Blues Bettie...The Band. By Casey Reagan

Posted on 9/04/2010 by MusicUCanSee

Blues Bettie....the band!
by: Casey Reagan


American Blues News

All Rights Reserved 2010

Who is Blues Bettie you ask? Is it the sultry lead singer out front, or maybe the band leaders Aunt Betty? Is she a person we should remember from the past? Is this her?

The answer to all of the above is no, we haven't found Blues Bettie walking around out there past or present and if she is, we here at Ameriblues have yet to connect her with the topic of today's story: Blues Bettie: the Band.

I've known about this group for years and have heard and watched them develop as a band during that time, through personnel changes, personal tragedies and musical 'shifts' along the way they've managed to maintain my highest respect as a group and individually as performers. They have been opening shows for some of the biggest names in the music business for almost a decade, and yes, I think I will drop a few names to give you all an idea of the caliber of talent in this band going in.

They've shared a stage with and received the highest endorsements from many of my all time favorite players like Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown, Dickie Betts, Eric Sardinas [] and bands including WAR, Tower Of Power, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Ten Years After to name (literally) just a few. The preceding list is long and for good reason, Blues Bettie has gained huge respect from their loyal fans and fellow musicians through the years and they continue to blow audiences away with performances like this one from a recent gig in Redondo Beach, CA. that I (MusicUCanSee Productions) was fortunate enough to capture on video:

Their self described 'In your face and soul' style has been bringing fans back, over and over, for a taste of the good stuff to places like San Juan Capistrano's CoachHouse and the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana Ca. starting when the band was first formed in 2001 in Anaheim, California by band leader and mastermind Claude von Trotha.

Claude takes pride in this outfit and it really shows in the music. Among his many duties which include playing lead guitar on stage with the band Claude writes all the horn arrangements himself. His years as a French horn player and classically trained musician add depth to the project and you can tell from listening it is something he enjoys doing and does well. The endless hours of rehearsing and playing live makes the 'finished' Blues Bettie sound polished and really shine with personal nuances and details that only a trained musician will notice while at the same time making a sound so perfect that even us regular people can't help but feel that there's more to this music than we know.

Claude has surrounded himself with a cast of some of the most sought after musicians in the business today, starting (in no particular order) with:
Felix Pollard on drums.

Felix is a seasoned live performer and a very experienced studio drummer who's credits include but are absolutely not limited to the American Idol house band. Far more impressive than that, Felix has performed with the likes of Lionel Richey, George Duke, Chaka Kahn, and Clay Aiken, and one might say he was 'heaven sent' to the band after the tragic and unexpected death of former Blues Bettie drummer Mike Alarcon in 2009. Felix brings an extra level of credibility to the band, not that they need it but when a world class musician like Felix Pollard thinks enough of your band to become a permanent member after playing one show with you, to me, it says alot about your band.

Billy Pulliam, second in longevity in the band only to CvT himself, Billy sings and plays bass and holds his place in this rhythm section securely by not only contributing in a big way on stage, but as a songwriter as well. Billy's originals include 'Say You Will', a song about doing your best and striving to succeed in life and love.

Claude too shares in the vocal assignments for Blues Bettie as well as his own project The Claude von Trotha Band or The CvT(B) as us hardcore's know them, he's got a 'thing' about him and the way he sings that drives the ladies crazy and makes you want to stand up and groove but don't tell him I said that or he'll start making me pay to get into his shows. Here's Claude singing a blues classic 'Gotta Way With Wimmen', a song from days past revisited by the CvTB at a recent performance at the CoachHouse where the they opened the show for Billy Vera and the Beaters.

If the horn section in the CvTB videos looks familiar to you, they should because it's the same (basically) as the Blues Bettie line-up of today. This is where this band distinguishes itself from everyone else out there today. Anyone can have a hot chick singer or kick ass guitar player and rock star drummer, dynamite bass player and even the keys from heaven but when you add horns like these to all that, the results are incredible! Steely Dan had the 'Santa Ana Winds' and Blues Bettie has 'Hornilicious'.

I'll get back to introducing the horn players in a minute but first I'd like to point out that Blues Bettie up till now is a LIVE band in every sense of the expression in that the only way you'll hear their music is if you buy a ticket and see them live and in person or on a YouTube video because they've yet to put out a studio record or any other for that matter. Our concession as fans is that while we wait, Blues Bettie continues to play for us live all over Southern California and points beyond, and every show is better than the last.
I happen to know the first Blues Bettie album is in the works because I've been fortunate enough to have been invited to a few recording sessions at Robby Lochners studios where Felix was putting down some drum tracks for Claude and Robby to start building on. I can't say enough about the amount of talent in this band, every player and even behind the scenes, the experience is remarkable and the team spirit here is exceptional.
Robby Lochner is an accomplished musician and recording engineer himself and a long time friend of the band, he's been prominent in the music industry and has achieved his own success with his project starring Rayko in their band 'Dig Jelly':
Robby 's experience with Dig Jelly will surely be evident to Blues Bettie fans when they hear the music. Robby and Co have contributed much to the Blues Bettie sound and are currently on the cutting edge with their music and video productions. You can see Robby jamming with DJ around town and on their YouTube videos or mixing sound at Blues Bettie gigs and even on stage as a guest with the CvTB on occasion. If you have a chance to check out anything these guys do I recommend taking the time and doing so.

