Edgy Blues

Like country music often requires a fiddle in the band, blues music needs a harmonica guy — but then lots of music could use a harmonica guy.
Yes, mad guitar skills are a must, if a band is expecting to be taken seriously in a world where righteous riffs can become an artist’s signature. The guitar becomes the heart, but the harmonica is the soul.
The instrument adds another layer and the ability to dig a little deeper into those low-down dirty blues, and together, if done well, the combination of guitar and harmonica is “kick-butt” blues at it’s very core. Catbone, a popular area blues band, has carved out a strong following in a lot of our local watering holes because the guys possess the talent required in both those areas, and then some. Rounding out their sound is yet another guitarist and drummer. However, their crazy good skills bleed over to all kinds of music, no matter what obscure song someone might ask of them. Their combined musical knowledge and experience is evident in every tune.
“One of the things that sets us apart is the harmonica, that lets you play music others cannot…and I’m the harmonica guy,” said Johnny Mack, band spokesman.
“I’m a very fortunate man, I’m surrounded by three talented guys.
“I’m not a musician, I just make noise,” he joked. “The other guys are fantastic musicians and we have a lot of fun at our shows. When we’re having fun it translates to the audience. If you come out to one of our shows, you’re a fan for life.”
He said the band gets a lot of questions about the origin of the name.
“A lot of people ask us how the band got it’s name, because the name is unusual,” Mack said. “The name followed our guitar player A.J. Rocans from San Francisco because he wanted to revive the band with that name. And it sounds better than ‘Three Old Guys & Kenny.'”
Catbone band was first established in the San Francisco Bay area years ago by Rocans, who has been playing guitar for more than four decades. Being born and raised in the Chicago area, his love for all things blues came quite naturally. His quest has led him throughout the United States and Europe. His soulful tone and tasty “licks” lay the foundation for Catbone’s blues on the edge. His vocals are ripped with great emotion, a reflection of some of those journeys down difficult, yet varied paths.
The band has gone through personnel and geographical changes over time. The one constant has been Rocans’ leadership and dedication to playing great blues music.
Mack has been playing harmonica and singing for as long as he can remember. He was born and raised in Southern California. His father gave him a harmonica for Christmas one year and he took to it like a beignet to powdered sugar.
When Johnny was 11 his brother brought home The Paul Butterfield Blues Band LP. He was instantly mesmerized by Butterfield’s harmonica playing. This led him on a journey through the Chess records masters. He has played with numerous bands through the years. His own powerful and emotional vocals paired with his energy and deft harp playing help give Catbone’s blues that edge.
Lex Blackstun grew up in the same neighborhood as Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas. Holly’s parents encouraged all of the local children to play music by inviting them over to their home. At age 11, Blackstun was hooked on playing guitar. Holly’s father even allowed the younster to play Buddy’s Gibson J-45.
Blackstun’s musical travels have led him throughout the western states and Canada playing for a variety of different bands and musical styles. He has opened for the likes of Elvin Bishop, Doug Engle and Ronnie Hawkins to name a few. He landed in the Bullhead City area in 1988. His steady hand, great sense of rhythm and soulful vocals give Catbone its unique energy and drive.
Kenny Mohs lays down the heartbeat to Catbone’s diverse blues repertoire. From swings and shuffles, to laid-back or driving, his years of live and session drumming can be heard. His timing and meter are spot on. No matter whether he’s singing harmony or lead, his vocals are moving.
Since the relocation to the Colorado River area, Catbone has diversified its repertoire to include some rockabilly classics.
“Our style can best be described as ‘blues-a-billy’,” Mack explained. “Catbone’s music has been described as ‘blues with an edge.’ We play classic blues, classic country and some really cool British Invasion stuff. We also play rockabilly covers from guys like Jerry Lee Lewis, and from the ‘rockabilly revival in Southern California in the ’70s — from groups like the Paladins and the Blasters.
“We’re kind of all over the road as far as our music,” he added. “When we started as a stone cold blues band, we found our music wasn’t diverse enough for the listening audience, so we diversified. Like a lot of other bands, we wanted to do something different and we are.”
They play a mix of originals and covers of many artistic greats in music.
“One of the songs we get requests for the most is a blues song called ‘Can’t Quit You,'” Mack said. “We do the Led Zeppelin version and we do it every show. It’s become our show-stopper, even though it’s slow, it’s a show-stopper.
“Most of our songs have arrangements and a dynamic where we change it to make the music both louder and softer. When we bring the volume up and down, it makes it more interesting.”