If you frequented Tony’s New Yorker in Tempe or Char’s Has the Blues in the mid-to-late 1980s, you probably rubbed shoulders with Chuck Hall, Scott Andrews and Mark Riggs, who were also known as Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall. The trio were part of an explosive and terribly unheralded blues scene in the greater Phoenix area, and Fervor Records recently has reissued the band’s 1987 eponymous local classic, Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall.
Blues fans in the Valley will be familiar with the name Chuck Hall. And anyone between the ages of 45 and 75 who regularly read the New Times in the late 1980s will recognize the name Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall, who were gigging around town on almost a nightly basis. A native of Texas, Hall moved to Phoenix on a whim in 1984 with bandmate Andrews and quickly inserted himself into the music scene, primarily by hanging out at Tony’s New Yorker.
“I met everybody real fast. People invited me to come sit in and I took them up on it. The first place was at Tony's (New Yorker). Big Pete (Pearson) invited me to sit in at Tony's and I went down there, and I walked in that place and my first thought was, ‘I'm gonna be in here a lot,’” Hall said over the phone from his home in Carefree.
While Hall and Andrews were part of the popular Texas Red and the Hartbreakers, they found themselves needing a drummer, and Hall thought of Riggs. The two had played together in Dallas a few years prior and called him to see if he had any interest in relocating to the desert.
“Mark had already moved back to South Carolina. So he goes, ‘Yeah, I'll do it.’ He packed up his drums, jumped on a Greyhound and rode out here. It took 30 hours or so,” says Hall.
After about a year and a half of backing Texas Red (Paul Halperin), Hall remembers Andrews mentioning the idea of creating a power trio featuring Hall, Andrews and Riggs. Hall had been writing his own songs and Andrews was keen to see what they could do with their own stuff. Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall were soon born, and it was not long before a fourth member of the team was added. While “Tall” Paul Dorman was not a musician, he wanted to help however he could, and he became the new band’s manager.
“I was just a big fan. I had just gotten married not too long before that and I had been a schoolteacher, which I have done on and off for 35 to 40 years, and I decided to try something different. We ended up putting a little plan together and I did all the booking (for the band) and then we bought a PA to haul with us whenever we needed to go to bigger shows,” remembers Dorman.
The fondness for those days was reflected in conversation with both Hall and Dorman. To say that the band enjoyed a nice ride would be understatement. They were making a living off The Brick Wall, including Dorman, and racking up a nice list of blues legends the band supported in concert while they were active from 1986-92. During that time, they played with Albert King, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Georgia Satellites and many others.
Dorman remembers a particularly memorable night supporting King at the Mason Jar (now Rebel Lounge).
“I asked the (members of King’s) band if they thought Albert would take a picture with us and they just laughed and said, ‘Albert won’t do that.’ But after the second show, Albert came out and had a drink and I asked if we could get a picture and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll take one.’ So, we got our picture and Albert was drinking and farting around and decided he wanted to do another encore. The stage was already being struck, half the people were gone, and this got Albert pissed. He was cussing and he says, ‘You tell anyone who’s coming to the next gig with me to be on the bus in five minutes,’ and he was gone,” says Dorman.
Hall and Dorman are very excited about Fervor Records’ reissue of the 1987 album. It was initially done thanks to another fan, a lawyer who put up the money to record and press the album on Dorman’s one-shot label, Whiz Bang Records. Neither could remember how many of the albums were initially pressed, but they both settled on it being a thousand copies. If you have one of those, you have a rare piece of Phoenix music history, and the team at Fervor recognizes this.
“Fervor has a longstanding relationship with Chuck, Scott, and Mark. I remembered this LP from back in the day and then discovered Scott had the original 2" master tapes. After discussing things with the band, we all agreed that remixing the record would be a great way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its original release. We put things in the hands of Bruce Connole and let Bruce work his magic. We're super-pleased with the result. I remember Chuck Hall and The Brick Wall blowing the doors off every club in town back in the '80s and I think we've captured that energy," shared David Hilker, CEO of Fervor Records.
Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall provides an incredible opportunity to travel though time to the wonderful blues scene in Phoenix in the late 1980s. While the songs are in many ways timeless, they capture, as Hilker pointed out, the energy of the trio in their heyday. “The Right Stuff” is an excellent track, for example, which echoes the Texas sound that Hall grew up with while bringing a vibrancy and charm that explains in a crisp 2 minutes, 45 seconds why the band was so popular and a regular on Phoenix airwaves.
It is fortunate for Phoenix blues fans that Hall continues to play music regularly around the Southwest as a solo act and with his Chuck Hall Band. Andrews and Riggs also continued to contribute to the valley scene in various acts including Pistoleros and Chimeras. According to Dorman, Riggs is currently in a tenuous battle with cancer, so he is not active musically. But hopefully one day there will be an opportunity for Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall to unite and celebrate the rerelease of their 1987 record together on stage.