pale Ryder, was formed with previous Oxbow Incidents band members, and included bass player Dave Hayes, who went on later to join and is still with Van Morrison.

The McDonald home was in close proximity to the location of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, where the musical talent on display consumed Forrest—he saw Ray Charles and Leadbelly perform and caught Bob Dylan’s controversial switch from acoustic guitar to electric. Backstage at Newport in 1969, Forrest played Jimmy Page’s Les Paul, trading licks with Page and Jeff Beck” it was incredible,” McDonald recalls.

McDonald joined the Boston Rock Symphony an 11-piece rock group backed by Arthur Fiedler’s 30-piece Boston Symphony Orchestra that year. While playing in the Boston Rock Symphony, McDonald met up with harp player James Montgomery, who played with McDonald in the Boston Rock Symphony. McDonald also played and toured with the Wadsworth Mansion, who had a Top-20 hit with “Sweet Mary I’m Coming Home.” The group toured with Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter and appeared on “American Bandstand” and “The Dating Game.”

In the early 70’s, McDonald relocated to Hollywood, where he met and formed The Force with Tony Carey and Bob Zinner. The Force and the reformed Wadsworth Mansion now called Slingshot performed regularly at The Whiskey, The Starwood, and the Hollywood Paladium, and for a two-year period, McDonald jammed on the Sunset Strip with Van Halen. During this time, McDonald met and recorded with Steve Perry (pre-Journey). McDonald met current band pianist Raymond Victor while touring supporting cutting the Kathi McDonald Insane Aslyum album for Capitol, and the two formed a fast friendship on a USO tour of Asia. Back on the west coast, McDonald stayed busy with studio sessions. He recorded with former members of Ike and Tina Turner, played with Jimmy Reed and Bonnie Bramlett, and contributed the guitar solo to Bob Seger’s mega-hit “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The Seger track actually recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio brought McDonald south.

As Forrest tells it, he was visiting his father in Alabama, and suggested they drive to Muscle Shoals to “see what’s going on.” So they made their way to the studio. “When I walked in and met [producer] Jimmy Johnson, he asked me if I had my guitar with me. So I put on the headphones, plugged in my guitar, and gave him a solo.” McDonald must have impressed the crew at Muscle Shoals: two months later, the studio called to tell him that Bob Seger purchased the track for his Stranger in Town album!

Some 30 years after they first met, Forrest McDonald and Raymond Victor are still playing together — according to one fan, “the result is what a partnership like theirs can produce against all the impediments us blues lovers know exist. Listening to Forrest and Raymond is like watching a perfectly executed pas de deux!” To duo have toured the world over, performing and recording with such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Roy Gaines, Bobby Womack, Luther Tucker, Silver Platinum and Gold, Roger Dollarhide, Marie Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other artists.

McDonald moved to Atlanta in 1991. His own label ~ World Talent Records ~provides a haven for the group, which was voted “Best Southern Blues Band” by Real Blues Magazine in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Southwest Blues magazine calls McDonald’s “glowing guitar” teamed with Victor’s “whiskey drenched gutter voice” a “winning combination.” McDonald credits his band mates for the remarkable sound on Finger Lickin’ Blues. “Drummer John McKnight takes the lead on ‘Who’s Been Talking,’ while Dave Parnell’s vocals really make the track ‘Blues in the Basement’ come alive. With his explosive horn solos and Raymond’s piano playing, it’s a pleasure to preserve some of those feelings with such authenticity!”

He also received the Just Plain Folks Music Award for Best Blues Album of 1999 for the Spirit of the Blues CD. Penned by vocalist Raymond Victor, the song “Work, Work,” appearing on What’s It Gonna Take? was voted Best Blues Song for 2000 by Just Plain Folks. Two of Forrest's good friends Roy Gaines and James Montgomery appear on What’s It Gonna Take.

Following hot on the heels of What’s It Gonna Take?, 2000’s critically acclaimed release, Finger Lickin’ Blues released in July 2001 has increased the band’s appeal to an even wider range of blues fans. Finger Licking Blues reatures a great remake of the Classic "Ode To Billy Joe" with a great slide solo by Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin. As one reviewer stated Forrest's version give me goose bumps on my goose bumps.

With McDonald on guitar, Andrew Black on vocals, John McKnight on drums, Jon Liebman on harp & vocals, Lee Gammon on bass ad Tony Carey on keyboards the band is as strong as bands get and then some. A good mix that brings primarily original tunes together with some of the greatest classics ever written, this one shows not only McDonald’s songwriting skins but the band’s ability to take a cover tune, break it down and make it their own. Bottom line, this is as good as it gets with your clothes on. This is McDonald’s 12th release on World Talent Records and, in this old man’s humble opinion, worthy of a Blues Music Award (Handy). I consider myself well enough educated in the music to understand what makes a band good…and this band has what it takes and then some. This is blues, top-notch and worthy of a spot among the greats. I recommend it highly to one and all with no exceptions. – Bill Wilson – Reflections in Blue

Jon Liebman burns up the reeds on his harp and the grooves on the record on the Chicago blues classic, Cotton’s kinda-morbidly-funny tale of “ridin’ down to your burial in my V-8 Ford!” Presented here as a slow blues, it’s a killer. And, Andrew Black turns in perhaps the set’s most outstanding vocal performance, reminiscent of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, on the soulful “I’m A Fool,” another good ‘un that Forrest has had in his back pocket since 1970.
Forrest McDonald pulls no punches. Everything he plays is “Certified Blue” all the way through. With “Turnaround Blues,’ he and the band have cooked up another sure-fire winner!! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

McDonald’s fiery guitar licks showcase his vast experience in blues-based rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. Raymond Victor’s gut-wrenching, blues-drenched vocals soar above, around, and through each tune building to a choke-hold that won’t loosen its grip until you jump up and boogie!
Black Jack Ketchum, Atlanta Blues Society

What’s It Gonna Take? is the group’s best effort yet and will hopefully deliver the respect and recognition in the industry that they deserve. I can’t take it out of my CD player!
The Blues Stalker, Suncoast Blues Society

McDonald is a versatile guitarist who shows his best licks on the Jimmy Witherspoon jump tune “Call My Baby.” He also shows the ability to play in more of a Santana jazzy-style and to get down with a slow blues. What’s It Gonna Take? surpasses most independent releases in both quality of musicianship and production.
Bill Mitchell, Blues Bytes

The latest musical outing, Finger Lickin Blues, from Atlanta's very own Forrest McDonald ups the ante at the blues poker table. Even skeptical blues purists cannot scorn this 13-song disc. McDonald plants seeds of old Chicago and Texas traditions in fields of slow blues, fast blues, jazz and good time rock n roll.
Forrest himself said in the CD's liner notes this was recorded in one take. What a good move. Finger Lickin Blues thrives on spontaneity. Put them ribs on. Butter them biscuits. Grab yourself a cold one. This is one mean mother living up to its name.
Gary Weeks, May 2002 Southwest Blues

Forrest McDonald - What's it gonna take? Firey guitar player Forrest McDonald was born into the musical hotbed of Austin, Texas. He now calls Atlanta home. From there and between he pushed his playing with vocalist/keyboardist Raymond Victor. For more than three decades, the pair has worked for John Lee Hooker, Bobby Bland, Charlie Musselwhite, and the two special guests on this work ax man and vocalist Roy Gaines and Harp Wizard James Montgomery. You'll find no bad music on this disc all the songs fit the ensemble like good tight gloves. Relax, kick back, throw on the McDonald and Victor and let the good times roll! Solid through and through, you just wont be able to keep up with the onslaught!
Mark A. Cole, January 2001 Big City Blues.



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