Rocky Athas' Lightning
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Rocky Athas' Lightning

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"Awesome Blues / Rock Selection For Your Collection"

This is a superb release by the Rocky Athas Group, consisting mostly of original, slow Southern-rocking Blues numbers. The disc presents 14 songs, each one a jewel. They were perfected in the studio by ace producer Jim Gaines, which explains the high quality of the recording. Gaines knows how to get the best sound he can out of each musician.
Texas veteran and smoking gun guitarist Rocky Athas fits easily in the same league of guitar gods as his long-time friends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson. His work on this release is, in my opinion, his best in recent years. Black Oak Arkansas', Larry Samford's vocals evoke a peaceful calm as he sings on this CD that is oh so easy on the ears and it complements Athas' guitar work like butter on corn.
The opener, "Miracle," has an electrified, Hendrix-like quality. The disc includes an exceptional rendition of Tommy Bolin's "Slow Driver" and the cover of Savoy Brown's tune "Long Run" features skillful organ accompaniment. One of my favorites on this disc is the stimulating song "I Love You," the quirky guitar arpeggio through the changes gives it an extra layer of taste and complexity. Another favorite is "That Was Then and This Is Now," with Samford's smooth, confident vocals and Rocky's clean guitar lines dripping with melancholy soul it evokes the spirit of the Southern Blues/Rock era at its best. Think Allman Brothers during the Dickey Betts years.
Athas is, in my mind, clearly one of the most underrated musicians of his generation. His licks are perfectly timed, precise, and sharp, yet never heavy-handed. I was first introduced to Rocky Athas through his work with Black Oak Arkansas and more recently on various works with Craig Erickson (another seriously under-known guitarist from Iowa). I've always felt then that Rocky was destined for musical greatness. His legendary Texas band Lightning had some success, but he has not enjoyed the financial gains that many of his contemporaries who have risen to the top. This release should get him the kudos he deserves. It's a good 'un! - Blueswax

"Lightning Strikes Twice - The story behind the unlikely but amazing resurrection of Rocky Athas’ Lightning"

If the Rocky Athas Group was blown away by their opening act as they took the stage at Dallas’ Granada Theatre on September 15, 2007, it was only because the opening act was Rocky Athas and his late 70’s act, Lightning. Coming off that opening set, Athas was winded, sweaty and drained, but smiling nonetheless. After all, were it not for the international success of the Rocky Athas Group, he might not have had the singular opportunity to open up for himself.
During the 1970’s, Lightning, through constant gigging, had built a solid reputation for themselves and before the decade was up, they had worked their way up to opening up for arena acts like Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, Rick Derringer, Pat Travers and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

“We had a great time, we were well known, we were the biggest draw in Dallas back at that time,” Athas recalled. “I mean, there people lined up around the building every time. I remember going to the Alley in Houston and we played there four nights and got $3,500 and that was a lot in 1978, but we were spending so much money on P.A. rentals and we had three roadies and truck payments, so we had to keep working to keep it alive.”

Ironically, it was their success on the local level that contributed to their ultimate undoing. The band that had started with the goal of scoring a record deal was caught up in a weekend to weekend grind that left them unable to see the big picture.

“I wish now that we would not have worked so long and hard at just gigging, cause the next thing you know 10 years rolls by,” he lamented, “but I do wish looking back, that someone would have said ‘don’t worry about all these stupid little gigs, those clubs will be gone next week.’ But when you’re 20 and getting attention and playing every night and people are digging what you’re
doing and you’re getting paid, and you don’t have to have a day job, you just think ‘this is a great life,’ but it’s not really what we wanted. We wanted a record deal.”

A 1977 record deal with United Artists was a bitter disappointment when it was discovered that the band had actually been signed as tax write-off. In 1979, it seemed that the band had gotten their big break when they were signed to Phil Walden’s celebrated Capricorn Records, the home of the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band, but the label went bankrupt as their first album was in the mixdown stage. The band continued to slug it out into the 1980’s, but threw in the towel shortly thereafter.

The 1980’s and 1990’s saw Athas re-emerge, joining up with Black Oak Arkansas. He also played with former Trapeze/Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes and recorded and toured with Buddy Miles (best known from Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies) alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old rhythm section, Double Trouble.

He was eventually noticed by Tony Sweet’s Blue Armadillo records of London, England and he formed the Rocky Athas Group with vocalist Larry Samford, who had been one of Lightning’s original singers and bassist Guthrie Kennard (Ray Wylie Hubbard, ZZ Hill). Finally, he was able to concentrate on his original material again. 2003 saw the release of Miracle. Voodoo Moon followed in 2005.

“After I put the first two albums out, I started getting a really good following in Europe. So when people were reading my bio, the label kept getting all these hits (on their website) saying, ‘How can we buy Rocky's Lightning work?’” So the when the president of the label called me and said, ‘What would you think about putting out a Lightning album of the old material?’ I said, ‘That would be great!’ He said, “Send me the masters,’ and I said, ‘EEHHHH! That ain’t gonna happen. Cause back then we had no money and the recordings didn't sound very good, so I said I don't mind re-cutting the songs and getting Walter (Watson, original Lightning drummer and vocalist), and we re-cut 15 of the songs Walter and I wrote.”

