Steve Pryor Band
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Steve Pryor Band

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States | SELF

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States | SELF
Band Blues Rock


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"Steve Pryor - 2009 inductee Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame"

Guitarist Steve Pryor, who was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, was named the 2009 Blues inductee, an honor that left him "humbled beyond words."

He thanked his mother, who "always made sure I had new strings and a decent guitar to play until I could afford those things on my own. I think I never would have ever played guitar if it hadn't been for Mom."

Pryor then strapped on a battered black Fender Stratocaster and slashed through a rousing version of "Wait on Time," backed by the Jazz Rhapsody Trio, who served as the evening's house band. - Tulsa World Newpaper

"Goin' down to the crossroads"

Guitar master Steve Pryor beat his demons and fills his music with pure soul

A famous musical legend has bluesman guitarist Robert Johnson making a deal with Satan himself at a Mississippi crossroads.

For Steve Pryor, the crossroads were symbolic instead of literal. But that distinction doesn't mean a lot when the deal is for real.

"I was 30 years old when my daughter, Mariel, was born," recalled the 2005 inductee into the Spot Music Hall of Fame. "I was developing as a player. I was starting to get it. And at that time, there was a bit of a demon that rose up in me.

"It said, 'Dedicate yourself to that guitar, no matter what falls away - family, sobriety, whatever.'

"I remember knowing that a musician, a 100 percent all-the-time musician, is a very selfish, self-centered person. I knew that. I was ready to do that. I just didn't know how much it would hurt later on.

"As far as making a deal with the devil goes, I gave up a lot."

Pryor's decision to embrace the guitar at all costs led to a life that's involved sustained acclaim and fame - even, for a brief moment, on a national scale - as well as regular wrestling matches with his own demons.

After his much-publicized wreck of a year and a half ago, however, he seems to have hit on a way for both music and sobriety to co-exist within him, brought together by a spirit that's finally at peace with itself.

"That wreck - it was a gift from God," he said. "It was the only thing that could've happened at the time to keep me from killing myself. I had to get sober from a wheelchair, and you'd better believe that's a tough thing to do."

A Tulsa native, Pryor was still a Nathan Hale high schooler when he began playing clubs, thanks to one of his first guitar heroes, the recently deceased Mike "Monk" Bruce.

"Every time I pick my guitar up, I think of Mike Bruce," he said. "We used to get fake IDs and go see him over at the Colony Club when he had the Jazz Babies, which at the time was him and (drummer) Jamie Oldaker, (bassist) Carl Dean Radle and (saxophonist) Pat Ryan.

"The first time I ever played guitar in a Tulsa club was there, about 3 a.m. after a Saturday night. Monk (Bruce) was getting tired, and he said, 'Anyone want to come up and play?' I went up there and did two Muddy Waters songs.

"I remember saying to Jimmy Strader, 'That guy playing bass looks like the guy in (Eric Clapton's) Derek and the Dominoes.' He said, 'It is. That's Carl Dean Radle.' Knowing those guys were from Tulsa, and then seeing all those Tulsa guys playing with Freddie King when he came to Drillers Park, let me know that Tulsa was not nowhere."

Pryor kept after it, and a short time after his graduation he was working in California with a pre-movie star Gary Busey in the Old Dog Band. In the late '70s, he was back in town, playing with Jim Sweney's group and, later, with famed Tulsa Sound pioneer Jimmy Markham.

Pryor was in New York with fellow Tulsa musician Randy Vincent, "down to our last can of Campbell's soup," when they both were tapped by bluesman Paul Butterfield to join his nationally known blues band.

"That was a great education," said Pryor with a grin. "Then I came back to Tulsa, and it was cans of soup again for a couple of years."

He put together a searing blues outfit in Tulsa called the Mighty Kingsnakes and hit the road hard for awhile. He also began writing what he called "heavier" material with fellow Tulsan Scott Hutchison, and it was the latter effort that led to his album with the major-label Zoo Entertainment in 1991.

Even though Billboard magazine trumpeted the release of the Steve Pryor Band disc with the line, "Look out, fret fans, here's your new hero," the music was a hybrid -- not quite Mighty Kingsnakes-style blues, but not quite non-blues, either.

"I had Alex Hodges, the old manager for Stevie Ray (Vaughan), and he was wanting me to do what I'd done with the Kingsnakes," remembered Pryor.

