Who says the blues has to make you blue? In the hands of local band Blue Mustard, the blues is pure fun. The blues in all its variety will be celebrated on Friday, Jan. 18, when Blue Mustard returns to Fiddlers Crossing.
Blue Mustard brings together some of the most recognizable names on the local rock music scene, including guitarists Jerry Mulkins and Steve Hall, lead vocalist and harmonica player Roy Hernandez, bassest Gordon Hilton and drummer Bruce Millburn.
Blue Mustard sprouted from the roots of Cheap Yellow Mustard, a rock-jazz fusion band that included some of the same musicians along with keyboard player Cameron Melville. When Melville moved back to upstate New York in 2009, Hernandez, Hall and Hilton were recruited into the band. With the blues vocals of Hernandez and the bass groove of Hilton, the mustard turned decidedly blue. Now, audiences can't get enough of it!
Although they usually play larger venues, with full drum kit and electrics, last time they played Fiddlers Crossing they unplugged. The audience loved them all the same! When they take the stage at the venue January 18, they may be "lightly plugged," but will still have the intimate acoustic sound that a small venue can offer.
The members of Blue Mustard have long musical careers behind them, playing with numerous bands both in Tehachapi and elsewhere. Lead singer Roy Hernandez is a self-taught harmonica player who found his inspiration in the music of Stevie Wonder. Hernandez co-writes most of the original songs with Jerry Mulkins, and sometimes creates lyrics on the spot. He has also been known to play a mean kazoo. Hernandez has been sitting in with bands from LA to Las Vegas. In 2011, he was an instructor at Camp Kiya, where he performed in concert with Joe Craven.
Guitarist Steve Hall has been teaching in Tehachapi for years and has written 12 guitar books. He also scores and records music for movies and television. Hall began playing at age 12, and by 17 was getting away with playing, underage, in bars. By 18, he was a working musician in the Washington, D.C., area, playing five nights a week in colleges from Maryland to Virginia.
Jerry Mulkins plays guitar, sings and writes much of the material. Mulkins began playing guitar at age 14, after hearing the Beatles. He has worked with more than 100 bands, including Full Moon with Gary Mazzola. He presently performs with Runaway Train, Bold Witness, Grace Angel Band (with Tracy Barns and Maria Werth), and the Christian band, Mustard Seed. He started Cheap Yellow Mustard in 2000 as a relief valve from the country and other commercial music he was playing at the time. He wanted to play a more free form style of jazz and rock, which Blue Mustard finally allows him to do.
Gordon Hilton, the bass player, also started playing music as a youth, starting cello and violin at age 12. When he heard the Rolling Stones, he crossed over to guitar. By his estimate, he has worked with around 150 different bands. In 1995, he took up the bass, and in 2009, joined Blue Mustard. His solid bass backing creates the signature groove for the band.
Bruce Millburn is the usual drummer for the band. He has been a "Mustard" from the beginning, co-founding the band with Jerry Mulkins. He was also in Full Moon, and was "the sound guy" for Concerts in the Park for many years. He still provides the sound for the Fourth of July concert in Coy Burnett Stadium every year.
For the Jan. 18, date, however, Millburn had a prior commitment, so drummer Pat Shoptaw will be filling in. Shoptaw is a member of the 12-piece band Tom Thumb and the Hitchhikers, who perform all over Southern California. He is in demand for recording sessions in LA, so the rhythm section will be in good hands for the night.
According to Mulkins, the Mustard shows are all about fun. These seasoned musicians work together with ease, he said, and simply want to make good music. Judging by the audience reaction to its music, Blue Mustard fulfills that goal.
Fiddlers Crossing is at 206 E. "F" St. at Robinson Street, in Downtown Tehachapi. Tickets may be purchased next door at Mountain Music, at The Apple Shed, or with a credit card by calling 823-9994.
Tickets to the concert are $15, and as always, coffee and goodies are included. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30p.m.