BluesHounds: "It's Not About What We Like -- It's What the People Like"
It's a simple formula: The BluesHounds play upbeat dance blues, and that gets the people happy. The happy people start dancing, and the dancing makes them thirsty, and the thirsty people make club owners happy.
Matty Spinelli, lead guitarist and bandleader for the BluesHounds, doesn't mind the way things work; he loves the dancing blues, and his fans love the dancing blues, so everyone wins.
Clearly, the formula works; the BluesHounds have been making it work through eight years and a number of membership changes. Spinelli himself wasn't the original bandleader; he joined the band after answering an advertisement.
As currently constructed, the BluesHounds are Betty Jo Vachon, the voice and personality of the band; Peter Hall, a drummer and vocalist hailing from England; Michael Kiser, who plays bass and assists with the band's arrangements; and Dennis Valentine on keyboards and vocals.
Spinelli says Valentine also provides the BluesHounds' comic relief. "He has a happy attitude, so everybody likes it when he comes into the room."
As for Spinelli himself, the erstwhile New Yorker has been playing the blues and rock guitar since 1969.
"My main influences were Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Santana," he says. "I like helping with background vocals, but I'm not a lead singer."
While the BluesHounds have made their mark in the Valley, Spinelli emphasizes that they aren't doing it for the money. "It's for the joy of playing."
"We want people to have a good time. We play everything from Paul Butterfield to Stevie Ray Vaughn to Aretha Franklin," he said. As a youth, Spinelli started listening to Kiss and Judas Priest, but he learned that some of their sounds came from Eric Clapton. So, Spinelli became exposed to original blues performs such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, BB King, Freddie King, Albert King, and Howlin' Wolf.
"I also like blues because it brings out emotion," he said. "We want to make the people happy. It's not about what we like, but about what the people like. We have to be in tune with what the audience wants because then they'll come the extra mile to come see us."
The BluesHounds recently performed for a fundraiser for St. Mary's Food Bank at the El Dorado. "It worked out well," he says. "The atmosphere was great. Everybody was in a giving mood. People were generous." That's not part of the formula, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
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