The re-cut songs, recorded at Watson’s home studio, drew much more interest than the label had anticipated, and Lightning Strikes Twice was released on CD, albeit a CD that resembles a small vinyl record.

“Lightning never got their record out,” Rocky explained, “but now we sorta do (laughing) - just a little one.”

The logical next step was to get a live show together to support the CD, so Athas started off by re-teaming with Watson on drums.

Getting 28 year-old son, Rocky II on bass followed next. He had experience playing in local bands, both in Dallas and in San Diego, where he had moved when he was 17, but he was more into the metal scene.

“I grew up in a very musical house but none of this was forced on me or pushed on me,” he remembered. “As musically inclined as he (Rocky, Sr.) is and as into music as he is, I think it would have almost been tainted if he would have pushed me in that direction. But he let me come to it completely on my own and that’s really the greatest thing he's ever done musically. I think it would have maybe - Buddy Magazine

"Twelve amazing songs full of powerful energy and strength"

Last piece of work of Texas guitar player Rocky Athas, who brings us a new album with twelve amazing songs full of powerful energy and strength. Rocky is a guitar master and his style is halfway through Gary Moore, Jimmy Hendrix or Leslie West. His rock and blues passion becomes evident along the whole excellent CD where shuffles and Texas-rockin-blues prevail over other kind of music, always performed with great swing and a powerful beat. Voodoo Moon has been produced by Jim Gaines and also introduces singer and guitar player Larry Samford on vocals and a songwriter on eight of the twelve songs included on the CD. GREAT.
Ultimo trabajo del guitarrista tejano Rocky Athas, que nos presenta un album con doce espectaculares temas llenos de fuerza, coraje y desbordante energa. Rocky es un virtuoso de la guitarra y su estilo est a medio camino entre Gary Moore, Jimmy Hendrix o Leslie West. Su pasin, no solo por el rock sino tambin por el blues, es declarada y no cabe ponerla en duda. La prueba es este esplndido cd donde los shuffles y los Texas-rockin-blues priman por encima de todo y son ejecutados con mucho beat y excelente pulsacin. Voodoo Moon ha sido producido por Jim Gaines y presenta tambin al cantante y guitarrista Larry Samford participando a la voz y compartiendo con Rocky la composicin de ocho de las canciones incluidas en el disco. MUY BUENO. - LA HORA DEL BLUES

"The Rocky Athas Band at The Harbourside Club, Liverpool, Tuesday, 16 May 2006"

Texan guitarist Rocky Athas was a childhood friend of Stevie Ray Vaughan and had the distinction of being honoured by Buddy Magazine’s Texas Tornadoes as one of the ten best guitarists in Texas – two years before SRV was similarly lauded. As that accolade suggests, he is a phenomenal guitarist, and he has surrounded himself with top quality talent that fully complements his virtuosity, not least the classy vocals of Larry Samford.
The band’s performance is not for the faint-hearted, as was fully demonstrated by their delivery of three upbeat rockers to open the show. The slow blues, “Bluesville”, then gave Rocky Athas the stage for a fabulous solo before the original tempo was resumed with “Voodoo Man”, a terrific, bouncing Texas shuffle. The medium-paced rocker, “Tearing Me Up”, was beautifully underpinned by the excellent rhythm section of Guthrie Kennard on bass guitar and Bobby Baranowski on drums. A magnificent instrumental then led into “Road Fever”, co-written by Athas with Jim Gaines, before a visit to the Louisiana swamps with “Bayou Delta Blues” to end the first set.

The instrumental, “Rick’s Boogie”, brought the second set immediately to life with another display of prodigious fingering speed. After another Texas shuffle and “Miracle”, with its Hendrixesque guitar riffs, Guthrie Kennard delivered Mark Knofler-like vocals on the heavy rocking “Ain’t Enough”. The superb Larry Samford reclaimed the mic for the slow and bluesy “Nobody” and “No More”, the latter embellished by yet more great guitar work from the maestro. The marvellous performance was brought to its climax by two fast-flowing shuffles, followed by two loudly demanded encores. - Blues In Britain


Rocky Athas' Lightning
- Lightning Strikes Twice
© 2007, Armadillo Music Ltd



In the late 70s and early 80s Lightning was one of the biggest draws in Texas nightclub history.

Rocky's fame was such that Gibson honored him by making him the only
non-record label endorsee in the company’s history.

At 23 Rocky Athas was named as one of the ten best guitarists in Texas, as an inductee to Buddy Magazine's Texas Tornadoes. Rocky wasn't only recognized by Texas musicians, the English rock band Thin Lizzy wrote the song Cocky Rocky after hearing Rocky play. Their notoriety in the South led to a very strong and loyal fan base, which brought them a deal with United Artists then onto Capricorn Records, but Capricorn filed bankruptcy and the band couldn't regain its momentum.

Rocky has collaborated, on this project to re-record some of their personal favorites from the past, with Lightning veterans Walter Watson, Skipper Wilson and Larry Samford.