The Hamilton Loomis Band
recently performed to a sell out audience at the Garston Royal Legion,
Liverpool, on their 'Live in England' UK tour. I think Lionel Ross
summed it up in his review:
was a top quality show from four highly accomplished musicians, who
combine magnificently to form a wonderfully tight and well balanced
unit. Hamilton Loomis oozes class and is a superlative and charismatic
performer. It can only be a matter of time before they progress to the
next level and receive wider acclaim. It would be no less than they
What were your first musical memories growing up in Galveston, Texas?
Hamilton: I was at the beach every other day, it was very sunny.
Galveston is an island so itís cut off from the mainland. Itís the same
as every other small town so listening to music was mainly my parents
record collection which was soul, blues, funk, rock and a bit of
everything. I grew up watching MTV so it all comes together.
Alan: Even Prince!
Hamilton: Yeah, when Purple Rain came out I was ten years old
and it just blew my mind. I was listening to his guitar playing, and
thereís a lot of blues in it. That's where I get some of the rhythm.
Alan: Did you always want to become a musician?
Hamilton: Oh yeah. I picked it up early because my parents were
musicians and so there were always instruments around the house so I
naturally gravitated towards them.
Alan: What instruments did you start with?
Hamilton: The drums, although Iím a horrible drummer now because I've
forgotten everything. But my grandfather brought me a drumset when I was
4 or 5 and Iíd beat out rhythms like Chopsticks. But once I picked up
guitar and bass then they became my main instruments
Alan: In the early years, I understand that you toured with your
family group. Tell me about the music you were playing
Hamilton: Just to be accurate, we didnít actually tour because I was
at school. I was 14 when we started playing and we did mainly oldies
and doo-wop, old rock and roll with 3 part harmony. That influenced me
and itís why I have a lot of 3 part harmonies now.
Alan: What first attracted you to the blues
Hamilton: My parents record collection. The Houston blues scene was
thriving at that time too with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland and
guys like that were still around. Gatemouth Brown used to play all the
time in Houston Ė he was from Louisiana just across the Border. And of
course theyís where Bobby Bland recorded all his hits for Duke Records
in the 60s.
How did you first meet Bo Diddley
Hamilton: I went to a concert of his in Houston when I was 16. Went
back stage to get an autograph and I played for him back there while he
was signing my guitar case. And I was playing some of his songs and I
guess it caught him offguard that this young pip-squeak was playing some
of his music. The young white generation of my age were high school
kids who had mostly never heard of Bo Diddley. He said ďThatís pretty
good son, play me some moreĒ. So I played him some more, nervously and I
was back stage for about 10 minutes and he said, ďThat sounds pretty
good, we should do something together sometime.Ē And so, on the next
set we were sitting near the front and he said in front everybody,
ďThereís a young man who played for me back stage. Come on up here and
see if the guitar player will let you play his guitarĒ. And graciously
the guitar player tore his guitar off and handed it to me as if to give
me a shot, so I hopped up and we played a song. That was probably one
of the coolest moments of my life. And after that song he took his hat
off and put it on my head and said, ďThis here is the next Bo DiddleyĒ
and that was just the biggest compliment that anybody has ever given me
in the world. So after that show I went back stage to thank him and he
said, ďHereís my home phone number. Call me and weíll do something
togetherĒ. I thought he was just joking so I waited about a week and
then I called this number and, sure enough, it was his home number and
we went to his house and did some demos in his studio and hooked up
with his producer, Scott Key, who ended up writing a couple of songs for
me including Slow Lover which we played tonight.
Alan: Tell me about the other Texan blues legends who influenced
you in the early years.
Hamilton: I used to listen to a lot of Freddie King who was from
Texas, but I never got to meet him. Probably the biggest influence on
my playing style was a guy called Joe Guitar Hughes. Not many people
know about him because he never made it famous, never really toured
because he was a family man. But he grew up with Johnny Copeland and
Albert Collins in Houston and Joe taught Johnny Copeland how to play.
He was just a total guitarist Ė knew all the chords and all the voicings.
