After Coco Montoya and Jimmie Vaughan finish their respective sets on Friday, April 12, at the MontBleu Showroom, don’t be surprised if they share the stage for an impromptu jam. That’s what blues guitar masters like to do.
It’s something that takes courage as well as skill.
“Improvisation takes a lot of awareness onstage,” Montoya told Tahoe Onstage. “If you’re all aware — if you’re all listening to each other — some wonderful, magic things happen. If you’re not, it’s going to be a train wreck.”
The show at Lake Tahoe is a one-off. Each artist is on his own separate tour. Vaughan has been featured with Buddy Guy, and next month he will team up with Eric Clapton for a week of shows in London. Montoya has been on extensive national tour with blues-rocker Tinsley Ellis.
“Coco’s got it all,” Ellis said. “He’s a great guitarist, and an equally great singer with memorable songs. He’s one of my favorite blues artists working today.”
Montoya caught the blues when he was a rock-and-roll loving teenager. He went to an Iron Butterfly and Creedence Clearwater Revival concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Playing between those “hippie bands” was a completely different kind of artist: Albert King.
“He came onstage in a shiny suit and patent leather shoes,” Montoya said. “It completely changed my perspective of what music is all about. It changed everything because it was coming from such an emotional place. Everything I gravitate to is what affects me emotionally. After I saw Albert King, that was it, emotionally. I never looked back.”
Montoya learned to play guitar in the same fashion of King: left-handed and upside down. But his first participation in a major blues band was as a drummer for Albert Collins, who would provide instruction during down time on tours.
He later became a guitarist with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a band he played with for a decade.
Montoya said he studied the blues bible of guitar players, “Albert Collins, King, Otis Rush, Lowell Fulson and the British blues players, Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor. There’s no one person you take everything from. If you do, you’re probably cheating yourself.”
Jimmie Vaughan is best known for starting the band The Fabulous Thunderbirds and for his younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to play a show with Jimmie,” Montoya said. “I haven’t done that in quite a while. It was in the Mayall days when he was with the Thunderbirds. Oh, now that I think about it, we did one show in maybe 2011, 2012, somewhere in the Midwest. I remember being surrounded by cornfields in a casino.
“Jimmie Vaughan to me is deep in the tradition of original blues playing. He’s one of the greats who has been around a long, long time. We’re both the same age and have a lot of the same influences. He was doing it in Austin, Texas and I was doing it in LA.”
— Tim Parsons
- Coco Montoya and Jimmie Vaughan
When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 12
Where: MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa
Tickets: $25, $30 and $40