The Medicine Men - Private Practice by Raul Watson

Posted on 6/13/2010 by rajuligan

Anyone who has followed midwestern blues has heard of the maniacal H-Bomb Ferguson. With his crazy-colored wigs, his off-colored humor and his rambunctious keyboard playing, H-Bomb was an important part of Cincinnati's blues scene for over half a century. In addition to taking his jump piano rhythms all over the world, he played morroccos in George Thorogood's "Willie and the Hand Jive video and had a cameo in the movie "Fresh horses. He was inducted into CEA's hall of fame in 2007 and will be forever remembered as one of the most famous blues shouters of all time.

When Cory's (now the Mad Frog) was the hub of Cincinnati's prolific blues scene, H-Bomb with Big Ed Thompson and the All Stars, Pigmeat Jarrett, Russell Givens, Big Joe Duskin and Albert Washington kept the genre alive in the pre revival days when over produced electronic noise was exerting its influence on music. In the nineties,"Da Bomb" created th Medicine men as his back-up band. In 1996, Lance Boyd joined the group, and for the last eleven years H balanced his own extravagance with the smooth, unassuming style of Lance's Les Paul guitar.

In 1965, Lance Boyd broke into the music scene playin bass with the Soul Syndicate. His guitar player left town while with the Dynamic Dominators, and he added two strings. After getting out of the service in 1974, he immediately re-entered the business playing with the thirteen piece D A B band. Dark and Beautiful still entertains club goers in Dayton. Lance dabbled with jazz in the eighties and joined the supergroup "Uncle Russell & the Kinfolk" in the nineties. He's played with Pigmeat and Big Joe, done commercial work with Kim Sey (who hung with Parliament), and has been doing studio work since being in the business. Since H-Bomb's death, Lance has continued the tradition of making men and women want to dance with each other and feel good.

The Medicine Men is more than just a tribute to H-Bomb. It is a musical force all its own. Lance shares the stages of clubs throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Missouri with Butch Yates, who played tenor sax with H-Bomb in the sixties and rejoined the group in 2005. Now in his seventies, Butch has developed an unequaled style of horn, and he and Lance entwine their instruments and compliment each other in a way that makes you not notice the abscence of keyboards or a second guitar. Of course much of their success has to do with a steady and classy rhythm section. Oscar French, who played with Alice Hoskins and Sonny Hill, brought his drums in 2000, and Tony Nassar, from Hot Wax, replaced the late, great Bo Chambers on bass in 2006.
"The guys don't even know we're working on it, "the 59 year old Lance says of their current recording project for Slim Slam Records tentatively titled "Anamolous."
"They just come over to work on jams," he adds, explaining the only time they notice the recording equipmentis when they are called upon to overdub a correction.
Lance's songs are not straight blues.
"I like to think of the Medicine Men as old school R&B, Jazz and Funk," he explains.
His compositins are the type that make rhythm & blues fans sing along, while making jazz fans wish they wouldn't so they can analyze the arrangements. On songs like "Hip Shakin' Momma," which will remind fans of their Cincinnati Blues compilation, Butch and Lance float around the groove with voice, horn and string, accompanying each other in a feathered mix of punching solos and strong rhythms.
I asked Lance what was the most fun he's ever had in the music business, and he had no hesitation in pointing to his days with H-Bomb.
"One time in England at a swanky lounge, and uptight British woman looked down her nose at H. He told the filthiest joke I ever heard, and we all laughed as she turned eighty shades of red." The week of shows was called the Rhythm Riot.
Rascals, in West Chester, Ohio, is a comfortable place to view the blues. I'm not wild about the T V screens behind the stage, but I understand the multi-task nature of sports bars/music clubs in todays economy. The band was on point Saturday night, with Tony's father playing second sax, and Lance debuting his new toy: the Banshee II talk box.
I wonder if I was the only one amused by the fact that Lance and Peter Frampton live in the same part of town?
"I've been having fun, talking away with it," Lance told me when I stopped by his studio last week. "I'm using it live for the first time this weekend."
There's no question it will be a permanent part of his arsenal. It is the kind of effect that is made just for the melodic phrasings with which he paints his solos. A wah pedal with a vocabulary.
With his '66 and '74 Les Pauls, a Peavy 212 and a MXR chorus he is well armed.
Until you can get a copy of the new disc, there is always the vintage stuff available. Check out Lance's scorching lead on the ballad "I Still Love You" and Butch's sax slaughter on "Midnight Rambling Tonight." To say Bo Chambers walks the bass through "We got a Good Thing" is like saying the drum major stands in front of the marching band.

It seems if you want to know the Medicine Men, you need to know someone who knows the Medicine Men, as so much of the bands schedule is not for the public. They have become such a party catalyst over the years that much of their time is dominated by private engagements.
You can, however, see them June 18th at Dollar Bills in Florence, Kentucky; July second at M.J.'s on Main in Milford, Ohio; August 6th, 7th and 14th at Doc's place in Lebanon, Ohio; and August 20th at Molly Malone's in Cincinnati.
Speaking of Molly Moalone's, I must mention the Horse Rescue Benefit at the covington, Kentucky location at 112 E. Fourth Street. The Jumpstarters are the featured blues band, among the folk, rock and country lineup.
Check out Lance and Butch at
photos by Sheila Kennedy-Kaiser

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