December 5, 2015 · 8pm /$15
When Mark Stutso, master of the deep groove, joined The Nighthawks at the beginning of 2010, the 21st-century version of the legendary American roots band was complete. With Paul Bell and Johnny Castle in the band for nearly a decade, and founding father Mark Wenner the remaining original, this team outshines all previous incarnations.
A Team of Veteran Players
The current members bring decades of varied experience to the stage and studio. Paul Bell has played in many influential bands around the Nation’s Capital and is the consummate D.C. guitarist, capable of soul scratching or country picking. Paul was less familiar with the classic Robert Lockwood/Louis Myers styles of Chicago blues playing than some of his predecessors, but it didn’t take long for him to add those to his bag of tricks. When he plays a slow blues solo, you can hear a little of late D.C. picker Roy Buchanan, but without the tortured hysterics. Paul spent 10 years working with legendary blue-eyed soul man and keyboardist Tommy Lepson, who subbed for Mark Wenner on a number of dates this year while Mark recovered from open-heart surgery.
Johnny Castle started his D.C. career with Crank, popular early hard-rockers who opened for Jimi Hendrix. He spent journeyman time with Eddie and Martha Adcock in the heyday of D.C. Bluegrass, mixing comfortably with legends such as Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley at festivals. After a stint with funk in an outfit called Spatz, he came through Tex Rabinowitz’s Bad Boys at the height of the Rockabilly revival, splitting off to form the psycho-billy band Switchblade. In 1984, Mark Wenner developed a repertoire of material with Switchblade and together they recorded Mark’s Fugitive – a project that mixed hard rocking country classics with electric blues instrumentation (think Kentucky Headhunters). Live versions of some of those tunes can be heard on Mark’s compilation, Runs Good, Needs Paint. Before joining the Nighthawks, Johnny spent a decade recording and touring with diesel-billy legend Bill Kirchen.
Mark Stutso spent nearly two decades with former Nighthawk Jimmy Thackery. Before that he played in a number of big and small-time rock bands, including Ruffryder – a spin-off of Black Oak Arkansas – and Virginia Beach-based Trix. Originally from deep in West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, Mark put in five years in the coal mines before escaping into his drum kit. He lives in Pittsburgh and has collaborated with the late Glenn Pavone and Norman Nardini. His vocals are a force to be reckoned with.
Blues Music Award
In 2009, Sirius XM’s Bill Wax, having heard that The Nighthawks were playing some acoustic shows, invited the band to record some live tracks for his “B.B. King’s Bluesville” channel. In less than two hours, the band cut almost a dozen tunes. A week later, Bill handed them a mixed version with permission to release. After Bill Wolf’s magic-touch in the mastering, Last Train to Bluesville was released on RipBang Records. With the able assistance of publicist Mark Pucci and radio promoter Todd Glazer, the CD won Acoustic Album of the Year at the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards in Memphis in May 2011.
The Nighthawks “444”
444 draws from the deep roots the band has always mined: an organic mix of originals and classic cover tunes. Some are well known, like Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues,” and some more obscure, like the Du Droppers’ “Walk That Walk.” But they all blend to make a rich American stew. “Honky Tonk Queen,” a Wenner original that sounds as if it could have come from an old Rolling Stones’ session outtake; “No Secrets,” (another Wenner song) and “Price of Love” (written by The Everly Brothers) are previously recorded Nighthawks songs presented here with new depth and breadth. “The King” is well-represented on the new disc, as well. Two early Elvis Presley movie numbers — “Got a Lot of Livin’” the final song in his 1957 film, Lovin’ You (which Elvis sings out in the audience that includes his mother Gladys) and “Crawfish,” which opens his 1958 movie, King Creole — date from the magic period in the 1950s when Mark Wenner was most under the spell of the radical new star.
THE NIGHTHAWKS, Legends of blues & roots rock current lineup for The Nighthawks is:
Mark Wenner: Vocals, Harmonica
Johnny Castle: Vocals, Bass
Paul Bell: Guitar
Mark Stutso: Drums, Vocals