FRIDAYS UPDATE- Muscle memory: Stop thinking, just play

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When Richard Green started the Charlottesville Allstars in the 1970s, the name probably seemed tongue-in-cheek– he was young and... well, green. What's more, he was just starting to figure out how to navigate the blues-based roots music the Allstars would eventually become known for.

"Like a lot of people that age," he says, "I came to that music through a circuitous route, first hearing snatches of it in Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and the whole blues-rock thing going on at the time."

The circumstances at the time weren't particularly cooperative. "There wasn't much of a music scene in Charlottesville at the time," he says. "The Prism was one of the only places to play."

But around the same time as Charlottesville graduated to larger clubs like the Mineshaft and the Mousetrap, the evolving project Green and guitarist Steve Bliley fronted turned into a competent blues-rock outfit, and by the time they had finished up as the understudies of DC-based blues band The Nighthawks, they were opening for bona fide bluesmen like Muddy Waters and BB King.

"I look back at it and I'm amazed that it happened, that we played with guys like that," says Green. "They were the direct blood line to Robert Johnson."

Together, the two bands teamed up into a regional blues powerhouse and hit the road for gigs in Boston, Atlanta, New York, and everywhere in between. "That was the start of the AllStars as a road band," says Green.

But the road took its toll. "A lot of players came and went," says Green. "It got to the point where you couldn't be in the Allstars and be a student or have a real job." 

Those who managed to stick around became part of the defining lineup for what would turn out to be one of Charlottesville's most beloved bands, even amid legends like Skip Castro and Johnny Sportcoat– and unlike many of their contemporaries, the AllStars got to make an album on someone else's dime.

"We were the only band out of that crew in Charlottesville to make a commercial album," says Green. Tip Your Waitress came out in 1978, but the band had disbanded by 1981.

Nearly 30 years later, however, interest was rekindled largely due to Live From... The Hook, the 2006 documentary about the Charlottesville music scene in the 1980's, and the AllStars reunited to open for era icons Captain Tunes at a celebratory show at Starr Hill. "That was the first time the five of us had been together in almost 30 years," says Green.

Luckily, he says, the nostalgia is instinctual. "A lot of it you have muscle memory for," he says, "and if you just don't think about it, it'll come out. If you're thinking when you're up there trying to play, you're screwed."

The Charlottesville AllStars perform at Fridays After Five on June 6.


1 comment

I'm so much better than John Mellencamp, it's not even funny. That guy couldn't write a good song if his life depended on it. I can't believe he made the big time, and I didn't.