Blues great Curtis Salgado to perform in his Everett hometown

Northwest blues legend Curtis Salgado returns to Everett — his birthplace — on Saturday evening for a concert at the Historic Everett Theatre.

“I’ve played Everett a handful of times over the years. It’s a good place,” Salgado said. “I was a baby when my folks left town, but I always say I was born in Everett.”

Salgado’s parents moved to Oregon, eventually to Eugene, where Salgado grew up and started his career.

It was there, when John Belushi was in Eugene to film the 1978 movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” that Salgado, belting it out in a local bar, inspired Belushi and movie director John Landis to create “The Blues Brothers.”

In that movie, the great Cab Calloway plays the character “Curtis.” The Blues Brothers’ debut album, “Briefcase Full of Blues,” is dedicated to Salgado.

The singer, who now lives in Portland, said his parents are responsible for his love of music.

“My folks were jazz enthusiasts, and we listened to a lot of swing-era music,” he said.

“Lots of Ray Charles, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman. Then my sister and my brother introduced me to Wilson Pickett, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Muddy Waters, Buddy Ace, Otis Redding, Howlin’ Wolf, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, the opera stars. I was crazy about it all,” he said.

“I love classical, bluegrass, gospel and soul, folk music, rhythm and blues, funk, rock and roll. I grew up exposed to a smorgasbord of music.”

Salgado, who is still winning national awards for his blues vocals and recordings, also is well-known for his prowess on the harmonica.

“It’s the only instrument where you breathe in and out. It’s somewhat cheap and lots of people have one. In the hands of people who don’t know how to play, the harmonica can be very annoying,” Salgado said.

“But for those who know how to get everything out of it, the harmonica is three octaves of a piano. An amazing instrument. It cries, it purrs, it’s percussive and addicting. But only if you can play it.”

Salgado fronted his own group, The Nighthawks, starting out as a teen in late 1960s and ’70s. He was a co-star of The Robert Cray Band, and sang and toured with Roomful of Blues. He released his first of eight solo albums in 1991.

Salgado and his band toured with The Steve Miller Band and he spent a summer singing with Santana before being sidelined by serious health issues in 2006.

He’s battled all the way back from lung cancer, and, after a full recovery, has been touring the country and playing blues festivals all over the world.

“I turned 60 this year, and I am so lucky to turn 60,” Salgado said. “I feel good, and I am on top of it.”

Salgado’s most recent album, “Soul Shot,” was a great challenge and his best so far, he said.

“It was challenging because of my health issues and because you have to outdo yourself every time you go out,” he said. “The band is really good on ‘Soul Shot,’ and we’ve been given a lot of praise.”

What Salgado likes most about American roots music is its soulful strength.

“I don’t know the future of the blues. Will it fall by the wayside like Dixieland jazz? We live in a technical age, but technology has no soul,” he said.

“I just hope somewhere in Mississippi that some young man is going to pick up where his grandpa left off, and we’ll have a new generation of blues players.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Tickets

Curtis Salgado performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. Tickets are $24, or $20 for military, seniors and children under 12. Visit the box office at the theater or call 425-258-6766.

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