Blue Monday Free Happy Hour With Derek O'Brien
Denny Freeman, Hook Herrera, Riley Osbourn, Tommy Taylor, Scott Nelson
2015 East Riverside
Austin, TX, 78741
Doors 5:00 PM / Show 6:00 PM
Blue Monday Free Happy Hour With Derek O'Brien
Derek “Big House” O’Brien is a Texas-style blues guitarist, sometime bassist and record producer based in Austin, TX.
A stalwart of the house band at the famous Austin blues club Antone’s Nightclub, O’Brien is most often found backing up other Austin frontmen, including Delbert McClinton, Lou Ann Barton, The Texas Tornados and almost anyone recording on the Antone’s Records label.
O’Brien has also backed up major blues names such as Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Ted Drozdowski, writing on Gibson Guitars’ website, says, “O’Brien has a terse, arrow-sharp and spare style comparable to Jimmie Vaughan’s – light on flash, but soooo right. Check it out.”
As an adolescent and young teen in Dallas, Texas in the late1950's, Denny Freeman heard on the radio the radical new sounds of people like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, and Chicago and Louisianna blues artists like Muddy waters and Slim Harpo. Freeman would go to concerts that featured folks like Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, and the Clovers. In the 60's there was Jimi Hendrix and Cream, and the wonderful jazz of the time. All of it contributed to the music that Freeman would come to play. Primarily a guitar player, he has played piano and organ on his own and other folks records and gigs over the years. Jennifer Warnes has him playing piano on one track (The Well [Reprise]) on her latest release. His piano playing also appears on James Cotton and Jimmie Vaughan albums. He toured on Jimmie Vaughan's first solo outing as the piano player.
Denny has been the main writer on the songs on his four, mostly instrumental albums, and teamed up with Kathy Valentine of the GoGos and Clem Burke of Blondie, to submit music to Deborah Harry for the Blondie "No Exit" album. Deborah wrote the lyrics, and "Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room" was born. He also co-wrote "BaBoom (Mama Said)" with Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan for the Vaughan Brothers' "Family Style" album.
After touring for a year and a half with Jimmie Vaughan in the mid nineties, he toured w/ Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band until late 2002, playing guitar. It was during this period that Taj' Grammy winning CD, "Shoutin' in Key" was released. "Playing with an American icon like Taj Mahal was a real honor for me. We went all over Europe and to Japan, and it seems that there are Taj fans in every nook and cranny, all over the planet."
After growing up in Dallas, going to college in north Texas, and a brief sojourn in L.A., Freeman moved to Austin, Texas in 1970. Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, and Stevie Vaughan soon followed. If you were a musician, a part of the sub culture, or just had long hair, Austin was the place to be in that part of the world, at that time. It wasn't so much of a music town, Freeman observes. " It was the kind of place that musicians in the early 70's found hospitable. Lots of pretty girls, cheap rent, a laid back atmosphere, those things were especially helpful, in those days." The word got around and musicians are still moving there, today, although things have changed, like everywhere else, and cheap rent is certainly a thing of the past. The main thing, though, that these folks had in common, was that they came ready to play blues. Unhappy with the direction rock was heading after the demise of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, blues was the only thing that appealed to these and a few other people. But still it was a struggle. Of course, Jimmie, w/ his Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Stevie finally found some commercial success. Freeman lived and played with Jimmie and Stevie off and on through the 70's and 80's. There just weren't many players interested in playing blues, so the pool was small. "I first heard Jimmie Vaughan play in Dallas, when he was 16, and Stevie a few years later, in Austin, when he was around 17. It was obvious, even then, that we would be hearing from these guys. It took a while, but eventually most fans of guitar, the world over, came to know about them, too. We became friends, roommates, bandmates. Stevie still owes me $30 rent."
In 1975, the world famous Antones Night Club opened up. At first, the T Birds were the house band, providing backing for the famous Chicago, and other, blues artists that were booked. In the early 80's, another house band was formed, and Freeman had guitar and piano duties, backing up blues giants like Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Lazy Lester, and many, many more. "It was beyond anything I could have imagined. I never thought I'd see most of these guys, much less get to play with them. Some of the shows were recorded, so I'm even on records with my heros."
