By Randi Somers
Alice’s Champagne Palace is bringing blues guitarist Rick Brooks to town Friday evening and the harmonica man Gary Sloan (more Alaska bluesmen) Saturday night.
Brooks accompanies himself on acoustic guitar as he sings blues, rock and classic songs and more. He says he took his first guitar lessons at age eight in Oxford, Mississippi. His father wanted him to be Johnny Cash and his teacher favored Chet Atkins but he took more interest in blues, jazz, classical and folk music. In the late 80s he played in a series of rock, rhythm and blues and top-10 bands traveling around Alaska from Nome to Homer. He started on electric guitar but then switched to acoustic in the late 90s. He has also toured and played the west coast states California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada.
Bluesman Gary Sloan got his start in Alaska in the 1970s playing with a series of blues bands. His resume includes gigs with Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Maria Muldaur, Mary Welles and more. When asked if any of those jam sessions stuck out, he didn’t hesitate.
Like many musicians, he started in bands and even had his twin sons accompanying him for a time. Originally a southern Californian, he came to Alaska in 1964 to help clean up the Good Friday earthquake wreckage. He was a teenage enlisted Air Force man and when his service ended he stayed to get involved in the music business here. Besides leading his own band, Proof, he also brought well-known musicians to Alaska to tour towns that weren’t then on the road system at that time, including Homer. He moved to Arkansas in 1995 and discovered blues at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. He competed, playing his harmonica, and took first prize.
Now 68, he has played some pop/rock through the years, but he is best known as “that harmonica blues player from Alaska.” He teams with Jim Lasiter and between them they play a variety of instruments to accompany their singing.
“I’ve had a lot of fun times, and it’s all been around the music,” he said.
Both the Friday and Saturday night shows begin at 8 p.m. and there is no cover charge.
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