"But the Zoo Entertainment deal wasn't for a guitar-band. They wanted me to do what I'd done to get my publishing deal. So you get that schizophrenic thing going, and put a bunch of weed and alcohol and heroin on top of it, and you've got a situation where you can't make decisions."

Pryor lost the Zoo deal after the first album and, he admits, took it very hard. It showed in his behavior after traveling to Ireland to become the guitarist for the Commitments -- a job that didn't work out.

"I got kicked out of Ireland for drinking too much," he said. "Can you imagine how much you have drink to get kicked out of Ireland?"

A few years later, his mother died, which was another, even more severe blow.

"There's a time when your life seems to have a definite shade to it," he mused. "For me, there's my life up until I was 48, when I had my mother, and my life after I lost her. Now, I'm just trying to live my life the way I should've lived it when she was alive."

First, however, there was the wreck, which happened only a few months after his mother's passing. In the early morning, Pryor was on the road to Eureka Springs, Ark., to pick up some money for a festival job, when he fell asleep at the wheel.

To this day, he says that he felt his mother's presence in the van with him just before he crashed through a stand of evergreens, destroying the van. He was seriously injured and even now, he said, "some parts of my body wake up before others."

It took him half a year to begin playing and singing in earnest again, and he quickly saw and heard that things were different.

"Because I had to relearn how to play, and how to sing, my style had changed," he explained. "When the band I have now got together for its first rehearsal, I said, 'This is a different deal. It hurts too much to do the guitar-hero thing anymore. I'm too old. It's unbecoming.'

"So what we have now is an interplay between two guitars, bass and drums. It's not as loud as it used to be, but there's a lot more of a dynamic range. I like to delve into that more (J.J.) Cale-ish kind of thing, what Cale calls 'Tulsa cocktail-lounge guitar.' " He chuckled.

"There's a term called 'playing the room,' not being too loud, and my favorite guitarists have always been (Tommy) Crook, Monk Bruce, Tom Tripplehorn -- people who always played the room. I think that's something I've finally learned to do.

"Now, in the mornings, I pray and I meditate," he added. "I live a very private life with Tina (his girlfriend). I think I'm playing better than I ever have, but there's a plan and flow to it this time. It's not about being rich and famous as a musician. It's not about fighting my destiny as a musician."

He grinned again. "It's not what I thought it was about."

He paused for a moment, perhaps thinking about those long-ago days when he was a teenager and the smells of a nightclub in the early morning brought with them exotic thrills and wild promise.

"You know," he said finally, "it's rare for musicians -- especially if they start young -- to grow up to be good people real quickly. You're always getting patted on the back, people are always asking if they can get you anything. It's like Robbie Robertson said."

And then, he quoted four lines from Robertson's "Stage Fright," a classic song Robertson wrote for the Band:

"Deep in the heart of a lonely kid
"Who suffered so much for what he did
"They gave this poor boy his fortune and fame
"Since that day he ain't been the same
"See the man with the stage fright"

And once again, Steve Pryor smiled. - Tulsa World Newspaper


"Cardboard Luck"
"El Nino Chickendog"
"Steve Pryor Band"



In 1978 Muddy Waters told Steve, "Don't ever put that guitar down!" Since that time he has shared the stage with John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Greg Allman, and Dr. John, Johnny Winter, to name a few. His tours with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and countless performances in concerts, night clubs, and blues festivals have left enduring impressions on all who attended.

Steve's guitar style and singing encompass a history of Blues Americana without compromising his love for extreme, rocking Stratocaster guitar tones. The Steve Pryor band provides plenty of material for the blues purist, however, unlike many strict bluesmen, they see nothing wrong with tapping the roots of rock 'n 'roll to get thier message across. Songs like John Hiatt's "Paper Thin," and Keith Richard's "Before They Make Me Run," seem to draw a very fine line between blues and rock (and even country) thereby demonstrating the similarity between the styles while reaffirming Pryor's own versatility.

Steve's rich history also includes his performance in and contributions to the soundtrack of "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag" as well as projects by Dennis Hopper, (Chasers"), HBO, Filmwerks, and Melrose Place.

Pryor co-produced his most recent CD, "Cardboard Luck," (available on itunes) with Grammy Award winning David Teegarden (drums). It contains six original songs plus covers by Kim Wilson and Mark Knopfler.

Steve was once described as, “Gene Autry stepping off a UFO with a Stratocaster in his hand and an Elmore James song in his heart.” With their unique sound, which taps not only into blues but also rock 'n roll & red dirt, The Steve Pryor Band is sure to satisfy all who listen.