In spite of Freeman's work with Austin blues bands and blues artists in L.A., where he lived from1992 until late 2004, he doesn't consider himself a "blues guy". "I'd rather think of myself as a guitar player." The compositions on his four albums display a love of three chord rock n' roll, soul jazz, blues and old school r&b and soul music. "I'll always love listening to my old blues records, and trying to play it (blues), but I don't want to be stuck in that bag. I like to go out on a limb, sometimes. I also love ballads." Clem Burke plays drums on his latest CD, "Twang Bang."
Some of Freeman's early recordings (late 80's) ended up in low budget, mostly horror films. One, "Mortuary Academy", featured Paul Bartel and Wolfman Jack. He recently was in the studio (eraly 2004), playing on the new Percy Sledge album, "Shining Through the Rain", which includes a Denny co-write (w/ Fontaine Brown), "Love Come and Rescue Me", as well as his own new project. In October (2004), he was in the studio, with C.C. Adcock, and Scott Nelson and Mike Keller, working on Doyle Bramhall's forthcoming album, "Is It News?". (Spring release)
Denny played in the Bob Dylan Band from 2005 until August 2009, and plays on the Bob Dylan album, "Modern Times". Since the autumn of 2009, Denny has been playing in Austin, Texas a lot, mostly at the Continental Club, Antones, and The Gallery, and in DFW area clubs, and is preparing to record.
Born and raised in east San Jose. Influenced by the great concerts in the Bay Area and all the music within my own family. The a.m. radio at the time brought us Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, BB King and Donny Hathaway in the same half hour. My family brought me homegrown pure folklorico music from Mexico. Dancing and playing and singing. Mix it all together and you get bands like War, Santana and Tower of Power – which are all heavy influences into how I think of rhythms and music.
I started out on the accordion. A great big one. Bigger than me. I had to pull it around in my red wagon and have someone put it on me once I sat down. That’s how big. Soon my brother Dennis was turning my head with the guitar and blues a la Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones. I graduated to rhythm guitar so my brother could practice his leads. Jimmy Reed all day for me. Then I saw an old cat play harmonica in the greyhound bus stations. Went out and mowed lawns all day one Saturday till I had $2.75 to get a marine band ‘c’ harmonica from Langone’s music store on Alum Rock Ave. next to Chuck’s Hobby Shop and across the street from Peter’s Bakery. I played it to everything. Everything on the radio. Everything I heard. I played along. In key or not. I played. I got a rack and played guitar and harp and was the neighborhood jukebox getting called onto friends porches and lawns to play a song.
We worked. I worked all the time. We played on my street. In garages. At jams at the bodega in Campbell, San Jose. At parties. All over… Playing blues was without question already my direction. I loved rock and still do and more where it came from. I studied records and liner notes and went to meet and hang out.
I carried guitars and shined shoes and snuck wine in to hang out. I just wanted to hang. And I did. Like so many of my friends and cats before me did. We just loved the old dudes and the blues dudes and women and had as much fun as we could.
In San Diego during my stint in the navy I met William Clarke and Smokey Wilson. The Paladins had a rehearsal built in my garage. We all ran together and i saw some great shows and played some. OK a lot. I had met Charlie Musselwhite when I was a kid hanging out at the bodega. He was with John Lee Hooker. I only wanted to play what they were playing. Lowdown. Smokey was unreal. And he and Bill Clarke were tight as family and thru them I met everyone down there and we played in Watts. Ricky and Laura’s. Pure pleasure lounge. Smokey’s Pioneer 88 on Vermont and 88th. JD Nicholsons’ after hours on Avalon. Harmonica Fat’s upstairs on 88 and Broadway. The Safari Room with Cardell. It was lowdown. William Clarke was family and will always be and a giant influence on everything to me. Hollywood Fats was a friend and just so much fun to watch play. The great James Harmon ruled the California coast and is as big an influence as anyone. Larry Taylor along with Junior Watson and Harmon and Bill and Fats were so great to have around and watch and play with. I learned so much from all of em.
After the navy and Southern Cal I went to Texas. Started in dallas and met a ton of great musicians out there and played with Freddie Pharoah, Hash Brown, Felix Reyes and Dallas cats. Met Sam Myers and Anson Funderburgh and would live with Sam Later and play once in a while with Anson. And me and Sam would do gigs. Sam on drums. Unreal.