And he was just a fantastic musician. His recordings really donít do
him justice but he used to host a blues jam every Tuesday night up in
this little part of town there was an all black club and my parents and
I would go up there and weíd be the only white people in the place, but
when the music started all the barriers were down. That was the first
time I really saw that as a teenager, how music breaks down cultural
barriers and thatís a beautiful thing. So he gave me a shot and he
taught me through a lot licks and a lot of lessons things like how to be
sparse with effects, gete your tone from your hands not from your
effects, learning how to listen to the other musicians, have a
conversation with them and donít just play loud all the time but use
dynamics. Things like that have just stuck with me. I got to play with
Gatemouth Brown a few times too so I like to slip and slide around and I
got that from him.
Alan: Which is your favourite instrument?
Hamilton: Itís bass. Itís fun. Guitar players and bass players have
a completely different role musically and itís a really fun challenge
for me. Back at home in the Houston area I do a lot of sessions when
Iím not on tour for other people's recordings and probably 80% of
sessions I do on bass, not on guitar. Itís taught me a lot about rhythm
and being a part of the rhythm section, listening to what the drummerís
doing. Even listening to the lyrics to a song, even the bass can have a
role in making the song move along rather than just playing the root all
the time. Being a tasteful bass player is completely the opposite to
being a lead guitar player. It's just a lot of fun.
Any particular songs you play that have special meaning to you?
Hamilton: Any time you write a song it has a special meaning to you
because it comes from a special place in your life. Itís a really good
question but I donít know if one really stands out, although there are
obviously songs which I think are stronger than others. Perhaps one
that really stands out that was fun to write is My Pen because
itís about not being able to write a song, and I actually got myself out
of a writersí slump with that song. Iím my own worse critic, Iím a
perfectionist, Iím a very slow song writer, I throw away 90% of what I
write, so I had to make it sound like it wasnít my fault but the penís
fault and that got the humour in. That is what Iím about anyway Ė not
being too too serious.
Alan: So what brought you to the UK originally?
Hamilton: In 2005 a friend of mine who is an agent and promoter, Terry
Robins, who used to tour over here as a bass player for another artist,
and approached me and said he thought he could book a tour for me and he
started planning a year in advance and booked a 5 week tour for me on my
first time over here. I just dove in with both feet and just learned
really quickly how to drive on the left. I wasnít supposed to be doing
it but the rent car company didnít have van for us so we had to rent two
estate cars and I had to drive. You learn about the ins and outs of
different countries that you go to and when you talk to local people and
get tips on things, like now I know what speed cameras are!
How healthy do you think the blues scene is in the UK compared to the
Hamilton: Itís hard to say. The blues scene in the US is kinda dying
unfortunately because there are a lot of blues purists in the States,
and here as well. Those purists that like the old traditional blues
arenít going to be attracted to my style which is very progressive Ė and
thatís okay because everybody has what they like and I totally respect
that. Thatís where my roots are.
Alan: At UK blues festivals, yes, you get the purists, but for a
festival you have to have a good range as well to attract the crowds.
Hamilton: Exactly. Whatís good about the US is that the blues will
never die because there are such a large concentration of blues
festivals, venues, blues societies and promoters. And thatís great
because even though what I do isnít really blues, but it is blues
influenced, and we are able to stay working and touring. Itís hard to
really talk about the UK scene because when Iím here itís just full on.
Tonight is the second of 14 nights in a row, all over the UK, from
Southsea to Scotland. I don't really get the chance to experience to
listen to music, I'm always working. But as far as I can see, thereís a
lot of great blues festivals here and great publications like Blues
Matters and Blues in Britain.
Thatís one of the reasons why I dropped my label, Blind Pig, because
they are only in the blues genre. I want to get in Mojo and you
canít really branch out into other genres if youíre on a label which
only does strictly blues. I still have a great relationship with Blind
Pig; they are a great label because they let the artists have all
artistic control, but I have to expand. There are a lot of people who
havenít been exposed to my music because of the avenues that blues will
not let you go in. So I want to not only stay in blues and honour my
roots but I also want to expand to other genres.
Alan: Well the crowd here loved it.
Hamilton: When you get young people involved itís even better. Last
night we were in Hertfordshire (Hart or Hert? Itís like Darby or
Derby!) on the university campus with college students and I think itís
fantastic when they are getting into roots music.
Your crowd pleasing stage shows are legendary. Do you have any
memorable moments? I certainly remember you jumping off the balcony at
the Colne R&B Festival.
Hamilton: I donít know what the hell was going through my mind then!
