Terrapin Road
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Terrapin Road

Band Blues Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Living Blues"

Jammed into a corner at Anchors Bar and Grill in Sparks, the five members of Terrapin Road were close enough to bring the groove on and give the audience a good lesson in the blues. The band formed almost by accident after a few informal jam sessions at Maytan Music. Not one of these men was searching for the camaraderie of band life, necessarily. They're all just laid-back, cool cats who love to play boogie and the blues.

Drummer and band leader Steve Thoma, along with a striking Tim Allen look-a-like, sat at a table eating a sandwich and salad while the other guys set up and got the acoustics worked out for the smaller space in Anchors.

With Thoma on drums, Gary Wheeler, Gary Fritz and Michael Ray on guitar, and Nigel Giddings on keyboard and an intermittent infusion of maracas and tambourines, Terrapin Road has a loud, swinging, constantly soulful jam.

"Listening to us is like a history lesson of the blues," says Thoma. "We start with one guy with a guitar, Mikey, who's a songwriter from Nashville. Then we add another guy with a guitar, Gary Wheeler, then another guy with a guitar, Gary Fritz. Then Nigel and I jump in."

Sitting center stage in a tan straw hat, suspenders and leather sandals, Ray propped his guitar on his lap and got to it with "Deep River Blues." His scruffy molasses voice synched with the New Orleans-style guitar, leaving the audience free to tap their feet and really listen to the blues lines. He finished off with a strong, vibrant yodel that brought down the sparse house.

After a few more one-man tunes, the band brought out Gary Wheeler, a tall, goateed man sporting the dobro, an all-metal guitar. The strong interaction between Wheeler and Ray built a tremendous energy in the music (Ray's own "Red Label, Blue Morning"), and the swinging synergy pressed on.

Fritz joined the gang shortly thereafter, adding yet another point of interaction to intensify the blues. The guys change up guitars now and then, and the bass moves around a few times, too.

When Thoma and Giddings just can't take not playing anymore, the two jump in. Their first tune, "Katie Mae," has a killer drum beat with a hint of tambourine. Wheeler taps his tan snakeskin boots, and the music erupts. You have to tap your feet; it's just impossible to sit still. Heavy, heavy drums carry the song, building to a truly grooving jam. Ray vigorously underlines the words "Katie Mae" with strong rhythm-and-blues acoustic guitar reminiscent of the old-timer blues greats.

After all, the blues greats are the passion and soul of this band. "We're keeping something alive," says Ray. "We're trying not to let it die off."

Thoma says it's the band's way of honoring the blues. "We have 70 tunes we know and 177 on the list to work on. But we're getting there."

Really, it hasn't taken too long to get started. The band has only been together for a few months, and it's only been gigging for four. Yet, it's amassed one groupie, (the "other Gary") and a set list of lamenting, swinging and jazzy tunes to form a living history of the blues.

- Reno News & Review

"Featured Artist 1/07"

Terrapin Road refers to “the long slow road that the members of the band have all traveled musically to get here”. If you like diversity in your Blues, these guys deliver and here’s why...

On guitar and vocals is Gary Wheeler. He strives for tone and a solid groove as a rhythm player and credits B.B. King with being a major influence. Seeing B.B. King in concert many years ago made Gary realize that the sounds and riffs that turned him on as a guitar player had roots in the Blues. From there the number of influences grew too long to list here. Gary played in a number of bands in several states before settling in Northern Nevada. Lucky us!

Gary Fritz also plays guitar and sings. His brother introduced him to guitar as a youngster. He came to the Blues via Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers. This Gary says he likes the Blues style because it allows him to improvise and cut loose. I don’t know about you but I feel those are two qualities that separate the true Blues players from the run-of-the-mill players.

Mike Ray is the bass player and sings with just the right amount of grit to let you know he’s a true believer in the Blues! He’s an accomplished songwriter who has traveled across the country with his music playing acoustic as well as amped shows. I enjoyed chatting with him recently at Sidelines as musicians always seem to like telling stories on each other.

The man who drives Terrapin Road is drummer Steve Thoma. Though a Sparks native, he spent some of his youth in Texas where he was influenced by Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. A move to Southern California added Surf music (!), British Blues as well as 60’s American Blues bands like the aforementioned Paul Butterfield, leading to the discovery of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and others in the vanguard of Blues music.