From there Kim Wilson and Clifford Antone brought me down to Austin to play at Antones. I met every blues cat I ever wanted to there. They all played there and hung out there. During anniversary week just one year for example, I played with Buddy, Luther Tucker, Jimmy Rogers, Bob Strogher, Willie Big Eyes Smith, Pinetop, Bonnie Rait, Denny Freeman, George Rains, Mel Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Mike Buck, Rodney Craig… See what I mean? It was blues heaven and I was rolling in it. Drunk. It was the most musical unreal time.
Me and Alex Napier (Texas legend) leave for our first tour and we still didn’t have a van. We borrowed from the Continental and a tire shop and three friends with jobs and bought a dodge ramvan for 800 bucks on Lamar. Built a loft for a bed on top in the back and gear underneath. Welded some of the holes shut in the floor. Although the exhaust leak in the back would knock you out without fail. We didnt even have a whole tour booked but would show up places and play for food and gas. And we did. Sometimes we had actual shows. We opened up for all our friends. Roomful of blues and Albert Collins and all kinds. And the blues is a small world. One week on the road could bring jams with Uncle John Turner and Ronnie Earl and Denny Freeman.
I played in Texas till I got sober, with the help of some great friends. Some who are gone now. I went back out to California and got signed to Warner Chappell and William Morris then ICM. I played with the Greg Allman Band and met Warren Haynes and Woody Allen playing in that group when we toured. I love Warren and we all loved Woody. I met Matt Abts later and watched Gov’t Mule go thru all the stages from birth of that great band. Over the years I have done various appearances with Gov’t Mule and will do so till the end I imagine. At the end of the Allman tour I played with the Allman Brothers Band off and on for a few years and I would do shows here and there. I met Richie Sambora in the early 90s and i played harp for him for many years on his solo projects. A more generous helpful giant hearted rock star would be hard to find. A regular Jersey cat who loves blues. I am thankful for all the help he laid on me and exposure.
After it ALL blew up at the same time, I left. Went to Spain for two weeks and stayed. Began touring Europe and playing with a whole new set of cats. The most rewarding part of my Spanish trip, with the “spanishes” (as Smokey Wilson says) was and will alway be the flamenco. I met and was brought into the Amador family. The Fernandez family. Heavy weight flamenco blood line. Cathy Claret belongs to that family and I have recorded and played with Cathy and have played concerts with Raimundo Amador. I wrote a song in tribute to that first meeting.
Flamenco Soul is on my new record and I have moved back to the states. Billy Gibbons, Matt Abts and Jorgen Carlsson are the rhythm section for that song. After touring with the Alvin Younblood
Hart Muscle Theory playing bass for Alvin, I went back to Spain and closed up shop. I recorded this latest record No Matter What I Do on Blue NDN Records. A label I started with Shannon Green of California. We hope to develop a few friends and artists if we can get this record moving. The direction of it all is blues power and help for blues artist. We hope.
More recently I played with Warren Haynes as a duo for his set at Levon Helm’s Ramble. Since then I have been back and will continue to do so. The environment and vibe that Levon has created with his enormous soul and incredible music has been an honor for me to partake in.
For the future I hope to finalize a project with my cousin Russell Rodriguez, nephew Lico Zuniga and Taj Mahal. That is my dream project and goal for now. Taj Mahal has been a great help to me and more than an influence. I have shared the stage with Taj and it’s incredible. To say the least.
The second project I have on my list is Corey Harris, Pura Fe and Alvin Youngblood Hart, my cousins and me. These are goals I am working towards and hope to see all of you on the journey.
From Austin Texas, Riley is a much sought after studio keyboard player having recorded on over hundred albums in his career. Riley has toured with the likes of Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson and has been on the road and in the studio with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band since 2007.
Drummer supreme. Gold albums with Christopher Cross and Eric Johnson. Lots and lots of studio and live work with Mark Hallman, Will Sexton, Charlie Sexton, David Holt, Kris McKay, Mandy Mercier, Chris Holzhaus, Lance Keltner, Austin All Stars, Bruce Robison, Charlie Robison, Sarah Hickman, Eliza Gylkison, Jake Andrew. Pretty long list of excellence...