Without too much self induced hype, I've got to say that the release of the first Blues Bettie album is not only long overdue, but is as highly anticipated by many, as any 'local' recording since the Doors released LA Woman. Local radio stations are clamoring to get their hands on something they can play on the air and I can't say I blame them, but, they'll just have to wait with the rest of us while Claude and company meticulously weave their sounds together to come out in the end with a debut project worthy of the combined approval of not one, but nine of the toughest critics out there...themselves.
Among the above mentioned nine, are the four horn players I told you about earlier. I'll start with the Saxophone guru:
Louis Van Taylor [] on tenor sax.
[see photo above]
To say Louis is well respected by his peers is an absolute understatement, he is in fact nearly worshipped by many of his fellow musicians and his playing has been described as "Lenny Pickett with an octane boost". Along with the highest praise from, Louis has enjoyed playing with some of the biggest names in the industry, artists including: Ray Charles, The Temptations, Kool and the Gang, Gerald Wilson, Lenny Williams, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, The O’Jays, and the list goes on and on.

Next to Mr. Van Taylor on stage is the big man:
Bijon Watson on trumpet.
[see photo above]
Bijon is the President of TKB-First Chair Entertainment, an Entertainment Production Services Company and surely isn't a stranger to his instrument or this music but his involvement in this project is a departure from what he's used to, playing gigs like this years Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, jamming with The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra .. Alicia Keys, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and Eric Benet, Bijon still finds time for a couple of regular gigs in and around LA with his jazz outfit and has such a following of fans within that genre he needn't stray too far from it to find success, yet he has found a home here with Blues Bettie where he gets to shake things up a little and step outside the jazz box. If ever a musician was in a band purely for the music, Bijon Watson in Blues Bettie is it. He enjoys this gig and you can hear it in the passion he shows for the music.

Ryan Porter (trombone) and Adam Schroeder (bari sax) are the new guys in the band and both have their work cut out for them to keep up with the company they're keeping. Make no mistake, both of these players are world class with deep roots in jazz, they can let their blues, rock and funk instincts run wild a bit with this project and all you have to do is listen to hear their contribution, but, I kid with them because they're the new guys and because I can get away with it.
[see photo above]
Bringing the sound of all these players together seamlessly is left to one guy, a once 'stand-in' keyboard player for this band:
Tommy Bellone plays the Hammond and keys behind Blues Bettie like he's been doing it for years and when I think about it, I guess it's because he has. Tommy has a couple of other projects that keep him busy and you can see why in this video from the same Redondo Beach gig back in March. His work with the Night Creatures / 7th Sons has stirred audiences everywhere and anyone can tell from watching him play, no matter who's on stage with him... Tommy rocks!

There are at least two things you cant miss when you watch that video, one of them is the incredible talent and professionalism of every player in the band, and the other is the voice of:

Shari Puorto, lead singer, hip shaker and house rocker. Shari brings alot to the party and Blues Bettie shines a little brighter with their very own rockin' soul diva deluxe. Shari's sexy stage presence and powerful delivery give Blues Bettie a distinct sound and make this an easy band to watch. Shari currently juggles a solo project The Shari Puorto Experience with her duties with Blues Bettie and stays busy performing live and recording with both projects. Ameriblues caught up with Shari at the Irvine Lake Blues Festival and captured her set live on video, watch for upcoming Shari Puorto coverage with interviews, album reviews and live concert footage on our pages.
And that my friends is the line up of the day!
Far more than a 'side project' for any of the players involved, Blues Bettie is a group of world class musicians on the verge of something big, anyone who's heard them knows it, take a good look at 'em because chances are you'll see them again, hopefully it'll be their picture on the cover of a brand new album...and soon! While we wait patiently for Claude and crew to finish their sessions we can take comfort that the next LIVE Blues Bettie gig probably isn't too far away and if there's one thing we've learned... this band is big, in every way, from their stature in the music community to the number of players in the band to their incredible bigger than life sound! Move over Tower Of Power, Blues Bettie's comin'!
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Blues Bettie...the band!

Keep Rockin' ...and Thanx for the ride!

By: Casey Reagan for

American Blues News

all rights reserved 2010

American Blues News Staff

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