In addition to original music, Terrapin Road plays a wide range of Blues covers putting their own spin on the arrangements. If you love to shake your tail feather Steve’s beat is always on the money and if good guitar playing makes you wanna jump up and testify I suggest you visit www.terrapinroad.com for more in depth bios, show schedule and audio, then hunt them down for a hoppin’ good time!
- Reno Blues Society Web Site


Frequently heard on 'The Blues Project' on 100.1 KTHX 'The X' in Reno Nevada and KVMR Nevada City.
Please visit www.terrapinroad.com for more music files.


Feeling a bit camera shy


In August 2005 word went out in Carson City that there was a need for a boogie and blues band. Steve Thoma & Michael Ray answered the call by contacting Gary Wheeler. After a few changes in various arrangments Tony Ghiglieri joined the band in 2007. Sharing a love for Blues, BBQ, Rock, Mexican Food, Rockabilly, Fish Tacos and Live Music of all kinds makes for a great combo (please dont hold the sauce!) You love to boogie. We love to play. So we can take it from acoustic country blues or turn it up for styles from Chicago to New Orleans and from west coast jump blues to the British invasion. All of us are avid listeners of live music. There is something pure about seeing and hearing a few blokes lay it down live with all of the sweat and surprises. We will supply you with boogie so hot it makes you wanna jump for more and blues so fine it makes you wanna find the closest BBQ.

The name "Terrapin Road" refers to the long slow road that we in the band have all traveled musically to get here.

Steve Thoma, a Sparks native, has been playing drums for a very long time. Having discovered Elvis, Buddy, and Jerry Lee at an early age while living with his family in Texas, he was ready to rock by the time they moved to Ventura in southern California in the 50's. Surf music was the order of the day and some of his earliest influences were Dick Dale and the Deltones, and The Ventures. With the British invasion came his introduction to the blues through bands such as the Yardbirds and later John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. He even got to open for bands like Eric Burdon and the Animals and Them when they had a lead singer by the name of Van Morrison. One highlight was opening for The Doors and the Grateful Dead in 1967.
From guitar players like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, to the likes of Peter Green and Mick Taylor, all of these guys lead to his discovery of American Blues with bands like the Blues Project, Canned Heat, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. With guitar players like Michael Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal leading the way, it was only a matter of time before everything started pointing back to the roots of the whole thing where you find Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Son House, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, the list goes on and on.
However, one question came to mind..... How is a skinny white kid living in a southern California beach community gonna play the blues? It seems that this music comes from way down deep where everything that comes out comes from experience. Well, after 55+ years of life's ups and downs, the prerequisite drug problems and subsequent health issues, scrapes with the law, marriage and divorce, successes and failures, good times and bad, he's paid his dues and is now fully qualified to play the blues for you.

Michael Ray currently works as a musician around the Northern Nevada area. You will see him in the Carson Valley at a variety of venues both with Terrapin Road, and as a solo act. Sporting his abilities as a song writer, guitarist and bass player, Mike takes this stuff seriously. From Southern California to Nashville to the Northern Plains and then to Northern Nevada, Mike brings experience to the table that you couldn't buy if you wanted to. Mike fuels the fire of the acoustic portions of Terrapin Road shows.

Gary Wheeler and comes to Nevada from Portland, Oregon where he worked with The Rail Kings and several other bands. He is a long standing member of the Cascade Blues Association and has recently joined the Reno Blues Society. He has an intense passion to promote blues awareness.
Growing up in a small town in New Mexico, Gary started to play piano in 3rd grade but became frustrated with the music taught by the local music teacher and switched to guitar. "There were parts of rock & roll and country music that had a different feel to them than other songs, but there was no one around that could explain why."
At a concert in Phoenix in 1982, Gary found out that those parts were blues licks and rhythms."Sadly, I never knew who B.B. King was until I saw Alvin Lee open for him. That's what'll happen to you when you grow up in a small town with no music awareness. I heard that cat and he knocked me out. All of his music was made up of the parts in the rock & country songs that I liked. I was different person after that experience". After years of merely flirting with the guitar, he met Doug "Dub" Lewis of Detroit. For several years Dub instilled in Gary the importance of the role of solid rhythm guitar. Since then the pursuit of tone as well as the tight groove have been his quest. When asked 'why blues?', he replies, “Is there anything else that displays the raw emotion of human experience in all it's forms?"
So lets talk about tone and the groove. How do you get there? "Well, they are just as elusive as the Thunderbird, but tone and groove can be evoked in a variety of ways. I suggest the following: Take meat, metal and wood; a