It was my very first time in the UK and my third gig ever in the UK and
I was just wanting to make a splash. I went upstairs, played up there,
went on the balcony and jumped. Yeh, you were there. It was a crazy
thing to do and people remember you by it. But with hindsight it was a
bit too much because the next year when I came back I got all these
reviews and they were talking about how Iím an acrobat as well and they
focused almost more on the stage antics than the music. But I wanted to
be remembered for my music and my songs, so I backed off a bit. Now
that weíre a bit established, itís easier to concentrate on the music.
Alan: How is your current tour going?
Hamilton: Great, so far.
Alan: Well, tonight here in Liverpool it was a complete sell
Hamilton: Just wonderful. Liverpool is probably one of the best and
fastest growing market for us. This is only the third time I've played
in Liverpool. Itís obvious that Liverpool people love their music.
Alan: So how did you first meet young Alex McKown?
We met on My Space. The great thing about technology nowadays is that
you can really hear and see exactly what people are doing. Alex and his
Dad approached me, introduced themselves and asked if they could perhaps
jam sometime, and they just left it at that. I listened to his stuff
and I thought that the kidsí got chops. So I said, any shows that you
can come to Iíll get Alex up on stage. I feel itís almost a duty of
mine to give young players exposure, just like Bo did for me. Johnny
Copeland did it for me too, he got me up on stage at the Juneteenth
Blues Fest, which is a huge black history event, and he didnít have to
do that but he saw enough in me to give me exposure. Gatemouth Brown
did the same thing. Albert Collins got me on stage to play with him a
few months before he died. None of these guys had to do that but it was
amazing. Unfortunately the young blues players now donít have those
opportunities because youíve just about got Buddy Guy and BB King but
theyíre old and theyíre so big they are virtually untouchable. So I was
very fortunate and I feel very strong obligation to help.
Thereís another guitarist in the UK who is 12, called Aaron Keylock who
lives in Oxford and heís going to come to our Charlotte Street gig next
week and weíll give him a shot too. Again, I listened to him on
YouTube. It's a pleasure for me to help.
Alan: Tell me about the making of your new album, Live in
Hamilton: It kind of fell into my lap. I hadnít planned on doing it
but the chemistry is so great between the four of us. Stratton, Kent
and I fly over here and we hook up with Jamie who lives in Birmingham
and weíre all young, all have the same interests, all like the same kind
of music and each player brings a different element to the core sound of
the band even though itís kinda centred around my songs. When I got
over here, I thought how great it would be if we could record last
yearís tour and my friend Tony Jezzard who lives in Oxford and is the
sound man for Famous Monday Blues said, ďIíve got a 24 track, Alesis, HD
24 simultaneous hard disc recorder. You want to use it?Ē. Well, hell,
yes I wanted to use it. So we recorded at five different performances
and the two best ones were Famous Monday Blues and Liverpool Arena so I
combined those two performances, edited them together, took it to a very
talented mixologist in Houston called Mike Thompson and he did wonders
with matching the tones from the two nights to make them sound identical
and Iím really happy with the results.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do
you thing that is?
Hamilton: Itís simple! All of our music came from blues, didnít it.
Even rock and roll in the 50s was nothing but sped-up blues. You listen
to every Chuck Berry song, every Little Richard song, even Elvis did
it. All those songs were just sped-up 12 bar blues. Thatís the roots
of our music and I think itís great that thereís a resurgence of young
players now who are really into blues. They are going to be around for
a long time. Yes, there are fads and there are artists who are
flash-in-the pan, we have American Idol, you have X factor, its the same
sort of deal. Yes, theyíll be famous for a little while but if you do
whatís hot at the time, youíre not going to have any longevity. But
look at someone like Dave Matthews Band, how would you categorise his
music? You donít. Itís just the Dave Matthews music. Iím not
particularly into his style but I appreciate his originality and his
perseverence doing his own original style of music. Year after year you
build up your following and now heís going to be around for ever because
he did it the right way.
Alan: Look out for a girl named Lucy Zirins. Sheís 17 or 18 now
and sheís plays some of the real old material, like Son House stuff.
Hamilton: Thatís great, just what we need.
Alan: Thank you very much indeed, Hamilton. Really appreciate
your time and best of luck with the rest of the tour.
CD available here
Hamilton Loomis Website
Hamilton Loomis MySpace
Check out the Liverpool photos herel
Check out Lionel Ross's Liverpool full review here
Blues Interviews List
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