Smokin' Joe Kubek feat. B'Nois King

Smokin Joe Kubek was born on November 30, 1956 in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Shortly after he was born his family moved to Irving, Texas where he grew up. Kubek was playing in Dallas clubs at the age of 14. Three years later, he took a deeper interest in blues, prompted by Eric Clapton and Peter Green, and formed his first band. Shortly afterwards, he played rhythm guitar behind Freddie King until King's death in December 1976. After a short spell with Robert Whitfield's Last Combo, he joined Al Braggs" band. Examples of his work can be heard on Braggs" 1979 production of tracks by R. L. Griffin. He also recorded with Charlie Robinson, Big Ray Anderson and Ernie Johnson, and on Little Joe Blue's album, "It's My Turn Now". In 1989, he teamed up with singer/guitarist Bnois King, from Monroe, Louisiana, whose soul-tinged vocals and jazz-orientated style contrasted well with Kubek's more strident finger and slide techniques. "The Axe Man" is an album of covers recorded before their Bullseye Blues debut. Subsequent releases have consolidated their reputation as a solid, entertaining band. Kubek made a host of new friends, including Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan (with whom Kubek became close), B.B. King and many other blues icons. He often found himself jamming with these larger-than-life blues stars, while playing constantly around the Dallas area. He not only learned tips and techniques, but also soaked up stories and lessons of being a professional touring musician. One night, he even had the chance to play B.B.’s guitar, Lucille. “King admired my enthusiasm and he encouraged me, which really meant a lot. When times got hard, I always remembered how B.B. King had given me some encouragement.”

Kubek is one of those people who was born to play the guitar. Kubek has the technique and the chops to burn up any stage and has been doing so for the past 27 years. A guitar prodigy at the age of 14 the Texas born guitar slinger frequented the Dallas bar scene during the 1970's and early 80's playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan and people like the three Kings, B. B., Albert and Freddie. In 1989, Kubek met guitarist/vocalist Bnois King at a Monday night Dallas jam session. The two became fast friends, and melded their seemingly divergent styles—Kubek a rocking and fierce picker and slider, King a jazz-inflected chorder (who could also solo with flaming electricity)—into one of the most potent guitar combinations the Southwest had ever produced. Kubek explains the relationship succinctly: “I pull the blues out of him, and he pulls the jazz out of me. Bnois knows so much about jazz it’s amazing.”

Kubek, with his staggering arsenal of instruments, effects and technique, delivers a frenzied, flame-throwing guitar display that is tempered by the remarkable accompaniment of Bnois King's jazz influenced guitar. Kubek, coming from the blazing Texas blues/rock background, found in Bnois King's smooth jazz guitar stylings a finesse and fat chord sound that was a perfect complement to his technique. The combination just clicked with a seamless mesh of styles. King lays down a bed of smooth supporting jazz chords on his hollow bodied Gibson that allows Kubek to take center stage and play with almost reckless abandon. Together this dynamic duo has recorded 7 albums for Bullseye Blues & Jazz Records.

Muscling his way through the proceedings both live and on disc, Kubek will pull, bend, pick, and push his strings well beyond what you'd think they'd normally endure as he runs through his and King's songs. Using Hendrix-style crybaby wah-wah leads and ear-bleeding, Johnny Winter-meets-Elmore James slide work on songs such as the title/leadoff cut and the shuffling "She's It," he brings things to a boiling point with screeching and shimmering lines that rattle speaker cones and make the fillings in your teeth vibrate. Then, applying the brakes, he runs through some of the sweetest, most beautiful slow blues on "I'm Here for You" and "Cryin' By Myself" with shimmering high notes, hanging in the air above heavy turnarounds. Throughout, King (no relation to Freddie) will comp along on his Gibson, shout lyrics, and, in general, make the whole package complete.

This union began during a regular Monday-night gig in Dallas when Kubek invited King to sit in and found that King's softer, jazz-based guitar and vocals perfectly complemented Kubek's headier rock-inspired guitar work. Although the partnership is a natural, Kubek still seems amazed that it worked at all. Months earlier, the two shared an uncomfortable meeting that he still recalls today. "We laugh at it now," he says, "but when we first ran into each other, it was in some club dressing room a while before I'd invited him to sit in with my band. Neither of us remembers why we were there, because it wasn't our gig. We never said a word to each other. We just kinda sat there and looked at each other. It was weird."

The pair became fast friends and eventually found themselves on the road in support of their first Bullseye disc, Steppin' Out, released in 1991. On early tours, the band did weeks in the Northeast in the dead of winter in an old Ford van, without heat. "It was kinda like that movie Alive," Kubek notes with a laugh. "We'd drive all bundled up. And it got so cold sometimes, I'd actually think of building a fire inside the thing just to keep warm. Then to top it off, every hotel we stopped at only had heat in the rooms when you rented 'em. So they never got warm. I had to sleep with my hair dryer the whole time. The goal was just to get home alive."

In 1991, they signed to Bullseye Blues, releasing their debut, Steppin' Out Texas Style, the same year. Following its release, the band launched their first national tour. For the rest of the '90s, the Smokin' Joe Kubek Band toured the United States and toured frequently and issued records like 1993's Texas Cadillac, 1996's Got My Mind Back, and 2000's Bite Me. In 2003 Kubek and King released Roadhouse Research on the Blind Pig label. The duo's second release for Blind Pig, Show Me the Money, came out in 2004. A single-disc collection of some of the best tracks from the Bullseye Blues years, Served Up Texas Style, came out in 2005. A third album from Blind Pig Records, My Heart's in Texas, was released in 2006.

For almost 20 years, the red-hot Texas rockin’ blues of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King has been thrilling music fans all around the world. Kubek’s raucous roadhouse fretwork is expertly complimented by the equally fiery guitar and soulful vocals of Bnois King. With literally thousands of live performances under their collective belt, the two create a one-two punch of raw, tough, blues-rock filled with intensity and purpose. Gigging with legendary musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Freddie King and B.B. King (among so many others), Kubek learned first-hand how to live and play the blues and how to lead a band. Harp declared, “Kubek and King pump out rocking, kicking blues for those times when the feet just want to start stomping.”

The band’s Alligator Records debut, Blood Brothers, produced by Kubek and Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, is a blues lover’s delight. The CD features 14 rocking blues songs (13 originals) filled with Kubek’s larger-than-life fretwork and King’s smoky vocals and economical, tasty guitar playing. Recorded with Kubek and King’s road-honed touring unit, the album captures all of the band’s legendary live energy and highlights the seemingly telepathic interplay between the musicians.

According to Iglauer, “Joe and Bnois are a real powerhouse blues combination. Joe is an amazing guitarist who can play anything in blues, from the most traditional Texas style to totally blowout blues-rock. Bnois is a gorgeous singer with deep Texas soul, and his guitar playing is subtle and melodic. Together they make an unbeatable two-man front line backed by a solid, versatile rhythm section.”

And Kubek is simply thrilled to be with Alligator. “Alligator is the Rolls Royce of blues labels. After all my life of being a musician, this is the greatest achievement and brightest spot of my career. I’m looking forward to making the best recordings I’ve ever made, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of our fans on tour.”

More than anything else, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King exist to perform live. With Blood Brothers and a massive tour planned, the band will gig from coast to coast, bringing their no-holds-barred brand of soul-charged, Texas rockin’ blues to old fans and newcomers night after night. From the smallest Texas roadhouse to clubs and concert stages all over the country and around the world, Kubek and King—band mates and blood brothers—are ready to welcome everyone into their Texas blues family.

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