Doc Span
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Doc Span

Brisbane, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Brisbane, Australia | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Blues Funk


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"Doc Span tells what broke his heart"

Doc Span

“You can play the blues, but to actually experience the essence of the blues is what makes you play it with as much passion and feeling as you possibly can.” DOC SPAN tells ROSALIND MCCLINTOCK what broke his heart.
How’s this for a roll-call? Muddy Waters, BB King, Joan Baez, Gladys Knight & the Pips are some of the acts that visited Illinois’ Cook County Jail, where harmonica player and singer/songwriter Doc Span worked as a paramedic. The list keeps going and Doc’s gravely voice rolls over the names without a hint of excitement. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t lack reverence. “The first time I listened to a Muddy Waters album it just knocked my head around and I said this is what I want to play for the rest of my life.” At Cook County Jail, which has housed the likes of Derringer and Capone, Doc was surrounded by the blues and people who had found its essence. The inmates lived it, many could play it and, of course, there was steady the stream of unbelievable visiting acts.
It was during his time in the windy city, and its notorious prison, that Doc was baptised with the blues. “Chicago just changed my life really. I was being bombarded with all kinds of influences in Chicago. I learned the essence of the blues there.” According to Doc, “There’s two kinds of blues. There’s the technical side, where you’re playing blues notes - a blues scale… When you hit a blues note it’s supposed to strike emotion. Now, if you just hit the notes and you’ve never felt the emotion that you are supposed to feel, I don’t think it’s going to be as effective as if you hit the blues note and you have already felt the essence of the blues.”
The Chicago he lived in was rough and gritty (a far cry from his current home - the Sunshine Coast). Ex-inmates would invite him to clubs, “every time we went to a gig I’d stay at some of these peoples houses and when we went to the gig they’d put their guitar in the case and they’d pack their gun in the case as well. Some of these neighbourhoods were pretty tough and everybody carried a gun. I’ve seen people shot on the street in Chicago.”
However, despite being surrounded by horrific acts, it wasn’t until one blizzardy Christmas night that Doc found the essence for himself. It came in the form of a broken heart. His girlfriend of the time told him she’d found another lover. Distraught, he caught the first bus due west and quit his job at Cook County. A fellow passenger told him that he “needed a dose of the blues”, which, he dutifully sought. “It started a journey upwards and out of the blues. To listen to somebody play with so much passion and so much love and so much heart it was deep, it was deep blues. I was really cut up and I started feeling better after that. You leave all your blues behind when you listen to blues music – that’s the essence of blues to me.” And in case you are wondering, “I think, yeah, after that I started playing much better and much more soulfully.”
Doc Span plays at the Mansfield Tavern July 21 as part of the 2007 Queensland Blues Tour.
- Rave

"Spanning the Ages"

Spanning The Ages


BLUES HARMONICA player and singer Doc Span now lives on a quaint block of land on the Sunshine Coast, but over the years he’s travelled far and wide and seen a lot, making him truly deserving of the title ‘blues journeyman’.

The New Jersey native has been based in Australia for two decades now, and over the years has plied his trade with numerous different line-ups behind him. While Span was living in the blues mecca of Chicago in the early 70s he worked as a paramedic at the notorious Cook County Jail.

“I spent three years working a day job there,” he recalls. “They called me Doc - I wore a white coat and dispensed drugs from a cart. It was good because after I got out of the jail to go home I’d just hang out on the west side and go to clubs like the Checkerboard Lounge and Ma Beas, and go jamming with different Chicago figureheads. It was good to be on the west side, I was right there - I could just go from work to the club, play all night and then go back to work”

Span says one of the highlights of his time at the jail was meeting blues legends such as Muddy Waters and BB King, who’d come through and play gigs for the inmates. After a stint in the navy, Span headed south from Chicago, hitchhiking his way through 12 Latin American countries.

“That was a pretty big experience,” he continues. “I spent about three months in Mexico, just jamming with all the locals and listening to different musical things.

“There were lots of people on the road then, there was music happening all the time. I used to run into these two cats who played guitars. They’d take all the back roads like myself [and] I’d run into them at the weirdest places, and we’d just jam on the street. We’d be like ‘pied pipers’ - all the kids would follow us up the street!”

Span’s latest album is The Treatment, which he made as a collaboration with UK-based artist Matthew Sanders. Mixing elements of the old with the new, the album demonstrates what Span terms ‘new millennium blues’.

“I’ve been playing blues since the 60s,” he explains, “but I wanted to be original, and it’s not very original doing covers of Muddy Waters and stuff like that. So, instead of writing songs with the same blues format, the format changed and we used modern, funky grooves and contemporary sounds, and mixed that with pentatonic blues scales. The two mix, and it’s an original sound.

- Time Off


1. 'Live In Australia' Doc Span Blues 2008
2. 'The Treatment'
Doc Span And Matthew Cang 2007
3. 'Something For The Pain' / 'Spantronics'
Doc Span And Matthew Cang 2006
4. 'Expatriate'
James T, Doc Span, Dirk Dubois 2004
5. 'The Last Train'
Doc Span and Ross Williams 1995
6. 'Blues Appetite'
Doc Span, Stephanie Jean, Ross Williams 1993
7. 'Live At KC's' Doc Span and Ross Williams 1992
8. 'From The Underground'
Doc Span Blues Band 1991

Tracks from Doc Span And Matthew Cang CD's are receiving airplay on Australian ABC radio and community and internet radio stations. Weekly podcasts on BFBS Radio London are aired. Tracks also play on BBC Radio.



A melting pot of remarkable sounds, stories, emotional great playing,inspiring lyrics and groove focused tracks, 'Something For The Pain' and 'The Treatment' are a cross continental recording project produced at Matthew Cang's Somerset studio in the UK and partly recorded and written on Doc's back porch on a lap top. Originally released as 'Spantronics' in Australia, Both records were released in the UK in 2006 and 2007 and distributed by MGM worldwide.

Doc Span is renowned for his unique smokey voice, expressive tone, soulful dynamics and exciting stage presence. His style is drawn from a personal pilgrimage through the blues with years of jamming with many of Chicago Blues greats while a paramedic at the notorious Cook County Jail hence the Doc. Doc's influences include, but aren't limited to...Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Howlin Wolf, JJ Cale, Little Feat, Little Walter, James Brown and Big Walter Horton.

Matthew is a soulful musician, multi instrumentalist, producer, engineer and composer. His annual visits to Australia fostered an exciting musical partnership with Doc Span. A professional guitarist since the age of 17, Matthew played and recorded across Europe with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and ran prestigious recording studios in London before settling into writing and recording his own material from "the castle" in south west Britan.

Doc performs and records original and traditional blues with Doc Span Blues. He also performs in acoustic format, Delta Blues.