The "T-Blue". Or, if the "T" stands for tornado. It actually stands for Tirado, his Navaho/Spanish name.
T-Blue is still gracious enough to discuss his music career even after so many years of playing concerts, festivals and clubs alike. When asked recently how it all began for him Tee said, "In 1975 may dad bought me a Sears Silvertone guitar. The case was an actual amp. The natural distortion was excellent and I got the fever." It seems that he found his niche early.
Tee was born in the Bronx, N.Y. and spent his early years there with his parents who had immigrated from Puerto Rico. In those days the neighborhoods in the Bronx had block parties, veritable parties in the streets that were sponsored by Pepsi-cola, Coca-Cola, and/or beer companies he says. He got to see Santana, B.B. King and Buddy Guy among others for no admission fee These artists were apparently considered to be underground, unlike some of the Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and The Temptations who were considered to be uptown. He says, "Those uptown artists commanded top dollar but my father did take me to a lot of those concerts. When I was 12 years old I saw James Brown and his 12-piece band, horns and all. Wow."
And what about other early influences? Perhaps the most understandable and universal responses for the time, "Watching The Rolling Stones and The Beatles on television", he says. "Then I started all that good stuff in the late 1970's. I had good luck with Jon Butcher and The Axis." He got to play bass for him in Boston, Mass. after having moved from the Bronx to Boston. That lasted for about a year . Then came opening for the J. Geills Band in Foxboro, Mass. for a crowd of 44,000 when he was 27 years old. He says he'll never forget the sound of the crowd after each song. "It sounded like a dinosaur or something; like this roaring echo rushing towards the stage".
In 1989 T-Blue relocated to Tampa, Fl. Eventually playing the live music circuit here required that he be "like a chameleon".Part of adapting to his surroundings included adding some "Reggae Island Flavor" to his repertoire.
And on mixing genres he's candid about his philosophy on it. He describes it as crossing borders as you get older; (think Clapton's version of I Shot The Sheriff with it's Kingston, Jamaica sound). Suffice it to say that he has adequately "Reggigified"
When I told Tee about a young band that I heard interviewed on the radio the other day who said that they don't sound like anyone he giggled. He says he understands their reluctance to be pidgeon-holed but that the thinks that young artists may have to adapt and be a mixture of three or four bands, at least if they want to survive in a live club scenario. "People want something they can put their forks and knives into" he says. And he adds, "I take it as a compliment when someone says that I sound like somebody else. And if you totally do your own thing the club owner might not call back".
Even when Tee plays a Blues club or a Reggae club he finds himself crossing genres. He says that European tourists in particular want to hear music from 40 years ago. He continually gets requests for Eric Burden and The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and Santana. He says he doesn't mind playing these at all but that once in awhile it can be a challenge to remember all of the lyrics. And while he loves the classics of the rock and roll era he also really enjoys incorporating World Beat Rhythm.
Let's backtrack again. In 1993 Tee had been under contract with what was then Polydor records; (nostalgic note: the reddish orange center on a 45 rpm record for those of us who remember those early record acquisitions)
Important covers and influences include Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, The J. Geills Band (reminding that they used to be way more bluesy), The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughn and of course, B.B. King.
Tee says, "I like to make people dance and make them smile." 'I like to keep the happy alcoholics happy', he often proclaims at his shows. And he will encourage impromptu performances by cameo tamborine girls. "For sure, for sure".
Commenting on the current local Iive music scene Tee laments, "The clubs don't pay what they used to. I've never seen anything like this since I've lived in Florida." When he plays his solo shows and some people ask him where the band is he has to explain that it's just unaffordable.
If you are a fan of any of the afforementioned bands it might behoove you to venture out to a T-Blue performance sooner rather than later. I'm sure he has a lot more left in the tank but you are truly missing out. And as a bonus round you'll experience the visual spin-out of bouncing laser light beams and church-boy/church-
Oh, and you're also bound to hear, "Sweet. sweet, sweet". By any other name indeed.
Upcoming shows include:
Beginning May 17 th the return of thursday at the Katiki in Treasure Island 7pm-11pm
Source: Stephanie Goodhue-MUSEOL's weekly musician profile story